Sunset pushed her locker closed with a soft thud. She glanced around at the hallways of CHS and gave a soft sigh. Never had she seen the school quite so empty, especially when it had just barely passed 3 p.m.
She moved towards the main hall and just like the rest of Canterlot High, there wasn’t a single soul present.
All of them are probably home already. Snuggled up all cozy and…
Sunset quickly shook her head to knock out the thoughts. It was just a few days before Christmas and she was determined to let nothing sour her mood. She pushed the front door open and immediately, the winter chill soared past her. Quickly, she slid on her coat and gloves before venturing outside.
Snow had fallen from the sky, creating small mounds along the road from CHS. Sunset descended the steps, hearing it crunch with every step she took. A soft smile emerged from her lips once she reached the pavement.
No one’s around. So…
“Ha...ya!” Sunset reeled her right leg back and delivered a forceful kick to a nearby pile of icy white powder. It was an action that provided her some much needed relief when a day had gone bad. There was something about the feeling of kicking a pile of snow or leaves that made her feel powerful. Like an adventure heroine from the books Rainbow Dash would not stop ranting about.
“You want another? Well you asked for it! Hi—” She reeled up for another kick, when a giggle froze her in place. Sunset turned to see the source, and spotted Twilight leaning against the statue with a hand over her mouth.
“Nice to see you haven’t changed,” Twilight strolled up to Sunset, laughing once more when she noticed her blushing cheeks.
“T-Twilight! What are the chances you just came through the portal and aren’t giggling at me?” Sunset lowered her foot slowly, feeling a red hot wave of embarrassment melt away any feeling of cold.
“The probability of that would be… low.” Taking a seat on a nearby bench, Twilight tapped the space beside her softly.
“How low?” Sunset asked, taking a seat beside her friend.
Sunset rolled her eyes with a smirk, before delivering a soft punch to Twilight’s arm.
“Ow! Hey! I was laughing cause I do it too!” Twilight spoke through staggered giggles.
“Really now? The Princess of Friendship kicks piles of snow in the air?” Sunset crossed her arms in disbelief.
“Well in my case I levitate them, create several snowballs and fire them at Rainbow Dash but yes!”
Sunset gave a laugh of her own before speaking. “What’re you here for, Twilight? Isn’t it almost Hearth’s Warming Eve for you?”
“Mmhm! Decorations are all being set up! The castle is looking beautiful. There’s a giant tree in our main foyer and Starlight is celebrating it with us! It’s going to be amazing!” Twilight extended her arms into the air as she spoke.
“Right. I remember you writing to me how you got your own castle and your own student!” Sunset paused, the playful smirk vanishing from her face. “Wow, I guess it never really occurred to me how much you achieved in such a short time. Guess you really are Princess Celestia’s prized pupil.”
The sadness in Sunset's voice was all too obvious to Twilight. Quickly, she darted her hand forward and placed a finger upon Sunset’s glowing necklace. “I’m not the only one.”
Sunset glanced down at the pendant and gave a tiny smile. She grasped Twilight’s hand softly before nodding several times. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Twilight retracted her hand before continuing her explanation, “I came back because I was wondering if you’d like to join us for Hearth’s Warming? In Equestria?”
Sunset thought for a second before shaking her head. “Nah. I’d rather celebrate Christmas here. It’s actually pretty nice. And with the snow and the spirit the people carry here, it’s not too different from Hearth’s Warming back home.”
A soft sigh escaped Twilight's lips. “I know. I just… I thought it’d be worth a try.”
“Hey, that doesn’t mean I don’t wanna spend time with you, Twi.” Sunset shifted herself closer to her friend, smiling wide. “I’m just…”
“Not ready.” Twilight finished Sunset’s sentence, running her gloved hands over one another, “I know. I know. Well, in that case, here you go.” Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a green present which had been wrapped with a bright purple bow.
Sunset sat in stunned silence. It took her a few seconds before she reached forward and grabbed the box from Twilight's hands. "Twilight… I… I don’t know what to—”
“What is it people say here? Married Christmas?” Almost immediately, Sunset's laughter filled the air and soon enough, Twilight joined in as well. “I got it wrong, didn’t I?”
Once Sunset had regained some composure, she corrected Twilight with a wide grin, “it’s Merry Christmas, Twilight. And thank you. Can I open it now?”
“Of course! Go right ahead!”
Sunset pulled the bow at the top, watching the ribbon fall nicely onto her lap. She lifted the top of the box and was immediately greeted with several items.
“What did you do? Buy half the store?” she joked.
“Well, not all of them are from me. I asked your friends if they’d like to give you something.”
Sunset reached in, pulling out the first item. “Daring Do and the Cloudstone Curios.” She held the book in her grip and flipped open the cover, spotting writing on the first page.
Now that you got your own copy, you have no more excuses! Read it so you can talk about it with Twi and I!
-Your super awesome friend, Dash.’
“Of course, Daring Do from Rainbow. Let’s see… a scarf from Rarity. Fresh cider from AJ.” One at a time, Sunset removed the items from the box, placing them on the bench beside her. “Animal cookies from Fluttershy and Pinkie.” Sunset opened the cloth pouch and passed a cookie to Twilight, who took it with a smile.
“And lastly…” Sunset reached into the bottom of the box and pulled out a large binder. “A… photo album?”
“Take a look inside," Twilight said, chewing the cookie in her mouth.
Flipping the first page open, Sunset’s mouth fell agape when she spotted the pictures. They were all photos from the moments she had had with her friends. From setting up the CHS Musical Showcase all the way to their most recent escapades at Camp Everfree. Every single moment she cherished was now sitting on her lap and the thought left her dumbfounded.
One picture in particular caught her eye. It was her and Sci-Twi seated together on the pier at Camp Everfree, laughing at the camera. She slid the picture out from its place in the book and flipped it to the other side.
I made this album as my way of saying thanks to you.
Thank you for standing beside me. For never leaving my side. Thank you for everything you’ve done and going out of your way to be my best friend. You helped change my life forever, Sunset, and I’ll never forget it.
Cross my heart and hope to fly.
Stick a cupcake in my eye.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to repay the favor.
-Twilight Sparkle (the one that isn’t a magical pony princess!)’
Sunset attempted to hold back the tears welling up in her. She slid the photo back in its place and closed the album.
“You okay, Sunset?” Twilight asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Yeah,” Sunset replied in a shaky voice. “Yeah I’m okay.”
“Good cause there’s one person left that hasn’t given you a present yet.” Twilight smiled, undoing the straps on her gloves and pulling them off.
“Huh? Who?” Sunset turned to face Twilight, who swiftly reached into her bag and pulled out an ornate red box. She extended it towards Sunset, who took it with a perplexed expression on her face.
“You’re not proposing to me already right?”
Twilight covered her mouth as she laughed. “Just open it.”
Sunset lifted the lid of the box, and the sight of the contents made her heart skip a beat.
Inside sat a small yet beautiful pendant. It was made of shining gold and several beautiful gems adorned the front, sparkling in a myriad of colors. However, it wasn’t all of these that stopped Sunset’s heart. It was the engraving present on the face. It consisted of two alicorns flying in a circle around the sun and the moon. Around them were thirty-nine different stars and she immediately knew exactly what this pendant was.
“Twi-Twilight, there must be a mistake. This… this isn’t- this can’t be for me.” Sunset’s emotions were on the verge of overwhelming her. She could barely form the words to make a coherent sentence, much less put her storm of thoughts into words.
Twilight sat closer, placing an arm around her. “No I’m pretty sure I got the right girl.”
Sunset’s hands begun to shook lightly. “Twilight, this is an Equestrian Medal of Honor. Princess Celestia only gives these out to ponies she thinks has made a difference to Equestria.”
“Mmhm, you got all of it right. I don’t see a problem.” Twilight smiled, feeling Sunset’s emotions slowly spread to her. “Turn it around.”
Sunset turned the medal around, reading the engraving out loud. “You’ve made me so proud, Sunset. P-P-Princess… C-Celestia.”
She couldn’t hold the emotions in any longer. Tears flowed from eyes as she dived into Twilight’s arms. She bawled and sobbed loudly into Twilight’s winter coat, wrapping her own arms tightly around her friend’s.
Twilight shut her eyes tight, returning the emotional embrace with a hug of her own. Sunset’s emotions were so powerful, they had started to affect Twilight as well. Small tears started to run down her cheek as Sunset’s sobbing grew with each passing second.
After a few minutes, both of them had managed to regain some of their composure. They broke the hug, staring at each other with warm smiles.
“Twilight, this is- I mean…”
“You’re welcome, Sunset.” Twilight wiped a stray tear from Sunset’s face.
“Come on, let’s go grab some coffee. On me.” Sunset gathered her things and placed them back into the box. All of it, that is, except for the ornate red box. She grasped that tightly in her hand, as if her life depended on it. She stood up, preparing to move off when Twilight’s voice stopped her in her tracks.
“Actually Sunset, I have to get going. My friends are going to need all the help they can get prepping the castle for Hearth’s Warming Eve.” Twilight stood from her seat and walked up to Sunset.
“O-oh, right.” Sunset turned away, frowning.
“Hey.” Twilight used a finger to lift Sunset’s head, meeting her cyan eyes with a smile. “I’ll be back before you know it. And the portal’s always open for you, whenever you’re ready.”
“Right. I just wish you could stay a little longer." Sunset swiped Twilight's gloves from her hands and slowly slipped them on. "So I could repay you for all you’ve done for me.” Without warning, Twilight leaned in, pecking Sunset softly on her cheek.
"There’s nothing to repay. Merry Christmas, Sunset.”
“Merry Christmas, Twilight.”
Twilight waved towards Sunset as she walked towards the portal. With a large grin and a bittersweet heart, Sunset waved back one last time before Twilight disappeared in a flash of light.
Sunset sighed, feeling the silence and loneliness creep up on her once more. She turned to the direction of her home and started the walk back. However, she didn’t take more than five steps before she froze in her tracks.
Lifting her left hand, she stared intently at the tiny red box, a whirlwind of thoughts in her mind.
Slowly, she raised her head, landing her gaze on the portal Twilight had just disappeared into…
Twilight woke up with a loud yawn and ran a hoof through her mane. Groggily, she crawled out of bed and trotted to the kitchen, her eyes opened just enough to see where she was headed. Almost mechanically, she made her way to the kitchen and her horn lit up, wrapping a nearby cup in a bright purple glow.
She took a sip of the hot coffee, smiling wide as she felt energy course through her veins. “This tastes amazing, Spike. Great job on today’s coffee!” Twilight waited for a reply, but none came. She shot her eyes wide open and found the kitchen suspiciously empty. “Spike?”
Trotting slowly throughout the castle, she called Spike’s name several times, though his voice never echoed back. Once she was at the main foyer, Twilight spotted something suspiciously out of place. Underneath the giant pine tree that sat beside the staircases was one small orange and red box.
“Ugh, I thought I told all of them not to put presents till tonight! This’ll mess up the whole secret gift-giving event I have planned!” Twilight mumbled with an irritated expression. She trotted towards the single box and leaned down, preparing to inspect the present when a voice called out from behind her.
“Sorry, your friends didn’t tell me that. But at least you like the coffee.”
Twilight instantly recognized the voice, and she felt as if the air had been knocked out of her lungs. The angered thoughts vanished in an instant, and she felt her hooves shake immensely.
“You know, the alicorn look really suits you.”
With tears flowing from her eyes, she spun around and sure enough, there she was, with that signature smirk on her face. Silence enveloped the two mares for several seconds, broken only by one line.
“Happy Hearth’s Warming, Twilight.”