• Published 13th Dec 2016
  • 4,391 Views, 160 Comments

Sunsettle For This - Aragon



Twilight is a hammer in want of a nail. Sunset would rather a good screw. (A dramedy).

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Second Chapter - Flower Fall

The first thought that crossed Celestia’s mind was, “I’ve been stabbed again”. The second one was, “I hope.”

She gasped quietly—it wasn’t her desire to annoy her guest—and pressed a hoof against her chest, patting it to find the source of the sharp pain. She found nothing. There was no knife, no blade, not even a needle.

She hadn’t been stabbed.

Which meant…

The air froze in her lungs as she turned around, realization hitting her like a hammer hits a nail. “LUNA!” she yelled, smashing her hooves against the table, and there was a horrible edge to her voice. “LUNA! WHERE ARE YOU?!”

“Still here, Sister,” Luna said from the other side of the table. She, too, was sipping tea. “I haven’t moved.”

Celestia’s relief was like a bath of warm water. Nevertheless, her heart refused to slow down. “Are you sure?” she asked, and it was a miracle how her voice wasn’t trembling. “Are you completely sure?”

Luna checked. “Am I bleeding?”

“No.”

“Then I’m sure.”

“So there’s no need to banish you to the moon again.”

A pause.

Luna frowned. “Well,” she said. “I hope not.”

“Good. Good.” Celestia sat down again, and forced herself to calm down before speaking again. “I’m…sorry. I just felt something. In my chest.”

“And you immediately assumed I was back at murdering ponies, of course.”

“Yes.” There was no hesitation. “Because it’s not the first time I feel that kind of pain. I’m sorry if that offends you, but—”

“No, no, I was agreeing with you.” Luna patted her sister’s hoof and gave her a little smile. “I felt it too. I didn’t recognize it at first, but it’s pretty obvious in hindsight.”

Celestia nodded. The next word, they both said it at the same time.

Heartbreak.

“Not literal, I hope.” Celestia got up from the table and paced around the room. They were in her chambers, she wasn’t wearing her golden shoes, and the carpet was soft and fuzzy against her hooves. “I don’t think it’s healthy, for one’s heart to break just like that.”

“Hmm.” Luna raised a teacup and squinted at it. “The tea, perhaps? We were poisoned?”

This made Celestia pause. “Poison?”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe. Can poison break your heart?” Celestia’s ears perked up as an idea made it through her mind. “Maybe a stab from the inside?

Luna shrugged, and took a sip from the tea again. “Hmm.” Second sip. Gulp. “Tastes a bit like lava. Is lava poisonous?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” Celestia made the teacup float to her, and inspected its contents with the inquisitive gaze of somepony who knew a lot about infusions [1]. “And it’s got no lava. Stop criticising my choice of beverages, Luna.”


[1] Scholars had noticed that most ancient texts tended to spell her name as “Princess Celestea”. Nopony was brave enough to ask if this was a mistake.


“Stop serving chamomile tea, then.”

“I don’t see any poison.” Celestia closed the lid on the teapot and floated it back to the table. Brow furrowed, she continued pacing around the room. “I don’t understand why anypony would poison us, anyway. We haven’t done anything that could cause such a reaction from our subjects. Who would do such a thing…?”

A pause.

And then, voice strangely warm, Celestia didn’t say as much as she whispered the next words. “Twilight Sparkle.”

“What?” Luna’s ears perked up. “Twilight Sparkle? I disagree, Sister. Twilight Sparkle might hate peace nowadays, but she’s one of the best ponies I’ve ever known. And she’s not dramatic enough to poison us just to fix her life.”

“No, Twilight Sparkle didn’t poison us,” Celestia said. “She’d never do it. However, I think this happened because of her.”

“Why?”

“Because only she has this much magic.”

Luna was going to reply to this, but then she realized that Celestia wasn’t looking at her. Quite the opposite—her sister was staring out the window, with an unreadable face.

Curious, she did the same, trying to look for whatever Celestia had seen.

She saw it.

“Oh.” Luna got up from the table and walked to her sister, wrapping her with a wing in an almost subconscious gesture. “I see. We should call for her help, then.”

Celestia said nothing. She just nudged her sister’s wing as a way to show her appreciation.

For the next ten minutes, they did nothing but stare at the window.

Outside, it was raining flowers.


SECOND CHAPTER:
FLOWER FALL


A crowd gathers around the most important table in the world. Fate and Time keep playing the game, but now they’re a little more careful. They have an audience.

Mother Nature is standing right next to Fate. Her husband, Father Civilization [2] is behind Time. Logic, Reason, and Faith are watching the game with interest. So are Fear, Friendship, and Dreams.


[2] A dysfunctional marriage, at best.


Fate’s already lost, and yet, it keeps dealing its cards. Because, it explains, any game worth playing is meant to be played to the very end. Who wins, and who loses, is not what’s important. What matters is the journey.

Yes, Time adds. That’s exactly what a loser would say.

The audience cheers, and Mother Nature shakes her head disapprovingly.

The Love That Could Not Be, is the name of the game, and it’s about star-crossed lovers. The sign that marks the winner is the start of a romance—when they look at each other, eye to eye, and there’s a

tink!

in the air.

That’s really important. It’s what marks the difference between romance and, say, a really good friendship. Really good friendship sounds more like

plink!

So now, the game goes on.

And in the fervor of the cards, nobody really notices there’s someone missing at the most important table in the world.


Oh my gosh!” Dash yelled. “You’re like a hundred years old!

Now, there are silences, and then there are Silences. A silence is what one hears after asking “is there anybody in there.” A Silence is what comes after an unknown voice says "yes".

Dash’s words were followed by a Silence, and that capital letter was felt through the room like a bulldozer is felt through a field of hippies. Half-dumbfounded, half-enraged, Sunset Shimmer felt her left eye twitch, and she turned around to face her reflection in the mirror.

A middle-aged pony returned her gaze.

White on her mane. Small wrinkles around her eyes. A darker fur. She hadn’t just raced through puberty as much as she had phased through it.

Sunset opened her mouth to say something, anything—

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAARP.

And then Spike burped with enough strength to fill up the air with fire, and the lingering smell of tacos. From the fire, a scroll came out, and it opened in mid-flight, revealing the simple message to everybody in the room.

Dear Twilight:

Please, come to the Castle as soon as possible. Canterlot is in danger. Equestria, as a whole, might be too. You’re our only hope.

Signed,
Princess Celestia.

And then it fell to the ground, right between Sunset and Twilight.

A pause.

“WELL THEN, THAT’S IT. GOODB—

“NO!” Twilight was quick as lightning, grabbing Sunset and pulling her away from the mirror. “Sunset, no! You have to stay!”

“Twilight, I’ve been here for less than five seconds and I’ve already ruined both my life and the world. Great to see you, always a pleasure, best wishes, see you in hell!” [3]


[3] This was an exclusively human expression. Usually, Equestrians had a hard time grasping the more complicated parts of the human cosmovision, but you couldn’t spend so many years sleeping under a bridge without learning a couple things about the afterlife.


“NO!” Twilight just pulled harder. “No, you don’t get it! This is exactly what I—you can’t go now! I’m, I’m sure that this is hard for you, traumatic even, but—you have to stay!”

“Look.” Sunset sighed as she turned around and faced Twilight. “I get that you’re feeling guilty and all, but in all honesty, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I think we just proved without a doubt that Equestria is worse than homelessness when it comes to me. So wipe that… huge… smile… from your face.” Sunset blinked. “Oh my gosh.”

“Uh.” Twilight blushed, looked to the side, tried to cover her face with her mane, made her best to fight the broad grin on her face. “Um, heheh, I just…”

“Oh my gosh.” Sunset made a face. “You’re actually enjoying this?”

“It’s just—I’ve been so bored!” Twilight bit her lip, still avoiding her gaze. “These last years, there’s been nothing to take care of, and everything was perfect, and then you come and immediately the world is in danger again, and your life is ruined, and I’ve been waiting for this so much, and…!”

Sunset arched an eyebrow.

“And I just… Aw, shoot.” Twilight shook her head and finally looked straight at her. Twilight’s eyes were exactly like Sunset remembered—always big, always purple, forever beautiful. “I guess I just missed you, Sunset Shimmer. A lot.”

And Sunset’s eyebrow went back down, as a smile made it to her face, too. “Aaaw. I missed you too, Twilight,” she said as she pulled her for a small hug.

She felt warm, Sunset realized. And soft. And smaller than she’d remembered—and then Twilight hugged her back, twice as strong. They nuzzled each other, a little.

Everything else became less important, all of a sudden.

“I really missed you.”

(And there was a

plink!

in the air.)

“Even if you sound a bit like a psychopath,” Sunset continued. “What’s that about wanting the world to end?”

“Eheheheh. Ahem.” Twilight’s smile was still bright like a lightbulb in a thunderdome. “So, uh. Girls! This here is Sunset Shimmer!” She scratched her neck as she took a step aside, and then pointed at Sunset as if to show her off. “Who is old now, apparently!”

Sunset squinted at Twilight here. Not an ordinary squint, either. This was an Old Lady Squint™, the kind that could make a clown confess where he hid the corpses.

The temperature in the room went down by three degrees.

“Middle-aged,” Sunset hissed.

Twilight gulped. “Uh. Sorry. Middle-aged. She’s middle-aged.”

“Good.” Sunset shot a glare at their audience, then her eyes went back to normal. Everypony immediately relaxed. “Also, hi, ponies I’ve never met. And Spike. Hi, Spike.”

“Hi, Sunset Shimmer!” The dragon waved at her.

“You haven’t changed a bit.”

“Dragons live for thousands of years!” Spike said. “Which means I’ll reach puberty at around seventy, if I’m lu—BWAAAAAAAAAAAAARP.”

A new scroll, this one with a slightly messier hoofwriting.

"HURRY".

“Oh. Right.” Twilight’s horn flashed as she picked up the two messages. “We should probably look at this before anything. We have to go to Canterlot, girls! And say ‘hi’ to Sunset Shimmer.”

“…Hi, Sunset Shimmer,” came the chorus of five mares.

“Yeah.” Sunset looked at Twilight. “I feel so welcome already.”

“Right. Sorry.” Applejack looked at the others, as if asking permission to speak, and then looked at Sunset. “Didn’t mean to. It’s a lot to take in, is all.”

“No, no, I get it. Don’t worry.” Sunset waved a hoof. “I’ve lived with your human selves, so it’s weird for me too. No hard feelings. Baby steps.”

“I like baby steps,” Fluttershy whispered.

“Perfect. So! This is your castle.” Sunset looked around, taking it all in. “Glassier than expected, but it looks all right.”

Twilight smiled in that way that made her eyes close. “Thanks! It takes a little to get used to it. The style really clashed with the rest of Ponyville at first, but I think it’s nice.”

“Ponyville? We’re not in Canterlot?”

“Yes. We moved the portal.”

“Hmm.” Sunset scratched her chin. “I guess it makes sense. It also explains why Celestia is sending you letters instead of just walking in. Which reminds me.” She pointed at the scrolls on the ground. “The world is ending.”

“Yeah! And you’re old now. Middle aged.” Twilight looked to her friends, then back to Sunset. “I, um. This looks pretty urgent, so do you mind if we…?”

“Take care of the world first?” Sunset shrugged. “Sure, I don’t mind. Priorities, and so on. I’m sure we can look at my problem later.”

“Oh.”

There was a pause.

“You know, Sunset Shimmer? You’re taking this entire thing surprisingly well. I have to say—I’m impressed!”

“Oh, no, no, don’t be.” Sunset smiled at her. “I’m just in shock.”

“…In shock?”

“Yes. Don’t worry, though, I’ll black out as soon as I manage to actually interiorize what’s happened. But in the meantime?” She made a ‘worry not’ kind of gesture. “We should go to Canterlot. Those letters looked important!”

Another pause.

“Y’know what?” Applejack said, elbowing Rarity. “Ah like her. She looks reasonable!”

“I—okay. Okay!” Twilight clapped her hooves, making everypony flinch. “Let’s go with this! Canterlot in danger! No time to waste!” She put a hoof over Sunset’s shoulder. “We’ll take the Friendship Express, and once we’re in there you can freak out as much as you want. Deal?”

“Sounds like one to me! Hahah.” Sunset’s right eye twitched. “Haaah, haah. Haaaaaaa—

“Then, to the Friendship Express!” Twilight headed for the door, and everypony followed. “If I remember the schedule right, it should take us exactly one hour to get there!”

—aaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAA—


Fifty-seven minutes later, they were there.

“I have to say, that was impressive,” Sunset said as they walked the stairs up to Canterlot Castle. “Really good service. And the conductor was surprisingly nice about my freakout.”

“It’s the good things about utopias, really.” Twilight’s chest was swollen with that rare pride that comes when one compliments your homeland. “One can really go on about the everlasting sense of dread they bring, but public transportation is a wonder!”

“Do you think the conductor will grow new teeth soon?”

“Gosh, I hope so.”

“Okay.” A few steps behind them, Rainbow Dash elbowed Applejack and Fluttershy in quick succession. “Can’t hold it anymore. Please tell me I’m not the only one bothered by Sunset Shimmer here?”

“Nope.” Applejack raised a hoof, and Dash promptly bumped it. “Same’ere. The way she walks, right?”

“Oh, you know it.”

“Um.” Fluttershy gave them A Look. “I don’t think that’s a nice thing to say. Sunset Shimmer has been really polite so far, and—”

“Yeah, but we’re not talking about that, Shy.” Dash nodded at Sunset’s rear. “C’mon. Look at her butt.”

Silence.

“Um.”

“No, really. Have a good look. I’m telling you.”

Um.

“She’s got a point, Fluttershy,” AJ said. “Ah know you want to judge Dash—we all do—but listen to her. Look at that butt.”

Awkward frown in her face, Fluttershy gave in. She gave Sunset’s derriére a good, hard look.

There was a pause.

Then, the frown went away. “Huh. She…”

She walks like a mom.” Dash squinted, and her mouth became a thin, hard line. “And yet it’s not mom enough. I don’t know! There’s something in like, her posture? That bugs me a lot.”

“Yeah,” Fluttershy muttered. “What is she doing with her hips, exactly?”

“She’s got that swingin’,” Applejack added. “The one when you’re a, whatsitcalled? Rarity?” Applejack waved at their white friend—lagging yet further behind—then pointed at Sunset. “Puma? Cheetah?”

Cougar, dear!

“Atta girl! Cougar.” Applejack turned to Fluttershy and Dash once more. “She’s one of them cougars, it’s what she is.”

Fluttershy blinked. “A what? Like the animal?”

“No, like a mom.” A pause. Applejack scratched her neck. “But… the kind of mom who wears tight pants, y’know?”

“Oh. Oooooooh.” Fluttershy smiled and nodded at her, then looked at Sunset again. “Well, she does swing her hips a lot. And I guess tight pants would suit her, uh, figure?”

“Yeah, she’s got a nice ass,” Dash said.

Silence.

Everypony looked at her.

Dash’s expression didn’t change. “I mean, it bothers me, sure, but I’d still t—”

“Aaaaand they can hear us from there,” Applejack interrupted, her voice perfectly flat. “You done goofed up, Dash.”

“What?” Dash frowned, and looked at AJ. “How can you say that?”

“‘Cause Twi’s on fire.” AJ pointed. “Literally.”

“What? What do you mean she’s on—OH MY GOSH.

RAINBOW DASH!

I’M SO SORRY!

SORRY IS NOT GOING TO CUT IT!

THEN I’M BLAMING RARITY!

WHAT.

RARITY!

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

“Hey, if it is of any consolation, I took it all as a compliment,” Sunset said. Looking at her face, one could have believed there was the hint of a lazy smile in it. “I mean, I guess that’s a silver lining, even if I’m middle—oh?”

The words died in her mouth.

A small flower had landed on her muzzle.

What followed was the kind of scene that, had this been a more cinematic universe, would have made it to the trailer. The music would have led to a halt, and a single high note from a lonely violin would have lingered in the background.

Sunset, Twilight, Dash, AJ, and Shy, perfectly synchronized, stared at the flower on Sunset’s nuzzle. It was small and white, looked perfectly normal at first glance, but there was something off about it.

They looked up. And what they saw—

“Wait, you notice this now?” Spike asked. “It’s been raining flowers since we got to Canterlot! How didn’t you notice this earlier?”

“I’ve been trying to catch them with my mouth!” Pinkie said, spewing petals as she spoke. “They’re pretty tasty! Taste a bit like lava.”

“Maybe they’re related to chamomile?” Shy asked.

“Probably!”

“Hey, you can’t blame us!” Dash said, making a huff. “We were distracted. Talking important business, you know?”

“Yes, we know. But we didn’t think you’d be so enthralled by that topic that you wouldn’t notice the flowers.” Rarity picked one from the ground—a small, white-pinkish thing—and put it on Fluttershy’s mane. Fluttershy made a happy noise in return. “Isn’t this why Princess Celestia asked us to come?”

Twilight picked another flower and looked at it closely. It was bigger than the one Rarity had chose, but still just an ordinary flower. She didn’t know the particular species.

She looked up again. The flowers were coming out of apparently nowhere—there were no clouds in the sky. They just floated down, each one a different size, a different shade of white pink.

Twilight had seen this before.

Flower Fall.

“Yes.” Twilight also put the flower on Fluttershy’s mane. Fluttershy made yet another happy noise. “This is why Princess Celestia asked us to come. If this is what I think it is?” The grin on her face could only be described as shameless at this point. “It’s going to be huge!”

“So.” Spike crossed his arms and looked at Dash as they went on again. “I don’t get it. What were you talking about, that was so important you didn’t notice the flowers?”

“My butt,” Sunset said without turning around.

Spike’s frown disappeared. “Oh.”

Some thoughts crossed his mind. He took a peek, and some more thoughts crossed his mind. Really interesting thoughts, if he was one to say. Both informative and imaginative.

“…Well, that makes sense,” he said once he was done. “Have you ever thought of wearing tight pants? They would suit you.”

They arrived at the door shortly afterwards.


And in the most important table in the world, the crowd gasps.

It’s a tricky move, the one Fate just pulled off. To understand it, once again we must assume we live in a more cinematic universe—but this time, Reality, who’s really interested in the game, will help with that.

So we rewind, and the camera zooms in, as the footage slows down so we can catch all the little details…


Some say age is all in the mind. This is not entirely true.

Sunset Shimmer had spent so much time as a teenager that she had a little bit of trouble wrapping her head around the fact that crossing over to see Twilight had brought her reasonably close to her twilight years. [4] This, however, was slightly undermined by the fact that she had also changed bodies.


[4] This was the kind of dumb pun waiting to happen that made one resent reality itself. Sunset made a mental note of punching whoever dared to make it.


The mind is flexible, but not flexible enough. Sunset wasn’t feeling the shock of her sudden age gap, plain and simple because she was still getting used to not having thumbs again. Sure, rationally she knew that she was different, but rationally she’d also known having an affair with Celestia’s desk had been a bad idea. And look where she was.

So she was, in her particular way, dealing with it. Flower Fall was a nice distraction. With the world ending like that—because it was probably that, it was always that—it was easy to not think about important stuff.

Then, the butt talk happened.

If character is what we are in the dark, personality is what we do with flattery. Only after Spike the dragon expressed his approval on Sunset’s derriére [5] did her emotions really catch up with her body.


[5] And high-fived Rainbow Dash.


She was old now.

Holy feathers. She was old. She was mature.

And she was hot.

Sunset Shimmer had always been attractive—it was easy to tell when every man went “meow” upon your sight—but, her being a teenager, it had been a really awkward attractive. “Shouldn’t-be-this-attractive” kind of attractive.

Now, though? Maybe now things had changed.

So when they approached the doors, Sunset Shimmer looked at the Royal Guards. Big, buff, white stallions. Good-looking stallions.

They looked at her.

And Sunset Shimmer said the two most powerful words a mare can muster. “Hello, handsome.”

(And there was a

bang!

in the air.)


“Twilight Sparkle. Once again, Equestria is threatened. Once again, only you can save it.” Princess Celestia sat atop her throne, her voice grave, her frame the very definition of elegance. “And once again, I’m going to ask you to stop giggling.”

“Tee hee hee.”

Celestia frowned.

The Throne Room hadn’t been empty when Twilight and friends arrived, but the moment they walked in, the Royal Guards promptly left, to make sure Celestia could enjoy some privacy.[6] Through the windows, they could see flowers falling to the ground. The air smelled sweet. It was surprisingly unnerving.


[6] This was standard procedure, no matter who was the one walking in the Throne Room. Canterlot’s idea of “security” was the main reason why Celestia and Luna were so familiar with the feeling of being stabbed.


“We are glad to see you here.” Luna was sitting beside her sister, in the space where one would expect a second throne to be. “We need your help, more than ever.” And her eyes looked dark and full of stars. “Especially yours, Fluttershy.”

A pause.

Shy blinked, and then took a step back. “What? M-me? You need me?

“Indeed,” Luna said. “Come here. I need to put this flower down.”

“…So what’s goin’ on, Princess?” Applejack asked as Fluttershy made a happy sound in the background. “Is it the flowers? It’s the flowers, right?”

“Yes, Applejack. What Canterlot is going through at the moment is named Flower Fall,” Celestia said. “A rain of flowers. A drift in time and space, that can destroy everything we hold—”

“Tee hee hee.”

A pause.

Celestia took a deep breath. “That can destroy everything we hold dear,” she continued.

“What, just like that?” Dash looked at the window, shifty eyes on, then at Celestia. “But they’re just flowers, right?”

“Um. Maybe they’re poisonous?” Fluttershy fluttered back to her friends and landed right behind Dash. “That would be bad. Some animals would eat them on sight.”

“Yeah!” Pinkie said. “I ate a bunch, too!”

“Well, Fluttershy, here’s hoping they aren’t poisonous,” Rarity said. “That would do terrible things to your mane.”

“And I ate a bunch, too!”

“They are not poisonous,” Celestia said. “In fact, they are nothing out of the ordinary. The problem, you see, is not the flowers. They’re but another symptom of the actual problem, the one that—”

“Tee hee hee.”

“Oh, for—Please, Twilight.” Celestia’s eyes were full of grief as she spoke. “Please don’t do this to me.”

“Sister.” Luna tapped Celestia’s shoulder. “There’s no reason to fret. We both knew Twilight Sparkle would be thrilled at the news.”

“Yes, but she was my personal student for many years. This is a personal failure.”

“Tee hee hee. Heeeh. Ahem.” Twilight shook her head, soft pink appearing on her cheeks. “Sorry. I’ll try to control myself. I just… I can’t be the only one who’s excited!” She looked at her friends. “Right, girls? Here again, discussing how to save the world with the Princess, everypony is about to die… Doesn’t it take you back?”

Five seconds passed.

“Rrrrright. So. What’s the deal with the flowers, then?” Dash looked outside the window. In this zone of the castle, the flowers were the size of a head of lettuce. “Who brought them here?”

“…Flower Fall,” Twilight said. If she was hurt, she didn’t let it show. “Just like the Princess said, what Canterlot is experiencing is called ‘Flower Fall’. I’ve seen it before, but never to such a scale.”

Celestia shook her head, composed herself, and continued the speech. “Flower Fall is caused by magical accidents, misused power,” she said. “Magic is used to change reality, but when enough energy is applied, the very fabric of space and time rips… And flowers fall from the tear. Hence, the name.”

“The flowers aren’t dangerous. The rip in the space-time continuum, however, is.” Luna shook her head. “The effects are subtle, but they’re there. Time warps onto itself, bringing the past to the present. At first, it’s hard to see, but if we wait enough…”

She looked at Celestia.

Celestia nodded.

“…Then, Reality itself might be destroyed,” Luna finished.

And to welcome these words, Twilight and friends offered nothing but silence. Understanding. Gravity. Maybe a little bit of fear. This was a music they’d all danced to before, but that didn’t make it less ominous.

Then Dash leaned close to Pinkie. “Um,” she whispered. “Time-space what?”

“Continuum!” Pinkie hushed back.

“What the heck is that?”

“Oh, don’t you know?” Pinkie rested her front leg over Dash’s shoulders. “Time and space are the same thing, silly!”

“What? Really?”

“Yeah! That’s why things can be ‘five minutes away’. It’s common sense!”

“Oh. Oooooh.” Dash nodded in understanding. “Okay, I get it. Thanks. Alright, everypony!” She raised her voice. “We have to fix this! What do we shoot?”

“Right. You took the words right out of my mouth, dear,” Rarity said. “What monster caused this?”

Twilight blinked, then frowned. “Um.”

“Do you think it might be a dragon? Ah hope it’s a dragon,” Applejack said. “Ah’ve always wanted to shoot a dragon. Um, no offense, Spike.”

“No, no. None taken.” Spike gave her the fingerguns. “I get you. Dragons are cool.”

“‘Specially when you get to shoot’em!”

“No, that’s—we can’t shoot a dragon,” Twilight said. “We are not shooting a dragon.”

“Thank goodness,” Fluttershy said. “I wouldn’t be able to stand that.” She gave it a little bit of thought. “Maybe I can shoot a wyvern, if it’s being mean enough? But never a dragon.”

“What about griffons?” Pinkie said. “I have griffon friends. We could shoot them! I would like that!”

“Hmm. Yes, I think I could settle for a griffon.” Fluttershy looked at Twilight. “We can shoot a griffon.”

“Well then!” Dash said. “Fluttershy has spoken!”

Twilight frowned. “Girls.”

“Where’s that griffon we’re going to shoot?”

“Girls. We’re not shooting any griffon.”

“But Fluttershy said we could!”

“Yes, but just like usual, what Fluttershy said doesn’t matter.” Twilight looked at Shy. “Sorry. No offense.”

“None taken,” Fluttershy said. “It’s a reasonable argument.”

“Well, that’s just preposterous,” Rarity said, and she was standing next to Shy as she spoke. “What are we shooting then, Twilight?”

“Nothing. We’re shooting nothing.”

Everypony looked at Twilight, confusion in their faces.

“Because there’s nothing to shoot,” Twilight explained. “There’s no monster. It’s just a rip in time and space.”

Again, a crowd of dumbfounded eyes stared at Twilight. If one squinted, it was possible to almost see an interrogation sign floating on top of each and every head.

Then, Dash broke the silence. “Ooookay. I think I get it.”

“You do? Good! See, Flower Fall is—”

“We’re shooting at space."

“Okay, you know what? This is where this conversation ends.” Twilight looked at Celestia. “Princess, do we have any clue of what caused Flower Fall?”

“We hoped you would answer that question, I’m afraid.” Luna shook her head. “Have you done anything that might have brought such an immense amount of magic into Equestria?”

“Um.” Fluttershy spoke here, and everypony turned to her. “Well,” she said. “Maybe it was Sunset Shimmer?”

Celestia looked at Twilight at this. Twilight just waved a hoof. “No, that alone is not enough to cause this,” she said. “Sure, the mirror is highly magical, but still well within the boundaries reality can endure. Sunset Shimmer could only have caused this if she had…”

A pause.

“Wait a moment.” Twilight looked around. “Where’s Sunset Shimmer?”

BLAM!

The doors that led to the Throne Room were big, and extremely heavy. Only a really powerful kick—or a burst of well-directed magic—could open them hard enough for them to slam. And when they did, the sound echoed through the room like thunder.

This meant that everypony turned around, to see which herculean figure had managed such a feat… But there was none. It was just Sunset Shimmer, rushing into the room, panting slightly. Her mane was a mess, and her fur was slightly ruffled. “Here!” she said. “I’m here! Right behind you!”

“Sunset?” Twilight asked. “What…?”

“Sorry!” Sunset smiled at her. “Sorry. I got, ahah, distracted. Out there. Doesn’t matter. What are we talking about?”

Celestia’s face was completely neutral. “Sunset Shimmer,” she said. “It’s been a long time.”

Sunset looked back. Her face, too, was completely neutral. “Oh. Hi, Princess Celestia.” Then, back at Twilight. “Flowers? Are you talking flowers?”

“…Yes. Yes, we are. Um.” She glanced at Luna, who shrugged. Then, she faced Celestia. “Princess, do you need some time alone, or…?”

“That won’t be needed, Twilight Sparkle.” A forced smile. “But thanks.”

“We were arguin’ if you’re the reason why Equestria is in danger,” Applejack said, tipping her hat to Sunset. “Which would mean we gotta shoot you.”

Sunset took the words like a lady. Her face barely moved. “Oh. Okay.”

“But we can’t shoot her!” Pinkie said. “Twilight said it’s space’s fault!”

“But we can compromise, right?” AJ asked. “Ah mean, if it’s been her…”

“Hmm.” Spike was crossing his arms, concentration all over his face. “A compromise? Maybe if we… I’ve got an idea. We can take Sunset, right? And then we shoot her into sp—

“Aaaand here’s when we all shut up and stop talking.” Twilight’s horn flashed, and Spike’s mouth shut itself. “Thaaank you.” She patted his head. “Now! As I said, crossing dimensions alone is not enough to tear the fabric of space and time. For this amount of flowers, Sunset would have needed much more magic.”

“…Uh-huh. How much magic, exactly?” Sunset asked.

Something in her tone made everypony pause and look at her.

It was Celestia who broke the silence. “Sunset Shimmer,” she said, arching an eyebrow. “Do you have anything you need to tell us?”

“Weeeeell.” Sunset gave them a half-assed smile. “I might have, uh, misused the Magic of Friendship a bit, lately. Ponying up and such, right?”

“Ponying up?” Luna looked at Twilight. “What?”

“Turning into a pony. More or less like using the Elements,” Twilight said. “Sunset, what do you mean, ‘misusing’? How often did you pony up?”

“On average?”

“Yes.”

“Two to five times a day, for the last twelve years or so.”

Now, there are silences, and then there are Silences. A silence comes when a kid falls asleep. A Silence comes when she never wakes up.

What followed Sunset’s statement was, undoubtedly, a Silence.

“Gosh. This is going to do wonders for our future friendship,” Sunset muttered. “Okay, so, you need to understand—my life wasn’t exactly easy back there, right? I had to do some, uh, creative things to survive. You see…”

And she started to talk.

Thirty minutes later, she was done. Everypony was noticeably paler, except for Fluttershy, who was straight out unconscious. Applejack had been forced to lean on Dash for support, and she was pressing her hat against her chest. Pinkie’s lower lip was trembling. Luna had excused herself to her chambers long ago.

“…and that was how I fed myself for the last couple months,” Sunset finished. “Not pretty, but one gets used to everything.”

In the background, Rarity broke down in tears.

“So.” Another look around, and Sunset tapped her hoof on the floor. “Would that be enough to make flowers rain, or…?”

“…Yes. Yes, it would.” Twilight gulped, and swept the sweat away from her forehead. “It definitely, uh, would. Oh, Sunset Shimmer…”

“Hey, at least that took the smile out of your face.” Sunset winked at Twilight. “You were being a little creepy earlier!”

“Right. Me. I’m the creepy one.”

“Details aside,” Celestia said, “that alone would be indeed enough to tear the fabric of space and time. Sunset Shimmer, your presence alone puts the entirety of Equestria in danger.”

“Hmm.” Sunset elbowed Twilight. “Called it.”

“Okay.” Dash took a deep breath, and her voice was still trembling a little. “Ahem. Okay. So what do we do?”

“Well, I have to say, the solution is easier than expected.” And Celestia’s voice was as warm as ever, which made it all the more surreal when she kept talking. “Sunset Shimmer’s sheer inner magic is enough to cause the tear, and her presence will do nothing but worsen the situation. But time and space can fix themselves if the pressure disappears.”

Twilight’s ears went flat against her head. “Which means, the fastest way to fix this…”

“…Is to kick Sunset Shimmer back to the human dimension,” Celestia finished.


Hours passed.

Under the moonlight, the flowers looked like snow. Once Spike went to bed—in his own room; the dragon now demanded privacy—Twilight was left alone in her old studio.

“Twilight? Are you awake?”

Or maybe not.

“Sunset Shimmer.” Twilight turned her attention away from the books sprawled all over her desk and looked at her friend, who was still waiting by the door, floating a tray with a cup of tea, a sandwich, and some sweets. “What are you doing here?”

“Brought you something.” Sunset nodded towards the tray. “I saw you didn’t exactly eat a lot when we had dinner, and I thought you might be hungry. Am I interrupting anything?”

“No, no! Not really.” Twilight rubbed her eyes and waved Sunset to enter, then moved a chair so she could sit right next to her. “And I am a little hungry. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Sunset sat down with a groan, then rested her hooves under her chin. “So. What a day, huh?”

“You name it,” Twilight said with a chuckle. “We barely had time to breathe, did we? Or catch up.”

“Well, that’s why I’m here.”

“True.” A deep breath. “You never asked me why I wanted you to come.”

“You never asked me why I came.”

Twilight grabbed one of the sandwiches and took a bite. “True.”

A lot has been said about silence, and Silence, but what followed was neither of them. It was, to put it simply, a moment of quiet. It wasn’t awkward, as much as it was contemplative. Reuniting with an old friend like this, they both knew, would have been harder if they hadn’t had the perfect topic to break the ice.

“So,” Sunset said, resting her back on the seat and eyeing the books Twilight had been reading. “Are we all going to die?”

“That’s what I’m trying to discover!” Twilight said after swallowing. “I’ve seen many Flower Falls over the years, but never to this degree. Time folds onto itself, but what does that mean in this case?” She pointed at her desk, and all the books on it. “I need to look into it.”

“Hmm.” Sunset poked a scroll. It almost fell to the ground. “Reading, huh? Can’t stand it. Never liked books, myself. Too complicated. In my time, things were simpler.”

This almost made Twilight choke. “Wait, what?”

“Books. Never trusted them.” Sunset shook her head. “You know how we taught kids in my days? Just, teacher speaking, students listening. Not having somepony to tell you the things you need to learn? Nah. Sooner or later you will all realize it’s a bad idea, and you heard it from me first.”

A blink. “Wow. Really? That’s—”

“What?”

“No, just…”

“You’re smiling.” Sunset smirked back. “What? Was it funny, what I said?”

The mask cracked, and Twilight gave out a hearty laugh. “A little!” she admitted, wiping off a tear. “It’s just… The way you said that, it really made you sound like an old—like a middle-aged pony, I meant! Yikes!” Twilight had to look away. “Sorry! Please, stop squinting like that!”

Two seconds later, Sunset stopped.

“Oof. Thanks.” Twilight shook her head, and put the half-eaten sandwich down. “Boy, I could feel the trademark in that one.”

I am not an old pony.”

“No, no. You aren’t.” Twilight shook her head. “Oof. Were you referring to Celestia?”

Sunset’s ears twitched up. “Hm?”

“When you said a teacher taught you lessons. Was that Celestia?”

Sunset’s ears went down again. “Yeah, of course,” she said. “She used to be my teacher before I went mad with power and crossed the mirror and all that.” Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, “But I think I’d like it better if we didn’t talk about this.”

It didn’t escape to Twilight how awkward that last part had sounded. “You don’t want to be reminded of that time, then? Is it because of what you had to go through at Canterlot High School, or because of Celestia?”

Sunset relaxed visibly. “A little bit of both, I guess? I don’t mind Celestia.”

“You two were a little uncomfortable earlier today,” Twilight continued. Her voice had an edge, at this point. “Maybe you don’t know how to act around each other? How to approach everything that happened?”

“Uh. No. I just don’t really care for—”

“But she was your teacher! Surely you want to go back to that relationship? Oh, maybe I should help you making amends with her!”

Sunset arched an eyebrow. “Twilight.”

“After all, it might be hard forgiving others, or forgiving yourself, especially when it’s been a long time since you argued! Old friendships are precious, but that’s what makes them hard to fix!”

“Twilight. Hey, Twilight.”

“I know just what to do! Starlight Glimmer—student of mine, you have to meet her at some point, I’m sure you’ll like each other—was in exactly the same position. And it all worked out in the end! You just have to…”

“Twilight.” Sunset poked her on the side of the head. “Hey.”

“Yes?"

“You’re just trying to get a Friendship Problem out of this, aren’t you.”

“Wha—me?” Twilight pressed a hoof against her chest, seemingly offended. “Looking for a problem? Pfft. No.”

“You so are.”

“I’m not! I just want you to fix your past relationship with Celestia! Oh, it’ll be such a heartfelt reunion. We have to do that as soon as possible! Especially if you’re going to stay in Equestria!”

And with those eight words, the atmosphere in the room changed immediately.

Twilight let it drop casually, but she could see Sunset relaxing her shoulders after this. She’d been waiting for that. After everything Celestia had said, after everything Sunset had told them about her life in Canterlot High School, after opening up like that…

She’d been genuinely scared, thinking that they were going to kick her out of Equestria, just to save the world. Twilight’s words had taken a weight off her shoulders.

Twilight couldn’t help but smile to herself at this. Some things never changed, after all. Despite this new old age of hers, Sunset was still as easy to read as ever.


Despite this new old age of hers, Sunset still found Twilight as easy to fool as ever. Some things never changed, after all.

A conversation was just like a game of chess, when you got to it. Think of a strategy, improvise when it’s needed, make the right moves, and you get a checkmate. Of course, she was also friends with Twilight and all that—but once you were a true villain, you always knew how to think like one.

“Right,” Sunset said. “Well, if you say so. I don’t think I need to talk with another Celestia, really.”

“‘Another’ Celestia?”

Sunset nodded. She wondered if getting the cup of tea she’d got for Twilight would be seen as rude. “The principal. She was almost the only one who kept in touch with me, really.”

“So the rest of the girls…?”

“You know that already. We just sort of drifted apart as the years went by. Then there was that, and after that things were never the same.”

That?

Sunset shot her half a smile. “Would you believe me if I said you don’t want to know?”

Twilight seemed to think about this for a second or two, then she conceded the point.”Yeah,” she said. Another Friendship Problem to the list, probably. “Was it hard?” Twilight asked then. “To say goodbye, and…?”

“Pffft. No.” Sunset waved a hoof. “It was actually rather easy. And to be completely honest, I should have crossed that portal sooner. I like it in here.” She patted the desk. “Warm in winter, cool in summer, I’ve got a bed. Nobody’s squatting.”

“Sorry?”

“Never mind. So yeah.” She shrugged. “I’m glad you asked me to come, really. It was for the best.”

“Oh.” Twilight now did go and took a sip from the cup. So much for wish fulfillment, Sunset thought. “Well, that’s good. You still didn’t ask me why I sent you that note.”

“I don’t really need to. I know already.”

This made Twilight blink. “Really?”

“Yeah. It’s not that weird. In fact, it’s pretty common in the human world, especially among males. I’ve seen it a thousand times.” Sunset shrugged. “So I wouldn’t say it’s strange enough for me to demand explanations or anything.”

“…Wow.” Twilight took another sip, brow furrowed. “And… And what do they do, when they feel like me?”

“They buy a sports car.”

“Oh.”

“As I said, it’s really common.” Sunset clapped once after saying this, making Twilight flinch. “But let’s not talk about this! Tell what’s changed all these years, Twilight Sparkle. Are you still single? Any good stallion in your life?”

“What?” Twilight made a face. “Um. No, not really. No changes there.”

“Tsk, tsk.” Sunset shook her head and patted Twilight on the hoof. “That won’t do, young lady, that won’t do. You need to settle down, find a nice stallion. Have some children!”

Awkward smile. “I, eheh, I don’t think I’m one to settle down with nice stallions, Sunset. But, um, thanks.”

“Now, how can you say that? Your poor mother. I’m sure she’d want you to fill that big castle of yours with lil’ footsteps.” Sunset smiled, and patted that hoof again. “You’re going to rot away otherwise, girl!”

Twilight groaned. “Yes, yes, I know. I’ve heard this one before. Let me guess: next you’ll say I might become a crazy—”

“Crazy cat lady! Exactly!” Sunset pointed at Twilight to add more impact to her words, and she just pushed the hoof away from her face. “Face as pretty as yours, what a waste. And you’re already halfway there!”

“What? I don’t even own a cat!”

“You have Spike! Who is pretty much the same thing.” Sunset stopped, and looked around. “Does he still sleep in a small nest on the ground?”

“Discipline is important for kids his age.”

“True, I guess. But Spike aside, you,” and here she pointed again, “need to get your priorities straight, Twilight Sparkle.”

“I don’t really have time to date.”

“Really now? Because from what I heard, it’s more like the opposite. Why am I here again? Because you were so busy, right?”

Twilight set the cup down and glared at Sunset. “Can we talk about something else?”

“Ponyville’s a nice town. I’m sure there are good ponies in it. Of course, if you’d prefer somepony from Canterlot, that would be good, too.” Sunset crossed her arms and nodded to herself. “Why, some of the Guards—”

“Oh, no. No, no, no.” Twilight shook her head with enough energy to generate a small current of air, like a really inefficient air fan. “No Royal Guards. That’s the first rule, Sunset.”

“No Royal Guards? Why?”

“Because my brother was one, and I’ve seen how they look at me now that I’m a Princess, and it’s weird.” Twilight’s ears went down as she blushed slightly. “And I told you—I’m not one for nice stallions.”

Sunset arched an eyebrow. “You like the bad boys, then? It doesn’t fit your image.”

“…No, that’s not the point I’m trying to—seriously, can we not talk about my love life, please?” She saw Sunset’s expression. “Or disappointing lack of it, if that’s the same for you? Trying to save the world here. We could talk about that. Or about your life in Equestria. Or about you being middle aged.”

Sunset sighed. “Let’s save that one for tomorrow, please? I’m tired.”

“Wait.” Twilight cocked her head to the side. “You know why you turned old?”

“You mean you don’t?”

“I—”

“Okay, no. That only makes it worse. Geez” Sunset shook her head. “Too depressing. Tomorrow.”

“Um.”

“I insist.” Sunset’s words were final. “And about what I’m going to do from now on… Well, Twilight, you wanted my help. Probably to make your life more interesting.” She looked out the window, at the flowers. “It sure worked, but this can’t be what you had in mind, right?”

Twilight followed Sunset’s gaze. “No, no. Of course not. I just thought that I’d…”

“Help me get my stuff together? Get some Friendship Problems out of me?” Sunset didn’t sound offended here; she spoke matter-of-factly. “Well, I think I got you covered already, judging by the conversation. And I’ll probably get some more along the way, because I’m a middle-aged pony with the mind of a teenager.”

Twilight chuckled. “I guess,” she said, “I just… wanted to help you.”

“And I can’t thank you enough for it,” Sunset said, getting up from the chair and nuzzling Twilight’s cheek. Twilight nuzzled back. “Really. My life is kind of a mess.”

“Which is exactly what I need right now,” Twilight said. “A mess. We compliment each other, don’t we?”

“That’s the magic of friendship!” Sunset said, smiling brightly. “And you can start immediately, of course. I didn’t lie when I said my life is a mess.”

“Oh?”

“Well, I left Equestria long ago,” Sunset said. “I have pretty much nothing in here. Friends, family, a home… All gone.” She kept her tone perfectly neutral. No hint of sadness in her voice. “But I still came when you asked for it, because that’s what friendship means. Even if that means being middle aged.”

Twilight pretty much melted at this. Her eyes teared up a little, her ears went flat against her face, her wings fluttered. “Oh, Sunset,” she said, pressing her hooves against her chest. “That is so…”

And as Twilight’s voice cracked, Sunset realized it was time to bet it all.

You could have been great. Those words burned in Sunset’s mind. It wasn’t a really bad burn, but it stung nonetheless, and even middle aged ponies have their pride.

She didn’t want to just avoid being kicked back to the human dimension. Maybe it was too late to be great…

“And that,” Sunset interrupted, “is the reason why I believe you have the moral obligation to let me crash at your place for a while.”

…but that didn’t mean she couldn’t live a great life.

Twilight’s eyes went wide. “Oh, Sunset…” she repeated.

A conversation was just like a game of chess, when you got to it. Think of a strategy. Improvise when it’s needed. Make the right moves.

“Of course!” Twilight said, getting up and nuzzling Sunset’s cheek. “Of course you can stay with me. As long as you want. You’ve made my life a million times better just by coming here, how could I say no?”

And you get a checkmate.

Plink!


And in the most important table in the world, Fate dons a cocky smile and lays its last card on the table, earning a roaring applause from the audience. Flowers Fall, and it hurts Time. A physical wound in its cheek.

The tables have turned. Fate’s strategy is finally revealed.

The sign that marks the winner is the start of a romance—when they look at each other, eye to eye, and there’s a

tink!

in the air. The Love That Could Not Be, is the name of the game, and it’s about star-crossed lovers. But there’s somebody missing at the most important table in the world.

Fate wants to bring them together, but there’s a detail they never thought about.

At no point did Love sit with them to play.

Author's Note:

To be continued.