• Published 29th May 2020
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Sunset Glimmer - Ninjadeadbeard

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2 - My Past is my Tomorrow

She was perfect. Absolutely, wonderfully, perfect. Her little ears were perfect, as was her little nose, and her perfect cyan eyes, and her amber coat, and the way her fine mane waved in gold and crimson whenever she stirred. There would never be a filly as perfect as her little Sunshine. It was impossible.

Except, she wasn’t. Maybe. Perhaps. Starlight’s beautiful, perfect little filly… wasn’t hers.

Maybe. Maddeningly maybe.

She held a baby in her hooves that she recognized all too well. She’d gone to sleepovers hosted by the foal she now held. She’d watched a movie in another world, where her baby was a full-grown person and background character. Starlight had fought against evil forces, on both sides of the mirror, alongside the very tiny, helpless, perfect little foal she held onto right now.

Or did she?

Starlight didn’t know. She hated not knowing. If this little filly was hers, then why did she look so much like Sunset Shimmer? And if they were one and the same… how!?

She sat in one of the thrones back at the Castle of Friendship, her baby still held tight in her hooves. Sunburst stood beside her, one foreleg wrapped warmly around her shoulders, the one source of constancy and strength left in Starlight’s world. It was that strength, plus an overabundance of adrenaline, panic, and a couple pints of Tim Hoofton’s coffee, that kept the purple mare awake at this point. It would take a lot more than giving birth to take down Starlight Glimmer.

In the room with them were the Princesses Twilight and Celestia… and her. The real… the older Sunset Shimmer. Sunset was pacing around the room all a-jitter, even her wings refusing to keep still as Twilight cast her temporal diagnostic spells on the Cutie Map Table. If any artifact at their disposal could pierce the veil of time and space, it was that table.

The events of the previous few hours replayed in Starlight’s mind. Twilight had thrown up a magic barrier between her baby and Sunset as soon as the two saw each other, to stop them touching if this was some sort of time-anomaly, and the general panic Doctor Feel Good had let loose ran roughshod throughout the hospital. Starlight’s dad and Sunburst’s mom were back there, under observation after fainting, as were the other Element Bearers, former students of the Friendship School, and Tempest Shadow, just to keep the peace and calm down the staff and other patients, who were convinced they were trapped in some sort of nightmarish timeloop scenario.

Things didn’t improve when Trixie suddenly went into labor. So, now it was just Starlight, her husband, her new child, two Princesses… and Sunset.

Little Sunshine babbled as she woke up, spit bubbles popping on her lips.

She was perfect.

In the pandemonium, the hospital staff were only too willing to let the Princesses take the mother and child home earlier than observation normally allowed, and so it had only been about an hour since the birth.

That seemed excessively quick, Starlight thought to herself, unable and unwilling to focus on Twilight’s spellcasting.

Starlight didn’t care, one way or the other. She had her Sunshine with her. That’s all that mattered. Every health-scanning spell imaginable had been used before they left – or rather, shoved – out of the hospital. There was nothing to worry about. No problems, no issues. At least, none that Celestia or Twilight thought would be a problem enough to point out.

She was… perfect.

And then, the little moment of stillness the Castle had fallen into, shattered.

“So…” Sunset winced, as though she’d just shouted in a church, instead of squeaked out the tiniest possible sound, “Do we have any theories? I mean, we’re not seriously considering that you’re my… my…”

Her voice gave out before it could finish, but it at least gave Sunburst an excuse to speak without starting what was proving to be a most distressing conversation.

“W-well there’s… there’s only t-two real theories that make sense,” he nervously worked the clasp on his cape while desperately trying not to make eye contact with the mare who was possibly his own daughter, “Occdam’s Razor would have us conclude that the simpler answer is the most likely… but either answer is patently absurd outside of some pretty wild theoretical magic, so…”

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Starlight sighed, and slumped down a little into Pinkie’s throne, “I mean… what am I supposed to think about this!?”

Sunburst cleared his throat, and said, “Well… perhaps Sunshine just… happens to look like Sunset? Crazier things have happened.”

As the deafening silence returned, partnered with the unamused glare of both Sunset and Starlight, the little filly herself let out a peal of laughter. And for a moment, that was enough to lift the pall of confusion and doubt settled into the very air within the Castle.

Starlight, idly brushing her daughter’s face and mane, looked up and across the table to where Celestia stood next to Spike’s honorary chair. Then, as her baby tried in vain to nip at her hoof, Starlight noticed something.

“Huh,” her eyes narrowed at the subject. And then, they widened, as an answer came to her. She turned her Sunshine over, and amid the foal’s happy babbling, she pointed out a spot at the base of her neck.

“Look!” she cried, “Look right there! Sunshine has a birthmark! It’s right at the back of her neck, and it looks like…”

“… a little pink heart?” Sunset’s eyes twitched as she finished her friend’s sentence, “Yeah, I… I always brushed my mane a certain way to hide that. Despite hearts being darn well ubiquitous in Equestria, compared to Earth, the playground bullies will still make fun of you for it.”

Starlight’s ears perked.

“You were bullied?”

“Uh, yeah… back at the orphanage…” Sunset began.

“Orphanage!?” Sunburst cut in suddenly, scraggly hairs jumping out of his, admittedly disheveled, mane and beard.

Sunset’s ears drooped, “Is… is that a problem?”

“N-no,” the orange stallion briefly turned red, his hooves tapping arrhythmically on the hard crystal floor, “There’s nothing wrong with it… per say. But I thought Celestia raised you?”

Sunset nodded, slowly, “She did, but I was at the Canterlot Orphanage until I was five.”

Starlight looked down at the babe in her hooves. Sunshine smiled back, and Starlight could feel her heart breaking apart. For a terrifying second, she could see her little girl, alone. Getting a sock full of candy for Hearth’s Warming, but no presents under the tree. Being made fun of on the playground. Seeing other children leave with new parents.

Parents who would love them forever, regardless of a connection of blood…

Blood.

Blood!

“I’ve got it!” she cried, a manic grin plastered onto Starlight’s face, and a joyful laugh in her baby’s eyes, “Blood! We can do a genetic test!”

“With a possible temporal anomaly?” Sunburst raised an eyebrow quizzically.

Sunset shared his skepticism. “If that is me, I’d rather not risk a feedback loop from there being two of us in the room when you cast something like that.”

Starlight knew there was a higher than was statistically safe chance of mana feedback if the subject of the spell was in more than one place at a time. That knowledge nearly put a dampener on Starlight’s mood, but she pushed through it. She had to.

“But what about genetics? I have Record’s Syndrome!”

Perfect! Starlight thought, Unicorns with Record’s have unusually high mana levels due to not being able to close their mana channels easily, but since it carries on the X-chromosome…

“Sunset does not have Record’s,” Celestia’s voice cut through Starlight’s briefly improving mood like a hot spoon through ice cream, “At least, she didn’t as a unicorn.”

Sunset quickly added, “It’s been years since I had an Equestrian physical, but while I didn’t have Record’s, I know for a fact I was a carrier.”

“And I don’t have it,” Sunburst said, his low tone reflecting how far Starlight had sunk into her seat, “So… Sunshine would also be a carrier.”

Starlight hadn’t heard most of what was said. As soon as she realized what they were saying, the information clicked in her mind, and she was onto the next hypothesis. The next possibility. The next reason that her perfect, beautiful little angel just could not be Sunset Shimmer.

She didn’t hate Sunset, of course. Nopony could hate her once they got to know her. But Sunset was not Sunshine. Because if Sunshine and Sunset were the same pony, then that meant… it meant…

The little filly’s smile hadn’t wavered once. And now, with her mother’s face so close, she reached out with a feeble, twitching hoof to grasp at the object of her sole, and absolute, affection.

Sunshine didn’t seem to understand what the tears, which splashed against her tiny hoof, meant. She was overjoyed at the contact alone.

“I promised,” Starlight whispered. She licked her lips, and tried again, “I promised I wouldn’t let it happen.”

Sunset took a few, ginger steps towards her.

Her own whisper was almost quieter. “You wouldn’t let what happen?”

Now Celestia had turned her attention fully to Starlight and her foal. Twilight sat serenely in her chair, lost in a trance and bathed in a corona of magical light.

Starlight felt her husband’s foreleg grip her shoulders again. At first, she couldn’t say anything. She waited for some of his quiet strength to bleed down into her, first.

Finally, with a ragged breath, she said, “I promised I wouldn’t let my child make the same mistakes I made. I promised… We promised,” her eyes never left her Sunshine, though one hoof rose up to take Sunburst’s, “that we would be there for her. That we wouldn’t let anything happen…”

Sunshine looked up at her mother with worry now. The little one did not know what was wrong, or what had caused her mother such pain. But she could feel what she needed to do, nopony in the room could doubt from the way her eyes, her soft, intelligent eyes, focused on the most important being in the universe.

The foal reached up with both hooves, and tried to nuzzle her mother, like she’d seen her do before. Starlight, almost entirely automatically, instinctually, leaned into her daughter’s embrace, and returned every ounce of affection and more. Mother and foal simply held one another without reservation.

Sunset stared at the display. Every inch of her twitched as she saw the moment of sheer bliss pass across the faces of Sunshine and Starlight. It was reflexive, an old, old hurt yearning to be healed. Even just taking in the twinkle in Sunburst’s eye as he leaned over his wife and child made her heart begin to pound louder and louder in her chest and in her ears.

There was something startlingly familiar about it all.

“Hmmm,” Celestia’s melodious voice fell into a thoughtful hum as she approached the other side of Starlight’s seat, “More and more, this mystery begins to feel as though the answer is as inevitable as it is… disturbing.”

Sunset’s ears flattened as she looked past her possible-mother, and towards her mother-figure, “Do… do you really think that Starlight and Sunburst are…?”

She didn’t want to finish. Finishing that sentence felt too much like a period, a final punctuation. And with it, would come so many terrible contemplations. Too many cruel possibilities for Sunset or Starlight to have thrust upon them.

Celestia, however, knew grim inevitability. It had been her companion for centuries. She weighed her words a moment, ears flicking atop her head as though she was listening to an internal debate.

“It would certainly clear up much of the mystery I found myself in when you were first brought to my attention.”

“Brought to your attention?” Sunset asked, her mind racing back to her hazy memories of foalhood.

Sunburst’s ears twitched, and his other foreleg came up protectively around his wife, “Mystery?”

The Princess leaned down, just enough to see little Sunshine clearly, but not so near as Sunset knew Celestia liked to be around foals. The elder Alicorn loved fillies and colts with all her heart, to the point where Sunset knew she would turn down cake for the chance to nuzzle a newborn foal for a few hours.

Sunshine cooed in wonder as she saw the magnificent, ethereal mane. It wasn’t as wonderful as mommy’s mane, but it was close.

“I first met you, Sunset,” she said, her eyes never breaking contact with those of the baby, “when you were days old.”

“… Days?”

Celestia’s eyes flicked up to meet her old student’s. Then, she raised her head up to the tree-root chandelier which dominated the room, and said, “It was Hearth’s Warming Eve...


It was Hearth’s Warming Eve. The holiday never really appealed to me, at least the… ‘family’ part. I was reasonably certain that being the reason my family hadn’t been whole in over a thousand years meant I wasn’t supposed to enjoy a holiday that celebrated the institution.

Though, more selfishly, I didn’t want to waste an evening getting chatted up by Blueblood’s father, no matter how cute his new foal was…


“Oh! Bluey!” Sunset grinned, eyes sparkling, “I completely forgot about him! How’s he doing?”

Celestia frowned, “Do you remember how you behaved when you were thirteen?”

Sunset’s ears flattened.

“Oh…”

“Indeed. Now, as I was saying…”


I had managed to duck Grigori for a few minutes in between dinner courses. I snuck off into one of the ballrooms, and had a few moments to collect myself.

Feel sorry for myself, more like. Despite having the Bluebloods around since Platinum passed, I was utterly alone in the world. And knowing that my sister would return in a few more decades time, for her revenge, I would say I was not in the most seasonally appropriate mood.

It just so happened, at that moment, a fire began to burn in the Lower Wards. A three-story apartment, empty due to renovations, and within direct line-of-sight to the ballroom I was in, caught ablaze.

Well, I took it as a sign, and went off to investigate and lend a hoof.

The weather was bitterly cold, that year. Canterlot went through a very warm summer that year, and the recommended correction by the Weather Committee had a sharp blizzard coming down on our heads. But the flames were hot, even as I came within a block of the fire. The whole street was orange as I landed amidst the deep snow.

The place was in chaos. There wasn’t anypony inside, at least that anypony knew about at the time. But the fire was close to spreading to the other houses. I aided the firefighters and helped keep the flames contained, but I needn’t have bothered.

The first thing about that night that confused me. The fire, despite how brilliantly it raged, was so easily doused. At first, I couldn’t help but think it was a deliberate fire…

But the building’s owner didn’t have fire insurance. And he was an outstanding stallion, a true pillar of the community. I started thinking I had been overindulging in romance novels and thrillers. My imagination, and a desire to stay far, far away from Blueblood, had me running after shadows.

The second mystery. There were two ponies in the building that night, a stallion and a mare. Yet, despite the doors being unlocked, and there being no sign of other injuries, both had succumbed to the fire…


“Two ponies?” Sunburst’s brows furrowed into canyons on his face, “D-do you… do you mean…?”

Celestia shook her head sharply. “No. Despite their burns being quite severe, I can remember both of them clearly, even now. Neither bore any resemblance to you or Starlight Glimmer. The mare was a deep, rosy red, and the stallion, sky blue.”

“Who were they!?” Sunset shouted, her hackles suddenly up, “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this before!? Were they my parents…!?”

Her voice bounced painfully off the crystalline walls, within moments bringing the little foal to tears as she felt her ears ring with Sunset’s wrath.

The amber Alicorn recoiled at the sound, the faintest echo of a shadow of a memory causing her own ears to turn down.

“I…” Celestia spoke softly, “I never told you about this because I was afraid this was what would happen. Back then, I knew you were too emotional to speak with about that night. And…

“… and I was selfish,” she sighed, “I didn’t wish to share you, even with your real parents. I would have, eventually, but…”

“It’s fine,” Sunset cut in, quickly, before she could cause her mentor more pain, “Just… please. Finish the story.”


We never identified the bodies. They weren’t in any record, and had no identification on them. It was quite curious, though not impossible. Many itinerants and ‘off-grid’ ponies exist, even in Equestria. Still, it was very rare to see this sort of tragedy unfold.

More than that… I couldn’t help but feel something was off about the bodies. Due to the damages done to the bodies, I couldn’t be entirely sure of it at the time, but… well, I would always suspect something was off about those ponies.

There was one more mystery to solve, as well. A small foal, barely a day old, had been left in the snow across the street from the fire. A little filly with an amber coat, and a mane of bright red and gold waves. A little filly with her name, Sunset Shimmer, stitched into the swaddling which covered her against the winter chill…


“… A filly,” Celestia’s eyes twinkled knowingly as she gazed down upon Sunset and Sunshine, “who already had her Cutie Mark!”

WHAT!?”

The cry of shock and surprise came, as it often did at these times, in stereo. Celestia actually took a single step back, though not at the sound, which she expected out of Starlight and Sunset both. No, what made the Princess step backward was the near-identical face each mare made.

As it turned out, in a moment of stress, panic, or anger… mother and daughter were hauntingly similar.

“She already had a Cutie Mark!?” Starlight said as she spun her Sunshine about in her magic aura, looking at her little one’s flanks for the telltale mix-colored sun symbol. Sunshine giggled at the touch of her mother’s magic.

Sunset, with one hoof to her temple, similarly snorted, “Are you kidding!? I got it that long ago? No wonder I could never figure out what my talent was supposed to be…”

“How did you never know what your talent was?” Sunburst frowned, more surprised than concerned, “You were the Princess’s personal student!”

“I was a little busy at the time,” she shrugged, then blanched a little, “Being a Canterlot snob and trying to attain goddesshood was a pretty time-consuming hobby. I just really didn’t have time to… be happy…”

Sunset slowed down as she spoke, until she held her tongue entirely. She glanced down to her hooves, and seemed to take them in for the first time.

She looked back to Celestia, her eyes a little more guarded than they were before.

“You… you thought something was up, but you still sent me off to the orphanage?”

The Princess nodded slowly, “I had several undercover agents placed to watch over you, just in case something else strange happened. I hoped to find your real family by then… but after five years, I lost hope.

“And then,” she tilted her head in thought, “I started to think the bodies we’d pulled out of the fire weren’t bodies at all, but some sort of simulacrums. I could never prove whether or not that was the case. If so, then the illusion spells on them would have been the most advanced I’ve ever seen!”

None of the three possibly-related ponies spared more than a passing thought to a particular blue showmare with a talent for illusions. It wasn’t that it was obvious. It was more that none of them wanted to consider how they had all quickly abandoned her at the hospital as soon as she had gone into labor…


And, as the fourth doctor was felled by an azure hoof, the constantly screaming mare took a second breath, and roared.

GET THIS THING OUT OF TRIXIE!!!”


“But they stubbornly refused to give up their secrets. And so, after five years…” Celestia closed her eyes, and seemed to be looking at something the others in the room couldn’t see, “… I decided I was done waiting for Destiny to reveal itself. I took Sunset in, and tried to give her the best life I could.”

Starlight had heard the whole story. And, as before, her mind was speeding away, filing information and comparing notes. Before, this would have been the basis of a new theory on how Sunshine was not Sunset, and that her future was nothing but happiness and joy.

Now, however, Starlight knew better. Sunshine would, at some point in the near future, be lost to her in the past. She would grow up under the care and tutelage of a Princess, but would let her anger and her ego take her down an all-too-familiar path. And though Sunset would become all the better for it, once Twilight Sparkle became involved, it would still be proof that Starlight’s sins and faults had doomed her child to the same sort of life she had sworn to protect Sunshine from.

She looked down to her little girl. Sunshine had drifted off, at some point. For a moment, Starlight actually envied her baby. The last good night she’d had was the night before Sunburst’s Cutie Mark had been revealed. Every night since had been troubled, in one way or another. Starlight had never slept as soundly as her daughter did now. Not even close.

And, when she looked up again, Starlight couldn’t help but feel her eyes drawn to the amber Alicorn in the room.

“S-Sun…” she started.

And stopped. Could she do it? Could she say it?

Saying it would make it real.

She licked her lips, eyes never leaving the most familiar… painfully familiar cyan eyes.

“Sunshine?”

Starlight glanced up, to where Sunburst had spoken. He held his glasses up in his aura, a cleaning wipe at the ready, though he seemed to hold it very close to his own eyes.

Sunset blinked. She swallowed a lump she hadn’t noticed before, and stole a glance back to the Princess.

Celestia said nothing. Not even through body language. In fact, the Princess was as still as a statue, merely a silent witness to the proceedings. Yet, despite that, Sunset could see what the ancient Alicorn hoped to hide.

Starlight saw it too. She knew that ache. She’d felt it every waking moment for the last few hours. There was an ache that went too deep to name, for fear of it spreading.

We’ve both lost our daughter, she realized, But the Princess is far, far better at hiding it.

At last, Sunset turned her eyes to meet those of Starlight and Sunburst. Both were familiar… painfully familiar. The deep blue in Starlight’s eyes tugged at her memory, like a dream half-forgotten. A dream of warm hooves, and an angelic smile.

And then she realized, at that moment, that she had her father’s eyes.

“Mom?” she croaked, “Dad?”

Starlight was up and out of her seat, her eyes misty, her breath held. She held her daughter close, but she found she couldn’t look away from… her daughter.

“Oh, my…” Sunburst said as he closed the distance with Sunset first, “I suppose we have our answer. Look at you…!”

The two came very nearly close to each other, questions and hurt plain on both their faces, and it was only then that Starlight could see the almost painful similarities between the two. It was more than a similarity of color. She could almost see Stellar Flare’s smile, hiding in Sunset’s eyes. The way the Alicorn’s eyebrow twitched in worry and curiosity could have been lifted right off the face Firelight made when he was losing at cards.

Even her mane looked like Starlight’s in its shape, just with Sunburst’s extra wave and twist thrown in.

“Sunshine…” she whispered, no going back.

Sunset’s face was a war of emotion, and a protracted one, at that. Starlight could almost read her like a book at the moment, as she finally saw the resemblances to herself and her family. The Alicorn stared at Sunburst first, confusion at being the same age as her father, give or take a month or so, was plain to see, though cut by the realization that she could make that comparison with him here. Her father was right in front of her, in the flesh.

But the look she gave Starlight just a moment later was different. There was a flash of recognition, and a dash of affection… but that was only a tiny mote, barely an accent to the greater emotion practically wafting off of her.

Sunset Shimmer’s eyes narrowed, and her pupils shrank. Her face visibly recoiled.

Starlight felt her heart sink.

My baby is… afraid of me. A sort of numbness crept into Starlight’s legs, and spread up into her core. If she hadn’t the presence of mind to tighten her grip on her Sunshine… her Sunset… she might have dropped the baby.

But Sunset’s eyes moved over her like water, their contact brief and passing. Starlight followed that gaze, turning to look back over her shoulder at the only other mare Sunset could have been looking at.

Celestia, Princess of the Sun, ruler of Equestria for over a millennium, a pillar of strength and bastion of stoic grace… wilted before her student. She was a flower lost in the dark, a mountain whose base was eroding before her eyes.

And… Starlight gulped, So is hers…

For a moment, nopony said a word.

And then…

GAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

The Royal Canterlot Voice, invoked since time immemorial by politicians and public speakers alike to reach even the furthest ends of any crowd, was not meant to be used indoors. Even with proper ventilation and structural soundness, such was a recipe for disaster and shattered bodies.

Twilight Sparkle, gripped by madness, terror, or indescribable pain, nopony could tell at a glance. Yet, as her trance collapsed and she shrieked upon reaching the waking world, whatever now possessed her let loose such a monstrous demonstration of the Voice’s power that it set the very roots of the castle to shake, and rattled every facet of its construction.

Starlight slammed her eyes and ears shut as a shockwave rippled across the face of the Cutie Map Table, and she instinctively spun around to shield Sunshine with her own body. It was as natural as breathing, for Starlight to move in such a way. Perhaps, with more sleep and less caffeine in her system, she might have cast any number of spells to stop the sonic blast from pulverizing her and her child, as well.

Luckily, she needn’t have bothered. She felt, more than heard, the Voice tear past her, like she was indoors during a thunderstorm. It simply rolled over her as a wave, muffled by – as she opened her eyes to see – a wall of white and gold feathers.

She only then noticed how tightly she was being held by a long set of alabaster forelegs, and a shorter set of amber, with the manes and faces of both Celestia and Sunset Shimmer pressed down on top of her. They held onto her for what felt like dear life, their eyes closed tight, and their horns ablaze with magic, sustaining the golden bubble that encased all of them, plus a startled Sunburst.

Sunshine took this opportunity to voice her own displeasure.

The sound of a crying foal caused both Alicorns to pop their eyes open, and attempt to recover. They stumbled apart, dropping their shield only after taking a moment to make sure the danger had passed. The whine of a baby made a valiant attempt at matching the thunderous boom of the Royal Canterlot Voice, and it drew much the same amount of attention to itself from those present.

Starlight quickly pulled her child to her heart, and tried to give what comfort she could, while Sunset, Sunburst, and Celestia could only glance away from one another with reddening faces.

Though, none was so red as Twilight Sparkle’s.

“Uh…” she scratched the back of her neck, “Oops?”

Author's Note:

Time...
... 's up.
Time...
Flies.
Time...
Bandits.
Time...
Wounds all heals.
Time...
Rosemary and...
Time...

... Time ends...