• Published 23rd Sep 2018
  • 2,061 Views, 488 Comments

Playing House - Krickis

When Sunset learns about problems in Fluttershy's home life, she invites her friend to live with her instead. For Fluttershy, it’s a shelter from the storm she lives in fear of. For Sunset, it’s the hope to be part of a family for the first time.

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1 – Storm Shelter

Act I

Winter Winds

Chapter One

Storm Shelter

There was no reasonable explanation for why Sunset’s phone was vibrating. One might assume the reason was because someone was trying to get ahold of her. One would, however, be incorrect. It was the middle of the night, and Sunset had work in the morning. No one could possibly be trying to call her given those circumstances. By force of will if by nothing else, Sunset would never allow it.

In what was perhaps the most cruel turn of events in Sunset’s life, she did not seem to have any say in the matter. Her phone was vibrating, and it did not seem liable to stop on its own.

Sunset fumbled to find her phone from her bedside table while summarizing her displeasure in life itself as an elongated groan. But as she found her phone, the vibrating continued elsewhere.

That could only be bad. Realizing immediately that the vibrating was coming from the journal that was also on the bedside table, Sunset pushed herself into a sitting position. She pulled the book onto her bed and used the light from her phone’s screen to see what she was doing.

Even the dim light made her wince, and it was hardly enough to see by. She found the right page easily enough thanks to a bookmark, but she had to strain her eyes to read what it said.

‘Sunset, it’s Fluttershy. I know it’s really late and you have work tomorrow, but if you can, please write me back. It’s important.’

Fluttershy? That was odd. Not as odd as it would have been a month ago; Twilight and Fluttershy had been dating for some time, and over the past month, Sunset had taken to corresponding with her friend’s marefriend. But still, it was strange for Fluttershy to be up at this hour.

But she wasn’t going to figure out anything by staring in confusion, so she quickly grabbed the pen that had been beside the book and scribbled a short reply. ‘What’s up?’

It didn’t take long for a response to appear. ‘Sorry to wake you, but does the Fluttershy in your world live with somepony named Stormy Skies?’

Sunset let out a yawn, thankful that her friend couldn’t see her exhaustion through the book. ‘No, she lives with her dad.’ Realizing that she didn’t actually know if that answered the question, she quickly added, ‘Or is that his name?’

When Fluttershy responded, her writing came fast and sloppy. ‘Please, do whatever you can to get her away from him. Maybe she could move in with Rainbow or something, anything, just not him.’

Sunset sat straighter as she watched the words come in, suddenly feeling much more alert. ‘Okay, I’m officially awake now. I’ll do what I can, but what’s going on? What’s so bad about him?’

While waiting for Fluttershy to explain, Sunset got out of bed and turned her light on. She had a feeling she wouldn’t be getting back to sleep soon, if she did at all. By the time she returned, Fluttershy was writing again.

‘I’ll explain everything. But is there some way to make sure Twilight doesn’t see? I know I need to tell her too, and I will, but I don’t want her to find out like this.’

That only made Sunset more concerned. Fluttershy and Twilight had been friends for longer than Sunset had known either of them, and they had been dating for at least half a year. They were as close as anyone Sunset knew, and she did not like the idea of something so bad that Fluttershy hadn’t told Twilight about it.

‘I don’t think Twilight would read it if you just asked her not to, but if you really want to be sure you can tear out the page.’ Twilight had made that discovery for them on the day she first told Sunset that she was gay; she’d panicked and she tore out the page, hoping it would unsend the message, but nothing happened on Sunset’s end. ‘And I promise I won’t say anything to her about it.’

Fluttershy’s words came slowly, and Sunset could imagine her reluctance. ‘Well, when I was a teenager, my mom died. After that, Stormy Skies started drinking a lot more and things got pretty bad.’

Sunset tried to remember if the Fluttershy from the human world had ever talked about her home life, and found she couldn’t recall anything. ‘And you think the same thing might be happening with the Fluttershy over here?’

‘I don’t know. I hope not.’ There was a long pause, and Sunset was about to write a reply when Fluttershy wrote again. ‘There was one night when he was drunk that he came into my room, and he’ another pause, and Sunset felt her chest tighten as she waited for the words she already knew were coming ‘told me that without my mom, I would have to do, and then’

When Fluttershy paused again, Sunset jumped in with a reply of her own. ‘It’s alright, I understand. I’m so sorry that happened to you, Fluttershy.’

Once again, Sunset was glad Fluttershy couldn’t see her. In the journal, Sunset’s words looked calm and rational, but outside of it, she was burning with rage. What Stormy Skies did was inexcusable, especially with his own daughter, and Sunset was going to make sure that if the one in this world had done the same, he was going to answer for it. But first, she had a friend to take care of. ‘Have you talked to anyone else about this?’

‘I told Luna after she saw him in my nightmares.’

‘Good. You should tell Twilight about it too. Let her help you with this.’

‘That’s what Luna said, too.’

Sunset took a deep breath. They couldn’t just jump to conclusions, and they didn’t know if the same thing had happened to both Fluttershys. But there was no way in hell Sunset wasn’t going to find out for sure. ‘Give me one second, I’m gonna call the Fluttershy here and make sure she’s okay.’

Checking her phone, Sunset saw it was half past three. She could just wait until the morning. Odds were that Fluttershy was just asleep in bed right now, and that the only thing that Sunset would do by calling was wake her up. But Sunset couldn’t rest easy until she made absolutely sure that being woken up by a phone call was the worst thing that happened to Fluttershy this night.

She tapped the phone app and tapped Fluttershy’s name on the list of recent contacts, deciding what she’d say as it rang.

“Sunset? Is everything alright?” Fluttershy sounded groggy, which was good. She had just been asleep in bed after all.

“Hey, Fluttershy, sorry to wake you. I know this is really really dumb, but uh…” Sunset gave a nervous laugh so she’d sound embarrassed. “Well, I had a bad dream where you were in trouble, and I wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

“Oh, that’s not dumb at all. I’m fine, but it’s sweet of you to check on me.”

Even if it was just an excuse, saying it made Sunset feel silly enough to blush; now she was glad neither Fluttershy could see her. “Right, of course. I’m sorry, I tried getting back to sleep, but I just couldn’t get that dream out of my head.”

“It’s fine, there’s no reason to be sorry. I do that too sometimes. Do you want to talk for a while? That helps me calm down after a bad dream so that I can get back to bed.”

“No, as long as you’re okay then that’s all I needed to know. Thanks, Fluttershy.”

“Alright, Sunset. But if you change your mind, you can call me back.”

“Okay. Thanks again. You should get back to sleep though, maybe we can hang out tomorrow.”

“That sounds nice. Good night, Sunset.”

“Night, Fluttershy.”

Sunset hung up the phone and sighed with relief. Fluttershy was okay, at least for tonight. She’d use the tentative plans they made to hang out tomorrow to talk about Stormy Skies. Meanwhile, she had another Fluttershy who probably needed a friend right now.

When she returned to the book, she found Fluttershy had written a message while she’d been on the phone. ‘Okay. Sorry to put all of this on you.’

Although she was still furious about what she’d learned, she felt much calmer as she returned to the book. ‘It’s okay, I’m glad you told me. The Fluttershy here was just sleeping soundly, nothing to worry about tonight. I’ll talk to her more tomorrow.’

‘I hope she’s okay.’

‘Yeah, me too.’ Remembering what Fluttershy had said on the phone, Sunset decided to apply it to the one in the book. ‘So I guess you’ve been having trouble sleeping. Feel like talking for a while? Might help you calm down.’

There was a slight pause, and Sunset couldn’t help but smile a little at Fluttershy’s selfless nature when she saw the reply. ‘But you have work tomorrow, you should get some rest.’

‘It’s fine, I went to bed early last night anyway.’ That was a lie, but it sounded better than saying she wasn’t going to be able to sleep one way or another. ‘Really, I don’t mind.’

‘Well, okay then. I’d like that a lot right now, actually.’

Although Sunset was well aware that both Fluttershys were different, there were of course tons of similarities between them. It was nice to have one friend be able to give insight on how the other worked, but as she spent the night writing back and forth to the pony Fluttershy, Sunset just hoped that her personality was where her similarities to the human one ended.

Work was never a good experience, exactly. When Sunset had first started dating Flash way back in freshman year of high school, his uncle Golden Lucre had given her a job working at his store. That had gone well for a while; it filled her time when that was what she needed, gave her a steady paycheck, and she was well liked by her boss and coworkers. But then Sunset went and broke up with Flash, and everything at her job went to hell.

It had been over a year since the breakup, and Sunset had long since patched things up with Flash. The two became friends again while they were still at Canterlot High School, and seven months after graduation, that friendship was still going. And yet, Golden Lucre was still a dick.

But Sunset was used to that. She was a little less used to only having slept for a few hours the night before a morning shift, but it’s not like that had never happened before. No, the main reason the day was particularly awful was the fact that Sunset’s mind was plagued with constant anxiety.

During her lunch break, Sunset had followed up on making more concrete plans with Fluttershy. They’d meet up at the animal shelter where Fluttershy volunteered once Sunset’s shift was over, so everything was lined up. All that there was to do was wait.

Sunset hated waiting at the best of times, and having something so troubling regarding one of her closest friends on her mind meant this was very far removed from the best of times. It was only for half a day, but still, the hours dragged. She used the time to consider how she’d bring up something so upsetting, although she never found a satisfactory answer.

Well, whether she knew what to say or not, the time came all the same. From the moment the afternoon cashier arrived to relieve her, Sunset wasted no time in making for the exit.

At least it was easier to stop thinking about everything once she was out of the store. The cold January air was invigorating after the stifling store environment, and she’d finally be able to gain ground on getting to Fluttershy. But mostly, it was because the roar of her motorcycle engine had always been good for quieting intrusive thoughts. While her fears proved too prevalent to be drowned out entirely, revving her bike’s engine brought Sunset her first genuine smile of the day.

Driving itself also helped. It had been a few years since Sunset had first gotten her motorcycle, and driving through town was hardly the thrill it once was. But the sense of freedom never left. Even when the roads were slick with winter snow, Sunset was able to use the smaller size of her bike and the increased control she felt on it to dodge past cars as the city sped past her at a speed much higher than the legal limit.

Allowing herself to put aside her worries while she drove made the ride much faster, and it hardly felt like any time at all had passed when Sunset pulled into the animal shelter’s parking lot. But once she was no longer driving, all the concerns came rushing back. She still had no idea what she was going to say, but she was about to find out.

Sunset tethered her bike to a tree in the parking lot, double checked the lock, and took one more deep breath to steel herself. At best, this was going to be an awkward conversation that neither of them would be comfortable in. At worst… well, Sunset just hoped for the best.

At least Fluttershy was free of any such concerns as Sunset walked into the building. “Hi, Sunset,” she said brightly. “How’d work go?”

“Hey, Fluttershy.” Sunset grinned and shrugged, not letting any of her nervousness show. “It was okay for work. Just glad to be out now.”

“Of course.” Fluttershy was sitting at the receptionist desk, so Sunset walked over to it and set her helmet down. She opted to remain standing. Fluttershy simply smiled, unaware of how restless Sunset was. “Were you able to get back to sleep last night?”

Sunset scratched her neck. “Well, not really.”

“Aww, you must be exhausted. You should be home resting.”

Sunset maintained a smile but took a deep breath. “Actually, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Sure, what’s on your mind?”

Sunset took a look around. It was just the two of them as far as she could see, but she didn’t know who could be around a corner listening in, not to mention that customers could come at any moment. “It’s kinda personal. Don’t suppose you’re going on break sometime soon?”

Fluttershy checked the time. “Well, it’s just about time to give the doggies their dinner. We can talk while I do that, if that’s okay.” She giggled. “As long you don’t mind a few puppies listening in.”

Sunset chuckled. “I think that sounds just fine.”

It was a good thing Sunset suggested going elsewhere, it seemed. Fluttershy opened a door right next to the desk and informed someone that she’d be stepping away so they could keep an eye on things. Sunset doubted the walls would keep out their conversation, but a bunch of excited dogs eating would do the trick.

With the front covered, Fluttershy led them down a hall and into a room full of dog pens. They all jumped and barked excitedly when they saw Fluttershy, and Sunset could only grin as she wondered if that was because of their caretaker or their meal.

Fluttershy unlocked a closet door with a set of keys attached to her blouse and retrieved a bag of dog food. As short as Fluttershy was, it looked like it weighed almost as much as she did. Almost on instinct, Sunset took the bag from her and started filling bowls.

“So what did you want to talk about?” Fluttershy asked as she started collecting empty or dirty water bowls.

While it had seemed like a great idea at the time, Sunset now realized how awkward it would be to bring up the sensitive subject while they fed a bunch of noisy dogs. But it was what she had to work with, so it would have to do.

“Well, last night I got a message.” Even though she knew their only company was the dogs, Sunset still took a look around to make sure. “From the other Fluttershy.”

“Oh?” Fluttershy set the water bowls down next to a sink in the closet, then joined Sunset so they could talk. “Is everything okay in Equestria?”

“Yeah.” Sunset filled another dog’s bowl then turned towards Fluttershy. This was it. “She was writing to talk about something that happened a long time ago. Something with Stormy Skies.”

Fluttershy’s mouth fell open and her pupils grew larger. “My… my dad?”

“Yeah. Well, her dad, actually.” Sunset shifted the weight of the dog food bag. “He… well, when she was living with him, he was abusive.”

“Oh… that’s awful.”

Sunset studied Fluttershy’s reactions. She was trying to keep cool, but she looked restless and pupil dilation was a fear response. “Well, you know, she’s living with Twilight now. She got away from him ages ago, so she’s okay.”

“Good. No one should have to go through that.” Fluttershy took the dog food from Sunset and returned to filling their bowls.

“Yeah, but… What about you?” Sunset noticed how Fluttershy wasn’t looking at her. Not even occasional glances as she kept her focus firmly on feeding the dogs.

“Hmm? Oh, you don’t think that the same thing happened to me, do you?”

“Well, I don’t know.” Sunset followed Fluttershy to the closet where she’d left the water bowls. After returning the remainder of the food bag, Fluttershy began cleaning them. “I just, you know, want to be sure.”

“Sunset, I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about me.”

Sunset hesitated a moment. She hated to even think the words she was about to say, but she needed to be upfront about it. “He… he raped her. He got drunk one night, and, well…”

That got Fluttershy to turn towards Sunset. “Oh dear… That’s horrible…”

Sunset searched Fluttershy’s expression for something, but honestly? She didn’t know what the appropriate reaction to this situation was, let alone how to gauge Fluttershy’s reactions. As Fluttershy turned back to the water bowls, Sunset closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

As much as she hated it, there was only one thing to do. She couldn’t just assume the same things happened to both Fluttershys, so she needed to ask. “Fluttershy… If anything ever happened with him, anything at all, you can talk to me about it. Whether it’s something like, you know, that, or if even it’s something not so bad like yelling at you. I want to help.”

“That’s sweet, Sunset, but I told you I’m fine.” Fluttershy giggled as she filled a water bowl. “Well, you could help me by bringing these back to the doggies once they’re filled.”

Although Sunset wasn’t sure she was comfortable with dropping the subject, she did take some comfort in the fact that Fluttershy was smiling. That had to be a good sign.

While Fluttershy cleaned and filled the bowls, Sunset brought them to the dogs. On a few occasions, the over-excited dogs knocked the bowls over and Sunset had to bring them back empty, but Fluttershy seemed to find it amusing.

Going back and forth didn’t give them more time to talk, but it did give Sunset a minute or two to think. Fluttershy said that there was no need to worry, and while Sunset couldn’t help being worried anyway, she could trust her friend.

“Sorry for bringing up all this awkward stuff,” Sunset said as Fluttershy locked up the closet. “I was just worried and –”

“Sunset, it’s fine,” Fluttershy interrupted with a smile. She certainly seemed fine. “I completely understand, and it was very thoughtful for you to check on me.”

“Yeah, of course.” They started to walk towards the exit, but Sunset stopped them before they made it out. “Hey, Fluttershy? Just so you know, you can always call me if you need to. If you ever need help, with, well, with anything at all. I’ll always be there to help you.”

Fluttershy turned and smiled. “Thank you, Sunset, I know. But you really should get some rest for now, it sounds like you worried yourself sick.”

Sunset was probably as satisfied as she was going to be with things, so she followed Fluttershy back into the entryway. They talked for a few more minutes about much more normal topics, then Sunset said her goodbyes and left.

The ride back to her house was less enjoyable. She didn’t even try to use her bike’s maneuverability to hurry the trip any, and practically kept herself on autopilot as she drove. Every spare thought was dedicated to the meeting that had just taken place.

When Sunset first told Fluttershy she knew about Stormy Skies, she had looked afraid. Neither Stormy Skies was the world’s greatest dad, that much Sunset was sure of.

But maybe Sunset had misread things, maybe it had been more shock than fear. It was a heavy thing to find out about someone, especially if that someone was a duplicate of yourself in another dimension.

It didn’t help that they rarely talked about the Equestrian counterparts. Fluttershy knew that her counterpart was dating Twilight, but Sunset hadn’t even found the chance to tell anyone that she was now in regular contact with the pony Fluttershy. Things tended to get weird whenever the doubles were discussed, so they tended to not be discussed often.

It was entirely reasonable that Fluttershy was only reacting to a strange and shocking revelation. But, of course, Sunset couldn’t just leave things there.

When she got back to her house, Sunset drove around to the back, as always. She got off her bike in the backyard and wheeled it into the detached garage the Apples had helped her build. Once that was securely locked up, Sunset used the back door of her house to enter the kitchen.

She didn’t linger in there for long, just dropping her helmet and bike jacket off on the kitchen table. Regret came quick as the heat was kept low in the house to save on the bill, so she ducked into the bedroom for a light sweater. She considered making some coffee to keep warm, but decided against it. She really was exhausted, and was hoping to get to bed early for once.

But first, she had something to do. She sat down in front of her computer and turned it on. Even though it was four years old by now, it still booted up quickly. It was a good thing Sunset had been so forward thinking when she made it; there was no way her budget would allow her to replace it these days.

Once it was on, she opened the internet browser and began searching. “Domestic abuse laws.”

Sunset hoped that there really was nothing to worry about, but she’d be damned if she didn’t do everything in her power to make sure of it.

For the second night in a row, Sunset was awoken by a vibrating sound. This time, however, she shot straight up with no hesitation.

As she grabbed her phone, she saw Fluttershy’s name and picture were displayed. She immediately swiped to answer it. “Fluttershy? What’s up?”

“I…” It sounded like Fluttershy was breathing heavily. “Sunset, I’m, uhm…”

“Easy, Fluttershy.” Sunset was already getting up to get dressed. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, I… can you come get me? I-I think I can explain better if you do.”

“Yeah, of course. Are you at your house?”

“I’m at the end of my block at a, uhm, a bus stop.”

“Okay. I’m gonna be there as soon as I can be, just wait for me there.”

“Alright.” Fluttershy took a shaky breath. “I’m sorry, I just…”

“Hey, no need for that.” Sunset grabbed her keys and left her bedroom. “I’m heading out now, but I can’t talk on my motorcycle. If you need to talk to someone to keep calm, call AJ, Rainbow, or Pinkie. I know it’s late, but they won’t mind.”

“Okay. I think I’ll be alright. Thank you, Sunset.”

“No problem, see you soon.” Sunset hung up the phone and retrieved her jacket from the kitchen table, followed by her helmet. She put them on before leaving the house, and she was glad she did.

With the sun down, everything was even colder. The wind had picked up, and it looked like a storm might be coming. It wasn’t so bad with how bundled up she was, but the bike ride wasn’t going to be fun.

It didn’t matter. One way or another, she had to go, so there was no point in dwelling on that.

Sunset unlocked her garage and pulled the bike out of it, checking the time before heading off. It was after midnight, so at least the roads would be empty.

The wind chill along the way wound up being barely noticeable after all. Sunset had to drive slow for fear of ice on the roads, which minimized the effect. Plus any remaining sensation was drowned out by adrenaline as Sunset tried not to think about what might have happened to cause Fluttershy to call her, but thought about nothing else all the same.

Under good conditions, it was a twenty-minute drive to Fluttershy’s house. In the dark and the snow, it ought to be close to double that. Sunset pushed herself to go faster than was wise, but the trip still took at least half an hour.

The frustration at how long it took hardened as Sunset finally saw Fluttershy. She was dressed for the cold, but her jacket wasn’t nearly heavy enough to be out so long on a night like this. She was sitting alone at a bus stop, like she said she would be, and she had her arms wrapped around her as she shivered violently.

Sunset pulled up alongside her and removed her helmet. “Sorry it took so long. Are you okay?”

Somehow, Fluttershy still found it in her to smile. “I’m fine. Thank you for coming.” She picked up a backpack and approached the bike.

But before she could get on, Sunset quickly handed her the helmet and started pulling off her jacket. “Here, you’re frozen. Put these on.”

Fluttershy looked down at the jacket without taking it. “But what about you? I’ll be okay.”

“No, you’ve been out here waiting and you’re not dressed for it.” It was below freezing out, and Fluttershy’s jeans and jacket couldn’t possibly keep out the wind. “And you’re definitely not dressed to ride in this cold. I’ll keep the gloves and I’ve got warmer pants, you can take the jacket and the helmet. So we’ll split the misery.”

“I… I guess.” Although she was still reluctant, Fluttershy put on the jacket and helmet, which was what mattered.

“Are you okay though?” Sunset asked. “Like, are you hurt or anything? I can bring you to a hospital.”

“No, nothing happened.” Fluttershy’s voice was muffled by the helmet. “I just… well, I’ll explain at your house.”

“You got it.” Not wanting to waste any more time, Sunset drove off as soon as Fluttershy gave her signal that she was ready. At least she kept a tight hold around Sunset’s waist, which helped a little with the wind chill.

While Sunset loved her motorcycle, times like these she did wish she had a regular car. The cold stung her face and tore through the parts of her shirt that Fluttershy didn’t have her arms around. Not to mention talking was impossible, leaving Sunset wondering the whole way what could have happened.

But now that she knew Fluttershy was safe, Sunset wasn’t going to take any chances on keeping it that way. As much as the cold wind made it a nightmare, she drove much slower on the return trip.

Her house could not have been more welcome. Snow had started falling towards the tail end of the trip, and it was likely to pick up harder soon. By the time she pulled up to her garage, she was shivering so much that it was a challenge to get the lock to open. Fluttershy lingered off to the side while Sunset got her bike stowed away, and neither of them seemed to feel like talking while out in the snow.

Walking into the house and closing the door to the cold behind them wasn’t quite so satisfying as Sunset had hoped. “How about you grab the blanket from the bedroom and I’ll get some hot drinks going?” Sunset suggested.

“That sounds nice.”

“Coffee or cocoa?” Sunset called as Fluttershy went into the bedroom.

“Cocoa, please.”

Although Sunset doubted highly that they’d be sleeping much, it was still probably the safer choice. Sunset ran the water through the coffee pot then took a moment to raise the thermostat while the water heated up. She normally kept it colder than she really liked, but tonight it was more important to keep Fluttershy comfortable than to worry about her bills.

Sunset got out two mugs, emptied a packet of instant hot cocoa powder into each, then filled them with water. When she brought them into the living room, she found Fluttershy was already bundled up on the couch.

“Careful, it’s hot,” Sunset said as she handed Fluttershy her mug and took a seat beside her. She covered herself with the blanket, the small size of the couch making it easy to share.

“Thank you,” Fluttershy said as she took her cocoa. They both sat in silence for a moment, stirring their cocoa and wondering which would start.

Eventually, it fell to Sunset to ask. “So… what happened?”

Fluttershy sighed. “I feel so stupid…”

“Hey, you’re not stupid. Whatever happened, it’s okay. You can tell me.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “But that’s just it. Nothing happened.”

Sunset waited for more, then prompted Fluttershy when it didn’t come. “What do you mean?”

“My dad came home late and… well, he was drunk.” Fluttershy stared resolutely into her cup. “He does drink a lot. And sometimes he can be mean when he’s drunk.”

Sunset joined Fluttershy in staring into the cocoa. She wondered if either of them were actually going to feel like drinking them with how the conversation seemed to be going. “Has he ever hurt you?”

Fluttershy inhaled sharply, then proved they would, in fact, drink their cocoa after all as she took a sip. “Yes.”

Sunset pursed her lips and had to remind herself that no matter what she found out, Fluttershy was safe with her now, and that was her number one concern. “And… what about, uhm…”

“No,” Fluttershy said simply, yet resolutely. “He’s… hit me before. But that’s it.”

“Okay.” Sunset took a deep breath, relieved that her worst fear seemed to be avoided. “Did he hit you tonight?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No, nothing happened. I’m just… dumb…”

“You’re not dumb,” Sunset said, a bit too forcefully. She reminded herself to keep her temper in check. It was Stormy Skies that she was mad at, of course, but Fluttershy could easily interpret the anger as being directed at her. “It isn’t okay for him to hurt you, and even if he didn’t do anything tonight, you were right to get out of there.”

Fluttershy sipped more of her cocoa, and Sunset finally did as well. It was still extremely hot, and while Sunset loved burning hot drinks, she was surprised to see that Fluttershy seemed to as well.

“He came home drunk and… and he was being really loud.” Fluttershy sighed, sounding more exasperated than anything. “I kept thinking about what you told me today, and I got scared. So I packed a bag and snuck out of my window. He probably thinks I’m asleep in bed.”

“Alright, I understand.” Sunset sipped more of her cocoa and thought about what Fluttershy had told her. But there was nothing to think about, not really. “I’m sorry if our conversation earlier put bad ideas into your head, but you did the right thing. If you’re that scared that you had to get out of there, well… that speaks for itself, I think.”

Fluttershy didn’t sound convinced. “It doesn’t matter. I could’ve just stayed quiet in my room and I wouldn’t have bothered you. We could both be asleep by now.”

“But it does matter.” Sunset placed her hand on Fluttershy’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. “No one should be afraid of their own dad, whether he’s drunk or not. You shouldn’t have to live like that.”

Fluttershy gave a small smile at the affectionate motion, but it was gone as soon as it came. “Maybe, but I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Sunset pulled her hand back so she could shrug properly. “Move in with me.”

That got a laugh out of Fluttershy, which was good to see. “If only life was that easy.”

“It can be,” Sunset said. “I’m not joking, Fluttershy.” Her smile fell away as Fluttershy looked into Sunset’s eyes. “You’re eighteen, about to be nineteen in a few weeks. You’re legally an adult, meaning you don’t have to live with him. He’s not your legal guardian anymore.”

Fluttershy held a hand to her mouth and looked off to the side. “Well, yeah, but… I, uh, I know you don’t have a lot of money, and I don’t have a job…”

Sunset nodded. “It will be tight, and it’s only fair that you know that before you agree to anything. But I can manage finances pretty well, and Applejack’s always trying to buy me groceries and stuff anyway. If I start accepting, that’ll help offset the food costs.”

“But I’ll still be a burden, and –”

“Fluttershy,” Sunset said gently, “you’re not a burden, you’re a friend. I care about you, and I want to make sure you’re okay. And if money has to be a little tighter, then we can work with that.” When Fluttershy still looked like she might refuse, Sunset added, “I know it’s a big change, and you don’t have to say ‘yes’ right now. Just… don’t say ‘no’ right now either. You’re already here tonight, so just think about it. We can talk more tomorrow, okay?”

It still took a moment’s hesitation for Fluttershy to answer. “Okay.”

It wasn’t an agreement, but even a potential yes was better than a no. Sunset smiled. “Alright. And since you are here tonight, let’s make the most of it. Unless you just want to get some sleep?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I don’t think I could sleep right now if I tried.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Sunset set her mug on the coffee table and stood up. The house was warming to a comfortable temperature, and Sunset was going to make the most of this night. With any luck, she could show Fluttershy that it could be fun for them to live together. “We’ve got movies, music, board games, hell, we can do makeovers if you want! It’ll be just like a high school sleepover.”

Fluttershy giggled. “Oh, I haven’t had anyone to do makeovers with since Rarity moved away.”

That was on the bottom of Sunset’s list of preferred activities, but as long as Fluttershy was enjoying herself, it didn’t matter. “I don’t know if I’ll be much of a stand-in for Rarity, but you got it!”

With any luck, Sunset might be able to convince Fluttershy that this could work. That the two of them could enjoy being housemates, and that the finances would work out somehow.

And as for herself, all Sunset could do was try her best to bury the voice that doubted that was true.

Author's Note:

Starting off with the edge! Again, I'm going to handle these topics with as much care as I can, so please bear with me on this.

As for updates, this fic will update a chapter every Monday until Act I is complete (which will be chapter nine). Then it'll take a break until I'm ready to post Act II, which will then continue updating weekly. This cycle will continue until all five acts are released, with each act updating weekly and breaks of however long is needed in between. Consider it like a weekly TV show, and each act is like a season.

If you feel like stopping by to chat and hang out, I've got a Discord server for just that :ajsmug:

Sunset Shimmer’s cutie mark in this and future chaper headers by ChainChomp2 :twilightsmile:

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