Princess Celestia has finally decided to introduce her two prized pupils to each other, hoping that together they'll finally start to appreciate the magic of friendship. They'll go even beyond that in time, but the road they'll take is a rocky one.
Princess Celestia has finally decided to introduce her two prized pupils to each other, hoping that together they'll finally start to appreciate the beauty and magic of friendship. Sunset may be proud and brash, and Twilight might be obsessive and oblivious at times, but surely they'll get along fine, right?
They'll go above and beyond that in time, but the road they'll take to get there is a rocky one.
“Why are you bothering with a scarf?” Spike asked as he watched his best friend and surrogate sister levitate the dark blue knitted thing off its hook and wrap it around her neck, only struggling a little bit at the end.
“Because it's almost winter, Spike!” Twilight answered, still fiddling with the scarf in her wall mirror. “It won't be long before the pegasi deliver the first snow of the season, and since they've already rerouted the air currents in preparation it's pretty chilly outside.”
“It's not that cold,” Spike countered with a light eyeroll, setting down the feather duster he'd been using on the shelf of the newly-cleaned bookcase. “Besides-” he started walking down the stairs- “we're only gonna be outdoors for, like, five minutes!”
“Four minutes and thirty-seven seconds to be precise,” Twilight told him, smiling at her reflection once she finally got her scarf adjusted exactly how she wanted it. She turned and gave him a look that said she knew exactly what she was talking about but wasn't going to hold his ignorance against him, and said “That's more than enough time to warrant the extra protection. Princess Celestia asked me to meet her outside her chambers before she lowered the sun this evening, and the last thing I want is to be distracted from whatever important lesson she wants to teach because I'm chilly.”
Spike sighed, accepting the loss. “Fine,” he said before hopping onto her back. “But I still don't think it's that cold out.”
The pair headed down the stairs and out the tower door at a gentle trot, the Canterlot air greeting them as briskly as Twilight had anticipated. She gave her companion a knowing smile as they traversed the lawn that surrounded her home and passed by more than one pony shivering in the wind, but the dragonling stubbornly looked away. Four minutes and thirty-six seconds later they reached the gates of the castle proper, and Twilight used the extra second to spare a glance at the sky - the sun lingered at the horizon, bathing the sky in reds and oranges and yellows as it awaited one final push of magic to send it away. Twilight looked forward to watching it go.
But first, she had a meeting to get to. “Ohhh, I wonder what it's about,” she said, brimming with excitement as she navigated a familiar path through the castle halls. “Maybe she wants to teach me a new spell! Or, or, or maybe she's decided it's time for me to try delving into experimental transfiguration again!”
“You really think so?” Spike asked, a brow raised skeptically. “Last time you tried that you turned Professor Polish into an armchair and couldn't figure out how to reverse it for an hour.”
“W-well, true,” Twilight admitted, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, “but I know what I did wrong now! The chances of something like that happening again are practically astronomical!” Swelling with renewed confidence, she looked back at Spike. “Besides, it doesn't have to be experimental transfiguration. Princess Celestia has been teaching me for years now and I've barely scratched the surface of what she knows, her next lesson could be about any number of subjects! Haycartes' Theorem, Starswirl's second treatise, the underlying principles of elemental conjuration, maybe even the enchanting techniques used in ancient relics!” She was now bouncing quite giddily and audibly down the vaulted marble hallway, utterly oblivious to the annoyed looks cast her way by passing nobles and servants.
“Or maybe she just wants to show you something and have you work out what it was on your own,” Spike said brightly, caught up in Twilight's enthusiasm even as he struggled to keep himself steady on her back. “Like when she used that door-opening spell on a flower bed!”
“Also good!” Twilight declared, raising a hoof dramatically as she came to an abrupt halt. “Oooooh, I can't wait to see what she wants!” She clapped her hooves together eagerly, then took off running just as abruptly as she'd stopped – and with enough speed that Spike could only just hang on to the tail of her scarf.
Soon enough she was turning the final corner before her destination and sliding to a quick and frantic stop in front of her mentor. Princess Celestia stood by the closed doorway to her personal quarters with a patient and amused smile, and she was not alone.
With her was a unicorn mare of around Twilight's age, amber-coated with a brilliant red mane that was streaked with yellow. She was glowering at her from just outside the Princess' line of sight.
Twilight only spared her a moment's glance, an awkward moment though it was, before turning a bright and beaming smile to her beloved teacher. “Good evening Princess Celestia,” she greeted. “I'm sorry if I made you wait.”
“Worry not, Twilight, you're right on time,” the Princess answered, the warmth in her voice sweeping away the last of the autumn chill around the new arrivals. “But I bet you're wondering why I called you here.”
“That's right!” Twilight said happily.
“She wouldn't stop talking about it on the way here,” Spike commented, once again firmly on her back. Twilight flushed, Celestia laughed, and the other mare just kept glaring.
“So Princess Celestia, what lesson do you have for me this time?” Twilight asked, her eagerness returning in full force.
“Well, I wouldn't exactly call her a lesson,” came the answer with more than a hint of playfulness, “but I do hope that you'll be able to learn from each other. Twilight, I'd like you to meet my other student, Sunset Shimmer.” She looked down at the other mare, who suddenly wore a smile that didn't even dream of reaching her eyes.
“Hello,” she said curtly, not moving an inch from her spot beside the Princess.
“Ummm...hi,” Twilight replied, smiling nervously under Sunset's gaze.
If Princess Celestia noticed the tension between the two, she gave no sign of it. Smiling warmly, she continued. “And of course, Sunset, I'd like you to meet Twilight Sparkle and her friend Spike,” she said, motioning to her purple pupil and the baby dragon on her back. “She became my student only a year after you did.”
“I know,” Sunset said without taking her cyan eyes off Twilight, her junior raising a brow in surprise.
“You do?” Twilight said, voicing that surprise.
“Well, Sunset,” Celestia said just as her older student sniffed in contempt, “as always I'm happy to see you've done your research.”
This caused Sunset's smile to turn smug, though only until she looked up at her mentor. “Thank you, Princess. But it's only natural that I stay on top of who's who around here,” she said, superiority glinting in her eyes as she glanced briefly back at Twilight. “I am your number one student, after all.”
Twilight looked down in shame at the remark, her ears folding flat against her head. Spike looked at her with concern, but said nothing.
“Now Sunset,” Celestia lightly chided, “this isn't a competition. Not only do you have a full year of study on Twilight, but you're also different ponies with different priorities and interests. And you are both very special to me,” she said as she stepped between the two and knelt down, spreading her wings and using them to pull her students close to her. “I don't want either of you to ever forget that.”
“We won't, Princess Celestia,” Twilight said, blushing happily as she leaned into her mentor.
“I'll make sure of it,” Spike added, poking his head out from under the great white wing.
“Yeah...,” Sunset said dully, averting her gaze but unable to stop her own blush.
Celestia let out a happy breath, retracting her wings as she drew herself back up to her full height. “It makes me happy to hear that. Now, in celebration of the start of what I'm sure will be a wonderful friendship,” she said as she stepped forward, missing the slightly uncomfortable look that formed on Twilight's face and the definitively annoyed look that formed on Sunset's, “how about a front-row seat as I lower the sun?”
Both of her students, and Spike as well, perked up at the prospect of a rare chance to see the Princess do her sacred duty up close. There were no objections to be had as Celestia led them across the hall to a tall casement door leading out onto a balcony that faced the setting sun; she threw it open with her magic, and walked out onto it. Twilight, Spike, and Sunset followed her in silent awe, all three squinting and averting their eyes from a light that seemed far brighter than it had inside.
Celestia looked straight at it without hesitation. Slowly she took in her breath, and as she did so a brilliant aura of light gold enveloped her horn. She closed her eyes, let out her breath, and her magic flared.
The sun began to set. Inch by inch, foot by foot, mile by mile, the light disappeared below the horizon as the sky above them was slowly painted the reds and oranges and pinks of twilight. The Princess finished her breath and opened her eyes, looking down at her students as they drank in those precious few moments between sunset and moonrise when the sky looked unreal and the stars came out to play.
She allowed herself to bask in it with them; it raised her spirits just as much as the act that caused it had rejuvenated her magic. And then she decided it was time, and she closed her eyes and drew in her breath and summoned her magic and called out to the moon. It answered her call as it had for nearly a thousand years, and her students watched its rise with just as much rapture as they'd had for the setting sun. Celestia looked up at the Mare in the Moon and pulled the three, confused, under her wings once more.
It was all over in a matter of minutes. “Good night, my faithful students,” she said as she lifted her wings and turned around. “And you as well, Spike,” she added, giving the baby dragon a playful smile that he returned in kind. She walked slowly back to the casement door, pausing just before it to look back at the three. “I'll see you all in the morning. I hope you'll use this time before you retire for the night to get to know one another.”
“I'm sure we will, Princess,” Twilight said immediately, Spike nodding along while Sunset struggled to maintain her smile. “Good night.” The three bowed their heads, and Celestia returned the gesture before turning and heading towards her room.
Once the doors to her quarters were shut, Twilight and Sunset turned to each other. “Wow, I never knew Princess Celestia had another student!” she said with rising, unthinking, excitement. “I mean,” she giggled, “obviously she's free to teach whoever she wants, but it's just that I've never heard of you.”
“Wow, I'm flattered,” Sunset said dryly, any vestige of awe or happiness left over from watching her namesake now completely drained away. She made a beeline for the door at a slow walk, deliberately flicking Twilight in the side with her tail as she passed. The younger unicorn flinched, but seemed more confused by the gesture than anything else.
“Hey, if it makes you feel any better, Twilight can barely even remember the names of her classmates at school,” Spike said with a jovial smile, still sitting on Twilight's back as she hastily moved to catch up with her senior.
“Still flattered,” Sunset said, taking hold of the glass doors with her magic and swinging them closed behind her. Twilight caught them in her own magic just before she and Spike were shut out, looking puzzled as she reopened them enough to get back inside. She closed the doors behind her, then caught up with Sunset.
The senior student determinedly did not look at Twilight as she fell in step beside her. “So,” the young asked with a hesitant smile, “do you think that Princess Celestia will have us work together from now on?”
Sunset snorted. “Knowing her,” she grumbled, “I doubt I'll be allowed to do anything by myself ever again.”
Twilight's smile faltered, and in her shock she stopped walking. “I'm sorry,” she said, eyebrow raised in confusion as she trotted back up alongside Sunset, “is there something going on that I don't know about?”
Another snort. “Yeah. A lot of things.” She stopped in her tracks and looked back at Twilight with the same irritated glower she'd had when they'd first met less than half an hour before. “But the most relevant one is the fact that I'm being forced to foalsit a naïve little filly who couldn't even be bothered to find out who I was before we met.”
“Well, I mean, they are just a little filly,” Twilight said, taken aback and more bewildered than ever as Sunset resumed walking. “You can't expect them to know everything.”
“Uhh, Twilight,” Spike whispered into her ear, “I think she's talking about you.”
Twilight's eyes widened with shock as she stopped in her tracks again, but her brow quickly furrowed with anger and she rushed to catch up with Sunset again. “Hey! I'm not some naïve little filly, I'm barely any younger than you!”
“You're fourteen months younger than me,” Sunset said, her tone sharp. “Which only makes how little you seem to know about anything even more of a disgrace. How could you possibly have missed the fact that the Princess had another personal student besides you? Were you too star-struck by being around your idol that you forgot anypony else even existed? Or are you just so full of yourself that you never considered the possibility that someone else got the honor of being her protege first?”
“I...I'm...,” Twilight spluttered for a moment before her emotions settled on righteous indignation. “H-hey! I'll have you know I'm neither of those things!”
“Oh yeah?” Sunset said, wheeling around on her suddenly. “Then what are you, Sparkle?”
Twilight spluttered again as she struggled to think of an answer, and it was Spike who spoke next. “Whoa, hey, hold on!” he said, dismounting Twilight and rushing between her and Sunset. “Princess Celestia wants you to be friends, remember?”
“Hmph,” Twilight sniffed, turning her nose up at him and Sunset. “I have enough friends, thank you very much.”
Sunset let out a cold, dark laugh. “Please. Don't act like you're rejecting me when I never wanted anything to do with you to begin with.” Her words cut through Twilight's indignation, leaving only raw hurt on the younger unicorn's face. “Drill this into your thick skull, Sparkle,” Sunset said, her eyes narrow and her tone icy. “I don't like you. I don't respect you. I don't want you in my life. All you are is the latest in a long line of ponies the Princess has forced on me in a pointless attempt to get me to make friends. As far as I'm concerned you don't even deserve to be here, the only reason Princess Celestia took you on as a student is because of a freak accident.”
Twilight took a step back as Sunset advanced past Spike, mind too overloaded by Sunset's hatred to defend herself. “Unlike you I earned my place by her side,” Sunset continued. “I am better than you, Twilight Sparkle. The sooner you understand that, the easier your life will be.”
She held her glare for a moment, then turned around, flicked her tail in contempt, and walked away.
Spike watched her leave for only a few seconds before he turned, more worried than he'd ever felt, to look back at Twilight. She was gaping in shock and horror, and after a second her hind legs gave out. A second after that her lips began to tremble, and soon tears were falling on her scarf. She curled up and held it tight as she cried; the air in the hallway was far colder than any late autumn wind.
“Alright, Spike, I'm leaving,” Twilight said, adjusting her scarf in the mirror for what she dearly hoped would be the last time this season. Everything about her was haggard, from her voice to her muzzle to her mane, but nevertheless she'd gotten herself dressed for the late-winter weather and packed all the appropriate materials and references in her saddlebags. She looked to her right, and saw her friend walking over with a mug of hot chocolate.
“Good luck,” he told her as he sat down against the wall between a stack of comic books taller than he was and a small bag of mixed gemstones. “I still don't really get why you're bothering to actually meet with Sunset for this.”
Twilight let out a put-upon sigh. It had only been a few months since her rather... disheartening first meeting with Sunset Shimmer, and the mare hadn't exactly gotten easier to live with. Not any harder either, thankfully, but from what Twilight could tell Sunset's attitude towards her ranged between 'colder than the weather outside' and 'smugly looking down at a silly little filly' depending on the day. Begrudgingly she could admit that Sunset's constant disrespect for her and her achievements had spurred her on in her studies and her research just so she could wipe that annoying look off her annoying face, but she wasn't sure it was worth it. Spike certainly didn't.
What kept her going the most was her individual sessions with Princess Celestia, rarer these days though they were. She wanted to make the Princess proud, to see that most special of smiles on her muzzle, and 'making friends' with Sunset Shimmer would do that.
No matter how hard it was. “The Princess doesn't want us to just do separate halves of our group projects individually anymore,” Twilight finally answered. “We have to meet up and do them together.”
“You could just do your own halves in the same room,” Spike pointed out with a helpful smile.
“We already tried that,” Twilight said, lowering her head out of irritation. “It didn't work. Princess Celestia saw through it in an instant.”
“Oh,” Spike said, his face blank. “Well... good luck getting Sunset to listen to what you have to say, I guess.”
Twilight let out a forced, irritated laugh. “Oh, I don't think that'll be a problem this time, Spike. I've come up with no less than five great ideas for our project. I've done all the necessary research to be sure of their effectiveness,” she said with puffed-up pride, “and I've already run them by Professor Polish and Professor Quill and gotten both their assurances that my ideas are both well-thought-out and creative. I'll impress Sunset Shimmer this time for sure!”
“Why do you even want Sunset Shimmer's approval?” Spike asked, pulling the first comic off his stack and opening it up. “You've never really cared about what other ponies thought of you before. Plus, I mean, she's a jerk.”
“True,” Twilight admitted with some reluctance. “But she's also Princess Celestia's student. And I want to know what the Princess saw in her that made her take Sunset on.” She looked back at her reflection, and put a hoof to it. “She's just so different from me. I don't understand it. Why does she only want to learn to be more powerful when learning itself is it's own reward? Why does she like getting other ponies to do stuff for her all the time? Why does she always have to be better than everypony else?”
“Because she's a jerk, like I said?” Spike said.
Twilight face-hoofed. “There's gotta be more to her than that, Spike. There has to be. And I aim to find out what.”
Spike looked at her, then shrugged. “Hey, like I said, good luck. And if you need anything, I'm always happy to help.” He promptly turned his attention back to his comic, tossing a small ruby into his mouth and chasing it with a swig of cocoa.
Twilight looked at him for a good long moment, and smiled. “Thanks, Spike.”
The walk to Advanced Thaumaturgy Lab 6, located in the basement of the School for Gifted Unicorns, had been thankfully uneventful. The weather, though still cold, was pleasant and sunny in preparation for the coming spring, and already many of the younger students were hard at work practicing their magic by clearing away the snow and ice around campus. Her boots aside, Twilight was proud to have not gotten wet once!
It was a far cry from mere days ago when she could barely take two steps before she was pelted with snowballs from ponies wanting some 'friendly fun'. She'd be grateful when it was all gone.
She dutifully made sure to wipe her boots dry on the mat inside the main building, took a breath to steel her nerves, then headed down to the lab. As she'd expected, Sunset was already waiting for her.
“Took you long enough, Sparkle,” she greeted with her usual 'I'm so much better than you' smirk, the one that made Twilight's eye twitch. Sunset looked her over quickly, then added “Congratulations on not being a popsicle this time, though. It wasn't really your look.”
“Thanks,” Twilight said without a speck of gratitude as she made a beeline for her spot across from Sunset, and levitated her bags from her back to the countertop.
Lab 6 was fairly small, housing only a single long workbench in the middle of the room, but was stocked with all the most cutting-edge devices for recording, measuring, interpreting, and otherwise quantifying magic. Or all the ones that didn't require special environments or entire buildings to themselves, anyway. But for Princess Celestia's two personal students it was exactly what they needed - a private little workspace away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the school.
“So,” Sunset asked, still smirking, “do you need me to go over the basics of thaumaturgic resonance frequencies again, or do you have it this time?”
Twilight glared at her. “I have it, thanks. In fact,” she cracked a dark little smile of her own as she opened one of her bags, “not only have I done all my research, I've come up with several ideas for our study of resonance modulation that even you will find interesting.” She pulled several notebooks out with her magic, and nodded proudly.
Sunset raised a brow, then snorted and took the notebooks in her own magic. “If it's to use a crystal array as a stage-2 amplifier, then I'm afraid you're a little late to that party,” she said dismissively, not even bothering to look at Twilight's reaction.
Several tense minutes passed as she read through each notebook in turn, often holding more than one up at the same time so she could cross-reference between them. As she hemmed and hawed and raised her brow a few times Twilight became more and more nervous, even leaning forward in anticipation of Sunset's response.
“Hmm. Not bad, Sparkle,” she finally said. “I'm actually impressed.” She looked up to see Twilight grinning excitedly, then smirked and added “At least, I would be if I hadn't already heard about your ideas from Quill and Polish earlier.”
Her smirk widened into a grin as fell utterly off Twilight's muzzle, replaced by a look of shock and just a little bit of despair. “You... you already knew?” she asked, her voice small and upset. “But it was supposed to be a surprise!”
Sunset shrugged. “Hey, not my fault you didn't keep it secret. They told me willingly.”
“But...but how did you even know to ask them?” Twilight stammered.
She was answered by a disbelieving look. “Because I know how you think?” Sunset told her. “I mean, with how much I've been hounding you to get better it was only a matter of time before you thought to run your bad ideas by somepony else first. Those two were just the most obvious choices since our project is in their fields. Seriously, Sparkle,” she gave her a critical look, “you should know how I operate by now.”
Twilight sighed, drooping in disappointment from her ears to her tail. “You're right,” she said. “I should have seen this coming.”
Sunset rolled her eyes, setting down the notebooks. “Would you stop moping? I meant it when I said I was impressed.” Twilight lifted her head, hope returning to her eyes. “This is the first genuinely good work I've seen from you. You actually managed to come up with a few things before I did for once.”
“Yes!” Twilight cheered, jumping into the air in excitement. She began to bounce around the room, ignoring the irritated eye-roll it provoked from Sunset. “Yes! Yes! Yes! I knew it would finally impress you!”
“Well,” Sunset smirked, “it was only a matter of time before my genius rubbed off on you. You should feel honored!”
Twilight froze in mid-air as a record scratched to a halt in her mind. “Excuse me?” she said as she landed back on her hooves, affronted.
“You heard me, Sparkle,” Sunset told her, matching Twilight's level stare with her own. “You should be happy the Princess forced me to work with you. You never would've gotten this far without my help.”
“Um,” Twilight began before letting out a bitter laugh, “I totally would have. I'll admit that you might have pushed my development along a little,” she added sharply, “but only by a month, at best. I'm not too proud to say that you're talented, Sunset, but despite what you keep telling me I know I have talent too. In fact,” she drew herself up to her full height and raised her head proudly, “I'd say that I'm just as talented as you are.”
It was Sunset's turn to be affronted, her brow shooting up as she drew herself back. “Oh, is that so?” she asked, her horn lighting up with light blue magic. “Care to prove it?”
Twilight laughed again. “I'm not the same pony you left crying in a hallway three months ago, Sunset Shimmer. I'm not scared of your threats.”
Her horn lit up with raspberry-colored magic as the two mares locked narrowed eyes.
It was shaping up to be a good day for Princess Celestia. No monster attacks, no diplomatic crises, no political turmoil, and thanks to a last-minute cancellation no major public appearances, either. It was a rare day that her schedule was so open, and she intended on savoring every minute of it. Currently she was walking through the campus of her school, smiling and conversing with staff and student alike, answering questions and giving out pointers to those who needed it. It truly, truly warmed her heart to be doing it all.
Just before she re-entered the main building she picked up a sizable pile of snow off the ground, taking care to keep it at just the right temperature with her magic. She didn't want it melting before she got to her two prized pupils, after all.
From the start, she'd known that making Sunset and Twilight work together was risky. Despite her lessons neither had truly come to appreciate and value friendship like she'd hoped, and Sunset could be so abrasive and proud that Celestia too often worried about the scars she could inflict on the younger mare. But even so, she could see the changes in both of them already – Sunset, even if she didn't realize it yet, was coming to accept Twilight as an equal; while Twilight was growing more confident and willing to understand other ponies her own age even if it wasn't for entirely the right reasons.
Still, they had a long way to go before she could call them friends, and it wasn't hard for her to imagine one wrong move from either leading to tragedy. That was why she was going out of her way to pay them a surprise visit today – she knew they were going to be working together on their latest joint project, and from what she'd heard from Professor Polish and Professor Quill there was a good chance of a major breakthrough between the two. She just needed to make sure things didn't get too out of hoof before it happened.
So she wasn't too surprised when, upon reaching the basement corridor leading to Advanced Thaumaturgy Lab 6, she saw the door to it fly off in a burst of magic. She let out a heavy sigh, and taking care not to lose control of her levitated snow (or make it too obvious that it was there) she set off for her students at a brisk trot.
The lab wasn't completely destroyed, she noted in the back of her head as she forced the smoke to clear so she could get a better look at the two who had destroyed it. As suspected Twilight had been the victim of the last spell, covered in soot with her mane and tail all a-frazzle and her ears enlarged and flapping like wings. But Sunset was far from unscathed herself, her hooves having seemingly lost all grip as she stumbled and slid on tiled floor, and her entire body changing colors quickly and randomly.
“Why won't you just admit that I'm just as good as you are!” Twilight shouted, unaware of Celestia's presence behind her.
“Why won't you just admit that you needed me!” Sunset countered, equally ignorant. Both girls began to charge their magic again.
“Why don't both of you just cool your heads,” Celestia interrupted, her voice strong and smooth, cutting clear through the tension in the room. Her students had just enough time to turned shocked and guilty looks her way before she dropped the snow on them.
She put a hoof to her mouth and giggled when their heads popped out of it, their eyes wide. “So, I think you two have some explaining to do,” she said, raising a brow expectantly. They both launched into frantic explanations immediately, and while it was at times somewhat difficult to hear them over each other Celestia was pleased to hear them both take responsibility for the damage they'd caused.
“I see,” she told them, her smile returning. “Well then, I suppose cleaning up this mess will be another valuable bonding exercise for you two.”
“Y-you're not mad at us?” Twilight hesitantly asked, looking as though her entire world was about to end.
“Yeah, we wrecked the lab!” Sunset chimed in, more shocked than anything else.
“While I'm certainly disappointed,” Celestia answered them, “I wouldn't say I'm mad. Equipment, no matter how valuable, can be replaced. You, my faithful students, cannot.” She pleasantly noted the look of surprise they shared with one another. “Now,” she said with a mirthful smile, stepping further into the room, “why don't the two of you tell me what you learned from this? About each other.” Their eyes widened in surprise again, and she looked at the older of the two. “Sunset? You first.”
“Uhh, well,” she said, shaking the snow from her coat and rubbing the back of her head. “I guess...I learned that Twilight's closer to my level than I realized.” Even though Sunset sheepishly and stubbornly refused to make eye contact, Twilight was still visibly surprised by what she said.
“And?” Celestia asked, raising a brow. “Is there anything you'd like to say to her?”
Sunset sighed. “And...I'm sorry for looking down on you so much,” she added, reluctantly but sincerely. “You clearly didn't deserve it.” She looked at Twilight, and offered her a small smile. After a moment, Twilight returned it.
“And you, Twilight?” the Princess continued, turning her gaze.
“Oh, um,” Twilight said with a start, taken off-guard by the question. “I guess I learned that even Sunset's not completely mean, and that I care more about what she thinks than I realized. I...don't really know what I should apologize for, though,” she said, giving Sunset a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”
Sunset quickly glanced at Celestia, who merely smiled at her. So she sighed, and said “It's...okay. I guess I was the one in the wrong here anyway.”
Celestia beamed down at both of them “I hope this is a sign that the two of you have settled your differences,” she told the pair as she stepped between them. “It just goes to show that even a frigid start-” she gathered up all the melting snow with her magic- “can lead to a happy ending-” she vanished the whole of it in an instant, and drew them close to her with her wings.
Sunset and Twilight looked at each other hesitantly, and smiled.
“Bye Spike!” Twilight called up to the second floor of her home, saddlebags packed with everything she needed for her next appointment. “I'll be back later!”
The sound of scrambling, hurried footsteps came in reply, and seconds later Spike emerged from a side room headed towards the top of the staircase. “Alright, Twilight, just don't forget about Moon Dancer's-” he rounded the stairs and saw the door slam shut- “party...”
He sighed. “She's totally gonna forget,” he muttered, turning and trudging back up the stairs.
Down the stairs that scaled her tower, out across the lawn still green from the final spring rain, and along the paths to their favorite tree; Twilight traveled just as fast as she needed to make it there on time. She smiled when she saw the mare that most other ponies would call her best friend already waiting for her.
It had been over two years since they had blown up the old Thaum lab, and as their mentor had hoped the incident had brought them closer together. As far as both were concerned they had patched up their differences entirely, and now actively sought each other's company. And at this time of year, with summer drawing close, that often took the form of spending their meals studying outside.
Sunset met her eyes and smirked. “I was wondering when you were gonna show up,” she greeted from the shade, her tone one of playful mockery.
“I was right on time and you know it,” Twilight replied, muzzle turned up defiantly.
Sunset laughed. “I know, I know. Seriously, Sparkle, I could set a watch to you.” Twilight rolled her eyes but laughed as well, and as she sat down next to her Sunset opened her own bags and levitated a pair of juicy-looking peaches from it. “Here,” she said, offering one to Twilight, “we just got these in from Manehattan for the Summer Sun Celebration.”
Twilight accepted eagerly, taking the treat in her own magic and bringing it closer for a bite. “Mmm, delicious!”
“Yeah, the caterers have good taste in food,” Sunset said with another laugh. It was short-lived, however, and with a small frown she added “It's a shame that the princess won't get to enjoy them. Why she decided to hold this year's celebration in Ponyville of all places I'll never understand.” She shook her head and took a bite of her peach.
“I'm pretty sure it was just Ponyville's turn this year,” Twilight said after another bite, setting the peach down afterward and pulling a book from her bag. “She likes to be fair and give each town the chance to host it, right?”
“Yeah, but it's the millennial celebration,” Sunset countered, crossing her forelegs and looking up at the sky. “She should be holding it here, in Canterlot!” She sighed, and looked back down. “But instead, she's gonna hold it in podunk little Ponyville,” she twirled her hoof, “leaving me here to help Princess Cadance with the Canterlot festival and you on break.”
“I still can't believe she's dating my brother,” Twilight remarked as she turned a page.
Sunset let out another short laugh. “And I can't believe you didn't even notice until I told you. That's pretty dense even for you, Twilight.”
Twilight flushed and looked away. “W-well, I just didn't expect him to be dating anyone, that's all.”
Sunset laughed again, but silence soon fell back on the pair as Twilight resumed reading and Sunset stared thoughtfully up at the sky. After a few minutes, she craned her neck over to look at Twilight's book. “So, what's on the reading list today?”
“The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide,” Twilight answered dutifully. “Princess Celestia gave it to me a couple days ago to read when I found the time. And, well, I found the time,” she giggled.
“Why's she want you to study that old thing?” Sunset asked, a brow raised high. “Especially since she usually leaves the ancient artifact stuff to me.”
“Couldn't tell you,” Twilight shrugged, most of her focus still on the book – even her peach now forgotten. “It's interesting, but I can't help but feel like I've read about these 'Elements' somewhere else...”
Sunset shrugged and took a bite of peach. “Probably,” she said with her mouth still mostly full. “Artifacts as well-known as those tend to get referenced a lot.”
With a glow of magic the book snapped shut, and Twilight stood. “Yeah, and I think I know where. I'll be back soon, Sunset,” she declared dramatically, the wind blowing through her mane. “I have research to do!”
Sunset watched her gallop off, then laughed. “Never change, Twilight. Never change.” She shook her head and smiled, finished off her peach, then levitated a notebook out of her own bag and started reading it. After a few seconds she picked up what was left of Twilight's peach and took a bite of it, too.
Had she not been so engrossed in reviewing her notes on that mirror Celestia was finally letting her study, Sunset would have realized that Twilight was taking an awfully long amount of time to return. But when the younger mare finally did come back, Sunset noticed three things immediately: First, she looked panicked. Second, Spike was sitting on her back with a letter in his claws and a thoroughly peeved look on his face. And third, Twilight's saddlebags were now overstuffed with what she could only guess were all the items she currently considered most valuable.
“What's got your tail in a twist?” she asked as Twilight skidded up to her. “You look like you've just been banished or something.”
“Sunset! Sunset!” she said, speaking rapidly and dancing anxiously on her hooftips. “The Mare in the Moon is Nightmare Moon and she's coming back in two days and Princess Celestia doesn't believe me!”
Sunset blinked and shook her head. “Wait, what? Slow down so I can follow.” She looked to Spike for help.
“She thinks some old pony's tale is real and Nightmare Moon is gonna come back,” Spike helpfully explained.
“It is real, Spike!” Twilight told him. “But nopony believes me! What are we gonna do?!”
“Twilight, calm down,” Sunset said with a harsh note in her voice. “I'm pretty sure Princess Celestia would know if somepony she supposedly banished to the moon were coming back. What exactly did she tell you?”
Spike passed her the letter, and she quickly read it over. “Yeah, she doesn't seem worried to me. I mean, I'll ask her about it if you want me to,” she levitated the letter back to Spike, “but I think you might be overreacting. I am jealous that she wants you to supervise the main Summer Sun Celebration, though.”
“Believe me, I'd let you do it if I could,” Twilight told her, panic still in her eyes, “but I don't think I have a choice. Promise me you'll look into Nightmare Moon while I'm gone?”
Sunset rolled her eyes, but smiled. “I promise,” she said, tapping a hoof against Twilight's foreleg.
She was answered by a swift and sudden hug that left her blushing. “Oh, thank you thank you thank you, Sunset!” Twilight gushed, giving Sunset a quick nuzzle before breaking contact.
“No problem,” Sunset said with an awkward chuckle, still blushing. “You...better get going to Ponyville, then.” A more confident smirk appeared on her face. “I'll try to survive without you.”
“At least you can still go to Moon Dancer's party without us,” Spike pointed out.
Sunset shrugged dismissively and looked away. “I don't think I'll have any fun there without Twilight around, but maybe.”
Twilight hugged her again, longer and closer. “Well, if the world hasn't descended into eternal night by then, I'll see you in a couple days.”
“Yeah,” Sunset smiled as they broke the hug. “See you then.”
“Oh no, oh no, oh no! How could I let this happen?!” Twilight moaned as she raced through the streets of Ponyville, Spike riding calmly on her back. “It's been over a month since I left Canterlot and I haven't gotten in touch with Sunset once!”
“To be fair, you have been pretty busy,” Spike pointed out. “Defeating Nightmare Moon,” he began to tick off on his claws, “learning about friendship, getting settled into Ponyville... You've had a lot to do lately, I'm sure Sunset will understand.”
“So?!” Twilight exclaimed, shocking a few of the ponies she was running past. “I'm pretty sure spending all your time getting to know new friends, at the expense of your old friend, makes you a bad friend!”
They skidded to a stop in front of the train station, and Twilight immediately began to dance anxiously on her hooftips. “Ohh, she's gonna be so upset!”
“Maybe it won't be so bad,” Spike said as they waited. “I bet she'll even be proud of you!”
“You'd better be right, Spike,” Twilight replied, rushing headlong into the first car that opened once their train arrived.
The trip from Ponyville to Canterlot wasn't even an hour long, but for Twilight it felt like an eternity. Those unlucky enough to be sharing the space with her felt similarly, as she spent the entire way there in a state of worry and panic that Spike was barely able to keep under control. It surprised nopony when she was the first to rush off the train, assistant clinging to her, when they finally reached their destination.
Through the city streets at full gallop to the School for Gifted Unicorns, past all their favorite spots on campus – empty, of course – and finally up the steps to Sunset's home. As Princess Celestia's personal student, she'd been given lodging in a tower not too different or too far from where Twilight used to live, and it was there that Twilight hoped to find her friend. With a breath of caution she took hold of the door with her magic, and pushed it open.
It was completely dark; even the curtains on the windows had been drawn.
“H-hello? Sunset?” Twilight nervously called into the spacious apartment. “It's me, Twilight! I...” She swallowed. “I'm back!”
No answer came, so she took a few tentative steps inside.
Then, all around her, candles flared to life with such force that pony and dragon alike recoiled in fear and screamed. And when they finally realized that fiery death wasn't imminent, they heard the telltale sound of hoofsteps on wooden stairs.
A door was flung open nearby, prompting another short scream. Light spilled up and out of the stairwell behind it, but even shadowed they could still make out the form of Sunset Shimmer.
“Well. Well. Well,” she opened, enough ice in her voice to stand up to the summer sun. “Look who finally remembered me. What, did you already get bored of your Ponyville friends?” she asked, sneering as she spoke the last two words.
Her horn lit up as she slammed the doors and stepped forward. Even in the candlelight Twilight could see the deep bags under her eyes, the messiness of her mane and tail, and a variety of stains and scuffs on her coat. Either she hadn't been sleeping well, or she'd been doing some demanding experiments. Probably both.
Twilight was frozen by her glare for some time before she finally spoke up. “Sunset, I'm so sorry. I never meant to be away for so long! Please, let me explain!”
Sunset snorted, opening the curtains and snuffing the candles with her magic. “Spare me, Sparkle. I already know what happened in Ponyville. You made five new friends,” she said, rolling her eyes and a hoof, “harnessed the powers of the Elements of Harmony, and turned Nightmare Moon back into Princess Celestia's sister.” She gave Twilight a withering look. “And every few days since, you've sent the princess a letter about what you've learned about friendship.”
“I...should have expected that you'd already know about all that,” Twilight admitted with a sheepish, shamed laugh.
“Yeah,” Sunset told her. “But instead of learning about it from you, like I should have, I had to learn it from the princess when she arrived with her sister in tow.”
Twilight shrunk under the ferocity of her glare. “S-sorry...”
“You should be.”
Spike gulped and slid off Twilight's back. “Umm, I'll just, uh, go catch up with Moon Dancer and the others...” Neither mare gave notice to his nervous words, nor him scurrying out of Sunset's apartment.
“Do you even realize how worried I was when I found out that you were right?” Sunset asked, averting her gaze just a moment to hide the tears she was forcing back. “Knowing that you'd try to stop Nightmare Moon by yourself if you had to? Knowing how much danger you'd be putting yourself in?”
“I, I'm sorry,” Twilight stammered, tears coming to her eyes too, “I didn't-”
“Do you realize how overjoyed I felt when I heard that you'd saved the day?” Sunset asked, doubling down on the force in her voice. “How proud? I didn't even mind it when I heard you'd be staying in Ponyville longer, because at least you'd still be sending letters!” She was on her hindlegs now, thrusting her hooves into the air. “But not once did you mention me in them! Send me a message! Ask how I was doing!”
“I'm so sorry...”
Sunset fell back on all fours, her tears now unrestrained now matter how hard she sniffed. “Having Princess Celestia be too busy reconnecting with her sister to spend time with me is one thing,” Sunset told her. “But having the only other pony I've ever cared about suddenly forget about me...it hurt, Twilight!”
“I just...I just got so caught up in learning about friendship,” Twilight said, looking down in guilt and shame. She sniffed, then put on a sad smile and said “You know how I get with new research...”
Sunset closed her eyes and shook her head. “It's hard to like that about you when I'm the one being pushed aside.” She huffed bitterly, then looked aside and muttered “But what else is new...”
This got enough of Twilight's attention to pause her tears. “What do you mean?”
She was answered by a short, bitter laugh. “I mean that I keep getting pushed aside for somepony else, and I'm tired of it. Why do you think I hated you so much when we first met? Princess Celestia is the closest to a mother I've ever had, and I thought she was replacing me because I wasn't what she wanted.”
“But Princess Celestia would never do that!” Twilight protested out of shock. “She loves us equally!”
Sunset snorted and muttered “I doubt it.” She saw Twilight's questioning look, and continued. “Before she left for Ponyville that day, she told me and Princess Cadance in private what was going to happen and what we'd have to do in case of the worst. But most of all, she told us to trust you.”
“What's wrong with that?” Twilight asked, curious yet afraid.
“She told us why,” Sunset answered bitterly. “I didn't realize it then, but after thinking about it it's obvious that she knew from the beginning that you were pretty much destined to save her sister.”
Twilight's eyes widened. “Destined...?”
“She made you her student the moment she realized how special you were,” Sunset continued without pause. “And did you know she made Cadance a princess and even adopted her after only knowing her for like two days?” she added in maddened disbelief. “And here I am, her other student, with nothing. Nobody cares about Sunset Shimmer, oh no,” she said, throwing her hooves up again, “she's just a bad-tempered disappointment.”
She wiped away her tears, but they kept coming. “All. I ever wanted. Was to matter,” she said through clenched teeth. “To be special to somepony.” She turned her back on Twilight, and said “But I'm obviously not.”
She began to walk away, but only got one step before Twilight darted forward and nuzzled her. “You're special to me, Sunset Shimmer.”
“Clearly I'm not if you forgot about me for a month...”
Twilight was silent for a good long while before she finally said “I wish I could say that I didn't. But I came here the moment I remembered, and I don't want to ever forget about you again.”
Sunset scoffed. “You say that now, but once you're back in Ponyville with your new friends...”
“Then come back to Ponyville with me,” Twilight said, walking around to Sunset's front. “I won't be able to forget about you if you're always around, right?” she said, offering another sad smile.
“You're...you're joking, right?” Sunset asked, eyes widening in shock.
Twilight shook her head. “You can stay in the library with me and Spike, there's plenty of room. I'm sure Princess Celestia will let you continue your research there, too.”
Sunset let out a weak laugh, wiping away some of her tears. “Yeah, probably. But...you're really serious about this?”
“Yes,” Twilight nodded. “I want my best friend back.” She paused, blushing as she added “If she'll have me, that is.”
Sunset just kept staring for what felt like ages before her shock was replaced by a familiar smirk. “You know what? I'll think about it.”
Twilight Sparkle woke to the smell of pancakes. With a yawn and a stretch she rose from her bed and looked around the room from her loft; Spike's bed was empty, and so was Sunset's. “I guess they're already awake,” she said to herself. Then she caught what she'd said, giggled, and added “Obviously. Spike's making pancakes!”
She descended the stairs off the loft and out of the bedroom at a happy trot, and headed for the library's small kitchen where she found Spike hard at work. “Good morning, Spike,” she greeted, making a beeline for the teapot.
“Morning, Twilight,” he replied, gingerly turning the berry-laden flapjacks over on the griddle.
“I take it Sunset's in the lab?” she asked filling the teapot with sink water.
“Actually,” Spike said, “she left like right after she got up. Haven't seen her since.”
Twilight stopped where she was, teapot floating impatiently nearby, and frowned. “Did she say where she was going?”
“Nope!” Spike said, his eyes fixed on a pancake he'd just flipped into the air. It landed on his spatula with a smack, and sizzled when he placed it back on the griddle. “But you know how she is. Probably just picking up some more supplies for her experiments.”
“You're probably right,” Twilight said, her every expression still filled with concern. She set the teapot down on the stove, and sighed. “It's just that she's been acting strange around me recently. It's almost like she's avoiding me or something! Oh, I hope she isn't tired of living in Ponyville with us...”
“Nah, I doubt it,” Spike said, finally taking his eyes off the pancakes. “But if you're so worried, why not try talking to her about it or something?”
“I guess,” Twilight said glumly, her ears drooping. “If she even wants to talk to me...”
Sunset Shimmer was feeling a lot of things as she walked through Ponyville: Excited, because she was approaching the date of an important experiment she had planned. Hungry, because she'd foolishly left the library before getting breakfast. Annoyed, because four of Twilight's friends had been shadowing her for the past half-hour in an almost comically inept manner.
But mostly she felt nervous, because she was running out of things that would keep her away from the Golden Oak. She'd already bought everything she needed and several more that she didn't, talked to several ponies, and crisscrossed most of town taking in the morning's sights; all that was left was to work up the nerves to finally talk to Twilight.
It had been a couple months since Sunset had moved to Ponyville, and slightly longer since that day in Canterlot when Twilight had come back to her. And though the move had been reluctant, done only because Sunset sorely wanted Twilight in her life, she had come to appreciate the town. It was quaint, and she was no longer simply being polite when she said that. Getting so far away from the bustle of the city and the machinations of the so-called 'nobility' had done wonders for her health, her mood, and even her research, and she couldn’t deny that she could see herself spending most of the rest of her life there. The scenery was nice too, especially at this time of year. As a filly in Canterlot she had always looked down from the tall towers of the mountainside castle and imagined that the sprawling forests she saw were changing colors as a tribute to her; all the reds and gold and oranges made it her favorite season by far. And now, in Ponyville, she got the opportunity to watch the change up close and personal.
On another personal note, she'd finally caved to Twilight and Princess Celestia's wishes and started opening herself up to friendship. The five mares that had stolen Twilight away from her had been the first, of course. It had taken some time for she and they to get past their...differences...and start seeing eye-to-eye, but Sunset now counted them among her friends. True, she wasn't nearly as close to them as Twilight was, but she neither wanted nor expected that – it was hard to top a shared magical destiny as the basis of a friendship, after all. But she'd made up for it with several new friends of her own – Bulk Biceps, Vinyl Scratch and Octavia, even that insufferable Time Turner!
But none of them would ever be as special to her as Twilight was. She still kicked herself for not realizing it sooner, and even more for how poorly she'd treated Twilight early on, but at some point in the past couple years she'd become one of the most important parts of Sunset's life. Her love of knowledge, her dedication, her talent, her little quirks; just about everything about Twilight she found endearing, and it didn't hurt that she was cute too. If Sunset didn't know any better, she'd say she was smitten.
Since she did know better, Sunset was confident she'd left smitten behind a few months ago and was now galloping head-on towards love. The visions she sometimes saw in the magic mirror she was studying had made that clear enough. Particularly the more recent ones, which had been surprisingly detailed...
Sunset shook her head and cleared her thoughts, realizing that she'd been standing in the middle of the street for at least a couple minutes now. She smiled bashfully at the passersby who were giving her strange looks, then raced off and didn't stop until she was at one of the bridges that arched over the town's river.
She stared wistfully down at her reflection, and sighed. For all her social acumen, Sunset had no experience in asking a pony out. Sure, she'd been asked out several times, and she'd summarily rejected all of them, but that was hardly the same thing. At best she knew the theory of it, but the very thought of actually putting it into practice made her more nervous than she'd ever been in her life. It had even reached the point where she found it hard to even be in the same building as Twilight, and she felt more and more guilty every time she avoided her.
“I just have to...get it over with,” she muttered under her breath, still looking down at herself in the water. “I've done way harder things.” But even as she spoke those words she knew how hollow they were; she'd faced more dangerous tasks, yes, but none of them involved taking a risk that would permanently damage her most important friendship if it failed.
The sound of a pony falling over snapped her out of her depression, her ears perking up and swiveling to her right. She turned her head just in time to see Pinkie Pie, who looked to have leaned too far forward and paid the price, get dragged back behind the cover of a tree by Rarity and Rainbow Dash.
Sunset's expression fell into a deadpan stare. “I know you're there, girls. You might as well just come out so we can get this over with.”
Rarity, Pinkie, and Dash immediately came out of hiding, though only the first of the three looked at all embarrassed. “Ahem. Yes,” she said. “Our sincerest apologies, darling, but you-”
“Fluttershy too,” Sunset added, still staring.
A squeak came from behind the tree, and Fluttershy meekly slid out a moment later. “...sorry...,” she said in a voice so soft that Sunset could barely make it out.
Rarity cleared her throat again. “As I was saying, we happened to see you looking so lost in thought, as it were, but simply didn't want to disturb you.”
“You've been following me since at least the quill store,” Sunset countered. “Also, where's Applejack?”
“Oh, she's way too busy with her apples,” Pinkie quickly and enthusiastically replied. She giggled and waved a hoof. “You know how it is.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Sure.” She looked back at the others expectantly. “So, anypony wanna explain why you've been tailing me all morning?”
“Well, Sunset,” Rarity began to say, “I assure you there's a perfectly reasonable reason as to-”
“You've been acting weird all week and we wanted to know what's up,” Rainbow Dash finished. Rarity glared up at her, and she shrugged. “What? It's true!”
“Be that as it may,” Rarity said, “you could have used more tact. It's obvious that our dear Sunset here is suffering from some manner of emotional distress,” she continued, walking confidently over to Sunset's side. “One must be sensitive to such matters.”
Rainbow Dash just rolled her eyes.
“So,” Rarity said, putting her forehooves up on the side of the bridge, “tell us, Sunset Shimmer, what is it that's bothering you?”
Sunset stared at her for a moment, then sighed. “I'll probably regret this,” she said under her breath before raising her voice and adding “but it's Twilight.”
Pinkie squealed in excitement and leaped into the air. “I KNEW IT!”
“Uhh, knew what, exactly?” Sunset asked, taking a wary step back as Pinkie darted in close to her face, pushing Rarity out of the way in the process.
“That you're crushing on Twilight, silly!” Pinkie answered with an unnecessary amount of glee.
“N-no I'm not,” Sunset said reflexively, inwardly cursing herself for it even as she blushed and darted her eyes around. “I-I'm just, uhh...”
“Totally crushing on your best friend who you've always had a rocky relationship with so you're worried that things will be ruined forever if she doesn't like you back but you can't not ask her out either because it'll drive you crazy?” Pinkie finished, bugging and spinning her eyes where appropriate.
Sunset held her stare for a moment, then sagged. “So you all figured it out, huh?” she asked Pinkie and the others.
“Oh, darling,” Rarity said, moving past Pinkie to but a foreleg around Sunset's shoulders, “when you've read as many romance novels as I have – and believe me, I've read every one I could get my hooves on – it's hard not to see the signs.”
“Even I saw it,” Rainbow Dash added.
“It was pretty obvious,” Fluttershy admitted from the back of the group. “Oh, but we're very supportive of it.”
“You...are?” Sunset asked, looking between the four mares.
“Why of course we are!” Rarity said, tightening her hold on Sunset. “Why wouldn't we be supportive of a friend wanting to find love with another friend?”
“Yeah, even if the first friend is kind of a jerk!” Rainbow added. Rarity promptly gave her a Look, causing Rainbow to shrug. “What?”
Rarity sniffed and looked back at Sunset. “That aside, we are happy to help you with this.”
Sunset sighed and looked back down at her reflection in the river. “Thanks, but I don't think I really need help. I just need to do it and get it over with.”
“Well, if it helps,” Fluttershy offered with a hopeful smile, “I'm sure Twilight will say yes if you ask her out. Or at the very least she won't be mad at you.”
“Really?” Sunset asked, perking an eyebrow. “What makes you so sure?”
Fluttershy froze for a moment, then shrunk back and blushed. “Umm...just a hunch? Sorry...”
Sunset's face fell. “That's what I figured.”
“Nevertheless,” Rarity grabbed Sunset's attention once more, “we all share Fluttershy's confidence that things will work out. And before you ask-” she placed a hoof on Sunset's open mouth- “it isn't entirely baseless. After all, you are the pony that Twilight specifically wanted to live in Ponyville with her, are you not? And I dare say you know her better than anypony else, do you honestly think she'd go that far if she simply wished to remain friends with you? Hmm?”
“I...,” Sunset began, searching her reflection as she thought. “I think you're right,” she concluded, lifting her head as her smile grew and her confidence swelled. “I can't believe I didn't see it before! Thanks, girls,” she said, whipping back around to the other four. “That was just the push I needed.”
“Then go to her, Sunset Shimmer!” Rarity told her in one of her more melodramatic voices, thrusting a hoof in the general direction of the Golden Oak. “Run!”
Sunset nodded, then turned tailed and galloped off...only to stop after a few yards and turn a stern gaze back to them. “Don't follow me. I don't want anypony interrupting this, got it?”
“Got it!” Pinkie replied immediately, frozen in mid-step. Rarity, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash murmured in agreement, backing off from the chase they too were about to give.
“-and that's reason thirty-five why it could end up being a total disaster,” Twilight said definitively, unfurling her list even more.
Spike rolled his eyes and propped his head up in one hand.
“Reason thirty-six why bringing that up to Sunset could be a total disaster is-”
The front door of the Golden Oak suddenly slammed open by magic, startling Twilight and Spike at the central table.
“Twilight, we need to talk,” Sunset said with an intensity that made the other two nervous.
“Ohmygosh I'm so sorry,” Twilight said, forcing her list into Spike's claws and trotting forward with a worried expression. “Whatever I did that's made you pull away recently, just tell me so I can fix it!”
“Wha?” Sunset said, taken aback by the sorrow in her eyes. She shook her head quickly, though, and said “Oh gosh, no, Twilight, I'm sorry I made you think you did something wrong when you really, really didn't.”
Twilight blinked, her worry rapidly replaced with confused relief. “I didn't?”
Sunset shook her head. “Of course not. Once again, this one's all me,” she admitted, her cheeks flushing. Then she sighed sadly, and hung her head. “I really have a lot to apologize for, don't I? I've treated you pretty badly over the years...”
“I've already forgiven you,” Twilight said, hugging her around the neck. She let out a pathetic giggle as she stepped back, legs still around Sunset as she added “And it's not like I've been perfect, either.”
Sunset laughed too. “Even so, I feel guilty. Like...I don't deserve you sometimes.”
“Oh, Sunset,” Twilight said, nuzzling her and making her blush, “of course you deserve to be around me! Is that what's been bothering you recently?” she asked, pulling back and looking at Sunset with just enough concern to make her blush even harder.
“W-well, yeah,” Sunset answered, averting her gaze. Then she took a breath and looked back at Twilight with an intensity that made her blush. “And...I've also been worried.”
“Worried?” Twilight asked as Sunset looked down. “About what?”
“About...how you'd react when I told you that I wanted to be more than best friends,” Sunset replied looking into her eyes as both their blushes grew. “That I wanted to be your...marefriend.”
“You do?” Twilight whispered, her eyes wide with disbelief.
Sunset nodded. “Will you go out with me, Twilight Sparkle?”
She was utterly unprepared for the strength of the hug Twilight hit her with. “Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes! Of course I will, Sunset!” she said, breaking the hug to dance around with Sunset hoof in hoof.
Sunset cracked a smile at her marefriend's exuberance. “Well, okay then!”
Twilight sniffed and wiped away a tear. “I can't believe I was worried for nothing! Of course you feel the same way I do!”
“Yeah, same here,” Sunset said with a light laugh, before Twilight surprised her with a kiss that turned her muzzle redder than her hair.
She broke it after only a few moments with a sharp and panicked gasp. “Oh no, I was so happy that I did things out of order! Spike!” she turned her head and called. “Fetch me Head-Over-Heels' Guide to Romance and Dating, please!”
“On it!” Spike replied, snapping off a quick salute before he scurried off to the stairway.
“What did I just get myself into?” Sunset murmured, still reeling from the kiss.