• Published 9th Jul 2018
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The Book of Sunlight - elPossenreisser



Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer are falling in love across the dimensions

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Chapter Four

As had become their habit, Sunset Shimmer waited for Twilight in front of the portal. A habit, Twilight mused, strange how fast something can become a habit. It was her fourth visit to Sunset Shimmer within a little over a week, and the portal, the school, and even her human form had become quite familiar. Just like last time she had packed a few books to read while Sunset was busy with homework. Of course she could have read them at home in her library, and she even would have had her magic at her disposal—but doing so in Sunset’s tiny apartment, huddled up on the bed and occasionally commenting on this or that thing she was reading was way more comfortable somehow.

When they decided they were done they would sometimes play some games on Sunset’s GameStation, but inevitably they would end up watching a movie—and more often than not Twilight would fall asleep.

Sometimes, Twilight thought, even a genuinely solitary activity such as studying could benefit from company. If it was the right company.

Sunset welcomed her with a hug before she immediately pushed a folded piece of clothing into Twilight’s hands. “Put that on before you freeze to death!”

“Thanks!” The portal clothes just weren’t suitable for the kind of weather that was developing. It was even relatively warm for late autumn.

Twilight unfolded the fabric and recognized Sunset’s purple hoodie, the one Sunset had worn when they had met for cocoa that first time. The one in whose front pocket they had held hands for the first time.

Sunset smiled when she put it on. “It looks good on you.”

“And it’s nice and warm,” Twilight said.

“I have some stockings for you too,” Sunset said and handed her the item in question. “Just put them on under your skirt.”

Twilight had never worn any pants, and especially not put them on while trying to balance on one leg. When she tried to get her first leg in, she almost fell over and had to abort the mission. Sunset giggled and put an arm around Twilight to steady her, and with the added support Twilight finally managed to put on the unusual item of clothing.

“Much better, thanks!”

They started walking. “We need to find a better solution though,” Sunset said. “Getting you dressed out in public every time you come by isn’t really a solution. You’ll have everyone leering if you ever come over during daytime. That is, if you want to keep coming over.”

“Of course I do,” Twilight smiled. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

“Well, then we’ll have to figure this out.”

For a while they just walked in silence. Twilight was proud to realize that she recognized most streets by now. They came by the street that, if she wasn’t mistaken, led to the sandwich place where they had eaten that one time. Donut Joe’s was down the street a few more blocks. The visits were starting to pay off.

“If you’re hungry we can stop by and pick up some sandwiches,” Sunset said, pointing at the street where Twilight had thought the sandwich place was. “Or I could just make us mac and cheese.”

“Mac and cheese is fine,” Twilight said. “I don’t really feel like going out tonight, even just for sandwiches. To be honest all I want right now is get settled under the blanket and not move anywhere.”

Sunset laughed. “That’s exactly what I’ve been looking forward to all day. Shut-in mac and cheese it is, then.”

Seeing Sunset’s apartment building again almost felt like seeing an old friend. Again Twilight wondered how this place could feel this familiar after only a few visits. Maybe it was just the kind of cozy, homey time she usually spent there.

Once inside it didn’t take them long to get settled. Like the last times Sunset Shimmer prepared tea, and then sat down on the bed, covered by the blanket. Twilight laboriously unpacked her books from her bag and arranged them in a neat stack on the nightstand while Sunset picked up a book and a dog-eared legal pad from the floor.

“Whatcha reading tonight?” Sunset asked.

“A collection of Yakyakistani legends,” Twilight replied. “Not the smoothest read I’m afraid. Very stilted language. Luckily I’m two-thirds finished already.”

“I have biology. Genetics of peas. It’s not too bad.”

“Well, have fun!”

For a good hour they studied in almost complete silence, only interrupted occasionally when Sunset murmured the answer to herself while writing down answers to exercise questions. It was nice to have someone around, Twilight thought, someone who could just as well lose herself in her own work.

Finally Twilight finished the Yakyakistani book. Although from a cultural yakology point of view it was certainly interesting and shed some light on some of the Yaks’ beliefs. But the language had made it a rather strenuous endeavor. With a content sigh she put the book aside and picked up the next one.

“More Yaks?” Sunset asked.

“Not quite. Actually I think I’ve earned myself some light reading.” Smiling she held up a copy of Daring Do and the Mystery of the Jade Zebra.

“Oh, I remember Daring Do! It’s been forever since I’ve read one.” She put her legal pad down and looked at the cover. “This must be a new one.”

“Yes, from last year. I’ve read it before, but—“ She blushed. “I really like re-reading books. It’s like revisiting an old friend. I’m weird like that.”

“Sounds perfectly normal if you ask me,” Sunset said and picked up her legal pad again. “Four more, and then I’m done.”

Twilight deliberately took her time while reading through the first chapters. Like all Daring Do books it wasn’t a massive volume, and she wanted to savor it. Just when she had finished the first chapter, Sunset dropped her legal pad and book to the floor. “Done!” she exclaimed. “How about some mac and cheese?”

“Yes please!” Twilight put down Daring Do and followed Sunset into the kitchen. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Sunset chuckled. “Not really, no. There’s a reason I’m well-stocked on mac and cheese. You shall behold the wonders of human convenience food.” She filled a small pot with water and put it on the stove before taking a package from a cupboard. From the package she poured noodles into the heating water. “There, most of it’s done.”

“Wait, that’s all?”

“Almost. We just wait for the noodles, then we add the cheese mix, and presto manifesto! Dinner!”

“Impressive,” Twilight said. “I wonder if the low levels of magic have made the humans more inventive. Not just food, but all the other technological artifacts everypony is using daily.”

“And ramen. Don’t forget ramen.”

“What’s ramen?”

“Another wonderful kind of instant noodles. Don’t worry, there’s literally no way you’re going to miss it if you keep coming to visit.” Sunset pulled a chair from the table and sat down. “We have another six and a half minutes.”

Twilight sat down too. “You’re having this regularly, I assume.”

Sunset shrugged. “I’ve never been any good at cooking, and honestly, since it’s always just me, I usually just can’t be bothered.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Twilight said. “I’ve just never really lived alone. First with my parents, then in Canterlot Castle, and ever since that entrance exam I’ve always had Spike around.”

“I’ve lived alone ever since I, well, left Canterlot.” She shrugged again. “Even there I kept to myself as often as I could. And when I came here… well, I didn’t want any roommates up in my business. I guess I’m just used to living alone.”

There were a lot of things Twilight wanted to ask following this. What about Sunset’s family? Did she actually like living alone? What was she going to do about her living arrangements when school was finished? But something about Sunset’s flat, matter-of-fact voice held her back. She sensed that Sunset probably didn’t want to talk about a lot of these things, at least not right now.

“And now you have me all up in your business,” Twilight finally said in an attempt to brighten the mood.

“That’s different though,” Sunset said, smiling. “I like it when you’re around.”

“Me too.”

Sunset cleared her throat. “So, are you ready for cheesy goodness?” She stood up, took the pot off the stove and poured the noodles into a sieve in the drain. Twilight watched fascinated as Sunset put the noodles back into the pot and then added some water, some margarine, and the powdery cheese mix from the package. “Done!” Sunset declared after a few stirs. “Could you get the plates? They’re in that cupboard over there.”

“I know,” Twilight smiled. “I’m all up in your business after all.”

Sunset laughed. “I guess you are.” She placed the steaming pot on the table while Twilight brought the plates and forks. Sunset distributed the mac and cheese. For a few minutes they were too busy eating.

When they had finished Sunset put the pot and plates in the sink. “I’ll deal with this tomorrow.”

“Or I could just help you with it, and we’ll be done even sooner.”

“Fine.” Sunset shook her head, but grinned and started filling the sink with hot water. She quickly washed up, and Twilight wiped them dry and put them back in the cupboard.

“Okay, you were right, it was much faster this way,” Sunset begrudgingly admitted as they returned to the bedroom. They settled down under the blanket again, and Twilight picked up her book again. Sunset, now done with her homework, asked, “So what’s Daring Do up to?”

“Well, she’s just arrived in the city, and she’s just about to meet Professor Blue Quill, who’s an expert… hold on.

“The little square in front of the university was deserted and only illuminated by a lone lantern, casting the huge shadow of the statue in the middle of the square halfway up the wall of the university portal. Not allowing herself to be spooked by the nocturnal lighting conditions, Daring Do resolutely opened the door leading to the cloister. Inside, it was even darker than on the square, as no lanterns or candles were lit. Only the moonlight faintly illuminated the interior quadrangle. Except for a cacophony of crickets it was quiet.”

Twilight paused and looked at Sunset. She had reclined into her pillow and was listening with her eyes closed. When Twilight didn’t continue, she opened one eye and peeked at her. “Um, don’t stop! I mean, please?”

Twilight giggled. She looked too cute lying there and peering up at her. “Alright, alright! I didn’t know you’d like being read to.”

Sunset closed her eye again. “When I first started at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns I got really homesick. I was only a little filly, mind you. Princess Celestia found me crying in the hallway one night. She brought me back to bed and sat down and read me a story. Gusty the Great. She did this every night for a good two months until I got better. And even then she’d sometimes visit me in the evening. ‘For old times’ sake’, she used to say, but I think she enjoyed it too. Gusty was my favorite book back then. I used to read it whenever I felt sad or angry. I guess I could have used it after I came here, but I didn’t bring it.”

Twilight didn’t reply immediately and just looked at Sunset’s peaceful face. She didn’t often speak of her time as Princess Celestia’s student. Twilight knew that it wasn’t a topic she liked to discuss, and based on what she knew about the end of the relationship between Celestia and Sunset Shimmer, she was hardly surprised. There was probably still a lot of resentment present. Even in Princess Celestia.

Since she didn’t know what to say, and she didn’t want to upset Sunset when she was this calm and peaceful, Twilight simply continued, “The library was situated behind a door on the side opposite of professor Blue Quill’s office. When Daring opened it, she was greeted by warm light and the wonderful scent of old paper…

***

“’I don’t think so, Hornmeyer!’ Daring Do yelled.” Sunset’s head leaned softly against Twilight’s shoulder. She turned and looked upon Sunset’s face, her eyes closed, her breathing slow and steady. “Are you sleeping?”

“Am not sleeping,” Sunset mumbled.

Twilight closed the book and put it aside. “Come on, let’s get ready for bed. It’s late anyway.”

“But the story isn’t finished,” Sunset complained.

“We’ll finish it some other time.”

Again Sunset peered at her with one eye. “Deal.” Twilight laughed.

***

“You really don’t have to get up with me,” Sunset said. She was sitting in bed, contemplating whether getting up was a good idea or not.

Twilight was sitting next to her. “But this way I can walk you to school, and say hi to our friends, and then be on my way home.”

But if she stayed in bed, maybe Twilight would forget to leave at all and still be there when Sunset returned from school, she thought. Even though it had only been a rather short evening she didn’t want to Twilight to leave again. Or maybe it was just because it had been such a short evening? Maybe it had been too short?

The fact of the matter was, just as with her earlier visits, Sunset wasn’t at all happy about Twilight leaving.

“And I can make us coffee while you’re getting ready,” Twilight added, inexplicably chipper for the early hour.

Yep. Definitely too short.

Despite herself Sunset smiled. “Can’t say no to this, can I?” With a sigh she stood up, shivering after the cozy warmth under the blanket.

While Sunset showered, Twilight busied herself in the kitchen, preparing coffee and toast. I could get used to this, Sunset thought as she left the small bathroom and inhaled the heavenly scent of fresh coffee.

Twilight poured her a mug and placed it on the table. “This is surprisingly hard without magic,” she said. “I couldn’t find the sugar though.”

“It’s over there in the cupboard,” Sunset said and pointed. She took a sip of coffee, then started nibbling on a piece of toast. She hardly ate much in the morning. In the meantime Twilight fetched the sugar and sat down next to her, nursing her cup.

“Not eating?” Sunset asked.

“I can’t eat a lot right after getting up,” Twilight said. “As long as I have coffee everything is fine though,” she added with a smile.

***

Despite their best efforts they were running late when they arrived at Canterlot High, and thus had to cut their goodbye short. After a quick hug Sunset hurried into the school, not without another wistful look back at Twilight, who stayed back by the statue. When the last stragglers had joined their respective classes, Twilight would be able to cross through the portal without witnesses.

After that the day turned out remarkably unproductive. Although Sunset was far from being a model student she had always gotten by thanks to her keen perception and her past studies. But that day she found it almost impossible to focus on her teacher’s lectures or on any exercise.

She was glad when the last period was finally over and she could get out. If she wasn’t going to be able to focus she’d rather be at home alone.

Once outside the school building she took the small detour to the portal. After a longing look at the plinth’s smooth surface she put down her bag and pulled out the magic book, just to make sure she hadn’t missed a message Twilight had sent her after her return, but there wasn’t one. What she might be up to? Knowing Twilight she’d probably write sometime later in the evening.

Smiling and shaking her head she stuffed the book back into her bag and started her way home.

***

When Twilight Sparkle arrived at Canterlot High School later that afternoon, most students had already left for their homes. Only a few stragglers remained, discussing homework—unlikely—or gossip—probably. Even though there weren’t many, they were enough to discourage her from taking another look at the statue—she wasn’t keen on repeating her run-in with those Canterlot High boys.

So she remained standing over her bike on the opposite side of the street when she took out her energy meter. Even at this distance she’d get a read if anything noteworthy happened, like the new power spike that had happened this morning.

If Twilight was honest with herself she didn’t expect anything. She had just decided that another quick look after school wasn’t going to be harmful. For that reason she was even more surprised to find a weak read on her meter. It was different from the ones she had analyzed thus far, and she assumed that she wouldn’t even have gotten a read had she been any further away.

“Interesting,” she murmured to herself. And then, “Drat! Why is it getting weaker?”

She hectically swung the meter left and right a bit. Towards the left the reading picked up a bit. It seemed as if whatever was causing the reading was behind the next street corner. And moving away.

Twilight put the energy meter in her pocket and headed for the corner. Before turning it she stopped and took another look at the meter. Judging by the strength of the reading she had caught up a little. Carefully she shifted towards the street corner and chanced a peek down the street.

Somebody was walking maybe a hundred yards ahead, a girl with striking red and yellow hair wearing a black leather jacket and carrying a backpack. From this distance she looked like an ordinary student of Canterlot High School. Why would she emit radiation similar to the mysterious statue outside the school?

The girl suddenly pulled out her phone and typed something on it, not slowing noticeably. After a few steps she turned into a side street. Twilight hurried towards the corner where the girl had disappeared and took another very careful look.

Down that street was the diner that had very good and calming hot chocolate. A group of girls was standing outside, and it looked like they were expecting the red and yellow haired girl.

They weren’t the rude boys that had chased her away from the statue, but Twilight didn’t feel very confident following them inside. She was still wearing her Crystal Prep uniform, and there was enough animosity between both schools so that she couldn’t rule out an unpleasant welcome.

Twilight sighed. She didn’t really need a confrontation with a group of strangers right now. There would be other opportunities. And in any case she still needed more information. How was she to engage that strange girl while she knew next to nothing about what was going on?

She would just need to be patient.

With another sigh she turned around her bike and headed home.

***

“... and I ordered fresh milk to be delivered the day after tomorrow, and…” Twilight explained while floating books, her brush, and some toiletries into her open saddlebags.

“Really, Twilight, I’ll be fine. You act like I’m a baby!”

“You’re still a baby dragon, and…”

She was silenced by a clawed hand on her mouth. “You’ve been over in the human world what, four times now? And I’ve always been fine.”

“There was the pet sitting incident…”

“One time!” Spike threw up his arms. “I learned my lesson, I promise.”

Twilight pulled him into a sudden hug. “I’m sorry, Spike. I didn’t mean that I don’t trust you. It’s just, I… I’ve been spending all this time in the human world, and I’m always just leaving you behind, and… it feels like I’m neglecting you. Are you sure this is okay?”

“Yes, Twilight, I’m sure. Big Mac and Discord promised to drop by for some Ogres and Oubliettes, so it’s not like I’m gonna sit around all alone and don’t know what to do with myself. And I’m sure the girls will check in on me too. They always do.”

“You don’t think I’m spending too much time in the human world?”

“Am I supposed to be mad that you’re visiting a friend who happens to live in another dimension?” He smiled at her. “It’s fine, Twilight! If you wanna go visit Sunset Shimmer, go!”

“And you’re sure you’re not jealous?”

“Twilight!” he whined. “Can you just drop it, please? It’s fine! It’s like you’re asking me if I’m jealous of Rainbow Dash when the two of you go flying. Or when you’re going to the spa with Fluttershy and Rarity. It’s not like you’re going to disappear into humanland and drop us all. Or as if I’d want to join for girls’ night. As a pet.”

Twilight couldn’t help but laugh at his exasperation. She had worried about leaving her friends all those times in favor of Sunset Shimmer, but what Spike had just said made a lot of sense. None of her friends were jealous of one another—why should they start now?

And Spike was very responsible for his young age.

“Thank you, Spike.”

“I’m always glad to ground you again when you’re driving yourself nuts over something that only exists in your head,” Spike said with a magnanimous smile. “Number one assistant, and all.”

Twilight laughed. “Alright, number one assistant, thanks for being a smartass.” She gave him another hug before picking up her bag. “Be good while I’m gone.”

“And you have a good one, without worrying yourself silly!”

***

When Twilight stepped out of the portal, she shivered and gratefully pulled her hood over her head. It had been getting colder all week, and without the hoodie and the stockings she wore in addition to her usual human attire she probably would have caught a cold in no time. She would have to bring some warmer clothes the next time, Twilight thought. Winter was coming.

The stockings, dark blue with pink stripes, were hers; the hoodie was Sunset Shimmer’s. She had insisted that Twilight should keep it on even for the last few steps into the portal. On the other side it had turned into a hooded cape perfectly fitting for a pony. That way they discovered that clothes, when brought through the portal, would assume a form fitting to the dimension they were in. After that Twilight knew she could just wear her own clothes when she came over.

The hoodie, however, was special to her. It was the same hoodie Sunset had worn the night when they had first met for the hot cocoa. The one in whose front pocket they had held hands that first time. So Twilight had asked Sunset if she could borrow it for some time longer, and Sunset hadn’t seemed to mind.

It was less than two weeks since that night, only a week since their sandwich date and their first sleepover. Twilight hadn’t spent the last two nights at Sunset’s, partly feeling guilty for neglecting her friends in Ponyville, partly because of a new friendship crisis brought up by the map in her castle—and while the map had called Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie to Griffonstone, Twilight felt she had to stay in the castle and be on alert for possible emergencies.

Thanks to the book she could still stay in touch with Sunset Shimmer. Still, after two days without her human friend, she was really looking forward to seeing her again.

The other girls had finally caught up to her frequent recent visits, and it had been decided that all six would have a sleepover at Pinkie Pie’s. Twilight had mixed feelings about this; while she was looking forward to seeing her human friends again, she wouldn’t have minded a quiet night with some light reading or a movie, and Sunset Shimmer. These quiet nights, which they had been sharing almost every night of the last week, had been almost the highlight of Twilight’s days, an oasis where she could relax without a care in the world.

She quickly checked her surroundings, but on a late Friday afternoon the square in front of Canterlot High was deserted. It was about to get dark—the perfect time of day to snuggle up with a good book and a cup of tea.

With an expectant smile on her face Twilight started to walk. She knew the way to Sunset’s apartment well enough by now, and since she hadn’t been sure of when she could write her report on Rarity’s and Applejack’s adventure, they had agreed that Twilight would just come to Sunset’s by herself when she arrived. From there, they would walk over to Pinkie Pie’s.

The street lanterns came to life just as she passed the street that led to the sandwich place. She still, somewhat annoyingly, didn’t know the name of the place, and made a mental note to find out. And to go there and treat Sunset to one of those wonderful sandwiches, some other night when they didn’t already have plans.

Lost in thoughts, she turned around a corner and bumped into someone.

“I’m sorry—“ she started as the other person quickly grabbed her arm, steadying her. Then she recognized him. “Flash?”

“Twilight?” the blue-haired boy asked. He looked at her for a moment, not letting go of her arm, before he grinned. “I thought we’d decided on not bumping into each other like that anymore.”

Twilight giggled. “I think we did. We’ll have to be more careful, I guess.” She felt the heat rise in her cheeks and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

“So, um, you’re back in town,” Flash said, smiling sheepishly. Almost as an afterthought he finally let go of Twilight’s arm. “So, how have you been?”

“Great, thanks!” Twilight smiled. “How have you been?”

“Great, just great.” For a moment they just looked at each other in silence. “So, what are you up to, wandering through town, not looking where you’re going?”

“Hehe, I was just lost in thought. I couldn’t remember the name of that sandwich place down that street. Their sandwiches are just sooo good!”

“I know, right?” he agreed, grinning. “New Deli.

“Pardon?”

“That’s their name. New Deli. Um. That place. Down that street.”

“Ah,” Twilight beamed. “Thanks!”

“So…”

“Um…”

“Would you like to go there?” Flash suddenly asked. “I mean, with me?”

Twilight stared at him for a second, trying to somehow get a hold on the queasy feeling in her stomach. This was it. Rarity had called it. Flash Sentry was asking her out. Unable to think of something clever to say, she asked, “Um… you mean, right now?”

“No, um, it doesn’t have to be right now. I mean, would you like to go there with me sometime? Whenever it suits you. What do you say?” he asked.

More than probably ever in her life Twilight wished for a time-halting spell. She was not prepared for this. With all the time she had spent with Sunset Shimmer she hadn’t found the time to make plans for this kind of situation. There was no chart, not even a flat list of pros and cons, nothing. Just that queasy feeling in her stomach that in literature was often called butterflies—thankfully it didn’t feel like actual insects crawling through her intestines. But whatever it was, it made it hard to focus on the facts.

Twilight did kind of like Flash Sentry. He was handsome and nice. He had supported the Rainbooms in their confrontation with the Dazzlings. And even before that, when she had first come to Canterlot High, he had helped her defuse Sunset Shimmer’s false accusations.

Sunset Shimmer. Twilight wondered what she would think of this.

“Maybe next week…?” Flash Sentry suggested, snapping Twilight out of her reverie.

“Um no, sorry, I, you were waiting for a reply, and I… I’m sorry!” Twilight hurried to apologize. “Um, can I get back to you? Tonight’s not that great, but um, I’m on my way to see Sunset Shimmer, so I could probably use her phone to call you?”

Even though he did his best to hide it, Twilight noticed the quick flash of disappointment on his face. But then Flash straightened up and gave her a wide smile. “Okay, that’s—that’s great. I’ll hear from you. Didn’t mean to catch you off-guard.”

“No worries,” Twilight said with a reassuring smile and, on a sudden impulse, put a hand on his arm. “I’ll call. Promise.”

“Great.”

“Great.”

“So.”

“Yeah, um. I should get going,” Twilight said. “I’ll call.”

“Great.”

She extended her hand to Flash who, at the same time, extended his arms and moved in to hug her. Twilight quickly put her arms around him as well, almost getting her right arm stuck in his open jacket. He gave her two pats on the back before releasing her almost hastily. When he withdrew from her, his cheeks were blushed.

“Bye, Flash!”

“Bye.”

***

Sunset opened the door and immediately pulled Twilight into a hug. “Hey Twi, good to see you!”

Twilight happily leaned into the hug, resting her forehead on Sunset’s shoulder, not saying anything. For the time being she was just too happy to see her friend again. It seemed as though she hadn’t even realized how much she had missed Sunset Shimmer. And it had only been two and a half days. The thought made her grin.

“Good to see you too,” she whispered, not breaking the hug. For a few moments the two girls just stood in the door, holding each other.

“Wanna come in?” Sunset asked, her grin clearly audible. “I’ll make us some tea. You know, to help convince you to come in.”

“As if you needed that,” Twilight murmured and reluctantly let go of Sunset Shimmer who took her hand and pulled her inside. The apartment almost felt like a second home to Twilight by now. Sunset had even cleared some space on her overflowing desk and put up a second chair for the times Twilight had come over to study in Sunset’s company. Apparently Sunset had also tidied up the floor since Twilight had left. The arrangement of candles on the window sill was also new, and Twilight wondered what the room would look like with the candles lit. On the bed stood Sunset’s laptop, closed now. It brought back a short flash of memories of sitting on the bed, cuddled up under a blanket and watching some silly movie, and Twilight couldn’t prevent a little sigh from escaping.

“Tough day?” Sunset asked casually.

“No, not really,” Twilight said with a smile. “Just happy to be here again.”

“You and me both, Twi. Tea?”

“Yes please.”

Sunset let go of her hand and squeezed past her, heading for the kitchen. Twilight followed her and stood in the door, watching Sunset set the kettle on the stove.

“When do we have to leave?” she asked, trying not to think how long do we have for just chilling out here. It was a familiar thought from her days as a student in Canterlot, when she sometimes, usually giving in to some soft pressure from Princess Celestia or her parents, had made plans to socialize and found herself wanting, wishing to somehow avoid her social duties and just spend the night at home alone with a good book. No, she thought, that’s not who I am anymore. I haven’t seen the girls for weeks, and tonight will be fun. Besides, there’ll be plenty of quiet nights in with Sunset Shimmer.

That last thought made her smile.

“Twi? Are you still with me?” Sunset asked with a grin. Twilight started—Sunset stood directly in front of her, so close that she could feel her breath on her face.

Twilight managed not to jump and instead took one of the steaming mugs from Sunset’s hands. “Just lost in thoughts,” she replied with a smile.

“I figured,” Sunset replied dryly. “In case you were too zoned out to hear it, we have no hurry. Fluttershy went home with Pinkie after school, but I know Rarity and Rainbow had club activities and I don’t know when they are going to show up, and AJ said she’d be late since she had to do some stuff on the farm. We’ll just be there when we’re there.”

“Great,” Twilight said. That, in turn, was a new and unfamiliar thought. Old Twilight, she realized as she settled down next to Sunset on the bed, needed plans, exact data, ideally even a list. That didn’t seem to matter when her current project was just a casual sleepover, or entailed comfortably having a cup of tea with a friend.

***

“Twiliiiiiiiiight!”

Before the high-pitched scream had ended, Twilight found herself in the center of a pile of arms, legs, and a puffy pink hair-do as Pinkie Pie followed by the other girls launched themselves at her.

“So good to see you, darling!”

“Welcome to the party!”

“It’s really nice to see you again.”

“How’re you doin’, sugarcube?”

“Give the girl some room to breathe,” Sunset advised her friends, watching the scene with a smirk. She noticed that the five girls welcoming Twilight were already wearing various pajamas, tee shirts, and tops; Pinkie Pie’s had a few suspiciously dough-colored spots on the front.

“I’m fine, thanks girls,” Twilight’s voice could be heard from inside the pile. “And it’s really great to see you all again!”

“Then let’s get this sleepover staaaarted!” Pinkie Pie disentangled herself from the others and somehow managed to push the pile of girls into the house and even up the stairs. “Actually we have started a teeny tiny bit already, but there are still some brownies left, and we can just start over now that everyone’s here!”

In Pinkie’s room a bunch of beddings were already set up. On her nightstand, her dresser, her desk, and a chair stood tablets of brownies, and as she made her way to her bed Pinkie picked up two and devoured them in one single bite. As the other girls got settled on their beddings, Twilight and Sunset hurried to change into pajamas as well. When they were finally settled in, Fluttershy dimmed the light while Rarity lit some candles which were spread out across the room.

“What are we playing first!” Pinkie cried.

“How about we just start off with some chatting?” Rarity suggested. “It’s been so long since Twilight was here last. We need to catch up!” With sparkling eyes she turned to Twilight. “I simply must know all the latest gossip. Are there by any chance any new developments with Flash Sentry?”

Sunset lay back on her mattress, staring at the ceiling. She knew what was coming—an account of that awkward breakfast they had had with Flash Sentry almost a week back, and while she was now mostly embarrassed at her strong reaction to Flash flirting with Twilight, at least now, after all those nights Twilight had spent at her place, she was able to shrug off his advances.

“He, umm, he emmy ow…“ Twilight’s sentence faded off into something unintelligible.

“He asked you out?” Rarity squealed. “Omigosh!” And while Sunset was still idly wondering how Rarity had been able to understand Twilight, let alone when said asking-out had occurred, Rarity went on, “What did he say? More importantly, what did you say?”

“Um, he, um…” Twilight stammered. “He asked if I wanted to have sandwiches with him sometime.”

“Sandwiches, hmm,” Rarity huffed. “Not the most elaborate first date, if I may say so. But alas, he’s a high school boy after all, so he deserves some credit.” She bowed towards Twilight on her mattress, almost toppling onto Applejack who was propped up on her elbow between the two. “And what did you say?”

“I, um. I said I’d get back to him.”

“And here I thought you were sweet on him,” Applejack commented. “Why’re you keeping him hangin’?”

“My, Applejack, as a lady you’re entitled to take some time ‘deciding’, so as to not appear overly eager.”

“You mean playin’ silly little games?” Applejack asked, still sounding perfectly pleasant. Sunset wondered how often these two had had this conversation before.

“That’s not at all what it was!” Twilight chimed in. “I, um, I was on my way to Sunset Shimmer’s, and we had the sleepover planned, so I couldn’t go with him right away, that was all I meant!”

“So it was just now, right before you arrived at my place?” Sunset heard herself asking.

“Yeah, I bumped into him just when I’d come out of the portal,” Twilight explained.

“So when are you gonna go?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Um, well…” Twilight twisted a strain of her hair between her fingers and lowered her gaze. “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“What’s there to think?” Rainbow asked. “You think he’s cute. He asked you out. So you go out.”

“But I’m not sure if I want to go on a date with him. If I should go on a date. I mean. I hardly know him, and…”

“You think he’s cute. He asked you out,” Rainbow repeated. “So you go out. No big deal.”

“That seems overly simple,” Twilight protested.

“That’s all there is to it, really,” Rarity said. “And if you call him tonight, we all get to hear how it went first-hand! Um, and we can offer moral support.”

“You really think so?” Twilight asked, sounding disheartened.

Rarity nodded, and Pinkie chirped “Do it! Do it! Do it!” from her bed. The others offered approving nods as well.

Twilight suddenly turned to Sunset Shimmer and looked into her eyes. “Sunset, what do you think? Would it be okay if I went out with Flash Sentry?”

“Sure,” Sunset replied. “Rarity and Rainbow are right. Not much to it.” She swallowed down the urge to smash her fist into her sleeping pad.

“But he used to be your boyfriend!” Twilight insisted. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

Sunset was sure that she did, in fact, mind, but she was also sure that it had nothing to do with her brief liaison with Flash Sentry. “I’ve told you before. I don’t mind, it was all for show anyway, yadda yadda.”

Twilight nodded, having come to a decision. “Okay. I’ll do it then. Could-could I borrow your phone, Sunset?”

“Sure,” Sunset sighed, pulled out her phone and dialed Flash’s number. “Just press the green symbol.” She handed the phone to Twilight whose hands were a bit shaky, even more than Sunset’s, and flopped on her back. With her eyes closed she listened to Twilight on the phone with Flash Sentry.

“Hi, it’s Twilight Sparkle… hi!” A short pause. “Yes. Um, yes! When? Um. Tomorrow?” An even longer pause. “Yes. Yes, tomorrow works. I can meet you there, yes. Yes, okay, at seven. Okay. See you then!”

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Rainbow remarked.

“You’re so brave,” Fluttershy said. “I couldn’t ever just call a boy like that.”

“Well done, darling,” Rarity said. “You could have allowed him to pick you up, but that’s quite alright.”

“Here’s your phone back, Sunset.” Sunset extended her hand towards Twilight, still not opening her eyes or sitting back up. Twilight put the phone into her hand. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?” she asked, sounding suspicious.

“Sure,” Sunset lied. “Just a bit tired I guess.” I thought we were going to have a quiet night in tomorrow was what she didn’t add since it seemed uncool. Whiny. Needy.

“Good. I wouldn’t want this to come between us.”

“Don’t worry,” Sunset said.

“Why don’t you come over tomorrow afternoon?” Rarity suggested. “I can help you with the proper attire and everything.”

“If you think that’s necessary…?”

“Darling, that hoodie of yours, comfortable as it may be, is hardly the right outfit for a first date.”

Sunset, the owner of said hoodie, rolled on her side, her back facing Twilight and Rarity, and curled up.

***

The games had provided a more than welcome distraction, as had the cheesy horror movie they had watched after a hard-fought round of Twister. Thankfully the topic of the date had not come up again, and Sunset Shimmer had regained enough of her composure to take part instead of just sulking in a corner. All in all the night had been mostly pleasant, she thought, as she was lying in her sleeping bag, listening to the soft breathing of her sleeping friends.

Now that the distraction of a Pinkie Pie-organized sleepover was over her thoughts returned to the issue of Twilight’s upcoming date with Flash Sentry. Twilight, who was sleeping in a sleeping bag right next to her. Sunset sat up so she could have a look at her friend, and Twilight’s peaceful sleeping face made her smile.

Twilight was easily the best friend she had ever had. Sunset admired her, and she cherished every minute they were spending together. Then why, she wondered, couldn’t she be happy for Twilight? After all, that was what friends did, that much she knew.

The answer, she thought, was simple enough. All she needed for her conclusion was to think of the next night when she’d be sitting at home alone while Twilight was out and about with Flash Sentry. Should they continue dating there would be more nights like this. Nights when Twilight would leave her alone.

Sunset strongly suspected that friends weren’t jealous. She knew jealousy alright, and it was something she considered an almost integral part of her past self’s character. She used to be jealous when some other girl would talk to Flash Sentry, or when somebody got better grades than she did. And of course for the longest time she had been jealous of Twilight Sparkle, her powers, and her position as a princess. Sunset thought that she probably knew better than anybody what jealousy could lead to—turning into a she-devil and planning to seize control of an entire dimension, for example.

No, she thought. Jealousy was definitely not cool, especially not among good friends. After all, her rational side argued, she didn’t have reason to believe that Twilight would abandon her. Of course she would want to spend more time with Flash Sentry, but she’d still hang out with Sunset. Twilight just wasn’t someone who’d just leave her friends behind.

And what was Rarity’s and Pinkie Pie’s deal, she wondered. They had almost been more excited than Twilight herself. Sunset frowned as she recalled their cheers. And not only they, the other girls had been very supportive too.

She took a deep breath and forced herself to relax. Her friends had supported Twilight because they cared for her and wanted her to be happy. As friends did. As it was Sunset’s job as well.

All of this sounded logical in her head, and still it couldn’t take away the lump in her chest that seemed to take away her breath whenever she thought about Flash and Twilight on that date. Why was this even such a big deal? She sighed.

“Go to sleep, silly,” Twilight whispered from next to her, and suddenly Sunset felt Twilight’s hand on her back, rubbing her gently. “No wonder you’re tired.” Twilight’s hand tugged on her shoulder and pulled Sunset back down so that she was once more lying next to Twilight. Sunset heard her scooting closer, and then Twilight gently put her arm over Sunset’s side. “Night, Sunset!”

Sunset squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back a sudden suspicious itch. She felt like a total ass. How could she fear that Twilight would abandon her when she was going out of her way to be there for her? How did she even deserve such a wonderful friend? She swallowed back those tears and took Twilight’s hand who gave her fingers a little squeeze.

It would be alright.

With Twilight’s hand in hers she finally fell asleep.

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