• Published 22nd Mar 2020
  • 1,137 Views, 98 Comments

Empty Sky - Krickis



Sunset has been happily dating Twilight and Fluttershy for a year now, but when they start talking about the next step in their relationship, it brings up old demons that Sunset has never quite moved on from.

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2 – Ticking Away

Chapter Two

Ticking Away

Four days wasn’t that long in theory. Twilight had been so busy that the time passed pretty quickly for the most part, and it had been nice to catch up with Celestia and Luna. Oh, and Prince Rutherford, of course.

But even so, coming back home was a relief. True, the days passed quickly enough, but the nights spent sleeping alone were harder. She’d long since gotten used to sleeping with Fluttershy beside her, and lately Sunset as well. They were no longer at the early stage of their relationship where separation was painful, but even so, she missed her lovers and was eager to return to them.

At least Spike had enjoyed himself. He sighed as they opened the door to the castle. “And back to chores…”

Twilight rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. “I think you can have the rest of the day off today. Just make sure you actually unpack this time.”

Spike chuckled nervously. “Yeah, I know.”

“Is that my Twily and Spike I hear?” Fluttershy said happily as she stepped out from the kitchen. “Perfect timing, I was just thinking about what to do for lunch.”

Twilight nuzzled her wife. “Lunch sounds great! We grabbed breakfast before leaving Canterlot, but that’s all we had today.”

“Well, come on into the kitchen and help me figure out what to make, then.”

“In a minute, I just want to bring this stuff upstairs.” Twilight turned to walk away, but she felt Fluttershy’s wing brush up against her. She looked back and got a good look at Fluttershy’s face for the first time. She looked exhausted, and there was a sort of pleading look in her eyes.

Twilight turned back to Spike. “Actually, why don’t you run upstairs and start unpacking while I talk to Fluttershy.”

“Geez, Twi, it hasn’t even been a week.” Spike laughed as he left them, but at least he left them alone.

Twilight followed Fluttershy into the kitchen and waited until the door was closed behind them before asking her about it, just in case. “Is everything okay, Shy?”

Fluttershy sighed and leaned into Twilight, who instinctively put a foreleg around her. “I don’t know…”

“Tell me what’s wrong. Did something happen?”

Fluttershy pulled away a little and looked off to the side. “It’s Sunset…”

“Sunset?” Twilight frowned. “Is she okay?”

“She’s…” Fluttershy shook her head. “I don’t know. She’s just been acting so strange since you’ve been gone.”

Although she was eager to hear more, Twilight took the time to lead Fluttershy to the table so she could take a seat before continuing. She set her saddlebags off to the side of the room before taking a seat next to Fluttershy, who leaned on the table with her head in her hooves.

“What’s going on with Sunset?” Twilight asked.

Fluttershy wouldn’t look Twilight in the eyes. “Well… she spends all her time either out of the castle or down in the basement. I know she wants to work on her projector, but she never comes up unless it’s to go out, and when she does go out, I have no idea where she goes.”

The more Fluttershy said, the more Twilight frowned. It was true that Sunset liked to get out of the castle a little more than her marefriends did, but she always said where she was going. And maybe if they were both gone, it would make sense for Sunset to shut herself away to preoccupy herself, but why would she ignore Fluttershy just because Twilight wasn’t home?

“Is she down there now?” Twilight asked.

“I think so… She… she didn’t even come up to bed last night.”

“Really?” Twilight furrowed her brow.

Fluttershy shook her head. “I went to bed and figured she was just working late and she’d be up before too long, but then I woke up in the morning and she still wasn’t there.”

Twilight glanced toward the door. “That doesn’t sound like her at all…”

Fluttershy put her hoof on Twilight’s and finally looked her in the eye. “I’m worried about her, Twily. Every time I do see her, she seems okay, but that doesn’t mean she really is. You know how good she is at telling ponies what they want to hear.”

This didn’t add up. Sunset was fine before Twilight left, what was this all about? It couldn’t be because Twilight left, could it? No, she occasionally left her lovers to go on business trips, and Sunset never reacted like this.

“I’ll go talk to her,” Twilight said. “Maybe I can get to the bottom of it.”

“Okay, but uhm… I think if we’re really going to press her, we should both be there.”

Twilight nodded. “I’ll just tell her I’m home and see how she’s doing. Then the three of us can have a talk if we need to.”

Hopefully they wouldn’t need to. Maybe Sunset would just open up to Twilight. Fluttershy could be sensitive sometimes, so maybe whatever was going on, Sunset just didn’t want to tell her about it until she talked it over with Twilight.

That… was kind of a long shot, Twilight knew, but it was the best hope she had. She stood up and made for the door, but was stopped by Fluttershy.

Although she was a good deal shorter than the alicorn, Fluttershy still reached her wing up to Twilight’s back as she nuzzled against her wife’s cheek. “I really am glad you’re back, Twily. I’m sorry you have to deal with this right as you get home.”

Twilight smiled and gave Fluttershy a kiss. “There’s nothing to be sorry about. I just wish I had been here when all this was going on.”

“I kept telling myself that maybe once you got back everything would just go back to normal…”

Twilight doubted that, but she didn’t want to say so. “Maybe. Let me go talk to Sunset and figure things out.”

Fluttershy nodded and pulled her wing away. “Okay. Love you, Twily.”

“Love you too, Shy.”

Twilight opened the door and went through it, then sighed when she was on the other side. She’d been looking forward to seeing Sunset, but now…

No. Twilight picked her head up. Sunset was her marefriend, and Twilight loved her. Whatever was going on was just something they had to get through, something Twilight would help Sunset get through.

With that thought firmly in her mind, Twilight made her way down to the basement that the two of them used as a workshop. She didn’t have a plan since she wasn’t sure what the situation was, but she hoped she wouldn’t need one.

Not wanting to sneak up on Sunset, Twilight called out to her as she descended the stairs. “Sunset, are you down here?”

“Twilight?” Sunset mumbled.

Twilight almost didn’t hear it, and when she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw why. Sunset was lying on a couch they had brought down for work breaks, and she had clearly just woken up. She was rubbing her eyes and squinting at Twilight.

“Have you been down here all night?” Twilight asked, although she was sure she already knew the answer.

“Yeah, I got caught up in work.” Sunset stood up and stretched, then she smiled at Twilight, although she darted her eyes away after just a moment of looking at one another. “Welcome home.”

Twilight walked over to Sunset and hugged her, noting as she did that Sunset seemed to be too preoccupied with whatever was going on with her to shower recently. Twilight chose not to comment. “So what have you been up to?”

“I’ve just been messing with the projector a lot. I don’t have much to show for it though, didn’t actually manage to get a lot done.”

“That’s too bad,” Twilight said, although she was sure that wasn’t high on their list of concerns. She did see an opening, however. “Was there something on your mind that distracted you, or…?”

Sunset chuckled and nudged Twilight. “Well, I usually have a certain somepony to bounce ideas around with.”

Twilight cocked her head to the side. “You usually do fine without me. You’ve come up with some brilliant breakthroughs while I was busy with work.”

It was brief, but Twilight saw Sunset wince. She took a few steps away and sounded slightly irritated when she answered. “I guess I just didn’t this time.”

Since Sunset had her back to Twilight and couldn’t see her, she allowed herself to frown at Sunset’s tone. She decided not to press it though. Like Fluttershy said, if they were going to talk things over, all three of them should be together.

So instead, Twilight tried to cancel out her tone with positivity. “I’m sure you’ll get it. Maybe later, the two of us can take a look at it together.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Twilight walked over to the projector. It would be impossible to tell what work Sunset had done with it with just from a glance, but it didn’t look any different than when Twilight had left.

Well, there was no point in pushing that any further. “Are you hungry? Fluttershy was just figuring out lunch.”

“Not really,” Sunset said, then seemed to think better of it. “But I guess I should probably eat something.”

“Probably,” Twilight agreed. She led them up the stairs and used her magic to turn off the light when they were on their way out of the room.

Sunset winced at the brighter light of the castle out of the basement, but she didn’t say anything. Twilight wasn’t sure what to say either, so she let them walk in silence to the kitchen.

As they entered the room, Fluttershy turned to see them with a smile on her face. “There are my two favorite mares. Any idea what you want for lunch?”

“Oh, I don’t care,” Twilight said. With everything else going on, she didn’t even stop to think about that.

Sunset took a seat at the table. “Me either. I’m not even that hungry…”

“We could just do sandwiches,” Fluttershy suggested.

In truth, Twilight was pretty hungry and would have wanted to eat more than just sandwiches, but she didn’t want to dwell on that at the moment. “That sounds perfect.”

Fluttershy flitted around the kitchen, gathering everything she needed to make them sandwiches. Twilight took a seat beside Sunset and tried to think of how to broach the topic that they knew there was something Sunset wasn’t saying.

For her part, Sunset said nothing. She just sat at the table looking down at her hooves folded on it.

“Daffodil and daisy, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked.

Twilight smiled. “That sounds lovely.”

“And a grilled cheese for Sunset?”

Sunset looked up and managed a smile as well. “Sure. Thanks, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy hummed as she got their sandwiches ready, and Sunset went back to zoning out. Twilight wanted to say something, but she decided to wait until Fluttershy was sitting down with them.

It took a few minutes for Fluttershy to grill Sunset’s sandwich, during which the only sound was the food prep and Fluttershy’s humming. She dropped off Sunset’s sandwich first, then Twilight’s, then sat down with her own.

Twilight took a bite of her sandwich before trying to start any conversation. “Thanks, Shy.”

Fluttershy smiled. “You’re welcome, Twily.”

“Yeah, it’s good,” Sunset said through a mouthful of cheese.

“I’m glad.” Fluttershy took a bite of her own sandwich, and none of them talked for a moment.

It wasn’t like the silence was bad, exactly. They were all eating, some silence was to be expected. But Twilight just found herself unsure of what she should be doing or saying. She wanted to broach the topic that something might be wrong with Sunset, but she wasn’t sure how to do that, exactly.

Eventually it was Fluttershy who made the first move. “So what do you two want to do today?”

“I don’t know, I guess I’d just like to relax with the two of you,” Twilight said, then turned to Sunset. “Did you have anything you wanted to do, Sunset?”

“Huh?” Sunset looked confused for a moment, then quickly caught herself. “Oh, uh, I don’t know. Whatever you two want to do is fine.”

Twilight frowned a little, but she couldn’t blame Sunset for not knowing what to do when the others didn’t either. “Well, I guess there’s no point in going on a picnic since we’re eating. It’s a nice day though, we could go down to the lake for a swim.”

“That sounds lovely,” Fluttershy said. They both turned to their marefriend, who didn’t seem to be paying much attention. “Sunset?”

Sunset blinked and shook her head. “Sorry, I was just thinking. Uh, a picnic sounds nice, but right after lunch?”

“That’s… what I said.” Twilight arched an eyebrow. “That there wouldn’t really be a point.”

“Oh. Sorry, I’m just… distracted.”

Fluttershy nudged Twilight under the table, but she didn’t need to. Twilight could see just as easily that something was going on. “What’s on your mind?”

Sunset scratched her neck. “Oh, just the usual. Wondering about the projector.”

Twilight wanted to believe Sunset, but she knew how her marefriend was when she was caught up on a project. This was something different… “Sunset, is… there something you’re not telling us?”

Sunset’s eye twitched. “No, why?”

Before Twilight could answer, Fluttershy did for her. “We’re worried about you. You, uhm… you haven’t really been yourself since Twily left.”

“What do you mean?” Sunset asked nervously.

“Well, I barely knew where you were half the time…” Fluttershy said.

“Sunset, we love you.” Twilight reached her hoof across the table and placed it on Sunset’s. “We can tell when something is bothering you.”

Sunset pulled her hoof back and frowned. “Nothing is bothering me, so just drop it, okay?”

It was tempting to do just that, but the way Sunset was reacting to the questions proved to Twilight what they suspected was true. “Fluttershy said you didn’t even come up to bed last night.”

Sunset turned and scowled at Fluttershy. “I just didn’t want to wake her up by crawling into bed so late. I was trying to be considerate!”

Twilight glared back. “There’s no need to take it out on Fluttershy! She’s just worried about you, we both are! We –”

“Twily, please.” Fluttershy put her hoof on her wife’s to calm her down. “Sunset, Twilight is right. We’re worried about you because we care about you. We won’t pry if you don’t want to talk about it, but you know you can tell us anything.”

“There’s nothing to tell!” Sunset stood up suddenly. “Geez, you come back and the first thing you do is gang up on me? What gives!?”

“We’re not ganging up on you!” Twilight insisted. She wasn’t sure what was happening, she couldn’t remember Sunset ever acting like this.

“Sure feels like it,” Sunset grumbled, turning away from her marefriends.

“Sunset, please…” Fluttershy stood as well, stepping towards Sunset and extending a wing to her. “This isn’t like you. Just talk to us!”

Sunset pulled away, stepping backwards towards the door while keeping an eye on Fluttershy. “No, this is exactly like me! Just not the side of me you want me to be. Well, sorry, Shy, but I –”

Sunset went wide-eyed for a second, then squeezed her eyes shut and put her hoof to her temple.

Since the others were already up, Twilight stood as well. She took a step towards Sunset’s other side. “Sunset…”

“Don’t!” Sunset wheeled around. “Just leave me alone and –”

She stopped when she saw Spike at the door, who was looking on at the scene uncertainly. Everyone froze in place for a moment, then Sunset’s horn lit up and she disappeared.

For a second, none of the others reacted. Then Twilight sank back into a chair and let her head fall to her hooves.

What had just happened? Sunset was angry. She was angry with them! That had never happened before.

No, that wasn’t true. Twilight had seen Sunset get angry like this before, but that had been before the Fall Formal. Back then, Sunset was a completely different person, though. Was that what she meant when she said this was like her, that she was acting the way she used to?

One thing was for sure, something bad was going on with her, and she was keeping it bottled up. Twilight would need to get to the bottom of it, but trying to push for an answer had only made things so much worse.

“Did… I do something wrong?” Spike asked after a moment.

Twilight quickly picked herself up and crossed the room to put a foreleg around Spike. “Oh no, of course you didn’t, Spike.” She sighed and tried to find the words to explain it to him. “Sunset’s just… well, I don’t really know.”

“She’s going through something right now,” Fluttershy said as she approached Spike on his other side. “We’re not too sure what, but we’re going to be there for her and make sure it gets better.”

Spike fidgeted in place. “She looked like she did when all that stuff was going on a year ago…”

Twilight frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well… back when she was spending all that time in the basement, and you went to the Crystal Empire, and Fluttershy was staying at her cottage…”

“She is?” Twilight asked. Like Spike said, Twilight hadn’t been around for that.

But Fluttershy had. “I… I guess she is.” She looked meaningfully at Twilight. “You don’t think she…?”

Twilight understood right away. Back then, Sunset had been drinking away her problems. If she was acting the same way now, then…

“We’ll just have to talk to her when she gets back,” Twilight said. “In the meantime, I’m going to check something in the basement.”

Fluttershy guided Spike away from the door. “Let’s get you something to eat while Twi does that.”

Content that Fluttershy was looking after Spike, Twilight made her way back to the basement. There wouldn’t be anything to find there. Twilight told herself that there wouldn’t be anything down there.

But she needed to be sure. She didn’t know what she would do if her suspicions were confirmed, she barely let herself form the thought. There wouldn’t be anything down there, she was just making sure.

She descended the stairs and took a look around the room. There was nothing out of the ordinary. That was a good sign, but she had to be sure. So she opened drawers, looked under tables, checked everywhere she could.

Nothing. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief as she collapsed onto the couch. She hadn’t found anything, which was exactly what she’d hoped for.

She grabbed one of the back cushions to give herself something to hold onto. What was going on with Sunset? Was she really drinking again? And if so, why?

No, she couldn’t be. They’d talked about that back in Canterlot. Sunset had gone into a bar and almost drank, but she’d changed her mind. When she eventually told Twilight and Fluttershy about it, they told her to tell them if she ever slipped, that they’d help her through it. She knew that, so it couldn’t possibly be that she was drinking again…

Twilight was sure of that. At least, she was reasonably sure. Well, okay, she wanted to be sure. Sunset would tell them. Hopefully.

All those thoughts shattered when she sat up and turned to put the cushion back. Wedged between the back of the couch and the bottom cushion was a bottle of wine.

Frowning, Twilight let the cushion fall to the floor as she levitated the bottle. The label had a picture of a human on it, so it could have only come from one place. Not that it mattered – Twilight knew no one else had stowed alcohol away down in the workshop.

So there it was. Sunset was drinking again. The only question was why?

There weren’t going to be any answers in the basement, so Twilight stood up and brought the wine bottle with her. In a last-minute decision, she tucked it into a drawer. She needed to talk to Fluttershy about this, but they didn’t need to put it on Spike too.

She walked back to the kitchen slower than she left it. She knew there was no avoiding telling Fluttershy, but that didn’t mean she was looking forward to it.

In that moment, Twilight thought maybe she did kind of understand where Sunset was coming from. Although she knew telling Fluttershy was for the best, there was a small part of her that didn’t want her wife to worry. A part that thought she could be enough to help Sunset through this without ever putting it on anyone else. And true, that was only one small part and would have no impact on Twilight doing the right thing and telling Fluttershy, but if even Twilight was feeling like that, even if just a little bit, then what was Sunset feeling?

If anything, that thought only hardened her resolve. Sunset had made a mistake, and Twilight wasn’t happy with that. But more importantly, Sunset had made a mistake, and she needed help. She was scared enough to lash out at her marefriends, and now she was Celestia knows where feeling Celestia only knew what.

She stepped into the kitchen and saw Spike was still eating a sandwich of his own while Fluttershy sat with him at the table.

They both looked up, but Spike was the one who spoke first. “Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine, Spike,” Twilight said as she sat down next to Fluttershy, who gave her a meaningful look. Unable to answer in front of Spike, Twilight just wrapped her wing around Fluttershy and rested her head on her wife’s and trusted that she would understand.


It was well into the afternoon, and there was still no sign of Sunset. Spike had run along to play with his friends, and Twilight told Fluttershy what she found. They talked about going after Sunset, but decided to give her space to hopefully cool off from the earlier argument.

But that didn’t mean Twilight was going to do nothing while Sunset was somewhere feeling alone. The bottle had a human on the label, meaning, of course, Sunset had bought it in Everton. That meant she had gone to Everton at some point, so maybe something had happened there that prompted her to start drinking again.

And even if not, Applejack was Sunset’s best friend. If anyone was going to know what was going on with her, it would be her. So Twilight wrote to Applejack and arranged a meeting with her, and now she was waiting in a coffee shop near CHS for her friend to show up.

As usual, she wasn’t waiting long. Just like her pony counterpart, Applejack liked to be punctual. She wore a warm smile as she walked in, which Twilight mirrored even if she didn’t feel much like smiling.

“Thanks for coming to meet with me, AJ,” Twilight said as she stood up.

“Don’t mention it, Twi. Come on, let’s get us something to drink while we talk.”

Twilight nodded and got in line with Applejack. Not wanting to get right into it while they were in line, Twilight asked Applejack about how she was doing. They talked about how business was going while they moved slowly through the line, which Twilight found she couldn’t quite focus on as much as her friend deserved.

Since Twilight wasn’t too fond of coffee, she ordered a hot chocolate for herself while Applejack got coffee. They grabbed some creamer and sugar packets, then took a seat at a nearby table.

“Now, what’s all this really about?” Applejack asked. “I’m glad to see ya and all, but you’re more jittery than a turkey right before Thanksgiving.”

Twilight had no idea what that meant, but she didn’t question it. “It’s about Sunset… Have you seen her recently?”

Applejack frowned and scratched her head. “Yeah, about a week ago. Why, she okay?”

“She’s not hurt or anything, but she’s not really doing too well. You haven’t seen her since then? Specifically in the past four days?”

“Come to think of it, Big Mac said she stopped by around that time. But when I wrote to her afterwards, she said it wasn’t about anythin’ important.”

“I see…” Twilight had been hoping for some sort of big revelation, but maybe Applejack was just as in the dark as she was.

“Why don’tcha tell me everythin’ from the beginning?”

Twilight took a deep breath. She hadn’t been sure if she wanted to tell Applejack about the wine bottle, but even if she did know where Sunset was, there was no guarantee she wouldn’t blow up on Twilight again. She needed help, and Applejack was just the person to give it to her.

“I found out she’s, well… she’s drinking again.”

Applejack frowned. “Do ya know why?”

“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me. The wine bottle I found came from Everton, but that’s the only clue I know. I thought maybe she came to see you and something happened.”

Applejack shook her head. “Nothin’ that I know of… And if Pinkie knew anything, she woulda told me ‘bout it.”

Twilight sighed. “Great. We sort of had a fight, then she left home. That was hours ago.”

“And you say this started four days ago?”

“Well, that’s when I left on my business trip. But I don’t think that was why she started drinking, she still had Fluttershy around. And even if she was on her own, she’s stronger than that. Something had to set this off.”

Applejack drummed her fingers on the table, then took a sip of her coffee. Eventually she sighed and shook her head. “You’re right, it don’t make no sense. Nothing else happened that might have set it off?”

“No, we woke up that morning and everything was fine. She went to go with Fluttershy to see some baby… bunnies…”

Applejack quirked her eyebrow. “Ya think a rabbit is what’s giving Sunset such a hard time?”

Twilight shook her head. “No, of course not. But we were talking about the baby rabbits and then… Well, I don’t know, it wasn’t like a big deal. I mean, it was, but we were just talking about it.”

Applejack snapped her fingers in front of Twilight to get her back. “What was it y’all talked about?”

“Well… Fluttershy brought up wanting foals.”

Applejack’s mouth fell open. “She what?

Twilight blinked, then smiled a little. “Oh, right. Well, kids, you know.”

“That’s not what’s gettin’ me. It’s just… Jesus Christ, Twi, do you really not see why Sunset might feel some kind of way about having kids?”

“What do you mean? Sunset’s great with kids!”

Applejack stared at Twilight’s perplexed expression for a moment, then she stood up and turned away. “God damn it, Sunset!” She held her hat over her face for a moment. Then put it back on her head and sat down again, her jaw clenched and her eyes narrowed.

It was all Twilight could do to watch the scene in front of her. Something about this seemed to seriously upset Applejack, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what. “Uhm, AJ…?”

“Just… tell me one thing. Does the name Sky Shimmer mean anything to you?”

Twilight scrunched her face up, even more confused than before. “Fluttershy’s Oubliettes and Ogres character?”

Applejack sighed. “Look, this isn’t my place to tell you about. But this whole kids thing is definitely what’s gotten to Sunset. You need to get her to talk to you about it.”

“Oh… okay.” Twilight was happy to have a lead, but she did wish Applejack would tell her a little more about it.

“Tell her that if she won’t tell you ‘bout it, I will. And be ready, because that’s gonna tick her off somethin’ fierce, but y’all need to know ‘bout this.”

“Applejack…” Twilight frowned. “Who is Sky Shimmer to Sunset?”

Applejack shook her head and put her hand on Twilight’s shoulder. “I wish I could tell ya that, Twi, but we need to give Sunset the chance to open up about this on her own.”

There was a sickening sensation in Twilight’s stomach that told her she didn’t really want the answer to that after all, but she knew she needed it. Somehow, this whole situation just got much more complicated.

Eager to get back home and see if Sunset had arrived, Twilight asked if they could call an early end to their meeting. Applejack agreed, so within moments, they were on their way out the door.

Although it was in easy walking distance, Applejack gave Twilight a lift back to CHS. She wound up leaving her mostly full hot chocolate with Applejack, said a quick goodbye, and made straight for the portal.

She was so preoccupied that the sensation of travelling through the portal barely phased her for once. She quickly shook herself off once she was back in Equestria, then made her way downstairs where Fluttershy was waiting.

In case Sunset came back, Fluttershy had waited in a sitting room near the entrance so that she might hear the door open. Twilight hoped to find Sunset in there with her, but she was alone and pacing the room when Twilight came in.

“Did you find anything out?” Fluttershy asked as soon as Twilight was through the door.

Instead of answering right away, Twilight walked up to Fluttershy and pulled her into a hug. “Applejack hasn’t seen her since before all this happened. She doesn’t think Pinkie has either.”

Fluttershy sunk into Twilight. “So what do we do?”

“There’s more. Come on, let’s sit down.”

Twilight led Fluttershy over to a couch and the two of them sat down together. Before she broke the news to Fluttershy, Twilight pulled her wife closer to her. “Applejack thinks it’s because we talked about foals. She… didn’t really explain it, but it sounds like that’s a sensitive subject for Sunset.”

“Really? But Sunset’s so good with kids.”

“Older kids,” Twilight said, only just realizing the difference herself. “She’s great with Spike and other kids that are older, but… you know how standoffish she is around Flurry Heart.”

“I guess that’s true… But is all this really because she just doesn’t like babies?”

Twilight shook her head. “I don’t think so. Applejack asked me about the name Sky Shimmer, and if I knew anything about it.”

“Sky Shimmer?” Fluttershy scrunched up her face. “What does my O&O character have to do with this?”

“I don’t think that’s it. Fluttershy, where did the name Sky Shimmer come from?”

Fluttershy quirked her head. “She was an imaginary friend when I was little.”

“So she was never a real pony?”

“No.”

Twilight frowned. She had thought maybe there would be some clue there, a human counterpart to the pony Fluttershy’s character was named after. “This doesn’t make any sense. How do Applejack and Sunset even know about that name? We haven’t played O&O in ages.”

“I might have mentioned it to her back when we did play, but I don’t even remember. And even if I did, what would that have to do with Sunset not liking foals?”

“I don’t know, Shy.” Twilight glanced at a clock. It was getting late, almost dinner time, and there was still no sign of Sunset.

“So… this is all my fault…”

Twilight’s head perked up. “No, of course not!”

Fluttershy blinked, and a few tears appeared. “I’m the one who brought up foals though! If I hadn’t said anything…”

“Shy, you just wanted to talk about it. Neither of us pushed anything on Sunset.”

“But… I should’ve realized something was wrong…”

“This isn’t your fault, Shy.” Twilight kissed Fluttershy on the cheek. “And it’s going to be okay. Sunset’s going to come home, and we’re going to work this out.”

Fluttershy leaned against Twilight. “I hope you’re right.”

“I am. Trust me.”

Twilight wrapped her wing around Fluttershy, and the two of them waited together. She kept an eye on the clock, the seconds ticking away one at a time. She told herself that each one was one second closer to Sunset coming home, but it didn’t feel like that.

It felt like just the opposite. Like each second only brought Sunset further away from them, each second adding just a little bit more distance between the lovers. Only a little, but there seemed to be no end to the seconds that Sunset was away from them today.

Author's Note:

Sure is a lot of human world stuff in this story for one taking place in Equestria. Suppose it’s fitting since this fic is about Sunset’s past coming back up.