• Published 4th Nov 2020
  • 2,718 Views, 190 Comments

Another Side of Friendship: Pony Tails - The Great Twixie

The continued adventures of Twilight and her new friends.

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Stormy Relationships

The Canterlot market street was always lively with the bustling crowd of rich ponies looking to spend more money than they needed. Weekends were always the best time for shopping because there was always something new coming in from all over of Equestria. Things like the tangy and unexplainably stinky Bub-Bub Fruits from the Mysterious South, or a cursed totem that is said to make you dance to death, or some less than legal fireworks being sold in a back alley by a mysterious (but oddly familiar) blue pony.

Hey, nopony said the rich could buy common sense.

The weekend was also the best time to find the perfect mark, thought Tempest with a mischievous smirk.

The broken-horned mare was leaning nonchalantly against the lamp post on the corner of St. Braynard St. and Martin Hoofer Queen Jr. Rd., scoping out the scene for fresh targets. She saw Fancy Pants shopping at the lamp stand with his wife, Fleur de Lis – no, he had Tempest’s face memorized after Twilight confessed her crime and got them thrown in jail. Sassy Saddles from Canterlot Carousel was picking out fabrics – no, she never carried bits; only wrote checks. Jet Set and Upper Crust snobbishly turned their noses up at a nice vendor trying to sell some beautiful jewelry – no, Tempest already robbed them five times this week; it was getting stale.

Ooh, there’s a good one, Tempest thought. A young earth pony stallion was looking over some cheap tribal masks imported from Farasi. He must be new to Canterlot, which also meant he hadn’t heard of Tempest’s reputation. Easy money.

The broken-horned mare glanced over to her partner-in-crime, Grubber, who had been loitering around the fried foods stall. He was munching on something that looked like fried cotton candy when he caught Tempest’s eyes. The taller mare glanced sideways in the direction of the new pony, who had just paid for the mask and started walking their way. Grubber smiled and saluted in confirmation.

The pudgy hedgehog stood on the side of the road, whistling nonchalantly and rocking on the balls of his feet. He waited until their target walked past before sticking his foot out, catching his ankle around the stallion’s back hoof. The stallion fell forward with a surprised yelp, flopping on his stomach. When he raised himself up on his elbow and looked around for the cause, Grubber was back in line for the fried foods stall, pretending not to notice anything. Tempest knew there was a reason she kept him around. Now for part two:

“Oh my goodness, are you all right?” Tempest trotted over and asked in the sweetest voice she could manage, offering her hoof. “Here, let me help you up.”

“Thanks,” said the stallion gratefully, accepting the offer and pulling himself up. “No idea what I could’ve tripped on. Guess I’m just clumsy.”

“You should be more careful,” Tempest warned. “Canterlot is a lot more dangerous than everypony thinks. You never know when somepony might try to deceive you from right under your nose.”

“Oh, you’re overexaggerating,” the stallion waved her off before walking away. “Thanks for the help!”

Tempest smirked mischievously as Grubber joined her moments later. She held up her hoof, presenting a hefty bag of coins that jingled as she shook it.

“There’s no better way to start a day than with a fresh mark,” said Tempest proudly, stuffing the coin purse under her cloak. She turned around…and walked into the disapproving face of Sunset Shimmer. “BWA-HA – oh, it’s you.”

“Seriously?” said Sunset critically. “Don’t you guys have anything better to do that rob innocent ponies?”

“Not until three,” Tempest answered casually.

“That’s when we’re getting massages,” said Grubber excitedly, high-hoofing Tempest.

“Tempest, you can’t keep doing this,” said Sunset, following after the broken-horned mare when she and Grubber walked away.

“Why not? It’s not like these rich snobs are gonna miss a few bits,” said Tempest. She stopped by a pie cart and picked up a slice of apple for herself and cheery for Grubber, thankfully paying for it…with her stolen money. “They probably have so much money, they swim in pools of bits Cheapskate McBuck style.”

“That’s not the point,” said Sunset heatedly. She bounced around to the front, stopping the pair in their tracks. “You may be used to stealing from other ponies, but you’re an Element of Harmony now. The Element of Loyalty. You have a sacred duty to uphold – “

“Whoa, whoa, nopony said anything about duties,” Tempest interrupted. Grubber snorted humorously when she said ‘duties.’ “I helped save Equestria from burning to death. Isn’t that enough?”

“Everypony else has changed for the better ever since the Daybreaker incident,” stated Sunset. “Twilight is making friends, Moon Dancer is more open and kindly, Starlight’s helping colts and fillies at school, Trixie’s bringing joy to ponies with her performances, and I’m learning to be more honest.”

“And your point is?” asked Tempest, raising a brow.

“Doesn’t being the Element of Loyalty mean anything to you?” Sunset questioned.

“Hey, I’m loyal to you guys and the princess,” said Tempest defensively. “What more do you want from me?”

“I just think there’s more to you than just being a thief,” said Sunset earnestly. “You could do something better with your life. Like…like joining the royal guard or – “

Tempest threw back her head, laughing.

“You think I would join the royal guard?!” said Tempest in between guffaws. “Those idiots didn’t lift a hoof when Daybreaker showed up and they’ve been completely useless with everything else since then. All they ever do is stand around like a bunch of morons while we run off to save the day. You know I’ve never seen the captain once since I moved into the palace?”

“Huh, now that I think about it, I haven’t seen Shining Armor either,” Sunset commented, brushing her chin curiously. “But that’s not the point. Tempest, you have a lot to give to Canterlot – to Equestria. I just think you should share those talents for something…productive.”

“Don’t act like you know anything,” Tempest brushed her off rudely. “You don’t know the first thing about me.”

“Because you never share anything,” said Sunset, frustrated.

“Then take the hint,” Tempest chided.

Sunset’s furrowed her brow angrily, a low rumbling reverberating from the back of her throat. She opened her mouth to shout something and a loud boom exploded through the air. Sunset clamped her hooves over her mouth; the two mares and hedgehog stared, bewildered. Sunset removed her hooves and opened her mouth again – another loud boom filled the market – Sunset clamped her muzzle shut again.

“Wow, I never knew ponies could do that,” said Grubber.

“They can’t, said Tempest suspiciously. She searched the market street and then the skies above Canterlot, suddenly pointing a hoof to the mountain. “There!”

An ominous sea of gray clouds was drifting past the peak of Canterlot Mountain, arcs of crackling lightning flying. Rain started to pour down – starting out soft, quickly turning fierce in a matter of seconds – and furious winds were starting to pick up. Everypony on the street screamed and dashed for shelter, many shoppers dropping their purchases and stall owners leaving their wears unattended.

“What’s going on?!” Sunset screamed into the wind, shielding herself with her hoof. “There isn’t a storm scheduled for today!”


“AAAHH! Screaming storm clouds!” Grubber cried.

“No, that’s the princess’s royal voice!” said Sunset. “She only uses it for emergencies!”


“An unexplained storm?!” Sunset repeated. “Shouldn’t the Cloudsdale pegesi be keeping track of these things?!”

“Who care?! We gotta get outta here!” Grubber screamed

The pudgy hedgehog ran around in a full circle – twice – and then took off the down the street. Sunset started after him, but stopped a few paces when she realized somepony wasn’t following and looked back. Tempest was staring into the storm clouds with narrowed eyes, like she was looking for something.

“Tempest! We gotta go!” Sunset screamed.

“Huh? Wha?” Tempest mumbled, snapping out of her stupor and facing Tempest again. “Oh, yeah, right. Let’s move.”

Sunset would’ve commented on Tempest’s strange attitude, but the crackle of lightning drove the thought from her mind. The sunny unicorn didn’t wait for Tempest before running in the same direction as Grubber. Tempest stared at the storm clouds over her shoulder for a few seconds more and pursued the others.

Sunset and Tempest caught up to Grubber in seconds – the pudgy hedgehog was not very fast. Tempest lowered her head and scooped her partner off the ground, rolling him safely onto her back without stopping. The trio galloped out of the town limits and across the fields. The terrain was flooded in high water, goopy mud, and broken branches that slowed them down, but Sunset and Tempest slogged through. They could see the palace gates….

“Sunset! Tempest! Grubber!”

“Twilight?” said Sunset, surprised.

Sure enough, they saw the lavender mare leaning through the gap of the front gates, waving her hoof urgently.

“Get inside, girls, quick!” Twilight shouted.

They didn’t need to be told twice. Sunset, Tempest, and Grubber dived through the gap and the royal guards slammed the gates behind them. Twilight lead them across the courtyard where the water was up to their knees and barreled through the double doors into the foyer. The same royal guards galloped in afterwards and locked the doors behind them while the palace servants appeared, offering fresh towels to the drenched ponies.

“That was insane,” said Sunset, panting hard as she used her horn to wipe herself down. “That storm came completely out of nowhere.”

“I’ll say,” Grubber remarked, wiping down his pits, much to the servant’s disgust. He looked around and asked, “Where’s everyone else?”

“Well, Moon Dancer has her own house in Canterlot,” Twilight answered, “and Starlight has her apartment, so they’re both probably hunkering down at home. Spike went to see Trixie about mass producing her Fizzy Fruit Potions, so he’s probably taking shelter with her in Trixie’s Wagon.”

“Is a mobile wagon really the best place for those two in the middle of a lightning storm?” asked Tempest.

“Trixie’s wagon has been outfitted with dozens of spells and gadgets for every type of weather phenomenon possible,” Twilight explained. “Anchors to secure the wheels. Magic lightning rod to ground electricity. Elevated platforms to avoid flooding. Reinforced windows and doors. Just what you’d expect from a seasoned traveler.”

“Oh, thank goodness you all are safe.” Princess Luna glided down the grand staircase and landed in front of the Mane 3; the royal guards and servants bowed and backed away out of sight. “I was worried you might have gotten caught up in the storm.”

“Speaking of the storm,” said Sunset, toweling off her mane, “any idea where it came from?”

“No, but I’m about to head to Cloudsdale to find out,” said Luna seriously. “The cloud factory is supposed to notify all ponies when a potentially dangerous storm is scheduled. This kind of oversight could have gotten many ponies hurt, or worse.”

“You sure the Cloudsdale ponies are responsible for this?” asked Tempest,.

“Who else could have manufacture a storm of this size?” said Luna, her brow quirked curiously.

“…Never mind,” Tempest muttered as she turned away, scrubbing her face.

“I will be gone for a few hours,” Luna told Sunset. “None of you are to leave the castle until I return. The servants and royal guards will be storm-proofing everything, so stay out of their way. And if there is an emergency, tell it to Shining Armor…if anypony can find him. Am I clear?”

“Yes, mom,” said Sunset sarcastically with a mock salute.

Luna rolled her eyes good-naturedly, brushing Sunset’s mane playfully before trotting to the entrance. The royal guards grabbed the handles as Luna approached the double doors and pulled them open just enough for the princess to slip through, then slammed them shut again. Sunset, Twilight and Grubber peeked out the tall windows. They spotted Luna flying into the storm, surrounding herself in a starry-blue barrier and fading away into the distance.

“Well, looks like the day’s shot,” Tempest commented, wringing out her towel and throwing it at the servant without looking, unknowingly slapping the wet cloth in their face. “Grubber, remind me to double the quota of suckers tomorrow.”

“Right-o, boss,” Grubber saluted.

“Really? That’s your biggest concern,” said Sunset with a look of disbelief.

“I take pride in my work ethic,” Tempest remarked. Sunset groaned and facehoofed in annoyance.

“Wow, that’s some storm, huh?” said Twilight, trying to steer the conversation in a different direction. “I can’t believe the pegesus ponies made something this huge. They really outdid themselves this time.”

“If it really is the pegeus ponies,” Tempest muttered.

“Do you know something that we don’t?” asked Sunset with an impatient stare.

“Nothing, nothing, just thinking out loud,” Tempest brushed away the question, stretching her limbs exaggeratedly. “Well, if we’re gonna be stuck inside, I’ll be in my room. Come on, Grubber.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” Sunset agreed. “It’s not like there’s anything better to do – “

“Wait a second, everypony!” Twilight suddenly shouted, stopping Tempest, Sunset, and Grubber in their tracks. “I just had the greatest idea ever! You three should totally sleep over! We’ll have a slumber party!”

“Yay! Slumber party!” Grubber cheered; Tempest smacked him over the head. “Ow! What’d I do!”

“Uh, I hate to burst your bubble, Twilight,” said Sunset awkwardly, “but we already live under the same roof. So it’s technically not sleeping over….”

“That’s why you’re going to come sleep over in my room!” Twilight proclaimed enthusiastically. She was literally bouncing on her hooves, grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve always wanted a slumber party, but I never had any friends – well, that’s kind of my own fault – but I have friends now! I even have this fantastic reference guide!”

Twilight illuminated her horn and levitated a book from who know where, holding it up to Sunset’s face.

’Slumber 101: All You've Ever Wanted to Know About Slumber Parties but Were Afraid to Ask,’ Sunset read aloud. “…You just happen to be carrying this very specific book with you?”

“It’s my own personal copy!” Twilight squealed. “You should see the table of contents! I've been waiting for a chance to use it, and today is the day! This is gonna be so great!”

“…I’m guessing you haven’t found that new hobby yet,” Sunset remarked.

“Ooh! Ohh! Can I do your mane?!” Grubber asked Twilight eagerly. “I have sooo many ideas!”

“Grubber!” Tempest shouted, smacking the hedgehog over the head again. “We do not ‘do’ pony’s manes!”

“Aww, why not?” Grubber whined.

“We are two tough-as-nails thieves from the grimy streets of Klugetown,” said Tempest, turning her nose up proudly. “A couple of rugged, but good-intentioned, ne’er-do-wells who have climbed though the world with guts and grit. We do not – and I’m talking to myself, aren’t I?”

Much to Tempest’s exasperation, she looked around to discover that she was alone in the foyer. The broken-horned mare lowered her head, huffing irritably, and trudged down the hall, having a good idea of where they went. And lo, as she turned the corner to the sleeping quarters, Tempest could make out the muffled sound of giggling ponies and one hedgehog.

The door to Twilight’s room was already open she approached. Tempest stopped at the threshold, surveying the bedchamber/library. Twilight and Sunset were sitting on their flanks in the middle of the room, surrounded by an abundance of pillows and blankets, and Grubber was – Tempest made a disgusted sound – painting their hooves.

“Oh, Grubber, why…?” Tempest moaned, facehoofing herself.

“Wow, you’re really good at this, Grubber,” Twilight complimented, appraising her freshly painted hooves.

“The joys of opposable thumbs,” said Grubber happily. “And by the way, that moderate violet polish really makes your eyes pop. And Sunset, I was thinking a nice sunny-yellow to match your sunny personality.”

“Grubber, you flatterer,” Sunset giggled.

Tempest gave the group a flat look, silently crossing the room up to her hedgehog sidekick.

“Hey, boss, want me to paint your hooves?” asked Grubber eagerly, holding up one of the bottles of polish. “This moderate rose would go great with your mane.” Annoyed, Tempest slapped the bottle across the room. “Hey, that was a limited edition!”

“Grubber!” Tempest snapped. “What in the name of all that is devious are you doing?!”

“We’re giving each other make overs!” Twilight squeed, clapping her hooves; Tempest gave her a blank stare. Twilight levitated her slumber party book over to the troublesome mare to emphasize the point. “We have to do it. It says so in the book.”

“Uh, yeah, no,” Tempest said shortly, slapping the book away. “We don’t do make overs.” She shot a sideways look at Grubber, who was painting his nails sky-blue. “I don’t do make overs. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for doing absolutely nothing….”

Tempest marched back over to the door, much to Twilight’s disappointment, when Sunset suddenly teleported in the broken-horned mare’s path with a heated glare.

“Look, Ms. ‘I’m-so-cool-and-handsome,’” Sunset started.

“You think I’m handsome?” Tempest asked with a sly grin.

“Not the point!” Sunset shouted insistently, her cheeks burning. “I understand that you don’t like girly things like slumber parties and make overs, and I respect that. But this is Twilight’s first sleep over, so that makes it pretty special. And she wants you to be here.”

“I never asked her to invite me,” said Tempest, annoyed.

“No, but she did anyway because you’re her friend,” said Sunset. “Remember the Daybreaker incident when we all thought you betrayed us? Twilight still believed in you. She trusted you. Because that’s what friends do. Now how about you be a good friend for Twilight? Show some of that Element of Loyalty.”

Tempest frowned. Curse Sunset Shimmer and her guilt tripping. The violet mare looked back at Twilight, who was hanging her head low in a depressed state. Tempest heaved a great sigh and begrudgingly dragged her hooves to the circle of pillows, plopping her flank with a look that said "I would rather be anywhere else but here."

“I suppose I could stay for a little bit…,” Tempest muttered apathetically.

“Hurray slumber party!” Twilight perked up and clapped her hooves. She levitated the slumber party book and searched through the pages. “This is going to be so exciting! We'll do everything by the book, and that will make my slumber party officially fun!”

“Did you hear that, Tempest,” said Sunset, sitting down on the mare’s left side. “You wouldn’t want to do anything that would ruin Twilight's very first slumber party, would you?”

“…Of course not,” Tempest answered bitterly, going unnoticed by the pony in question. “And I assume you wouldn’t do anything either.”

“So we’re in agreement,” said Sunset in a business-like tone. “We’ll be on our best behavior. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘you.’”

“I got the implications,” retorted Tempest. “The only pony you need to worry about is yourself.”

“Well, unlike some ponies, I can get along with anypony,” said Sunset with her chin held high. “No matter how difficult she may be.”

“Yeah, you’re the queen of friendliness,” said Tempest sarcastically. “Remind me again who was the pony that burned innocent Twilight’s notes and let a psychopathic sun goddess get loose?”

“That was one time! Let it go!” Sunset hissed angrily.

Before Tempest could get a word in response, Twilight suddenly popped in between them and pulled the mares (and Grubber) into an excited group hug.

“This is going to be the bestest slumber party ever! Yay!” Twilight cheered.

“Yay!/Yay…,” Grubber exclaimed with glee while Sunset and Tempest parroted halfheartedly, shooting glares under Twilight’s muzzle.

There were many things Tempest regretted in her life. Chasing Glitter Drop’s ball into an Ursa Minor cave; getting run over by Trixie’s wagon; eating that fish taco from a shady back alley vendor. But this sleep over was definitely up there in the top three.

After unwillingly letting Grubber paint her hooves, Twilight moved the party along to mud masks and manes. She could hear Sunset snickering behind her hoof, not that the broken-horned mare could blame her. She could only imagine how the once intimidating mare must have looked with goop on her face and her mane in curlers. Grubber, on the other hoof, looked quite pleased with himself. He had been the one to style everypony all night.

“So,” Sunset spoke, snorting uncontrollably, “how’re you doing over there, Tempest? Feel pretty?”

“I’m going to murder all over you in your sleep,” Tempest declared flatly.

“Oh, tempest, you’re such a jokester,” Twilight giggled.

“I don’t think she’s joking,” said Grubber, noticeably backing away.

“This is so awesome,” said Twilight happily. She levitated her slumber party book and a quill, putting a check mark in the page while magically returning their manes to their natural appearance, essentially wasting the last thirty minutes of their lives. Tempest’s eye twitched dangerously. “Make overs, check. Next is – ooh! It says here we have to tell spooky stories. Who wants to go first?”

“I’ve got one,” Tempest said with an underlying sharpness to her tone. “It’s the story of the mad pony who murdered her friends because they drove her crazy with their stupid party. I bet that sounds familiar to you.”

“Never heard of it,” said Sunset, leering at Tempest. “But I have a better one. It’s about an ungrateful pony who lost all her friends even though they were trying to do something nice.”

“And what’s so scary about that?” said Tempest. “That actually sounds kind of peaceful.”

“Oh, you would think that, wouldn’t you?” Sunset sneered. “Little miss loner…”

“Wait a second…,” Twilight hummed, tapping her chin. “Those don’t sound like real stories.”

“What was your first clue?” said Tempest, giving her a blank stare.

“Ooh! Ooh! I’ve got one! I’ve got one!” Grubber jumped up and down, waving his hands excitedly. “Boss, remember the sand worms of Bone Dry Desert?”

“Oh yeah,” Tempest murmured, a devious grin curling on her lips. “You should totally tell them that one. I bet they’ll love it.”

Sunset cast a suspicious look at Tempest, but Grubber had already cut the lights from the room, casting them into darkness. Everything was pitch-black for many seconds until a little lamp flickered on between them, setting the perfect atmosphere for scary stories.

“What you are about to hear is based on a true story,” Grubber spoke in a spooky voice. “It all started many years ago in a place called Klugetown, a city of dangers south of Equestria. It was a couple weeks after the boss and I first met when she beat me up and stole my cupcake….”

While Grubber distracted them, Tempest took this opportunity to retreat to the window. She sat on the sill, leaning against the wall as she watched the rain patter on the glass. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Twilight and Sunset – Twilight was her first real friend in a long time – but she spent a lot of time building her reputation as the toughest pony in Equestria. It also reminded her of Glitter Drops and Spring Rain….


Tempest jumped at the booming thunder as a sharp bolt of lightning struck the courtyard, leaving a sizeable hole in the ground. Tempest leaned in closer to the window, staring at the fresh crater. She narrowed her eyes in concentration and – there! Something flashed inside the hole! The broken-horned mare gasped silently. Could it be…?”

“ …and though we managed to get back to Klugetown safely,” Tempest heard Grubber reaching the climax of the story, “we never ever dared to return to the Bone Dry Desert. Because out there, under the shifting sands, waiting to drag its next victim into the depths is…THE TERRIFYING SAND WORM!

A crack lightning flashed conveniently at the same time, briefly distracting everypony long enough to wrap himself in several sheets, creating a tall figure that resembled the sand worm in his story, swaying ominously over Twilight and Sunset. The mares screamed and held each other in terror, which made Tempest fall off the window sill in surprise. The pudgy hedgehog guffawed out loud as he untangled himself from the sheets and flicked the lights back on, pointing a finger at Twilight and Sunset.

“Hah! You should see the looks on your faces!” Grubber slapped his knees and cackled. “Priceless!”

Sunset glared at Grubber as she untangled herself from Twilight, but the lavender mare clapped her hooves gleefully and summoned her slumber party guide, adding another check mark to the list.

“Scary stories, check!” said Twilight. “Now, who wants s’mores!”

“Uh, you mares get started on that,” said Tempest in rushed tone. She cast a worried glance back at the window, then started speed walking to the door. “I uh, need to do something really quick.”

“Tempest…,” Sunset called in a warning tone.

“I’ll be back, I promise,” Tempest assured her as she stepped outside.

Sunset cast a look of suspicion on her, but Tempest had already galloped down the corridor.

Tempest ran through the hallways until she came to a screeching hall at the corner to the foyer, cautiously peeking around. To her relief, the royal guards were not posted at the front doors – most likely weather-proof the rest of the castle. After making sure that no one was watching, Tempest dashed to the double doors, removing the locks and latches, and then slipped outside into the raging storm.

Tempest grimaced as pushed against the fierce winds, shielding her eyes with her hoof, her cloak billowing around her body. The raindrops hit as hard as hailstones against her coat and the mud around her ankles hindered her movements, but Tempest kept moving forward. She briefly tried to remember where the lightning strike occurred before crossing the courtyard. The hole in the ground was already filled to the brim in muddy water, but Tempest could still make out the outline of something underneath. The broken-horned mare pulled up her cloak and reached down inside, sloshing through the grime and twigs until her hoof connected with something solid and pulled it out.

Tempest was holding a silver canister marked with an emblem that looked like –

“What’re you doing out here?”

Tempest swiftly stuffed the canister under her cloak, pausing with apprehension. She turned around slowly. Sunset Shimmer was leering down at Tempest from the top of the front steps, casting a magical barrier to protect herself from the storm. Tempest met the sunny mare’s gaze, unblinking and stone-faced.

“Shouldn’t you be making s’mores with Twilight?” asked Tempest evenly.

“I could say the same for you,” Sunset retorted. “You ran off in a hurry, I was starting to think that you were trying to skip out on her first slumber party.”

“Well, I was just heading back there right now,” said Tempest, marching purposely up the steps. “So let’s back inside – “

Sunset threw out her arm to stop Tempest before she could move any further. The violet mare stopped and turned her head to Sunset with a quirked brow.

“You never did answer my question,” said Sunset. “What were you doing out here?”

“If you must know,” said Tempest, maintaining her level tone. “I thought I dropped something when we were running from the storm. I came out here to see if I could find it.”

“It must’ve been something pretty important to take your chances out here in this weather,” Sunset remarked, gesturing to the roaring winds and the loose debris flying around the sky.

“It was,” said Tempest simply. “Now let’s get out of this rain – “

“What was it?” Sunset asked suddenly.

“Excuse me?” questioned Tempest.

“What was so important that you couldn’t wait after the storm to look for it?” asked Sunset suspiciously.

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” said Tempest, furrowing her brow in irritation.

“Come on, you can tell me,” said Sunset in the fakest friendly voice Tempest had ever heard, nudging the violet mare in a would-be playful manner. “We’re friends. And friends can tell each other things.”

“Are we friends?” Tempest retorted, growing more annoyed. “Because you haven’t been acting very friendly all day, between giving me flack about my life choices and guilting me into a slumber party I never wanted to be a part of.”

“Well, I’m sorry I actually care about you!” Sunset snapped heatedly. “I’m sorry I want to see you do something better with your life than just being a common pickpocket! I’m sorry I want you to spend more time with your friends who care so much about you! That’s what friends do, you know? They care about each other.”

“Are you implying that I don’t care about my friends?” Tempest growled.

“You’re always hitting Grubber – “

“He’s a tough hedgehog. He can take it.”

“You don’t want to spend time at Twilight’s slumber party –

“I spend plenty of time with Twilight doing things we both enjoy.”

“And you’re always keeping secrets from everypony!” Sunset yelled angrily. “You know Grubber’s spooky story is the first time I ever heard about where you grew up?! You never tell us anything! You’re always shutting us out! We – I – want to get to know you better, but you never give anypony a chance!”

“Well, excuse me for not growing up in a cushy palace!” Tempest snapped. “Unlike you, I didn’t have a comfortable foalhood! I lost my horn! I lost my dream! I lost more than you could ever possibly imagine! Everything I ever had, I had to fight for with tooth and hoof! You have no idea what it was like for me!”

“And I never will because you never say anything!” Sunset yelled back. “We’re supposed to be friends! Why can’t you trust us?! We just want to help you! I want to help you!”

“I never asked for your help!” said Tempest.

“You shouldn’t have to!” Sunset screamed as the winds raged harder, almost as if sensing the rising tensions. “Friends – they help each other regardless whether or not it’s asked! Because friends are supposed to care about each other! And – and I care about you, Tempest! That’s why I want to do whatever I can to help!”

“Why do you care so much?!” asked Tempest. “Why is it so important that you think I need your help?!”

“Because…,” Sunset took a step back, as if shocked that Tempest would ask such a question. She looked down at her hooves like she was expecting them to provide some kind of answer. “It’s, well…it’s because I…um, I….”

“Sunset? Tempest?”

The pair spun around to the double doors. Twilight and Grubber were poking their heads out through the gap; the hedgehog was carrying the aforementioned s’mores.

“You two were gone for a really long time,” said Twilight, looking uncomfortably between her friends. “…Is everything okay?”

“…Everything’s fine,” Tempest mumbled.

Without waiting for a response from Sunset, the violet unicorn threw the doors open and trudged through the foyer back down the hall to the sleeping quarters, trekking mud all over the pristine floor. The cleaning ponies were going to be furious.

Sunset dragged her hooves back inside, watching Tempest’s backside disappear around the corner, then hanged her head sadly. Grubber offered her the tray of freshly made s’mores hoping it would perk her up, but Sunset just shook her head morosely and starting slogged down the hallway after Tempest.

Twilight and Grubber exchanged disappointed gazes. What in Equestria happened between those two?

The atmosphere in Twilight’ room was oppressive; the uncomfortable silence was broken only by the claps of thunder and Grubber’s loud chewing. The lavender unicorn grimaced, looked between her two best friends who were sitting on opposite sides of the blanket circle with their backs to each other. Tempest was scowling at the floor, looking frustrated, while Sunset hanged her head somberly.

This was not how Twilight imagined her first slumber party would go. Though in all fairness, she half expected for something to blow up by now, so as far as Twilight was concerned, she was coming out ahead. Still, something needed to be done to save this party – and fast!

“H-Hey, girls, have you tried the s’mores yet? Twilight asked anxiously. “I think they came out pretty – “ But when she went to grab the s’mores she had worked hard to make, the tray was empty and Grubber face was smeared in chocolate and marshmallow. “Grubber!”

“What?! I eat when I’m upset!” cried Grubber.

“You must be upset all the time,” Tempest remarked. Surprisingly, Sunset let out a small chuckle, but quickly stifled it. Well, that was some progress, Twilight thought.

“Okay, so that’s a pass on the s’mores,” said Twilight, levitating her slumber party guide. “The next item of fun we have to do is…Truth or Dare.”

“It may as well just be called ‘dare’ since Tempest doesn’t know how to tell the truth,” Sunset commented snidely. And back to square one, Twilight thought dismally.

“And you’re such an expert on the subject?” Tempest scoffed.

“Element of Honesty,” Sunset replied simply.

“Which you only had for a month,” said Tempest, glaring.

“Which is a month longer than you’ve ever been honest,” Sunset retorted, her tone steadily rising.

“On second thought, why don’t we just skip the Truth or Dare section and move on?” Twilight laughed nervously, marking the book with a big ‘X’. Let's see what our next fun-fun-fun thing is, shall we? Hmm…what does this mean? Pillow fight?”

“Twilight, I know this is your first sleep over,” said Sunset sympathetically, “but I think it’s time we call this a wa – “

The sunny mare was cut off when she was slammed across the face by one of the dozens of pillows littering the floor. Sunset blinked in a stunned daze, spitting out the pillow feathers that had gotten into her mouth. She turned a sharp glare over to Tempest, who was shooting a smug smirk over her shoulder. Sunset gnashed her teeth furiously, growling like a savage beast.

“Mare, you just poked the dragon,” Sunset breathed venomously.

Sunset levitated the pillow and shot it back at Tempest with the force of a cannonball. Tempest had no time to react before she was plowed and sent flying into one of Twilight’s many bookcases; a hardcover novel fell out of its shelf and bopped her on the head. The violet mare rubbed the sore spot, glaring across the room at Sunset’s equally smug grin.

"Oh, it - is - on!" Tempest growled.

With the skill and finesse of a kung fu master, Tempest kicked ten pillows in the air and bucked each of them across the room one after the other. Sunset ducked out of the way of the first pillow, and bounced away of the second, but the third slammed her in the face and the rest piled on top until she was buried in a mound of fluffiness. Sunset poked her head out from the top of the pile and sneered. She used her horn to levitate the pile and started throwing them back gatling gun style.

Tempest masterfully dodged all of the pillows flying her way with a series of acrobatic flips. When the last three came soaring her way, Tempest stood on her hind legs, snagged them out of the air, and redirected them back toward Sunset. But the sunny unicorn effortlessly caught them with her horn, lining them up in a neat row. She threw them back at Tempest just as the broken-horned mare threw back her own barrage –

“Ooh, I get it!” said Twilight enthusiastically, seemingly unaware of the danger she was in. “Pillow – fight! Fun!”

“Hit the deck!” Grubber cried, tackling Twilight to the floor just as two pillows collided where she stood. Somehow, the collision made a booming shockwave, which was an amazing feat in itself. “This isn’t a pillow fight – it’s a pillow war! Every hedgehog for himself!” he cried while army crawling under the bed.

“Uh, girls?!” Twilight tried to call her friends. Sunset was levitating in a meditative pose, floating pillows around her in circles, launching them one by one. Tempest had clumped together a huge stack of pillows into one pile and bucked them all at once, shotgun style. “Girls?! Maybe you could take it down a notch?!”

“I will if she will!” Tempest shouted, leaping over another string of pillows.

“She’s the one who started it!” Sunset snapped back, forming a barrier of pillows to protect herself.

“Not like you didn’t deserve it!” Tempest retorted, cartwheeling across the room and rapid-fire shooting pillows off the floor.

“Why?! Because I just wanted you to be open with me for once?!” Sunset howled, sending an aerial bombardment across the bedchamber. “Is that really so bad to have someone care about you?!"

“Yes!” Tempest snapped as she ran up the bookcase and flipped backwards over the pillow barrage. “What I do is none of your business! I shouldn’t need to explain myself to anypony!”

“We’re supposed to be friends!” said Sunset, levitated dozens of pillows over her head into a giant ball. “Friends are supposed to support and trust each other!”

“Then why won’t you support me when I tell you I don’t want to tell you anything?!” Tempest yelled, bracing herself.

“But we’re friends!” Sunset asked, sounding hesitant for a moment. “We are friends…right?”

“Of course we are!” said Tempest, frowning.

“Then why don’t you trust me?” said Sunset.

“I do trust you!” Tempest proclaimed.

“Then why won’t you open up to us?” asked Sunset in a pleading tone.

“Because I’m afraid!” Tempest yelled in the heat of the moment.

The bedchamber instantly fell silent like a switch had been flipped. Sunset and Twilight stared at Tempest with shocked expressions; Grubber cautiously poked his head out from under the bed. Tempest looked away shamefully, rubbing her hoof. Sunset lowered herself back down to the floor, dispersing the giant pillow ball, and waited patiently for when the broken-horned mare was ready to talk. After a moment of unbearable silence, Tempest sighed.

“I’ve had friends that I trusted before and they all let me down,” said Tempest in a hollow voice. “I’ve had my trust broken so many times that it’s…difficult for me to be open with anypony. Eventually, I just learned to close myself off. To never let anypony get too close. That way I’ll never be hurt again.”

“…I’m sorry,” Sunset apologized, hanging her head shamefully. “I didn’t know….”

“I do think of you girls as my friends,” said Tempest earnestly. “And I do trust you both. And Starlight and Moon Dancer.”

“What about Trixie?” asked Twilight curiously.

“Do you really want me to answer that?” Tempest gave her a flat look. She heaved another heavy sigh and said, “You’re the first real friends I’ve had since my horn was broken, but you gotta remember that we only just met a month ago. I’m…I’m not ready to open up to you just yet.”

Everypony fell silent as they tried to digest Tempest’s sudden confession. The violet mare hanged her head, her chest stinging with genuine guilt. Sunset silently crossed the room – Twilight and Grubber observing from the sidelines – until she was standing in front of Tempest. The sunny mare gave her friend a long, hard look before suddenly throwing herself at Tempest and pulling her into a tight hug. Tempest went stiff and wide-eyed; Twilight gasped behind her hooves; Grubber’s jaw dropped dumbfoundedly.

“I’m sorry for pushing you so hard,” Sunset apologized remorsefully. “I wanted you to open up so badly that I didn’t even consider your feelings. Guess I’m not all that different from what I was like before the Daybreaker mess.”

“Well, I haven’t exactly been honest with you about it,” said Tempest, scratching her mane awkwardly.

“Well, if we’re being honest…,” said Sunset, pulling away from the hug. There was a light dusting of pink on her cheeks. “The reason why I was so insistent on you being more open was because…I really like you…a lot…and I was hoping we could be closer.”

“As friends or…?” Tempest left the sentence open-ended, a pleasant warmth suddenly filling her chest. That was new, the violet mare thought.

“Y -Yeah! Of course, as friends! Totally friends!” Sunset sputtered, laughing awkwardly. “I mean, what other reason could there be?! I can’t think of anything! Nope! Just friends!”

“Yeah, thought so…,” said Tempest, smiling softly. Sunset was painfully obvious.

“Look, I’m sorry I was so pushy with you?” Sunset apologized again. “I promise, from now on, I’ll stop trying to force you to share your feelings and give you space you need.”

“And I promise I’ll work harder to be more open with you,” said Tempest, offering her hoof. “Agreed?”

“Agreed,” said Sunset, smiling as they shook hooves.

The two of them ended up holding hooves longer than necessary, which both of them noticed, chuckling awkwardly and quickly letting go, looking away with sheepish smiles…. Buuut, the mood was effectively killed when Twilight suddenly popped in between the two and pulled them into a group hug.

“Oh, this is so great!” Twilight squealed excitedly, making Sunset and Tempest flatten their ears, cringing. “I’m so happy to see you two finally settled your differences!”

“Well, it wasn’t easy,” Tempest admitted with a laugh. “We’re both pretty stubborn.”

“Bullheaded is more like it,” said Sunset, snorting. “We’re sorry for ruining your slumber party, Twilight.”

“Are you kidding? This has been the best slumber party ever!” Twilight cheered. “We did make overs, told scary stories, ate s’mores, and had an amazing pillow fight! But the best part was seeing my best friends finally getting along..” She levitated her slumber party guide and marked it with a giant check over the entire page. “I declare my first slumber party a success!”

Tempest and Sunset high-hoofed and Twilight giggled happily…until Tempest’s stomach made a loud gurgling noise.

“Heh, heh, I never did get to eat those s’mores,” Tempest chuckled sheepishly.

“We can make some more!” Twilight declared enthusiastically as she raced out the door. “I’ll get the chocolate!”

“I’ll get the marshmallows!” Sunset called after Twilight, following at a more leisurely pace.

“And I’ll stay here and do absolutely nothing until you get back,” Tempest declared with a cocky grin.

Sunset rolled her eyes good-naturedly before walking out the room. Tempest waved her off with a kind smile…which quickly morphed into a despondent frown the second she was out of sight. She reached into her cloak as Grubber pulled himself out from under the bed.

“Aw, I’m so happy things work out for ya, boss,” Grubber said brightly until Tempest pulled out the canister she had collected from the courtyard. He let out a startled gasp. “Is that from…him?

“Unfortunately…,” Tempest answered remorsefully.

The violet mare and hedgehog leaned in close, gazing apprehensively as the mark branded on the canister:

Author's Note:

*Sniff, sniff* You smell that? It smells like... *sniff, sniff* plot? :pinkiegasp:

Next chapter: Apple Bloom invites the Mane 6 for the Summer Harvest Festival when the town suddenly succumbs to a plague of bizarre, and humorous, illnesses.