• Published 17th Feb 2018
  • 2,230 Views, 63 Comments

Compatī - Corejo



Sunset Shimmer lived a perfect life. Nightmare Moon destroyed it. When Luna seeks reconciliation years later, past demons resurface to threaten all that Sunset holds dear. Though she is willing, the question remains: is there a limit to forgiveness?

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IV - An Unexpected Assignment

Sunset Shimmer climbed the final staircase toward Celestia's room. She had gone over all her notes in her head—what to say, what to do, when to smile, when to laugh. Something about the walk kept her nerves at bay, but the long hallway leading to the door itself never failed to stir up her jitters.

She always talked big and casual about it, but the truth was, the very idea of being near Celestia terrified her.

It was a good kind of terrified though—the exciting kind of terrified, the “it's really important and she wants to learn everything she can and make Celestia proud” kind of terrified.

If only it wasn't so… well, terrifying.

Stone Wall, Celestia's personal guard, stood tall and proud outside Celestia's door. Something about his stalwart posture and forward gaze always lent Sunset comfort. It was almost like he was her personal guard, too.

He smiled and nodded Sunset's way before returning to his thousand-yard stare.

Sunset smiled in return. Action and reaction. He was a Royal Guard, not Celestia. She could make nice with him without thinking, just like anypony else.

What was it like being a Royal Guard? All that standing around. She certainly couldn't handle that. She'd be bored to death.

Nah, she preferred being the one guarded rather than the one doing the guarding. What if she became important enough one day to have her own Royal Guard escort? That would be so cool!

“You going in?”

His voice, strong and bassy like how she pictured a boulder would speak, smacked her back to reality. His visible eye was locked on her.

Everything about his actions went against protocol, Sunset knew, but they sort of had a thing between them like that—an unspoken agreement that they could joke about silly things and do stuff they weren't supposed to if the other didn't tattle. That thing didn't help the blush that found her cheeks any, though.

She grinned at him. “Oh, uh, yeah, just, um, you know. Eh heh…”

She swallowed her grin and knocked on Celestia's door. Immediately, the nervousness returned, and a weak smile danced onto her face as if strung up by an inexperienced marionettist.

“Come in,” Celestia called. Her voice, though muffled by the door, sounded no less perfect than it always did.

Sunset reached up to open the door, but it glowed gold and swung open for her. She peeked her head in before stepping inside.

Celestia sat at her coffee table, cleared of everything but a scroll she mused over. The calm smile on her face when her eyes met Sunset's could have stilled an army.

“Good afternoon, Sunset Shimmer.” Celestia had taken off her chest piece and tiara, an act she did out of familiarity and to foster a sense of casualness to their meetings. Honestly, it only made Sunset more nervous.

“Good afternoon, Princess Celestia. Did your meeting with the Director of Weather Coordination go well?” She unloaded her books in neat stacks, organized by subject, on the waiting coffee table.

Celestia chuckled in that perfect way only she could. “It did. Mrs April Showers can be a bit disorganized at times, but she has no equal when it comes to fixing weather conflicts.”

“That's great to hear.” Sunset sat across from Celestia. Her nervous smile turned to one of excitement. Only the excitement of hearing Celestia's praise trumped her fear of disappointment. “I can't wait to show you everything I've learned this week.”

Celestia ”hmm’d,” her visible eye sweeping across the stacks of books before she lowered her head. She pushed aside Sunset's books and set her smile on Sunset.

“You know more than anypony that I want to hear all about how you're doing in class, Sunset. But before that, I would like to hear how you are doing.”

The nervousness came back. Sunset half-raised a hoof, then switched them. “Wha-what do you mean?”

“I mean how you are doing?” She drew her tea set from the table beside the balcony doors and set it between them. “Outside of class.”

Both hooves on the floor. Sunset's heart raced. She hadn't prepared for this sort of question. “Oh, um, great!”

“That's wonderful to hear. How is your friend Coppertone? You two keeping out of trouble?” She poured a cup and offered it to Sunset.

Sunset accepted it because nopony dared refuse anything from Celestia. “Of course. Trouble couldn't find us if it tried.”

It was a lie, she knew. The polite sort of lie, though, the kind ponies told each other out of formality. The kind she was taught to say as a little filly, so as to never impose.

Celestia chuckled. She knew it was a lie, too.

“Oh, Sunset. You don't have to be like that with me. Tell me, what sort of mischief did you two get into this week?” She poured herself a cup of tea and lifted it to her lips, but held it there as if waiting to hear Sunset's words.

Sunset felt like a pony trying to speak with a mouth full of cotton. Was Celestia… gossipping?

Was she allowed to do that? Wait, no. What kind of stupid thought was that? Of course she was. She was Princess Celestia. Like, it wasn’t wrong of her, but she had never brought up this sort of small talk before.

Sunset rubbed the back of her head. “Um, I really don't know.”

Did Mrs Doily Do’s Home Ec class count?

“Oh, come now, Sunset. Surely there's at least one interesting thing that's happened to you this week.”

Well… there was Doppler, now that she thought about it. Those robin’s egg blue eyes oh my gosh.

Celestia let out a full-bodied laugh. “Now that's a face of a pony I know is hiding something.”

Sunset blushed even harder. Curse her bright coat and how it couldn't hide a blush to save her life. Well, she found out. Might as well get it over with. “Well… I met this stallion.”

“Ah, yes,” Celestia said, placing her cup on its saucer. “I was wondering when you would meet a stallion.”

“It's not like that,” she said quickly. “When I say I met him, it was more I was shoved in his face and left for dead.”

That patient smile Celestia was known for found its way her lips. “Coppertone, I presume?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you mad she put you in a situation you weren't comfortable with?”

If Celestia was anything, she was both accurate and to the point when it benefited everypony. Something Sunset always admired about her.

“Well, it's not like I'm mad. I just… wish she'd sometimes give me a little space or…” She was about to say something along the lines of 'not talk sexually about you,’ but that might have raised one or two eyebrows. Celestia might have grown a third eyebrow just to raise that one, too.

Celestia idly flipped through the first few pages of Sunset's Nature of the Arcane. A smile played on her face, as if reliving a memory. “Or?”

“Or, just, you know...” She rubbed her foreleg and looked away, not sure how to finish that thought.

“Don't hold how she acts against her, Sunset. Ponies like that, those that are comfortable enough to act their true self in front of you and want to help you be the best you can be, those are the friends you should cherish the most.

“And from what little you've told me about her,” she continued, “she sounds like quite the pony.” A sip of tea. “You're lucky to have her as a friend.”

Sunset scuffed at the floor. She really was, even if she had to deal with Copper’s, um… eccentricities. Besides, it wasn't like Sunset didn't have her own ingloriously long list of issues. Somehow, Copper saw past all that, though.

Nopony else bothered putting up with her. That, or they only did to try and earn some sort of favor with Celestia or the teachers, and Sunset wasn’t about to be taken advantage of like that.

“So what about this stallion?” Celestia continued. “Does he have a name?”

“Um, Doppler. He's on the lacrosse team.” She looked up at Celestia, then at her books. “Do we have to talk about this?”

Celestia shook her head. “If you're not comfortable talking about it, I won't press the issue. But there is nothing to be ashamed of in liking another pony. Romantic relationships are natural, and you should take the time to explore them when you are ready.”

Sunset flattened her ears back. “I don't think I ever want to be ready.”

“No?” Celestia had idly regarded something out her window, but swiveled an eye back at those words.

“There's too much for me to learn still. I want to keep learning magic. Besides, I already got a friend, because you practically made me make a friend.”

“I encouraged you to make a friend, Sunset. I didn't force you make one.”

Sunset raised an eyebrow at her. “You strongly suggested, then. And with you, that's practically an order.”

Celestia chuckled. She dusted off the corner of the table with her wingtip. “There's nothing wrong with having a friend. And in my experience, it's better to have more than just one. You'll find different ponies have unique interests and beliefs, and we all can learn much from each other's perspectives.”

“It's too much of a hassle, making friends.”

“Hmm… if you were to try, I'm sure you would find it worth the hassle.”

Sunset shrugged. “Not likely. I'd really rather just focus on school.”

“All work and no play makes Sunset Shimmer a dull pony.” She swirled the tea bag around in her cup.

“I'm not dull.” Sunset flicked an ear, hoping Celestia didn't mind her tone of voice. She might have said that a little too flatly.

Celestia laughed. She set aside her tea and looked Sunset in the eye. “I should think not. You're one of the brightest minds I've ever taught, Sunset. But book knowledge isn't the only thing worth learning in Equestria.”

“Yeah, yeah, friendship is magic and all that.” Sunset put her hooves in the table and brought her eyes level with Celestia. “I like working. I have fun working. And learning.”

She threw her hooves in the air, then returned them to the cup of tea before her. It was then she remembered the tea was there at all, and she took a courtesy sip. She was never one for tea, though, and tried not to make a face.

“Honestly,” Sunset continued. “I'm perfectly happy without any more friends. Or, uh…” She blushed, her ears falling to the sides. “Partners.”

“Sunset.” Celestia's was a gentle voice, gentler than usual. It harbored no Ill will or directive, but nonetheless drew Sunset's ears forward. “Making friends and falling in love don't ever have to get in the way of your ambitions. Just like studying to become the best you can be, friends and family—those you are born to and those you choose for yourself—are there to complement you and what's important to you.”

“You don't need friends to be better at magic.” A heat rose to Sunset's cheeks. She knew her words went against Celestia's, went against everything she was taught as a filly about manners. But she was also taught to stand up for herself, even in the face of authority if she believed herself truly right. Even Celestia had pushed her toward that.

“Is Coppertone truly your friend?”

Sunset was taken aback. “What? Of course! She’s my best friend. She’s my… only friend. I don't know what I’d do without her.”

“And you two go over your notes for class, don't you?”

“Well, yeah, we’re in the same class together. But I haven't needed her help with the class.” Sunset puffed out her chest. “I’m the only student to have an A in Arcanonaturamancology in four years. Like, a real A.”

Celestia closed her eyes and dipped her nose ever so slightly. Her smile never wavered, but the sight still brought a wave of dread down on Sunset's shoulders. This was Celestia's thinking face, the one she wore whenever they were at odds.

“I thought we’re supposed to go over my schoolwork in these meetings.” Sunset took another sip of tea to smooth over her blatant change in subject. “Not my social life.”

Celestia opened her eyes and fixed them on Sunset. What went on inside that head? What crazy labyrinth wound through that skull of hers?

“Sunset, I have a new assignment for you.”

Sunset cocked an ear aside. “What? But we haven’t even gone over my schoolwork yet.”

“I’m afraid this assignment doesn't require any of that.”

No like, seriously, what? What did she mean by that?

Sunset's thoughts must have shown in her face, because Celestia chuckled and repacked Sunset’s bags for her.

“I want you to ask this Doppler out.”

“Oh, okay. I mean I gue—YOU WANT ME TO WHAT?” She almost knocked her tea cup off the table, for how hard she slammed her hooves down.

Celestia, for all her social graces—and clear insanity—didn't so much as flinch at the outburst. That tiny smile of hers crept onto her face and nothing more. “I would like for you to ask him out.”

“Y-you… you mean like…”

“On a date, yes.”

“But…” She didn't know what to say, what to do. She splayed her hooves on the table, looked pleadingly into Celestia's eyes. “I have so much work to keep up with. Not to mention I have to stay on top of my volunteer work with the soup kitchen and help the band, and clean the Home Ec classroom, and—”

“What’s wrong with the Home Ec classroom?”

Sunset blanched. “Uh, nothing! Just, um, part of the curriculum.”

A tiny grin poked up the corner of Celestia's lips.

“What?”

Celestia bowed her head and chuckled.

“Sunset.” Again, the soft yet commanding voice. “You are hereby excused from all classes and their respective homework forthwith until you have completed this assignment.”

Sunset leaned over the table. “But—”

“Your assignment begins now.”

“But, but...”

Celestia looked to a clock on her mantelpiece, which read six thirty.

“If I recall correctly, there is a lacrosse scrimmage tonight at seven. If you hurry, you can get a head start on your assignment.” She winked.

“But but but...!”

Celestia lit her horn and neatly placed all of Sunset’s books back in her saddlebag. She then lifted Sunset toward the door and waved. “Have fun!”

Before Sunset knew what happened, she stood staring at the bas relief of a rising sun on Celestia's door. She turned her slack jaw toward Stone Wall.

He raised an eyebrow her. “You look like you just flunked a test,” he said.


“And you don't have to go to class until you do this?”

Coppertone practically skipped beside Sunset on their way to the lacrosse field. It had taken some convincing to get her away from the hoof ball game and all those ‘tongue-lolling’ stallions, but the use of ‘Tall, Tan, and Handsome’ and 'date’ in the same sentence had quite the effect on her.

“What were her words again?” she asked.

Sunset stared into the distance beyond the lacrosse field, her ears fallen slack. “You are hereby excused from all classes and their respective homework forthwith,” she droned, “until you have completed this assignment.”

It still felt like a dream. And by dream, she meant nightmare. No school? No learning? How was she supposed to become a better student without learning? She was going to fall so far behind in her courses! This was literally the worst thing ever.

“This is literally the best thing ever!” Copper laughed. “Do you have any idea how many ponies would give their hind leg for that sort of assignment?”

“But I really don't want to do this.”

“Sunny, there's worse things than being told to ask a stallion out. Besides, you can always just say it didn't work out later if you really don't wanna go through with it.”

She could. But that would be disingenuous. Well, more than that. It would be a flat out lie, and she couldn't lie to Celestia. Like, not a real lie, anyway.

“But the best part,” Copper continued, bumping shoulders with Sunset. “She really wanted me to be the third wheel? She asked by name? Hah! This day keeps getting better and better.”

“Please don't do anything embarrassing.”

“Sunset, I'm not going to do anything that embarrasses me. I can promise you that. But I can't help what embarrasses you.”

“Copper, I'm being serious.”

“So am I.” She turned a big grin toward Sunset, the kind that meant she was thinking thoughts she really shouldn't. “She's probably gonna grade you on how well you ask him out.”

Sunset looked directly ahead. Don't respond. Don't respond and she won't keep going.

“You really don't like talking about this sort of thing, huh?”

Nope. Just keep ignoring her. She'll stop eventually.

Copper’s grin widened. She leaned in close and whispered right in Sunset’s ear, “You think she'll make you fuck him for your final?”

“Copper!”

“Is she gonna proctor it?”

"Whyyy do I even hang out with you?" Sunset groaned to the heavens.

Copper laughed, having won her little game. “Because we're literally two halves of the same pony and you still don't realize it.”

“Yeah, you're the messed up half,” Sunset grumbled.

They rounded the track for the lacrosse field, and Coppertone snagged an abandoned scarf off the track’s chain link fence: a baby-blue-and-white striped thing with ‘CSGU’ emblazoned in gold down either end. It even had knotted tassels and it was just so adorable.

Copper threw it around herself in a classic pull-through style, and the smile she carelessly tossed Sunset’s way brought a jealous flush to Sunset’s cheeks. It didn’t quite go with Coppertone’s tan coat and deep-green eyes, but that pony could make a tinfoil hat and saran wrap scarf look good.

“If they forgot it, they didn’t deserve it,” was Copper’s defense, and, well, Sunset couldn’t really argue with that.

The stands were packed with fellow students sporting pennants and scarves and other paraphernalia “claiming their allegiance” to the Canterlot Cavaliers, as the phrase went. The school pride swelling around her weighed heavy on her shoulders. She felt exposed without any sort of CSGU stuff on. Oh, why hadn’t she seen that scarf first?

Across the way, the Hoofington Horseshoes’ crowd sported their black and gold. They raised banners that read crude, unimaginative phrases like “Canterlot Cava-bads” and “It’s baby blue for a reason.” The general mumble she could make out sounded more like jeering at her crowd than a cheering for their own team.

Her crowd returned the favor in the form of their own banners and chants. They stamped their hooves whenever their team had the ball, and Sunset awkwardly stamped along with them, never sure when to stop or start on her own.

Coppertone was lost in the fervor. “Soil’s the only thing you’re good at plowing!” and “You chase that ball like you chase your sisters!” among the many things she shouted that brought Sunset’s head low and her eyes darting around, hoping nopony heard.

The more Sunset opened her ears, though, the more she realized everypony was saying things like that, and the more she realized she was the weird one here. Ponies really got into their sports, it seemed.

As for the lacrosse game itself, Sunset couldn’t really make out the ups and downs. She knew the basics, having played soccer in her filly years, but any strategies beyond “chase the ball like a swarm of bees” were beyond her. The only thing she could really tell was that their team wasn’t doing too well.

She didn’t have to see the 1-7 on the scoreboard to know that.

The Hoofington Horseshoes were all pretty scary looking. Bigger, faster, stronger than the more academic Canterlot Cavaliers.

She recognized Page Turner by his white coat and shaggy grey mane, and there were a few others she knew by face. Doppler, though. Oh gosh.

He, like the other Cavaliers, looked ragged and about to break. Sweat matted his mane and coat, and that thousand-yard stare must have settled in way before they arrived.

But still… he made it look good.

There was an effortlessness to his movement, some sort of deep inspiration or something that kept him going despite the hopelessness of it all. There was a split second when one of the Canterlot stallions had the ball that he glanced into the crowd. Their eyes met, and Sunset swore a smile found its way to his face.

Page Turner scored a bone-rattling tackle on one of the Horseshoes, and the crowd went wild. The referee blew his whistle, calling a foul, and the crowd’s excitement turned to immediate bloodlust and boos.

Sunset lowered her ears. She leaned in toward Coppertone. “Why’s everypony being so mean?”

“It’s a rivalry game,” Copper shouted over the crowd as the game resumed. “There’s no reason behind it. We hate their guts just because.” She turned back to the game and put a hoof to her lips. “Yeah, let’s go! Show ‘em how to really play with balls, Willow Wisp!

“It’s funny ‘cause he’s gay,” she whispered to Sunset.

Sunset leaned away, half raising a hoof, a concerned wince on her face. She had never heard Copper say anything remotely inappropriate like that. Well, she had, but not the mean-spirited sort of inappropriate.

All of this was a little too much for her. She decided to quietly watch and enjoy the game on her own terms.

For what it was worth, she did have fun. There were moments she found herself cheering her heart out along with the crowd—on big saves, goals, and steals—and part of her relished watching Doppler run up and down the field.

He still looked ragged, but there was a light in his eyes that wasn’t there before, and he turned it her way with little glances whenever he had the chance. It brought a smile out of her.

The referee blew his whistle to call the match, and Sunset wilted at the final score of 6-10. That was a heck of a comeback attempt, though, and to think three of those were Doppler practically by himself. His smile seemed to say he felt good about it, too.

The Horseshoes crowd rumbled out of the stands, hooping and hollering along with their team, banners raised high.

“Yeah, go back to the farm where you belong!” Copper shouted over the Canterlot crowd’s disappointed murmur.

“Copper,” Sunset said, ears flattened back. “The game’s over.”

Copper flipped her mane out of her eyes. “I know. I’m just callin’ it like I see it.”

“Yeah, but being a racist jerk isn’t like you.”

“It is when it comes to blind loyalty to my school.” She redid the knot of her scarf and threw the tails over her shoulder.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Yeah it does. What if I called A-chem stupid?” Copper’s grin was contagious, and it spread to Sunset.

“Then I’d call you stupid.”

“Exactly.” She flank bumped Sunset. They shared a laugh.

“Come on,” she continued. “Let’s go find your date.”

Oh yeah. That. Sunset blushed and looked away. She was hoping Copper would forget about that.

“I know that face,” Copper said. “There’s no way I’m letting you off the hook, no matter how hard you strained your wishing muscles.”

Heh. They really must have been best friends if Copper could read her like that.

“Come on,” Copper said. She pushed Sunset by the flank toward the near corner of the field. “They'll walk by this way and we can get his attention.”

Sunset all but ground her hooves into the grass in defiance. Oh dear. Coppertone was really going to make her go through with this, wasn't she?

The lacrosse team had corralled in front of their goal, going over whatever it was teams went over when they lost games. There was a lot of solemn nodding of heads. A team chant, and they hobbled past Sunset and Copper.

Doppler stopped in front of them, letting the rest of his team go ahead. He had his stick slung over his shoulder and his helmet dangling from its net. A proud but weary smile graced his face, and his mane was matted over his eyes. He looked about to collapse on top of her. Secretly though, that wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world. When his eyes landed on her, all trace of fatigue left him in place of a smile.

“Hey,” he said. “You showed up, huh?”

“Uh, heh.” Sunset swung her hoof in a can-do manner. “Yep. That's what I do. Show up.” Great, already looking like an idiot.

“Well, it's better than not showing up.” He nodded at Copper. “And you're Just Gonna Stop Talking Now’s friend from the cafeteria.”

“Third Wheel,” Copper said. She stuck out a hoof for shaking. “Pleasure to meet you.”

He raised an eyebrow and took her hoof hesitantly. “Third Wheel?”

"Don't mind her,” Sunset said, pushing Copper aside. “She's Coppertone, my best friend."

"Yep!” Copper pushed back. “And just like any best friend, I'm here to say all sorts of embarrassing things about her at the worst possible moments."

“Copper,” Sunset hissed.

“Coppertone sounds a little more like an actual name.” His eyes flicked between the two. “So why 'Third Wheel?’”

“Cause she's gonna ask you out on a date,” Copper said before Sunset stuffed a hoof in her mouth.

If looks could kill, Sunset would have happily served a lifetime sentence in the Canterlot dungeons. Part of her wished they could, just so Copper would stop being so embarrassing for once.

“What, like, right now?” He gave his lacrosse stick a glance. “Uh, sure, just lemme, like, go shower and stuff. I’ll meet you at the cafeteria in half an hour?”

Wait, did he actually say yes? “Um, okay?” Sunset said.

A smile. “Alright. I’ll see you there,” he said and headed off with the rest of the team.

“You see?” Copper said beside her. “When you don’t act all brain dead for two seconds, you can have any stallion you want.”

“Oh, can it.” But, like, really? That actually happened?

“You know...” Copper said.

“I don’t want to hear it.”

A moment of silence passed. Sunset knew without looking that Copper wore that annoying half-lidded smile of hers.

“You still haven’t told him your name.”

Oh, ponyfeathers.

Copper laughed. “You should see the look on your face. It’s the best.”

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy today.”

“Oh, I will. A lot.”

With nothing in particular to do, they headed for the cafeteria to chitchat while he got ready. Claiming she wasn’t hungry enough for dinner, Copper scored herself an ice cream cone—a double scoop of macadamia nut and neapolitan. Because she was weird like that.

She kept giving Sunset bedroom eyes at their two-pony table in the back corner, a pre-date workout she claimed Sunset needed to practice. She was so weird sometimes. If Sunset ever started giving somepony googly eyes like that, she prayed Celestia would come from on high and smite her then and there.

What was the point of all this, anyway? She really didn’t want to do this. Yeah, he was cute and had a cute smile and wavy mane and all that, and part of her couldn’t help wanting to be around him and just stare into those gorgeous robin’s egg blue eyes.

Sure, she wanted to settle down with a stallion and have foals and all that other mushy stuff mares always dreamed of doing. But that was later—way later—after she had finished her education and established a career for herself. Doing it now would only get in the way.

None of it would help her be a better student. Her grades wouldn’t improve because of some stallion. Not that they could really get any better anyway, she had to admit with some pride. There was a reason she was Celestia’s personal student.

But really, if anything, this would only detract from her perfect grades and her track toward valedictorian and all the scholastic endeavors she had planned after CSGU. Why in Equestria did Celestia want her to do this so bad?

Thirty minutes after the game, almost on the dot, Doppler strolled into the cafeteria. There was a saying about butterflies and hurricanes, but the ones in her stomach didn’t get the memo. All those hurricanes were happening right there inside her stomach instead of on the other side of Equestria.

He waved at them from the check-in counter and made a beeline for them once the check-in mare let him through.

Copper giggled, while Sunset elected to stare at the little circles she was tracing on the table cloth with her hooves.

“Hey,” came Doppler’s voice behind her. His mane was slicked back as best as a partly drying mane could be, and his coat was nappy where he had toweled off, particularly on his chest, shoulders, and the bridge of his muzzle.

Most stallions would have taken the time to smooth that out so they didn’t look ridiculous. But as ridiculous as Doppler looked, he seemed all the better for it, like he couldn’t care less and probably enjoyed the oddity of it, or at least the reactions it got from other ponies.

Oh, who was she kidding? She didn't want to wait until she was older. This stallion was too perfect.

“Sunset Shimmer,” she said.

He seemed momentarily confused, before that easy smile of his returned. He snagged a chair from a nearby table and sat down. His raised an eyebrow at her, as if waiting for an explanation.

Sunset blushed. She swore today held the record for most blushes she’d ever had in a 24-hour period, and it wasn’t even over yet. “I, uh… That’s my name. Heh. Sunset Shimmer. I, uh, forgot to tell you that the last two times.”

Doppler folded back his ears, and a frown found its way to his face. “Oh, so your name isn’t Just Gonna Stop Talking Now?”

“I… no, sorry.” she said in what hopefully came across as sarcastic. She let a grin play across her face. Just act cool, the way Copper always did.

It seemed to work for how he perked one ear up and crooked the other. “Well darn. I really liked that name. Had a sort of mystery about it.”

Sunset laughed and traced her little circles on the table faster. Don't be brain dead for two seconds. “You could say that. But isn’t a sunset just as mysterious?”

“Mmm, in it’s own way, I guess. But I wouldn’t call it so much a mystery.”

“What would you call it then?”

“Romantic, more like.” He took a sip of his drink without even looking for a reaction.

Sunset leaned back, wide-eyed. She already felt the heat rushing to her cheeks.

Copper snorted and took another lick of her ice cream. “Wow, that’s corny.”

“Hey, there’s plenty more where that came from,” he said, smiling. “Don’t worry.”

“I’ll be sure to pick up a barf bag on our way out.”

“Copper!” Sunset said. She was about to tell her off before Doppler laughed.

“I suggest you get two, actually,” he said.

“Oh boy. If you’re gonna start hanging out with us, I won’t have to watch my weight then, will I?” She pointed her ice cream cone at him then gave it a bite for good measure.

“Wow, and I thought I was inappropriate,” he said.

“Well, nopony ever said you weren’t.” Copper gave him those bedroom eyes she had tried getting Sunset to practice.

Sunset looked between them, and her ears fell back. For a third wheel, Copper wasn’t acting very third wheel-y.

“Copper?” Sunset said.

“Yeah, Sunny?”

“Can we talk?” She pulled Copper aside and whispered, “Can you lay off with the flirting some? This is supposed to be my date.”

Copper grinned. “Oh, so now you actually wanna date him.”

“Well, I…” She looked away. “Celestia gave me an assignment, and even though I don’t really want to, I need to at least try, right?”

“Don’t want to? Uh huh, yeah, sure.” She elbowed Sunset in the shoulder. “You keep telling yourself that.”

“Copper, I’m serious. How am I supposed to do my best if you keep outflirting me?”

Copper lit up like a Hearth's Warming tree, that ecstatic smile that meant she had won the metaphorical jackpot. “Oh, so now that I'm finally the one who knows what she's doing you want me to stop, huh?”

“What? That's not what I meant.”

“It totally is!” she said, a little louder than a whisper should be. You—”

“Shh!” Sunset looked nervously over her shoulder at Doppler, who busied himself with the table’s salt shaker. Oh, he could even make silly things look good.

“You're nervous I'm going to hit it off with him better than you are,” Copper continued in a proper whisper.

Sunset lowered her ears back. She wasn't wrong. Frankly, the thought terrified her: the one time a stallion didn't seem like a complete weirdo and he ended up liking Copper more, all because her friend couldn't stop showing her up for one lousy night.

“Copper… please.”

That got a genuine reaction. All semblance of joking and sarcasm washed away from Copper's face. She blinked, then found herself a tiny, comforting smile.

“If you're really that worried, Sunset, I'll lay off.”

Sunset returned her smile, then hugged her friend. “Thanks, Copper.”

“But if you screw this up I'm totally going for it.” She punched Sunset in the shoulder.

Oh, that mare could find any way to ruin a sentimental moment. She turned around before saying something Copper would twist sarcastically back on her.

Dopper rolled the salt shaker around the table on its edge. He wore a smile that danced between the two of them. “You two done with your little powwow?”

“We are,” Copper said. She winked at him and shoved Sunset in his face.

Sunset tensed in surprise, nose to nose with him and those eyes oh my gosh. She laughed, her breath having suddenly left her. Her legs felt like noodles.

“We've really gotta stop starting our conversations like this,” he said. He casually rolled his eyes. “Not that I mind, but, you know.”

Sunset brushed her mane over her ear. “Yeah…

“So uh…” She looked at him, then at anything but him. It was hard to think with those eyes looking at her.

“Hold on. Before you finish that thought, why don't we get some food?” He turned toward the cafeteria proper, a hoof raised for stepping.

“Uh, yeah.” Sunset laughed. “That sounds like a great idea.” She watched him head down the little ramp toward the food lines. Oh, she could watch him walk all day.

“You're doing it again,” Copper whispered. She had sidled up beside her at some point. “Stop worrying and just have fun. You'll stop acting braindead if you just relax.”

“But what if I—”

Copper put a hoof up to Sunset's lips and gave her a smile. “Stop trying so hard. Just be you. The you that you are around me.”

“I'm trying not to try so hard. Can't you tell?”

“Then try a little harder.” She followed behind Doppler.

Sunset frowned at the back of Copper's head. She stuck her tongue out at her. Just try not to try so hard, huh? Easy for her to say, with looks like that. Sunset took a deep breath.

“Okay, Sunset,” she whispered. “You can do this. Just be yourself.” She followed them down.

There wasn't much variety for dinner that night. The entree line that always fulfilled everypony’s hopes and dreams was covered in the Plastic Wrap of Shame, and a skinny pegasus lunchmare was scrubbing away at whatever they scrubbed away at behind the line. That meant only the pizza and hay fries line was open.

“So,” Doppler said when they got back to their table. “What exactly brought this whole thing up, anyway?” He took a bite of his mushroom and olive pizza and talked while chewing.

Kinda gross. Sunset could forgive him, though, as long as he kept looking at her with those gorgeous eyes of his.

“What thing?” she said.

“You asking me out.”

Copper laughed through a lick of her ice cream. “Celestia made her do it.”

Sunset glared at Copper. If she made one more embarrassing comment, Sunset didn’t know what she would do.

“Wait, what?” He chuckled. “Really?”

“I…” Sunset flattened her ears back and scratched the back of her head.

Doppler raised an eyebrow at her. “You're not just saying that to make me say yes, are you?”

“No!” It was then Sunset realized she was standing with both forehooves on the table. Half the ponies in the cafeteria were staring at her. She sat back down and coughed into her hoof. It suddenly felt twenty degrees warmer. “No. She really did, and I'm still trying to figure out why.”

“So… what, you don’t actually want to ask me out?”

“I…”

He was unreadable. He wore what passed as a smile, and his ears stood at half mast. “I mean, if not, I’ll head out and you two can have your fun doing whatever it is you do. I don’t mind.”

Sunset stared at him, then at Copper. Her friend stared back, a reserved but expectant ‘come on!’ in the way she raised her brow and jerked her head toward Doppler.

Sunset swallowed. “Yes. Yes I do.”

It was a terrifying but liberating phrase, as if the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders.

That little smile on his face hesitated for a moment before widening. “Alright then,” he said and took another bite of pizza.

Sunset put her hooves on the table, huddled close to her chest. “‘Alright then’ what?”

“Alright then,” he said. He swallowed his pizza and licked tomato sauce off his hoof. “We're on a date.”

“Oh.” She blushed. Thirty degrees warmer now. “Alright then.”

“Don't get too excited now,” he said. He wiped his mouth with a napkin before starting his second slice.

“Oh, don't worry,” Copper said. “She will.”

“Copper,” Sunset said.

“Just ask her about her 'final exam.’”

“Copper!”


The rest of dinner went pretty well. ‘Well,’ as in, Doppler hadn't run away screaming. The three of them left the cafeteria at around nine and wandered campus with no particular destination in mind.

Sunset had gotten an ice cream cone on the way out. Vanilla. Because she was a normal pony, unlike Copper.

“Well yeah,” Doppler said on Sunset’s left. “Everypony knows about you. Just, you know, you kinda keep to yourself. So no, I haven't heard much about you other than you're Princess Celestia's personal student.”

They rounded the meditation garden that sprawled out in front of the science building. The flowers were in bloom, and everything smelled like happiness. Or, at least that's how Sunset learned to describe it. She was never much for flowers or all that girly stuff.

“Well, everypony still knows everypony else to some degree at CSGU.” Copper said on Sunset's other side. “You can't expect me to believe that.”

“Well then what do you believe?”

Copper got that mischievous grin about her. “I believe you're the second best stallion on the lacrosse team.”

“Oh ho, them’s fightin’ words ‘round here.” He craned his neck in front of Sunset to stare sidelong at Copper.

“Are they now?”

“I thought he did better than Page Turner,” Sunset said. She kept at her ice cream. The summer heat made quick work of the 'ice’ part, and she had to keep up if she wanted any for herself.

“Yeah, see? Somepony was actually watching the game.” He threw his hoof around Sunset and she all but squeaked in surprise.

Copper giggled. “Yeah, because I was doing my part insulting the other team's crowd. Everypony saw you guys weren’t doing your part in shutting them up.”

“They're all just a bunch of fools from Hoofington. They insult themselves just by breathing.”

Sunset took a moment from her ice cream. Sheesh, was everypony so up about this rivalry thing? Why couldn't they all just get along?

“Must be even more insulting losing to them, then,” Copper said. She turned away so she could do her over-the-shoulder 'gotcha!’ smile. She played with the tassels of her scarf for effect.

“Is she always like this?” he asked Sunset.

“Always.” Sunset said flatly. “You give her an inch and she'll take a mile.”

She froze. Oops. No, please don't. She turned to Copper, whose slowly spreading grin meant it was too late.

“Insert dick joke here,” Copper said. She scrunched her face and looked away innocently.

Sunset rolled her eyes. Typical Copper. Couldn't go five minutes without saying something inappropriate. Well, implying a dirty joke was a step removed from making one, Sunset had to admit.

Doppler snickered. “'Insert…’”

Well, she couldn't help him cracking a joke about it. Sunset put a hoof to her mouth to stifle a laugh. She accidentally snorted, and there went all semblance of composure.

All three belted out a round of laughter. Sunset held onto Copper for balance. When she regained control of herself, she wiped away a tear.

Copper wore what seemed like a frown trying its best not to be a smile. “You would have totally yelled at me if I said that.”

“Yeah, I would have.”

“Oh, so you're giving your new boyfriend special privilege, huh?”

“Yeah, I—” Sunset shot back, ears straight up. Her face went redder than a cherry, and she almost dropped her ice cream cone.

Doppler laughed behind her.

“She didn't deny it!” Coppertone said. She tail flicked Sunset on the flank.

“Ow! Would you stop that?” She practically tackled Copper when bumping shoulders to get into girl-talk range. “You're embarrassing me,” she whisper-hissed.

“Relax.” Copper pushed back. She whispered in Sunset's ear. “I know what I'm doing.”

Sunset grumbled to herself. “Yeah, being annoying.”

She threw her scowl Doppler’s way, and it disappeared the moment she saw that smiling face if his. He seemed to be enjoying himself, staring at the sky washing orange with the sunset.

Copper bumped shoulders with Sunset. She jerked her head his way and waggled her eyebrows.

“What?” Sunset asked.

Copper rolled her eyes. “Do I have to do it a third time today?” she whisper-hissed. “Talk to him. I've been carrying this conversation for you since we started eating.”

Had she been? Sunset had simply been enjoying herself amidst all the conversation. It didn't feel like Copper was hogging all the chit chat.

Whatever. It was sound advice, so she took a step toward Doppler. She opened her mouth to say something, but found there were no words on the tip of her tongue. Or on the back of her tongue. Or anywhere in her head, for that matter. She looked back to Copper for help, but stopped short.

Copper had suddenly disappeared. It was just her and Doppler. The butterflies were back, doing their hurricane thing.

Doppler seemed just as confused. “Well, she was off in a hurry.”

“W-where’d she go?” Did she teleport? Just left her high and dry?

“Teleported. I assumed you knew where.” He smiled. “I take it that’s a no?”

“I…” Oh, she was going to get an ear full later.

“Heh. Well, anyway,” Doppler said. He took an idle swat at a tree branch encroaching over the sidewalk. “What’s this 'final exam’ I'm supposed to ask you about?”

Sunset’s tail shot straight out. “Wha-nothing!”

Doppler laughed. “I take it that means it's one of Copper’s inappropriate jokes. You really need to loosen up. You’re so uptight.”

“I am not uptight! I'm just… cautious. I've been hurt before.”

“Fair enough.” He gave her that casual smile of his that sent a flutter through her heart and looked back out at the field. “So then what are we doing, Cautious?”

Her cheeks burned at the silly nickname. Was he always like this? “What do you mean?”

“Well, you asked me out on a date, so I assume you had something in mind for us to do.”

Sunset folded back her ears. “Oh… Right. Uh…”

“You have no idea what you wanna do, do you?” Again, he threw that casual smile her way and those blue eyes oh my gosh.

She started playing with her mane.

“Wow,” he said. “And here I thought Miss Cautious had everything planned out to the littlest detail.”

“Why would you think that?” She squared up with him. Even at her tallest, she barely came up to his chin.

“Because if there was one thing that I knew about you, it’s how many notes you take. You’re the only pony in school who has an entire saddlebag’s worth of stuff for just that arcano class you take.”

She stared at him, at a loss for what to say.

“Tuesday, Thursday, 9:30,” he said. “Room 110 with Mr Wizened Reed.” He jerked his head at an imaginary schoolroom behind him. “I’ve got incantations with Professor Vociferous across the hall, same time.”

“Oh. I’ve, uh, never noticed you there, I guess.”

Well, that was sort of a lie. She had seen him, as in, when walking to and from class she had walked past and probably said hi once or twice. But she had never actually looked at him, looked into those gorgeous eyes of his and had the courage to say anything relevant or, uh… coherent.

He shrugged. “Eh, it happens. Like I said, you’re the Princess’ personal student. Not like ponies aren’t going to notice you when you’re around. Plus, that golden-yellow coat of yours is hard to miss.”

Sunset wasn't sure how to respond to that. On one hoof, he was right. Being Celestia's student would make her a sort of celebrity, but on the other, she didn't really feel herself in any sort of limelight for it. She was just another pony in the hallway, no better than anypony else.

Well, metaphorically speaking.

“Plus,” he continued. “That outgoing, type-A personality of yours definitely helps.”

“I don't have a type-A personality.”

A grin that reminded Sunset of Copper worked its way onto his face. “You have no idea what sarcasm is outside of a dictionary, do you?”

Sunset frowned. “Yes, as a matter of fact I do. And now you're being a smartass.”

“Oh,” he said, impressed. “You can actually tell the difference. I'm surprised. Not many ponies can.”

Despite this unwelcome change in conversation, Sunset smiled. “Comes with having one as your best friend.”

“I guess it does, doesn't it? Well, yeah, that was smartass I was speaking. I'm trilingual, by the way.” He buffed a hoof on his chest to complement this little charade of his.

Sunset raised an eyebrow and drew her head back slightly. “In what three languages, exactly?”

“Smartass, sarcasm, and ponish, in that order.”

Sunset snorted and raised a hoof to hold in a bout of laughter. She walked into that one.

“That has to be the dumbest thing I've heard all week,” she said.

Doppler shrugged. “Well, if you figure out what you want to do, I'm sure I can beat my record a few times tonight.”

Sunset blushed, looking away. That was a bet she didn’t mind taking. Just, what to do?

“Tell you what...” He turned his head toward the distant track field. “There’s a towpath just past the athletic fields. Goes through the woods. We run it all the time. Really pretty this time of day.”

Aww, was he trying to play to her feminine nature? Long walks on the beach and talking about her feelings and all that? Still not really her thing, but for him she could make an exception.

“Okay,” she said.

They headed out past the track field and its chain link fence where Copper found that scarf. There was a bird chirping from a nearby tree, and a light wind sent that rushing sound through the treetops. There were a few ponies making use of the track.

She still didn't know what to say. With Copper gone, it left a hole in the conversation she didn't know how to fill. She really was carrying the conversation wasn't she?

Oh, the silence was stretching out and getting awkward. She needed to do something or this was all going to fall to pieces and it would be all her fault.

Come on. She could do this. She was Sunset Shimmer, personal student of Princess Celestia herself. She could handle a daaaate oh my gosh.

They were actually dating right now. Like, for real! She coughed to get rid of any stupid grin she might have been wearing. Just think of something, anything!

“So, um…” she said. “Doppler…”

“Yeah?”

Sunset laughed. “No, I mean doppler, as in the phenomenon. The distortion of sound due to the compression or elongation of sound waves generated by a moving object. How, um… how does one get a name and cutie mark in that?”

They headed off the sidewalk and onto a dirt path less constructed and more beaten into submission by thousands of hooves. It cut through the treeline and onto the towpath proper. The cinder ash crunched beneath their hooves as they walked.

Doppler laughed. “Well, it may come as a surprise for an uppity Canterlotian such as yourself, but out there—” he gestured into the distant sky “—there are places where the weather isn't controlled by pegasi.”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “So you're not from Canterlot?”

“Nope. Ferrington, out west. Moved here when I was a colt ‘cause my dad couldn’t get enough work there as a cobbler.”

“Your dad's a cobbler?” Sunset stepped around a little pothole in the path.

“Yeah, horseshoes, boots, all that stuff. You wouldn’t think it, but there’s more boots that need fixing in an upscale place like Canterlot than there is in a down-to-Equestria place like Ferrington.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah. So anyway, there are some places in Equestria where pegasi don't control the weather. In those backwater, dark-aged places, there are ponies that monitor it instead.”

“Monitor? You mean, just… let the weather happen?”

“Yeah.”

“Huh.”

“Weird, right?”

Sunset shrugged. “Not really. I mean, it makes sense for places where there just aren't enough pegasi.”

“I was being facetious. It's a thing that I do.” He elbowed her in the shoulder.

“I… Oh.”

“Heh. So what about you?”

“M-me?” She shied away at the idea. She didn't like talking about herself. “What do you mean?”

Doppler caught a falling leaf with his magic and twirled it before his eyes. “Well, you can’t have been Princess Celestia’s prized pupil your entire life. Where did you grow up? What kind of pony were you before you became Princess Celestia’s student? What was your favorite toy on your kindergarten playground?”

Sunset laughed. “What kind of question is that last one?”

“One that makes you laugh.” He tossed the leaf aside.

Sunset pursed her lips. He got her there.

“Umm, I grew up here in Canterlot. I was regular, old Sunset Shimmer just like I've always been. Aaaand my favorite playground toy was a red kickball that our teacher never reinflated for us after Howitzer sat on it.” She giggled at the memory.

“Oh, you were a kickballer back in the day, huh?”

She shot him a grin. “Best one in the schoolyard.”

His mouth took on an appraising slant, and his eyes roved over her in a way that were he any other stallion would have earned him a proper slap in the face.

He nodded. “I can see it.”

There was a toad on the path. It looked up at Sunset with it's wide, beady eyes, and hopped into the grass.

“So if you're named after the Doppler effect,” Sunset said. “And you came here to CSGU. What exactly are you studying?”

“Meteorology.” He kicked a stray rock into the grass. A chipmunk scurried across the path. “Which, surprisingly enough, has nothing to do with meteors.”

Sunset giggled. “Right?”

“I know! How do you think I felt after getting here and finding that out?” He grinned her way, then took a prideful stride ahead.

Sunset shook her head and trotted to catch up. He was like a freaking stallion version of Copper. They walked in silence for a while, and Sunset took the opportunity to enjoy their little nature walk.

Sparrows and blue jays chirped overhead. Chipmunks scurried through the grass and fallen leaves along the path while squirrels chased each other around and dug holes for nuts. There were a few mosquitoes out, but otherwise she loved every second of it. Hesitantly, she sidled closer to Doppler.

The butterflies in her stomach did their thing, and she slowly found the courage to look at his hooves while they walked.

A minute passed before he laughed quietly to himself.

“What?” Sunset asked. She took a step back from him, fearful it had to do with her intrusion into his personal space.

“Nothin’... Just haven't done this in awhile.”

“Done what in awhile?” She flicked her ears forward, then back. She had a feeling she knew the answer.

“Just... go on a walk with a cute mare.”

Sunset snorted.

“Hey, just because it's a corny thing to say doesn't make it any less true.”

Sunset tch’d and looked away. Yeah right. Sunset turned when she noticed Doppler had stopped walking.

Doppler wore a disbelieving smile. “Okay. I mean, I’ll skip the stupid ‘have you looked in a mirror?’ joke, because it’s obvious you haven’t for how wacky your mane is today. But really, ponies don't tell you you're pretty very often, do they?”

Sunset blushed and looked at the ground. There was a trail of ants across the path she had almost stepped on, and she moved her hoof to avoid them. “No. They don't. I mean, Copper does, but that’s just her being nice.”

A moment passed, before Doppler snorted and shook his head. “That's… not her ‘just being nice.’ You should start listening to her more.”

“I do listen to her. I can't not when when she says it all the time.”

“Then you should start believing her.” He was looking off into the distance, but quickly enough, those gorgeous eyes of his came back around.

Sunset brushed back her mane to make it hopefully look a little more kempt.

Doppler stopped her hoof with his. “Don’t. I like it like that.”

The touch sent her heart aflutter. She had been nose to nose with him twice that day, thanks to Copper, but here in the forest washed red with the sunset, his hoof on hers, just the two of them, she almost forgot to breathe.

His mango-scented shampoo mingled with the smell of dirt and leaves, and she breathed it deep, her eyes never leaving his.

Part of her thought back to Copper and her spunky personality. What would she do?

Sunset's cheeks went hot as fire. The butterflies were back in her stomach, and they brought all their friends.

Copper would go in for a kiss. Was it too soon for that, though? What would he think of her?

He tilted his head and brought it ever so slightly closer to hers.

Oh, Celestia, he was going for it. What should she do? Should she let him? Meet him in the middle? She felt rooted in place, caught in those eyes coming closer, those lips that sought hers.

No, this was too soon. Sunset broke away, laughing weakly. She took a deep breath. The butterflies didn’t seem very happy with her, but she didn’t know what else to do. This was all too sudden.

“I, uh… can we head back?” she said breathlessly. “It's getting kinda dark.”

Doppler was unreadable for a split second. He flattened back his ears before flicking them forward and giving her an easy smile. “Yeah, sure.”

They headed back across the dirt path, past the chain link fence, and back to campus proper. They entered the honors dorms, and Sunset led him through the winding halls to the Whinnister Wing, where the top of the top honors roomed.

“Damn,” he said, taking in the high glass ceilings and crystal décor. “You two have the nice dorms.”

“Perks of being top in my class.”

“You mean perks of being the Princess’ star student.”

Sunset rolled her eyes. Whatever ponies wanted to think was the case. Those two reasons went pretty hoof in hoof anyway.

They came to her door, and she undid the lock. She was halfway inside before she realized she hadn't even said goodbye.

She cringed and spun about with an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I… force of habit.”

He chuckled. “You're good. I do stuff like that all the time.”

They shared a moment of silence, one Sunset wished desperately to fill with something. Maybe… maybe that kiss would have been appropriate. Maybe… it was now?

“Well, I had fun.” He took an idle peek into her living room where the lights were off, which meant Copper was probably sleeping.

“So did I.”

He smiled. “It was fun watching you get all embarrassed. You have the most adorable blush I've ever seen.”

Sunset giggled. “Shut up…”

She went to brush her mane back from her face, but stopped herself remembering their little moment in the woods.

“I’ll see you tomorrow?” he asked.

That got her heart racing. She smiled, if only to keep herself from squealing at the thought of seeing him again so soon.

“Yeah,” she said. “I'd like that.”

“Alright.” He stepped back.

Sunset didn't know what was going through her head. Part of her was already exhausted out of her mind, but something stirred in her chest, some desperate fear that told her no. If she didn’t do it now, he might be walking away for good, no matter what they just said.

Before he could take another step, she darted forward and kissed him.

Her heart beat a racket in her chest at the leap of faith, and a sudden fear ran through her that he might not have wanted this so suddenly.

But his lips pressed back against hers, and all worry fell away to the bliss of the moment. The moment ended all too soon, though, and they separated in a fit of giggles, foreheads pressed together.

“Your Coppertone is showing,” he said.

Sunset couldn't stop giggling. “So it is…”

“Lunch at 11?” he said.

“It's a date.”

He snorted. “Now who's breaking the record for dumbest thing you've ever heard.”

“I don't know… maybe we'll find out tomorrow.”

That got a real laugh out of him. “I think we just found our winner, actually.”

She pushed him in the chest, and oh gosh was he toned under that thick coat. Sweet Celestia, what was going on with her? She really was acting like Copper right now.

She cleared her throat and put a hoof on the door. “Goodnight.”

“I'll see you.” He stepped back, allowing her to shut the door.

She didn't, though. She kept leaning farther out the door to watch him walk down the hallway.

He laughed and threw a final smile over his shoulder before turning the corner.

Sunset stood watching the empty space. An urge to let out a delighted squeal made it to her lips, but she held it in for Copper’s sake. She practically skipped on her tippy hooves back into her dorm.

“You were gone awhile,” came Copper’s voice from the couch. She was peering overtop the couch back, a bleary smile on her face. She must have passed out waiting for Sunset to come back. “You fuck him already?”

The jab didn't even register on Sunset's offended meter. She was so high up on cloud nine, she actually had the gusto to smirk.

“You'd like that wouldn't you?” she said.

Coppertone’s mouth fell open. “Aww, look at you. My little Sunnybuns all grown up and giving my smartassery right back at me.”

“‘Sunnybuns?’” Sunset snorted. She climbed over the back of the couch and onto Copper. It was an awkward position, head hanging off the cushion, hind legs dangling over the couch back. But just being off her hooves felt like a dream come true after all that walking. She heaved a contented sigh.

“Oof.” Coppertone squirmed underneath her. “Yep, you're definitely all grown up.”

Sunset giggled. “I'm tired.”

“You’re heavy.” Copper used her magic to grab Sunset by the hind legs and fwomp her down into a more comfortable position beside her. She snuggled in closer and wrapped a hoof around Sunset’s back, the other stroking her mane.

Sunset felt more than allowed her eyes to flutter shut. She had always liked having her mane stroked as a filly. There was something comforting about it. She took a deep breath.

Copper’s breath smelled of milk and cookies. She’d been binge eating again. To think she was always worried about her weight and then went and did things like that.

“You sure you didn’t fuck him?” Copper said. “Your mane says otherwise.”

“It’s been like that all day,” Sunset said, a high, defensive pitch to her voice.

“So you’ve staged an alibi from the get-go. You’re not fooling me, Sunnybuns.” She ruffled Sunset's mane.

Sunset snorted and shook her head. A deep sigh, and she buried herself in her friend’s mane and its coconut shampoo scent. So soft. She could cuddle with it forever.

“You're the worst, Copper,” she whispered.

A moment of silence, and Copper giggled. She rested her chin on Sunset’s cheek. “I learn from the best.”

They shared a laugh, and Sunset drifted off to the sound of Copper's gentle breaths and her hoof through her mane.

Author's Note:

Onward and Upward!