• Published 29th May 2020
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Sunset Glimmer - Ninjadeadbeard

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4 - The Last Lullaby

Sunshine hardly slept at all that night. It felt like, at every hour, on the hour, the baby unicorn was determined to cry with the full force of the Royal Canterlot Voice, untrained. Had anypony in the castle been in the sort of mood to joke about such things, they’d have commended the prodigy on her desire to get a head-start on her education.

Nopony was in such a mood, however. When Starlight collapsed, so too did Harmony leave. And in the silence that followed, none could find it in themselves to joke, even a little bit.

Which made Pinkie Pie’s sudden entrance, complete with “Welcome Home Sunshine Glimmer Sunset Shimmerbanner, and party cannons blazing, slightly tone deaf.

It was early morning, now. Sunburst had initially tucked his exhausted wife into bed, and made to stay with her and the baby, while the Princesses took care of their own business, whatever that was, and Sunset… well, Sunset elected to stare into the crystal walls while sleeping down in the library. Nopony wanted to argue.

It wasn’t quite midnight when Sunshine began to wail. Her father picked her up in his aura, and he spent several sleepy, mentally compromised moments to realize she didn’t need to be changed. Once the reason for his little filly’s crying was safely back into the realm of ‘unexplainable baby things’, he made his way downstairs to get her something to eat.

On the way, he’d passed Discord, who was carrying a sleeping Spike and Starswirl over his shoulder much in the same way Sunburst was carrying Sunshine. On a better night, Sunburst might have noticed this, or bothered to question why Discord’s tail was solid stone, or why the two sleeping ‘Guys’ smelled like rotten apples and were wearing tuxedos and top hats.

Sunburst made his way to the kitchen, where he fished out a magically chilled bottle for Sunshine. Then, finding nopony in the library, and not having wits about him amidst his daughter’s endless cries to wonder where… his daughter was at present, he decided that the large room, insulated against noise of all sorts, would make the perfect place to pacify Sunshine.

“I wonder…” he sighed, as she stopped crying long enough to feed, “… how long until I stop using the one name for the other…?”

The library, more than anywhere else in the Castle, had been the most transformed since Twilight left it in Starlight’s capable hooves. It was, after all, no longer a Royal residence, but something more like a secondary town hall. It was a government facility with a live-in staff, complete with public library, kitchens, room for administrative and ceremonial duties, a ball pit nopony other than Pinkie could find on a regular basis…

The point was, Sunburst was happy to note, that the library was just what he needed right now. The floor was covered in plush rugs, pillows, beanbags, and a few chairs and couches around the perimeter colored in alternating reds and golds, and greens and purples. The décor was complimented by small paintings, statues and busts (provided by Maud as a foal shower present), and one large, illusory fireplace along the far wall.

Trixie had installed that one, using the one spell of hers Sunburst could trust on a consistent basis. Probably because Starswirl helped her with it, so it wouldn’t burn the library down while warming the cool crystals pleasantly.

After giving Sunshine a little burping, and consequently having to toss his favorite cape in the laundry dimension (Twilight’s foal shower present), Sunburst settled down onto one of the couches Starlight had dragged over from the human world, and got comfortable with his slightly-quieter-than-before daughter.

She finally closed her eyes and seemed to sleep at that point.

“Heh, figures,” he almost laughed, “The human couch is the one that gets you to finally fall asleep. Then again, I keep finding Lyra asleep on this thing during the week…”

He sat in the quiet of the very early morning, sleep totally removed from his mind. All Sunburst could feel was the slow, even breaths of the foal in his forelegs. All he could hear was the steady tick-tick of a clock somewhere off in the castle that he could never find.

The world was entirely peaceful, entirely silent.

Except within Sunburst’s mind.

“I hate to say it,” he said in a low whisper, “But I’m not sure I’ll miss this sleep schedule. That doesn’t sound good, does it?”

Another minute passed, in silence.

Sunburst’s eyes traveled up and down the walls of books, eager to find something to take his mind off what he was thinking about just then.

“I had a schedule, you know? I had everything planned out months ago. Guess I needed a way to burn off all that… nervous new-dad energy. I drove your mother nuts, coming up with plans for where you would go to school, and what you would eat for lunch… which books we’d read together and which ones we’d let you do on your own…

“I basically became my mother,” he shivered, despite the magical warmth of the fireplace. “We were so excited to share… to share everything with you. The library, the town, our lives… everything.”

Sunburst sighed. He looked down at his foal, and carefully brushed a loose strand of mane out of her face… only to watch it stubbornly bounce back into place.

“Good to see my genes are so stubborn. Best thing my father ever left me.”

Looking down at Sunshine, he couldn’t help but notice his own flank, adorned with his bright and sunny Cutie Mark. He never really got a chance to look at it that often, what with the cape, and for good reason…

No, not a good reason, Sunburst thought bitterly. I’ve always tried to hide that thing. I was so ashamed at not being a good student at magic, that having a magic Cutie Mark felt like the world was taunting me…

He wondered, and not for the first time, about the ‘what ifs’. What if he’d kept up with Starlight? Would he have been as bitter about his mark as she was, once she realized hers was in magic as well… just not in time to go with him?

What if he had gone to be with her at Our Town? Would he have hated his mark enough to let Starlight take it away?

Could I have stopped it before it got out of hoof? Or would I have only reinforced the worst of her ideals?

Would there be an equal-sign flying above Equestria? Would they have ever…?

Something shifted, and jabbed Sunburst just hard enough to pull him out of his thoughts. Sunshine’s little forehoof had come loose, and in her sleep, she was wildly slapping at her father’s chest, though only managing to muss up a patch of coat hair like his mane or beard.

The sounds, the tiny squeaking sounds, that she made though. Sunburst wasn’t aware, before then, of anything that could have melted his heart quite so quickly or completely. He smiled, and carefully tucked the errant little leg back into the folds of the blanket she was wrapped in.

“You…” he cleared his throat, “… you’ve got a talent for that…”

“A talent for what?”

If he hadn’t been holding onto something as precious, and as fragile, as glass, Sunburst would have probably jumped ten feet in the air at the sound of a half-whispered voice right behind him, near the library door.

As it was, Sunburst froze solid, and slowly spun his stiffened neck about until he could see a bright and perky Sunset Shimmer waltzing in with a steaming mug pint of coffee.

“S-Sunshine… set!” he corrected, voice strained, but still quiet enough for the baby in his hooves, “Sunset! W-where did you go? I mean… where were you? I didn’t see you down here when I got up…”

“Already harping on me about curfew?” she smiled broadly, even if her eyes twitched just a bit to hold it up, “I can tell you’re one of those helicopter dads in the making.”

For a split second, Sunburst’s mind pictured that ridiculous pink contraption somepony flew around the town from time to time. As a silly gadget, it had always seemed fine, but the fact that his daughter knew about the thing from her world…

The second part of that term she used caught up to him. And, it clearly showed all over his face.

Sunset’s ears flattened, “Oh… um… sorry. I guess you’re not ready to joke about this?”

“You are!?” he hissed, pausing for breath a moment as little Sunshine stirred.

The amber Alicorn winced, and started scratching at the back of her head.

“S-sorry…” she looked back with a sheepish grin, “I’m trying the Pinkie Pie method of emotional coping. I… I guess it isn’t working so well…”

Sunburst adjusted his glasses, and shot Sunset a cool glance. “I suppose it’s better than the Rarity method of emotional coping. We don’t have all that much ice cream stocked, presently,” he added with a smirk.

Sunset’s eyes flashed, mischief in her gaze, “Did… did you just make a joke?”

“Haven’t gotten the Dad-jokes down yet,” he shrugged, “But I’m a quick study.”

The smirking, smug smile on their faces was just about as close to identical as one could ask for, as was the resulting giggle fit Sunset and Sunburst fell into, their laughs perfectly mirroring each other…

They paused, a moment of shared embarrassment and more, at the sudden reminder of their shared, and thoroughly messy, history.

They also did so because their ill-timed laughter had woken the baby.

“Oh, shoot!” Sunset hissed.

Sunburst rolled his eyes, “Of course…”

“Here,” said Sunset, coming around the couch, her pint of coffee landing quickly on a nearby table, “Pass her… uh, me… to… me?”

Sunburst, already hefting Sunshine up to bob her a little bit, leaned away from the proffered gold hoof. The wild panic in his eyes probably tipped off the owner of said hoof to what was going through his mind.

“Oh… right,” Sunset sighed, and took a seat on the far side of the couch, “I really don’t think the universe will explode if I touch her… me…

“We really need to sort out our Time-Pronouns,” she huffed, and folded her forelegs petulantly. Sunset lifted her coffee up and took a sip, then said, “But either way, you need to keep… Sunshine at least a little quiet. It’s barely five in the morning!”

“It’s what!?” Sunburst cried out, eyes darting this way and that, trying to catch a single window that could show him the sky, completely forgetting how light-neutral the Castle interior was. “How!? I can’t have been that grogged out!”

Sleep-deprived, with a screaming foal in his hooves, Sunburst began to panic. His head whipped back and forth, his mind somewhat fixated on proving the time, and his breathing quickened. The orange stallion became so panicky that he started hyperventilating, and if that had gone on much longer, Sunset would have stepped in to help him out…

But she didn’t. Because at that moment, something magical happened.

Sunburst’s eyes split, each picking a different position in the room and locking to them, while his tongue drooped out of his slackened jaw.

Sunset saw this, as did Sunshine. And then, both grown Alicorn mare and unicorn filly burst out into a round of giggling and cackling, respectively. Sunshine began to hiccup as her laughter shook her tiny body, and Sunset nearly fell backward, over the arm of the couch.

“Uh… what was that?” Sunburst glanced back and forth between his… daughter, once his eyes had readjusted.

“I…” Sunset gasped, and clutched at her belly, “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard!”

Sunshine concurred, heartily, with added spit bubbles.

“Huh,” Sunburst raised an eyebrow… and then puffed his cheeks out while crossing his eyes.

And his daughter, the smaller one, started howling with laughter.

Sunset held herself to a few snickers before she took another healthy swig of coffee, and said, “How did you do that eye thing?”

“Oh, that’s not so hard,” Sunburst said, his face contorting into another strange look for his foal’s benefit, “About twelve-percent of Equestrians have a mild condition called Mimi’s Ocular Drift. The muscles and nerve-clusters around the eye are slightly overdeveloped, and a build-up of adrenaline and other chemicals can cause them to spasm in different directions.

“You wouldn’t know her,” he gave Sunshine a little toss with his magic, eliciting another squeal of delight, “But there’s a mare in town with an advanced case that’s made her wall-eyed. Only happens in point-oh-oh-five percent of cases, though…”

“Okay! Okay!” Sunset held up her hooves and wings in a placating gesture, “Geez, I didn’t expect a biology lecture today.”

As she took another long drag of her drink, Sunset didn’t fail to notice the way Sunburst was frowning across the couch at her. Little Sunshine was, of course, oblivious in her father’s magical grip, lightly pawing at the end of his beard.

Sunset coughed, “I know that sounded bad, but I actually did well in biology, so if you’re worried…”

“How much coffee do you drink?”

The question caused her a mental trip. Sunset blinked a few times, and stared at her pitcher.

“Uh…”

“You know there are some health risks when you consume that much caffeine in a single sitting,” Sunburst nodded to the large container, “I know Starlight’s a bit of a fiend, but I find tea… Where’d you even get something like that?”

“Pinkie Pie,” Sunset shrugged, “I get my coffee from her on both sides of the mirror.”

Sunburst’s gaze narrowed, suspiciously.

“Where, exactly, did you go so early in the morning?”

Sunset found herself fidgeting at the tone in his voice. Which, when she thought about it, had to be ridiculous. It wasn’t like he was her…

Right. He was. That was definitely awkward.

“Actually,” she took a breath, “I went out last night, after everyone else…”

“Everypony,” he adjusted his glasses, oblivious to Sunshine mimicking him while she drifted past in his aura.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Everypony was asleep, and I wanted to walk things out. I’m not used to Luna’s dreamwalking stuff, and I never will be. Humans sometimes just have to make due with a midnight stroll.

“Plus, I had to see Trixie,” she added, sipping her coffee at an appropriately loud level, to make a point, “She’s the best illusionist we know, and I figured she would be the one to talk to about whipping up some simulacrum bodies.”

Sunburst’s eyes suddenly widened.

“B-bodies?”

“For when you go back and… and drop me off,” Sunset had to clear her throat, and look away briefly, “Celestia said there were bodies. Fake ones, I’m guessing now, but…”

“Yeah, makes sense. Trixie used to prank me with that spell when your mother and I started dating. I never did ask where she learned how to do that,” Sunburst scratched his chin absentmindedly, “I hope she didn’t work for the mob… Trixie!!!” he shot up to his hooves, the madly giggling foal bobbing up with his magic aura. The sudden reversal from terror to joy, and mirth to panic, was quite the sight for Sunset.

“Hey, hey! Don’t worry!” she shushed Sunburst quickly, just in case the baby noticed they weren’t playing a game any longer, “Trixie had her baby, and they’re both fine. Sort of.”

Sunburst blinked. “Sort of? How did you even get in to see them?”

“These things are like a free pass!” Sunset lifted her wings up high in a display that would make a peacock blush, “But, that’s not the important part…”


Trixie looked like death warmed over. Her blue coat was completely soaked through with sweat, as was her mane, and both her eyes featured heavy bags underneath. She sat, propped up, with piles of parchment all around her hospital bed, and a rather ragged Sunset scratching out magical notation beside her.

“Where…” she smacked her dry lips, “Where was Trixie?”

“The Recorder Fabricae,” Sunset sighed, wishing she’d waited to do this job in the actual morning, the one with the sun up, instead of barging in here so late/early.

“Right… how’s the baby? Trixie was sure she was here a minute ago…”

Sunset shivered, and tried not to glance over to the recently repaired wall to one side of the room.

“There’s a level five ward in the hospital basement,” she said, for the fifth time, “They’re monitoring her magic surges until she can be safely allowed in public. Now, the Recorder…”

“Atta girl,” Trixie smiled, weakly, and punched the air with a listless hoof, “That’s Starswirl’s kid. Blowing up hospitals when she’s a day old. Suck it, Twilight… I bet your babies will be lame nerds like you!”

“Trixie…” Sunset warned.

“You’re right!” Trixie’s voice quailed as tears pooled in her eyes, “Trixie’s other best friend is going to die alone because she’s going to be a purple gira-a-a-aaaffe!!!

“Trixie! Focus!” Sunset scowled, though some of her ire was drifting over to the copious amounts of IV bags the stagemare was hooked up to, “We need this spell or else the space-time continuum will be destroyed!”

“Eugh, fiiiiine!” Trixie whined, “Start up with Confutatis. Maledictis…”

“Confu… what?” Sunset’s eyes crossed as she tried to write down what was quickly becoming mad musings of a mare possessed.

“Trixie said, Confutatis! Do you have it!?”

Sunset glared at the paper in front of her.

“I need a drink after this. I wonder if Pinkie…?”

Trixie, however, kept talking, “Do you believe in it?”

“… What…?”

“The fire that never dies…?”


“I… what?” Sunburst’s confused, and utterly baffled expression elicited another giggle from his foal, still floating through the air.

“I know! She composes her magic using musical notation!” Sunset threw her hooves up in the air, “I think whoever taught her did it wrong on purpose! As a joke!”

“That’s actually not so crazy,” Sunburst mused, tugging at his beard, “Trixie and I both took classes at CSGU when Major Measure had just started teaching there. He was a pioneer of the Music-as-Magic Theory…”

Sunset winced. She took another sip of her coffee, and said, sheepishly, “Major Measure? Blue coat? White mane? Crazy eyebrows? Had a chord symbol for a Cutie Mark?”

Sunburst nodded, but said nothing.

“Huh,” Sunset looked away, and started rummaging through a saddlebag she’d brought in with her, “Major didn’t seem the teaching type. I had to help him with his conjuration classes back in junior year…”

“That would explain why Trixie loved that Amaredeus play so much,” Sunburst shrugged, blatantly not thinking about the more disturbing part of that conversation, “Though, it’s still weird that she kept rooting for Stallioneri…”

“That’s not all!” Sunset pulled out a sheaf of papers, clearly detailed with magical… and musical notation, “She’s actually really good at it! Like, I bet I could play some of this on my guitar!”

Her nose scrunched up in thought.

“Hm… best not. Don’t want to drop corpses… fake ones, anyway, on the audience. Then again, Fluttershy’s into metal, so maybe…?”

Sunburst shook his head ruefully, “You’re taking this too well, I think.”

“Eh,” Sunset took a turn to shrug, and then shot her younger self a bug-eyed look that left the filly squealing with delight, “You sort of get used to Trixie, being friends with her.”

“Guess you are your mother’s daughter,” Sunburst laughed, “But, horrible, scarring revelations aside, did you learn the spell?”

She sipped at her coffee. “That, or I can write an aria now.”

“So, you came back here…?”

Sunset shook her head, “Nah, I had to grab some coffee from Pinkie Pie. I’m so glad she sells her Good Stuff in this dimension.”

The Alicorn glanced suspiciously over her shoulder, “Unless that was my Pinkie…”

“The Good Stuff!?” Sunburst reflexively grabbed his child out of the air, and held her close to his chest, “Sunset, that thing eats varnish!”

Sunshine didn’t seem to notice the concern. She struggled, for a moment, in her father’s embrace, before she decided to just go with it, and nuzzle at his chest fluff.

To this, Sunset chuckled, and waved down her father’s concern.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ve got Alicorn physiology now!” she took another sip, “I’m basically immune or highly resistant to everything. Caffeine, sugar, alco— um, all kinds of stuff!

“Makes parties less fun,” she added quickly, trying hard not to meet Sunburst’s rapidly narrowing stare, “But between the girls, Flash, and all my other friends…”

“Parties,” Sunburst said, clucking his tongue, “You… go to parties.”

“Er, yeah?” Sunset coughed, “Me and my friends try to…”

“And you attend these parties with…” Sunburst snorted hot breath through his nose, mirrored by Sunshine blowing a little raspberry at her older self, “… Flash Sentry?”

“You, ah…” the fully grown, adult Alicorn squirmed in her seat, not really being used to her own eyes glaring down at her, “You know him?”

Sunburst voice came out like ice.

“A… boy?”

“O-kay!” Sunset surged to her hooves, and planted herself firmly before the orange stallion, “I am putting a stop to this, right now!”

Sunburst, eyes narrowing, half-turned away from the irate Alicorn.

“I have no idea what you mean…”

Sunset glared, and said, “You’re going full Overprotective Dad Mode on me!”

“I am not!” Sunburst whirled back around to face Sunset, “And frankly, I am insulted that you would think that of me! All I’m doing is looking out for your best interests. You can’t just party your life away, Sunset. You need to have a goal, a strategy, a plaaaAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”

Sunburst’s eyes were as wide as saucers, and his eyes became pinpricks as the disheveled stallion let out a soul-shattering cry of dismay. He fully collapsed onto the couch, his little foal staring quizzically at her father, but otherwise content to remain held.

“I… I am becoming my mother…!” Sunburst managed to get out with something between a dry heave, a sob, and a wail. “I’m so, so sorry!”

Sunset hid her smirk well, but still raised an eyebrow.

“I’m gonna take that to mean Grandma is a little… intense?”

“Overbearing!” Sunburst shifted back into his seat, and allowed Sunshine to settle against his flank, where she cooed and began to drift off again, “I think she took it as a personal offense that I didn’t let her script my wedding vows for me.”

Sunset snorted at that, remembering Stellar Flare’s rather… unique managing style when she’d attended her future parents’ wedding only a year ago…

Which was when a thought occurred. Sunburst noticed the way Sunset suddenly slumped down onto her side of the couch, and he couldn’t fail to note how her eyes were now somewhat distant.

“Sunset? Are…? Are you okay?”

“I have grandparents,” Sunset whispered, her voice almost hollow. Almost hopeful.

Sunburst, to his credit, caught the tone in her voice.

“Ah,” he said, not sure if he needed to give her a hug, or give her space, “I suppose having an extended family of any sort would be sort of weird for you.”

“I have my friends,” Sunset came back, defensively, “It’s just… outside of Celestia… and Cadance, I guess, I never had anything like a family. No mom or dad. No cousins. I guess knowing that you exist, it makes me feel less…”

Sunset stared off into the ether, eyes unfocused. Sunburst could practically feel the tension, the way the air almost hummed with whatever feelings were roaring beneath his daughter’s surface.

He leaned forward, just a little bit, and spoke softly. “How are you feeling? You’ve been through as much of a ringer as any of us, but you almost… you almost seem fine.”

Sunset turned to look at him, but only for a moment. Her whole face scrunched up in thought, and she folded her forelegs across her chest.

“I guess I am?” she said, surprising even herself.

Sunburst laid a hoof over his sleeping foal. “How?”

“Like I said before,” she shrugged, “I’ve… technically been through all this before. I mean, I’m right here! So, I know this all works out. And…”

Sunset’s eyes focused on the table in front of her. Something in the way she held herself told Sunburst she was moving something around in her head, looking at all the angles before she did anything.

“Do you know what every orphan dreams about? At least, at first?” she looked straight into his eyes.

Sunburst nodded, prompting Sunset to continue.

“When I was growing up, I would dream, once in a while, of meeting my parents. My real parents, not just getting adopted. They would show up one day, and tell me they were taking me home. They’d say… they’d tell me that they didn’t want to leave me behind, but that they had to. That they loved me…

“… and then, we’d go home,” her voice threatened to crack, “back home to a castle! And it would turn out I was a Princess all along, and we would never part again!”

Sunset shook her head, and wiped at her eye.

“When Celestia adopted me, I thought that dream had come true, in a way. I had somepony who loved me, and who would take me away to live in a castle, and make me a princess.”

As she spoke, she began to wrap herself in her own wings. It always comforted her, the feel of feathery wings at her side, though now they came from the other direction. Until the day after she betrayed Celestia, Sunset hadn’t realized how much she would miss that feeling.

“And then,” she sighed, “I threw it all away…”

A new sensation struck Sunset’s senses, shaking her calm as though one of Pinkie’s party cannons had gone off in her face.

Sunburst’s forelegs wrapped around her, and held tight. His chin rested atop her mane, though it took him partly standing up on the couch in order to perform that feat. Sunshine remained behind, nuzzling down deep into the warm cushion her papa had left behind.

Sunset froze, as he did this. She felt his warm breath atop her head, tickling the tips of her ears, and she could hear the light rumble in his chest as he breathed. The hug was different from the ones she’d gotten before. This wasn’t a friendly greeting, or a fond farewell.

This was so much more familiar than that. It felt so… safe.

“Looks to me,” he said, voice a hair above a whisper, “like that dream came true again. We do love you. And we wanted you, so… so badly!”

Sunset’s breath caught in her throat. They weren’t the exact words from her dreams… but they were close. She didn’t care about the wetness in her eyes, just that she could push her face right into her father’s chest like her younger self had done.

When Sunburst chuckled, Sunset felt it reverberate through her head, and in the hollow bones of her wings.

“We don’t really own the castle,” he whispered, “But you’ll always have a place here with us, Sunset.”

There were no words, after that. Sunset held her father, and he held her back. And in the stallion’s mind, the little filly snoozing in the warm spot on the couch he’d vacated started feeling a little less like Sunshine, and a little more like Sunset.

They held one another for what felt like minutes.

But, finally, Sunset pulled away, a smile on her face.

“Well… we’ve got things to do today, don’t we?”

Sunburst nodded, slowly, and said, “Yeah, I suppose we do. I should get your mother. She’ll…”

When he didn’t continue, Sunset decided to fill the silence.

“So,” she checked her coffee, and found it a bit low for her taste, “When are you going to… you know?”

Sunburst turned back towards… the younger Sunset. He worked his jaw a moment. His eyes never left the little foal, snuggled down into seat.

After a moment, he said, cautiously, “I suppose… assuming your mother doesn’t do anything crazy… soon.”

Sunset’s eyes widened.

“Um… crazy? How crazy we talking?”

Sunburst’s whole body shook, causing the amber Alicorn to panic further. She leapt from the couch, and quickly ran to see what was wrong… only to find her father biting his lip, face flushed, holding back what would probably have been a hardy enough guffaw to wake everypony in Ponyville twice over.

“Uh… Dad?” she whispered, the word lifted her mood somewhat out of the sarcastic depths that face threatened to send her to.

How crazy, she says!!!

After another moment, Sunburst was able to inhale breath once more, and began to perform a breathing exercise Princess Cadance had taught him while he’d lived in the Crystal Empire. Sunset watched him with a bemused expression, but allowed him to continue.

Finally, with control restored, Sunburst returned to his daughter, and said, “As you may be aware… Starlight doesn’t take things lying down.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Sunset hummed, then tilted her head, quizzically, “But… she can’t stop this, right? I mean, it’s a closed loop. I’m part of established events!”

Sunburst tilted his own head from side to side, weighing his next words.

“If anypony could fix it so that we could keep you, and keep time intact,” he met her eyes with as sincere and as calm a gaze as he could, “it would be Starlight Glimmer.

“Your mother,” he smiled a warm smile, like the smile Sunset sometimes spotted on… on Flash’s face when they were together… “She’s the most driven mare I’ve ever met. She never lets anything get in the way of what she wants.”

“Didn’t…?”

“Sure, she’s made some bad calls,” Sunburst cut her off, “But… once she moved past the dark times, and started seeing the world with a clear view again, she became the mare I wanted to spend my life with. And she would do anything to keep you, because she loves you.”

Sunset blushed, and looked away. She knew what he was saying was… well, it was completely batpony insane. She knew how reckless and destructive that course of action would be…

But it felt nice. It felt nice to be wanted. To be loved, in that way.

“I do love you, Sunshine,” a voice rang, softly, through the library, bringing both adult ponies up short, heads snapping towards the doors. Sunshine stirred, letting out a groggy, confused squeak.

Starlight Glimmer stood there, as if waiting for permission to enter. And, with Sunburst and Sunset’s eyes now on her, she began trotting in, a white blanket bundled up in her magic. Her mane was the worse for wear, but Sunset silently seethed at realizing how good it still looked compared to her usual bedhead.

But Starlight’s eyes were a different story. They were distant, dragged down, and tired. She might have slept right through the night, but she hadn’t rested a wink, it would seem. No amount of Luna’s ministrations could soothe the haunted gaze that looked out from that mare’s soul.

Starlight walked slowly past where her little filly lay, and carefully bundled her up in the blanket, a bit of gold thread catching the light. Sunburst wondered at the blanket with its gold thread, not having seen anything like it in the castle before.

Starlight caught the look in his eye, and wearily shrugged, “Rarity just came by when I got up. She didn’t want to stay long, just drop off ‘a little something, darling’, and leave us to deal with… this.”

Sunburst nodded, slowly, recalling how Sunset’s name had been woven into her swaddling, at least according to Celestia.

Sunshine cooed softly as she was held up in her mother’s aura. The little foal drifted up and over to her, as Starlight took a seat for herself over by one of the plush study chairs. There, mother and foal sat together, the very picture of adoration on Starlight’s face.

“I love you… Sunset,” she whispered, still looking at her baby.

And then, she turned her misty eyes to the Alicorn in the room with her.

“But I can’t keep you.”

Her voice cracked as she said it.

“Star…” Sunburst started, but stopped when he caught her eye.

Starlight’s gaze was locked onto Sunset. There wasn’t a look of anger, or love, within those eyes. Just a tired acceptance.

“I’m done fighting,” she said in a hollow voice, “I did something unforgiveable once. And I was rewarded for that crime with the love and friendship of those I hurt the most. It’s… it’s only right that I give that back.

“Now,” she sniffed, and held her child closer to her chest, “I’d like a few… hours. Yes. A few hours with my baby, before I have to give her to somepony else.” She returned her eyes to the bundle in her forelegs, and the smile she’d been forcing began to soften.

“Starlight?” Sunset said with evident worry, but the purple unicorn didn’t respond.

So, Sunset took a step towards her.

“Starlight… are you okay?”

“No,” Starlight’s eyes never left her sleeping foal, “But thanks for asking. I’ll be ready to go around dinnertime, alright?”

Sunset looked back to Sunburst, who slowly shook his head. He knew what this was, and he was in no way about to interrupt what he suspected was his wife’s last happy moment for a long, long while.

He would be there, later. But there was a time to mourn, before there was a time to heal.

Sunset seemed to understand that. By what road she’d come to that knowledge, Sunburst could only guess. But he was glad for it.

Father and daughter left the confines of the library together. There would be time, they knew, to heal what Time had wounded. It would come, later.

Right now… Sunset’s mother needed solitude, and silence, in which to compose her last lullaby.

Author's Note:

Sleep and remember,
My last lullaby,
So I'll be with you,
When you dream...