• Published 5th Jan 2021
  • 3,054 Views, 43 Comments

the room is on fire - moonlit scribe



She isn't sure exactly how - but somehow, she's forgotten to learn one of the most important aspects of friendship: how to forgive.

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chapter one: wake in the night

"Heya, Sunset!"

The inherently cruel part of Sunset groans in exasperation as she hears the chipper squeak of Pinkie's voice over the crowd, followed shortly by a lower, raspy, "Hey, wait up for us!"

What now? she sighs, trying her best to muster the extra energy needed to hold a conversation with both Pinkie and Rainbow at the same time.

She'd spent the rest of her lunch in her overly quiet little corner of the library and had somehow made it through the rest of the day — at least, until now — without getting cornered by the other girls. It had tugged at her conscience a little every time she'd slipped in just before the bell and sat by herself in a corner, to see whichever friends she shared the class with looking back at her with hurt in their eyes, but that feeling was miles better than the bile that had risen in her throat at the thought of going back over and sitting next to them, pretending she was fine.

But, well, she can't exactly avoid them now. She'd told them she'd catch up with them after school, and so, now, she has to. After all, it wouldn't do much for her already tarnished reputation to slip back into her old loner tendencies — it's obvious that people are less likely to hate her when she's friends with everyone's favourite paragons of friendship.

It's a cold thought, too reminiscent of her old self, but the bitter part of her lets it slide.

After all, that's what they think of me — might as well live up to their expectations.

She steels herself, just as Pinkie and Rainbow finish shoving through the crowds to her side, each with a determined look plastered onto her face.

"Oh, Sunset! You won't believe this! Dashie and I were thinking and talking and we got the most splendtacular idea ever!" Pinkie's voice bounces off the walls like its owner on a sugar rush — energetic, but artificially so — and Sunset does her best to ignore the stabbing feeling of irritation building in her mind in response.

"Oh?" she asks, suppressing a wince at the equally fake cheer in her own voice.

Dash nods, oblivious, leaning against the locker beside hers with her arms crossed over her chest and a triumphant smirk on her face, "We wanna redo the sleepovers! No stupid Anon-a-Miss or whatever this time — you're just gonna come over to all our places and we're gonna have fun like we planned in the first place!"

The idea sounds less like fun and more like torture — sure, she'd had fun at the first couple of sleepovers, but after everything… well, she just wants to not have to be around them and all their fake enthusiasm. Still, she nods, only letting her plastered smile drop when she's turned away to stuff her Euro textbook into her bag.

"Sounds great," she says, letting her voice drop into what she hopes is a decent imitation of a casual tone — and it clearly is, seeing the pair's wide grins when she turns back.

But the successful deception doesn't help quiet the hiss of she-demon that emerges unbidden from the back of her mind.

-- -- -- -- --

The sun is warm against Applejack's skin as she leans against her car, an odd contrast to the chilly metal pressing though her shirt. She's the first of their group out of school — a fact she suspects has less to do with her own speed and more to do with how the others have taken to crowding around Sunset in an effort to make up with her — and the unusual silence brims in the winter air, setting her on edge, and in an effort to hedge the oncoming storm, she takes a frostbitten breath.

Her heartbeat calms.

Now, if only her thoughts could do the same.

Her mind's been torn, all day, between worrying about Sunset and thinking about Apple Bloom.

Sunset, who she'd thought of as one of her closest friends for months, being harassed in the hallways and shunned like a she-devil for crimes she hadn't even committed. Sunset, who she'd abandoned and distrusted, even though she'd proven she had changed from the person she'd been. Sunset, who had been framed, over a matter that could have been solved much quicker and easier had it just been talked about.

And Apple Bloom, her baby sister, the culprit.

She'd been in the room, with Mac and Granny, when Bloom had confessed to the faculty what she and her friends had done, when Celestia had laid down the law for the three girls — no access to electronics on school grounds, detention everyday for three months, no extracurriculars, and, of course, the shutting down of the Canterlot Movie Club. She'd heard that damned explanation from Bloom over and over again.

"I just… It seems so stupid now, but I thought… if y'all weren't friends with her anymore, AJ, you'd've had more time for me! An- and Rarity'd have more time for Sweetie and Rainbow would hang out more with Scoots like she's always wantin'."

Applejack closes her eyes — she can practically hear her own response.

"And y'all couldn'ta come up to us and talked about it? You couldn'ta stopped by my room and said, 'Hey AJ I don't think we've been hanging out as much, could we do somethin' this weekend?' Why in all of Granny Smith's granny smiths would you think that framing Sunset for bein' a dirty-ol' traitor would make us wanna hang out with y'all?"

"But- but it worked! You got so worked up that you came home earlier and you'd come and take me out to the fields to teach me more stuff about the farm! And… you didn't keep talkin' about how you and 'the girls' were gonna go and do some great, big, excitin' thing every other day!"

Damn it.

Damn it, Apple Bloom.

The fucked up part of it is that Bloom'd been right. She'd come home instead of hanging around the band room with the other Rainbooms because everyone had felt the strange emptiness in their music that had come without Sunset's rhythm guitar and the fullness of her voice. She'd come home because it was bad enough having people snort at her and call her a pig during school hours and because she didn't want to give them the opportunity to keep at it after. She'd come home because sinking into a stool in Burnt Oak's woodshop class while ignoring Sunset's pleading eyes from the back of the room had been too much — too much for her to process, too much for her to handle.

But goddamnit, she wishes she had.

Because now, because in hindsight, it's so obvious that Sunset hadn't had a thing to do with this.

I'm supposed to be some goddamn paragon of honesty, Applejack scoffs to herself, and I couldn't even tell Sunset was telling the truth. I couldn't even tell my baby sister'd been lying to my face.

After everything. After the Sirens, after all the trials that'd come from teaching a mildly sociopathic misanthrope how to care about others. After all that, it was this — her own little sister's jealous scheming — that had actually done them in.

Damnit, where'd I go wrong? When did Applebloom stop feeling like she could talk to me? Have I really been such a bad sister that I drove her to become a cyberbully just to get my attention?

Her contemplation is cut off by the tap of a finger against her shoulder. Applejack startles, head whipping around to focus on Rarity's apologetic face as she leans back against the truck next to Applejack.

"Sorry if I startled you, darling. You just seemed rather deep in thought and you didn't seem to hear me when I called your name... Is everything okay?"

Applejack sighs, her hand instinctively going to tip her hat lightly at her friend.

"It's fine. I'm just… thinkin’." It isn't exactly a lie, but the half-truth burns on her tongue. She shakes the thought. "You ain't hanging around Sunset with the others?"

Rarity's gaze goes distant and her voice shifts to a false cheer that would've almost passed for normal if Applejack hadn't known her the way she did. "Oh, well. I… I can talk to her and get my apology off my chest later. I will do it later. I just supposed that she might want some space, right now. She… well, I think she's been avoiding us. And- and I can't exactly blame her, can I? Especially… especially when my sister…"

"You've been thinkin' about that, too, huh?" Applejack mutters. Out of all of her friends, she knows Rarity'd understand her conflict best, but a part of her is reluctant to voice it.

I didn't listen when Sunset was trying to get me to listen to her, and I apparently didn't listen when Applebloom wanted to spend time with me, but here I am wantin' someone to listen to me — goddamn irony at its finest.

Rarity's tone drops what little pretence of normality it'd had before. "Yes. I keep thinking about how… very responsible I am for this whole mess. Even more so than Fluttershy or Pinkie…"

I'm responsible for this. The words ring in Applejack's head like the belltower she'd once seen above a schoolhouse in Appleloosa, their sentiments reflected almost exactly by Applejack's own.

The words are bitter, but the truth in them soothes the taste before it can choke her, "But not more than me."

Rarity's eyes widen, and her hands move up as if to pacify, "Oh, Applejack, I didn't mean it like-"

Another deep breath, but the cool air does not calm the rushing of her thoughts any more than it had earlier, "No, Rare, I wasn't 'ccusing you or nothing, I was just… statin' a fact. I'm just as responsible for this as you. Hell, probably more."

Eyebrows scrunched, Rarity tries to cut in, but is cut off once more, "Wha-"

"Listen… you're Sweetie Belle's sister, but… you ain't responsible for how she acts." Applejack's hand moves instinctively up to brush the rim of her dad's old hat, the same old sting of loss piercing her at the texture, "If she makes a mistake like this, your parents are responsible for making sure she faces consequences. But Bloom… that's on me. It's on me 'cause I'm the one in charge of making sure she understands discipline and whatnot, understands that there're right ways to do things and wrong ways to do things. And it's pretty clear I didn't do a good job of it."

Rarity goes silent, and Applejack can tell she doesn't quite know how to respond. None of the others do, usually, when she talks — hints, really — about her parents.

Look at you, beggin' for Rarity to listen to you when you wouldn't listen to Sunset… You don't deserve this, and you know it.

The thought makes her jaw clench, but… it's not wrong. Applejack tips her head back, closing her eyes as she comes to the conclusion she shouldn't have needed Rarity's presence to reach.

"But…" she shakes her head before continuing, "I ain't gonna wallow on how much of all this is on me. I made a mistake, and it hurt a friend — it hurt family — and I don't plan on putting airs and graces 'bout how sorry I am for it. You shouldn't either."

A scoff. Applejack resists the urge to roll her eyes in response.

"I am not wallowing in self-pity, Applejack, and neither am I putting on airs. I am sorry, and I'm just trying to express that," Rarity's voice takes on that sharply offended tone it does so often around Applejack, and if she turned her head, she knows she'd see long, painted nails curled into a fist from sincere anger.

But the words still send a jolt of irritation down her spine, and Applejack snaps, "This ain't about you."

This time, Applejack does turn, pushing off the car to look at Rarity in eye. "Just think 'bout what you just said. I'm sorry. I'm trying to express myself. But this ain't 'bout you, it's 'bout Sunset. Sunset's hurtin' somethin' fierce right now — and you can't tell me you sincerely think she's okay with how we've been actin' since, making this all about us so we can deal with our guilt. That's on us — not her — but we been actin' like if we keep treatin' her all right and proper from now, it'll make it like this whole mess never went down!"

She stops to catch her breath, pulling her hat off to run a hand tiredly through her hair, "It won't. It happened and we hurt her. So I don't plan on making Sunset talk about it and how she's feelin' until she's ready, not for my own sake, and I don't plan on pushin' her boundaries to make her forgive me, y'hear?"

Silence. Rarity looks conflicted, and although she opens her mouth once or twice, she doesn't say anything. It stretches long enough that Applejack considers saying something — a half-hearted I'm sorry, a pointless lovely weather we been having, an explanatory I'm just afraid of hurting her even more — to break it, but it turns out to be unnecessary. The side door to the school crashes against the outside wall to reveal an energetic Pinkie dragging Sunset out to the parking lot, Rainbow walking behind them with a cocky swing to her steps. The noise is loud enough to pull both Applejack and — going by the half-relieved look on her face — Rarity out of their thoughts.

"Girls!" Pinkie's voice is shrill in the chill air, and the excitement in it — contrasted by the decidedly uncomfortable look on Sunset's face — makes Applejack frown.

Glancing at Rarity, who looks back with an uneasy expression that belies the fact that she'd seen Sunset's tense posture as well, she shrugs and responds with a cautious, "Hey, Pinkie… what's got y'all so excited?"

"We just had the best idea, AJ, and it's gonna make us all super awesome friends again and Sunset's already in and we just need you and Rarity and Fluttershy to say yes and we'll get to have the best winter break ever!"

"What is it, darling?" Rarity's tone is hesitant, and Applejack glances over to see her eyes flitting nervously between Sunset and the other two, with their all-too-happy expressions.

Applejack holds her breath. She's known Pinkie since early freshman year, and while she can't deny that the girl has empathy like no other, she's also been known to be oblivious to others' discomfort. And Rainbow is hardly much better.

"We should redo all the sleepovers!" Rainbow chimes in, self-satisfied smirk still stuck firmly in place.

Well, shit.

It's all Applejack can do to stop the grimace from spreading across her face, her eyes flickering between the practiced upturn of Sunset's lips and the stormy anger in her eyes. The thought of more sleepovers — of Sunset under the same roof as her sister — weighs in her chest.

Dash continues – something about how awesome her house is – but Applejack doesn't hear her, too occupied with the all-too-familiar feeling of betrayal and betraying and the way Sunset seems to be caving in on herself, even though she's standing as tall as ever. It feels a little like she's looking back through a strange mirror that can show her the past – and she can see the way Sunset is suffocating in the presence of all these people who want to make her feel better but don't realise that they're not helping.

It makes her want to run away to Manehattan all over again.

She's snapped out of her brooding when Sunset startles – clearly listening to Dash as much as Applejack herself just was – at a question.

"You've never been sledding, right, Sunny?" Rainbow asks, looking both curious and excited at once.

"Uh, yeah, I haven't, before," Sunset mumbles, and it looks for a second like Pinkie's switching from her oblivious self to her empathetic one, when pink eyebrows scrunch and scrutinise Sunset. Applejack watches, hoping that Pinkie will find some way to call off the whole deal before it lands Sunset – and them – in an uncomfortable situation.

"Well, that's great!" Pinkie says, a brilliant smile taking over her face, "Now you'll get to have more firsts with us! And whenever you go sledding, you'll remember us and how much fun we had and- and-"

Sunset glances down for a second, her face nearly falling as she takes a breath. Then she looks back up again, her eyes suddenly sharply bright and a cuttingly fake smile on her face, as she finishes for Pinkie, "And we'll have a blast."

Pinkie's smile looks natural for the first time in almost a week, and there's no denying the poof in her hair and the spring in her step. Rainbow lets out a guffaw – the kind she used to call a victory laugh, a little cocky and smug but undeniably relieved – and slaps Sunset's back like they're best friends. Even Rarity looks a little less anxious, a small smile playing at her lips as her eyes rove between Pinkie and Sunset and Dash.

But Applejack can't look away from Sunset, can't bring herself not to see the truth, this time. Sunset smiles with the rest of them, but it's cracked at the edges and jagged in the middle and is every lie thrown into a smile and Applejack hates it.

The others keep talking, making plans, but Sunset is silent, and so is Applejack. The teal of Sunset's eyes catch hers, a challenge in them, asking whether Applejack going to call her out or let her be.

A deep breath. Then another. The others’ voices – even Pinkie’s shrill shrieks, even Rarity’s velvety tone – fade as her mind narrows to only the choice: let another lie live, or give Sunset what she wants. One more breath – condensing in front of her and fading away.

She hates it.

She hates lies.

She hates what she did to Sunset more.

A final breath, and she puts on a smile, wondering if Sunset’s cuts her as much as hers does herself.

Author's Note:

K so. this chapter was a lot harder to write because my initial idea for this was really very… vague? and i had to set up a few character arcs and relationships and conflicts that i didn't do in the previous chapter bc i figured that'd be a one-shot idea kind of thing? but yeah. this chapter sets up sunset's conflict a little more, and introduces applejack's conflict and friendship with rarity as it exists in this story/universe.
uh i do ship eqg rarijack, but i don't expect they'll show up — as a couple at least — in this story. i really like their friendship (as well as their individual friendships with sunset), though, and since i can (usually) write their voices well enough, i think i'll keep them working together in a literary sense.
regardless, my focus right now is on the older sisters and, obviously, sunset. The other two… well, i think their conflicts are both more complicated and far more simple at the same time, because while the reasoning for their actions is similar to the rest, they don't have the ability to mask that conflict under another like aj, rarity, and dash do, so i'll be spending more time with them later on.
um and. aj's parents' death in this universe is more recent than pony buttercup and bright mac's deaths — i headcanon that pony aj's parents died under half a year after applebloom was born, (so when pony aj was around 12-ish?) and that their human counterparts died when applejack was like. 13/14 (like at the beginning of summer before she started high school/end of 8th grade, giving her time to head to manehattan for a couple weeks or so before she came back) and applebloom like 9/10 and big mac around 16/17. and like after, between big mac having to spend all his time on the farm (even more so than aj) and granny taking up odd jobs and such in order to keep everything afloat, taking care of applebloom ended up becoming aj's job, which is where this aj's perspective of this is Really My Fault for not being good enough at taking care of Applebloom comes into play.
uhh the main six are all 15/16 atm (except sunset who's almost 17, unlike the rest who've either just turned or are turning 16) and in their sophomore year, so aj's rlly only a year and a half or so out from losing her parents so that plays into both her temperament in this and in EqG's freshman year (and the notable difference between her temperament and pony Aj's temperament, since i consider pony aj around 22/23 – 21 at the beginning of the show – and headcanon that her parents died when she was like 12/13, so she's had more time to process and mature than human AJ has)

Comments ( 24 )

I can't understand a single thing you wrote at the end on author's note . What id you say?! It
s all compressed into one big mess.

Pinkie, Dash, you are usually wonderful people, but the sheer, persistent, agonizing obliviousness you're showing right now makes me want to shoot you with a fire-hose.

Looks like Sunset isn't the only one here who needs to learn to forgive. And the difference between saying you forgive someone, and actually doing so.

10910626
As oblivious as Pinkie acts, I don't always buy it. I can see her pushing people through the awkward in order to get to the good stuff on the other side. I can easily see her knowing that Sunset isn't truly happy now, but hoping that just getting her and the rest of her friends together at a party will build opportunities for them to work through all this drama so they all can start to have fun together again. The party environment at a sleepover with everyone having time and attention to spend on social things is much more conducive to forgiveness than a school environment filled with distractions and reasons to leave.

I have to wonder how much of Pinkie's and Rainbow's actions are sincere obliviousness and how much is intentional ignorance.

All the rainbooms need to see therapy or something.

10910626
That’s oddly specific.

10910652
It’s funny how I was having a discussion about this with someone ages ago.

Interesting to see this upload. Curious to see what happens from here on in.

You might want to go over those author notes though, and try to break them down into something more manageable to read.

A very interesting continuation. I'm greatly looking forward to the upcoming drama.

Love Applejack being the one to be conflicted/notice Sunset’s fake smile.

10910626
don't want too give much away, but pinkie, for all her tendency to get preoccupied by her own plans, isn't naive or oblivious. it's just harder to presume pinkie's motives when you're looking at her from a different perspective than her own. thanks for reading!! :)

10910652
yeah, everyone's gonna go and get through their issues in this, especially their issues with forgiveness. thanks for reading and engaging!

10910702
ooh i don't want to give stuff away, but you're definitely on the right track there! i'll be exploring pinkie and dash more in upcoming chapters and well, who knows, you might find your theories vindicated

10910736
they needed therapy since day one but they didnt get any so thats why im here ig

10964713
i'm honestly so glad someone noticed that!! it feels very in character for aj, who's felt like she spent the past week intentionally ignoring the truth surrounding sunset, to overcompensate and pay extra attention to sunset right now. admittedly its what all of them are doing, but aj is the most directly involved, in many ways, and those prone to taking responsibility are also prone to taking the most blame.

10910940
thanks so much for reading! and yeah, sorry about that. it was like 2 am when i published that and i was just rambling. i'll cut down on it in a bit when i have the time.

10910544
i'll make sure to cut it down in a bit. thanks for reading!

11007626
Day one of what, specifically?

11007632
I do that all the time, so no problem.

Still splitting your paragraphs, ensures people can follow your writing.

Right here is a good example.

10615729

They're also teenagers who were tormented by Sunset for a long time, only to see someone spreading their secrets and causing the school to be divided just like it was under her reign, with much of the evidence pointing to Sunset. Is what they did was right? No, of course not. But it is understandable, given the circumstances.
Sunset herself knows how much her actions hurt the others in school, especially her friends. What she did as a bully was bad, and they aren't obligated to forgive, and most certainly not to forget, though at least doing the former would make their friendships with her a little bit more healthy. Whether Sunset will decide that she's better off without the Human 5 as her friends is less a question of whether something is logical and more a question of Sunset's mental state at the time of such a decision. At the moment, even though Sunset knows she personally was not responsible for Anon-a-Miss, she still feels guilty about the things she's done in the past and how they have influenced the outcome of this situation, and that emotion is mixing with her resentment of the Human 5's recent actions to end up in a kind of self-isolating, self-loathing ball of feelings, which is very much. Not a good or healthy state of mind to be making decisions in.
And as for Rarity, Rainbow, and Applejack focusing on the Crusaders... well, there might be more to that than there seems to be.

With a bit of spacing that becomes this:

They're also teenagers who were tormented by Sunset for a long time, only to see someone spreading their secrets and causing the school to be divided just like it was under her reign, with much of the evidence pointing to Sunset. Is what they did was right? No, of course not. But it is understandable, given the circumstances.

Sunset herself knows how much her actions hurt the others in school, especially her friends. What she did as a bully was bad, and they aren't obligated to forgive, and most certainly not to forget, though at least doing the former would make their friendships with her a little bit more healthy.

Whether Sunset will decide that she's better off without the Human 5 as her friends is less a question of whether something is logical and more a question of Sunset's mental state at the time of such a decision.

At the moment, even though Sunset knows she personally was not responsible for Anon-a-Miss, she still feels guilty about the things she's done in the past and how they have influenced the outcome of this situation, and that emotion is mixing with her resentment of the Human 5's recent actions to end up in a kind of self-isolating, self-loathing ball of feelings, which is very much. Not a good or healthy state of mind to be making decisions in.

And as for Rarity, Rainbow, and Applejack focusing on the Crusaders... well, there might be more to that than there seems to be.

It could probably be trimmed down even more of course.

But just by hitting the enter key a few more times, the whole thing becomes much more manageable.

When is the next chapter? And when will Sunset explained her problems to the girls??

10615729
10615902
This honestly makes me wonder, what would everyone’s reactions be if they denied twilight’s request?

I like the way you build everyone's characters here, especially AJ. I don't think I see a lot of stories where AJ's internal turmoil interacts with what's happening outside, like her reaction to Sunset's facade. I hope you continue developing this. I really like the writing style.

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