• Published 13th Aug 2017
  • 17,234 Views, 765 Comments

Home or hearth? - keroko

In the face of anon-a-miss, Sunsets runs away to Equestria to get a break and finds a welcome relief in her old life as a pony. Cultures clash as her CHS friends, determined to win her back, discover just how little they know about Sunset.

  • ...

To drop from the face of the world

"Secret stealer!"

Sunset flinched at the memory as she walked down the halls of CHS. They were empty at this hour, all students having long left bar perhaps a few finishing practice or doing detention.

Nobody to yell at her, nobody to accuse her.

It hadn't turned physical. Not yet, at any rate. She thanked Celestia and every deity the people here worshipped that CHS wasn't that kind of school, even at its worst. But you don’t need violence to hurt people. Words have plenty power of their own.

“You’re not the person we thought you were!”

The betrayal was the worst. She could understand a lingering resentment from the other people in the school. It’s a big school after all, can’t ask everyone for their forgiveness. But these girls, they said they had forgiven her, so why? Why did they turn on her? Why didn’t they believe her?

Why did they abandon her?

And if they had, did she even have anyone left?

By now she had reached the front door of the school. Still nobody. Beyond that door was the Wondercolt statue, and inside that statue, the portal to Equestria.

Equestria. Home to maybe her final two friends. She hadn’t dared write Twilight again. Twilight had trusted the girls to look after her, but Sunset couldn’t follow in Twilight’s trust. Not when it came to those girls. Not after the accusations, not after the glares, not after what seemed like the whole school decided that she, Sunset Shimmer, was Anon-a-Miss.

She was angry, she was scared, and she was tired. So very, very tired. She just wanted a friend.

“Stay strong, remember who you are, and find your family.” Those were the last words Twilight had written to her this evening. She couldn’t really stay strong anymore, but she could find her family. Even if it was a family of only two.

The door slid open with barely a sound. Sunset picked up her pace as the Wondercolt statue drew closer. She’d have to explain herself to Twilight, but maybe Twilight could give her one night’s rest? She was so very tired.

One step, another step, the portal was now meters away-

“So you’re leaving?”

Sunset froze in her steps as Flash Sentry’s voice called out to her. She slowly turned around to face her ex-boyfriend. He just stood there, hands in his jacket’s pockets.

“...Hey Flash” she managed to say.

“Hey Sunset” he answered “you look terrible.”

A wry smile formed as she lowered her head. “I feel terrible.”

“I can imagine” Flash said, then frowned. “No, wait, no I can’t. I just-” Sunset watched as Flash did that ‘scratch the back of his head’ thing he always did when he stuffed his foot in his mouth. Eventually he sighed. “So, yeah, I can’t really imagine. What I’m trying to say is- I understand. You wanting to leave, I mean.”

Sunset lowered her head. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Flash snorted “wanting a break from all of this? I told you, I understand. You got an entire school’s worth of crap dumped on your lap. Anyone would want a break from that.”

“But it feels like I’m running away” Sunset said.

“And?" Flash countered, raising his eyebrow as he tilted his head. "Look, Sunset, I know you and I know you hate running. You stand your ground whenever you can, and even in times you can’t, but sometimes it’s not a bad idea to take a step back for a bit.” Flash paused for a moment before adding “besides, I know you and the girls had something planned, but I’m pretty sure that’s down the drains right now and you’ll be alone for the holidays. Nobody should be alone for the holidays.”

Another wave of hurt racked Sunset. She hadn’t really thought about her holiday plans ever since the invitation to celebrate Christmas with everyone at Sweet Apple Acres, but now that she did she realized how much she had been looking forward to it. Her face must have shown the pain, because Flash’s hand was back behind his head again.

“Ah crap. Do you- uhm , have Christmas over there?” he asked.

Sunset's mind flashed back to her earlier years in Equestria. Carols in the snow, a decorated tree, warm family around a table... “Kind of. It’s not something religious like here, but it is dear to us. It celebrates the founding of our nation, and a time where friendship triumphed over hatred and petty grievances.”

“Sounds exactly like the kind of celebration you need right now.” Flash said.

And maybe it was. If she had anyone to celebrate it with. Her list of friends and family in Equestria was almost shorter than the one she had here. Those that would celebrate Hearth’s Warming with her even shorter.

Flash spoke again. “Look, you’ve poured more effort in fixing this school than anyone else, and I'm including Twilight in that list. If anyone deserves an early Christmas break, it’s you. Don’t worry about the teachers, I’ll talk to them and explain what happened. I’ll even tell them this was my idea.”

Sunset opened her mouth to protest, but Flash put his hands on her shoulders.

“Sunset, just go. Let us deal with our own problems for a change.”

Sunset turned around and took the last remaining steps to the portal. She raised a hand to touch the statue’s base, and to her relief the surface shimmered. The portal was open. She almost leaned into it, if not for remembering one more thing.

“Flash, a book- in my locker there is a book. I use it to stay in touch with Twilight. I just- I mean if something really important happens-”

“Book in your locker, got it” Flash smiled. “Now go, and happy early holidays.”

A ghost of a smile made its way to her lips, and Sunset leaned through the portal’s surface, ripples in the surface and a flash of light marking her disappearance from earth and back to Equestria.

As the ripples of the portal slowly receded, Flash sighed. This had been a harder conversation than he had expected. At first, he had just planned on throwing Sunset a lifeline by telling her he believed in her, giving the girl a bit of a pep talk so she could face her friends while they sorted this mess out. But after he saw her making a beeline for the portal, he’d decided to let her go home. Sunset had looked on the verge of breaking, and he’d be damned before he gave Anon-a-Miss the satisfaction of seeing that happen.

“What a mess” he muttered as he pocketed his hands again. He’d heard about Sunset collapsing into the hallway in tears, which had stunned him. Even with the payback after the Fall Formal Sunset had always faced her adversity head on.

Flash turned away from the portal and began his own walk home. He’d tell the principal about Sunset’s leave of absence first thing tomorrow. And after that, he would start his own little inquisition.

He would get to the bottom of this anon-a-mess, one way or another.

The moment she stepped through the portal, Sunset’s sense of time and space were warped beyond recognition. For both a moment and an eternity, time seemed to stretch and take her along with it. Then everything shrunk back just as quickly as she was spat out of the other end of the portal.

"Oof!" Air was pushed from her lungs as she hit the floor with an audible thud, landing flat on her stomach. She drew in a deep breath as she opened her eyes, not to much good as the entire room spun. She rapidly blinked until the three rooms became one again.

"Sunset?" Oh hey, a new blur. Sunset blinked again until the purple blur turned into a very worried looking purple alicorn.

"Hey Twilight" Sunset rasped.

Purple feathers fluffed as Twilight took stock of Sunset's dishevelled state, uncertainty danced across her face as she raised a hoof to step forward. "Is everything alright? Why did you come through the portal?"

"You told me, right?" Sunset said as she rose to wobbly stand on her hooves. For a moment she lifted her front hooves out of pure reflex, trying to stand on her hind legs as she had done for years on the other end of that mirror, but exhaustion and her pony body dragged them down on the crystal floor with an audible clack. A small frown made its way to her face, but exhausted as she was she was content to let her body run on auto-pilot for now.

"Told you what?" Twilight asked as she stepped forward until she was right in front of Sunset.

"To remember who I am, and find my family."

Twilight tilted her head, worry mixed with confusion. "Yes?"

Sunset waved a hoof in her direction. "Found it."

The alicorn princess's mouth opened and closed a few times, and Sunset could practically see the gears turning behind those purple eyes. If their talks through her book were any indication, Sunset suspected Twilight was flitting through a thousand questions, trying to figure out what happened. But just as Twilight opened her mouth to fire of her first question, an amber hoof rose up to cover it. Its owner gave Twilight a tired smile. "As comforting as seeing a friend trying to figure things out for me for a change is, I am way too tired to handle the thousand questions you're about to bombard me with."

Purple ears folded back on her scalp as Twilight gave a piteous whine from behind Sunset's hoof. Sunset couldn't help but smile a little brighter. "Yes, I know you're worried. And you have no idea how much that means to me, especially right now. But I've had a really, really rough couple of days and I'm about to fall asleep on my hooves right here and now. I promise I'll explain everything tomorrow, but right now I really need some sleep."

The worry in her eyes never abated, but Twilight nonetheless nodded her assent. "Right" Sunset continued "so where can I find an inn here? We talked about Ponyville a lot over our journals, but I'm not really familiar with where-"

As if she had flicked a switch, Twilight's demeanour changed. Her eyes hardened and wings flared and a purple hoof firmly lowered the yellow one covering her mouth. "Oh no you don't!"

Sunset took a step back at the sudden change, her eyes widened in surprise. "Twilight?"

Twilight stomped a hoof and leaned forward until their noses almost touched. "No. You don't get to come here looking like you just finished a three day Running of the Leaves, brush off my concern and calmly canter off towards an inn. You-" she poked Sunset in the chest with a hoof "are staying right here. In my castle."

Sunset felt her ears splaying back as she quailed beneath that stern gaze. This wasn't Twilight Sparkle, friend and fellow student of magic. This was Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship. Who clearly took slights against her friendship very seriously. "I'm sorry, princess." Sunset meekly apologized, lowering her head.

Twilight blinked, her eyes softening as she reached out with a wing. Sunset felt a tingle across her spine as feathers drew over her withers in a gentle hug. "Hey, none of that now." Twilight said gently. "We're friends. I may be a princess, and Celestia knows everypony can't stop reminding me about it" Twilight rolled her eyes "but I'm the Princess of Friendship. The last thing I want is for my friends to bow to me."

Sunset felt a warmth she hadn't felt for the last couple of days spread through her chest. She raised her head and smiled. "Thanks, Twilight."

Twilight returned the smile. "Don't worry about it, now let's get you to a room. Luckily I always keep a couple of guest rooms ready, in case someone needs to sleep over."

"Doesn't almost everyone you know live in Ponyville?" Sunset noted, raising an eyebrow.

Twilight stuck out her tongue in reply and bumped her shoulder against Sunset's. "It helps you now, doesn't it?"

The next few moments passed in silence, and were mostly as a blur to Sunset as she began to doze off. Twilight steered her out of the room she had landed in with her wings, and down hallways until she stopped in front of a door. As Twilight opened it with her magic revealed a room with the basic necessities: A closet, a desk, a vanity table and a bed.

A big, fluffy, luxurious bed.

"This is your room" Twilight explained. "If you need anything -and I mean anything- my room is two doors down the hallway."

"Right, thanks Twilight" Sunset murmured as she wobbled towards the bed. Placing her hooves on the edge she tried to raise herself on to the bed, but momentarily switched to trying to stand as a human and nearly toppled over. Before she could hit the ground, a purple glow caught her and lifted her up to the bed, laying her down and drawing the cover up to her neck.

"Sorry for being such a hassle." Sunset apologized, but Twilight merely shook her head with a smile.

"Don't be sorry. Just promise to talk to me about this tomorrow, okay?"

Sunset smiled. "I will."

Twilight nodded, satisfied with the promise. "Good night, Sunset."

"Good night, Twilight."

As Twilight closed the door behind her, Sunset shifted in her bed, digging her head into the soft pillow and drawing the blankets closer. There was something oddly comforting about everything. The bed, the air, the sounds coming from the outside, everything just made her feel calmer and more secure than she had felt in a long time. It wasn't until she started to drift of to sleep that she realized why. "I'm back home. Back in Equestria." It made her feel safe, as if she was back in her own house. She just hoped that her dreams would be just as comfortable being home as she was.

Outside the window of her room, the moon flashed as if it had heard the unspoken plea.