“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
—A really ugly man.
Power is sexy.
You agree with this idea, even if you think you don’t. Every culture, every universe, they all fall neatly into the same pattern of sexual bias. There’s a reason muscles are appealing. There’s a reason high heels are pointy. There’s a reason you say “she’s a knockout.”
On the first day of the Apocalypse, four people entered Sugarcube Corner.
They were completely covered in blood.
And if you’d been there, you would have bought them a beer.
“Oh, I would never accept a beer from a stranger!” Fluttershy said as Applejack opened the door to the bakery. “We can’t drink alcohol yet, it just wouldn’t be right. And he should know better.”
“Most definitely, yes,” Rarity said, nodding. “It would be extremely—”
“What? Rares, c’mon.” Applejack held the door so the rest could enter. “Don’t try to play goody-two-shoes now. We all know you’re into bad boys.”
“Oh!” Rarity pressed a hand against her chest and gave out the most indignant of gasps. “Why, I’d never—I am not into that!”
“Rares.” Applejack arched an eyebrow. “C’mon.”
“You are,” Twilight said.
“You, um, kind of are,” Fluttershy said.
“You totally are,” Applejack said.
Rarity didn’t dignify the argument with an answer.
Sugarcube Corner was the best kind of bakery, and it looked wonderful. Especially in early August, when the air smells like chlorine and ladybug kisses, and the sun shines bright.
Only this was the first day of the Apocalypse, so the sun wasn’t shining, the ladybugs were all dead, and the thermometer marked minus seven Celsius. But the place still looked wonderful.
Because Sugarcube Corner was the best kind of bakery.
“I’ll let you know,” Rarity said as they all sat down at their favorite table, “that I’m a perfectly tasteful individual when it comes to significant others, Applejack, and that nothing but the most educated and well-respected character can—”
“—even dream o—MOTORBIKES DON’T COUNT.”
“Sure do, Sugarcube.”
“MOTORBIKES ARE A SUREFIRE SIGN OF MATURITY AND A SOLID ECONOMICAL SITUATION.”
“If that lets you sleep at night.”
Fluttershy sat down with a sigh. It made a splorch sound because her skirt was completely drenched in red. Then she smiled. “I like this,” she said. “We should do this more often.”
Twilight sat down, too. She had to take off her glasses and wipe them clean of blood. “Do what?” she asked. “Grab a drink?”
“Hmm. Yeah. And take a little break.” Fluttershy rubbed her forearms. “Saving the world is tiring.”
“Well, to be completely honest, this feels a little irresponsible to me." Twilight put on her glasses again. "I mean, I am fairly sure a lot of people are being hurt as we speak. Like, really badly." Pause. “On the other hand, I’m dying for some coffee.”
“Right? This is really nice.”
Outside, the world was ending.
Human Canterlot was an interesting place, and it went beyond the name. Human Canterlot was the kind of interesting that can be translated to magical interdimensional portal right in the middle of the city.
Sometimes, this was good. Sometimes, it meant your city was going to gain seven magical teenage superheroes, and everybody rejoiced.
And sometimes, this was bad. Really bad. Armageddon-bad, with Armageddon being, in this particular case, an army of magical winter horse ghosts that feed on hatred.
“Windigos are strong, but they do need bad feelings to survive,” Twilight said once their drinks arrived. She got coffee, Fluttershy got water. “So I guess taking some time to relax can be seen as another way to save the world.”
"Really?" Fluttershy asked.
“Nah. But it sounds like a great excuse to laze around, doesn’t it?”
“Oh. Well. Um, Rainbow Dash would be proud, I guess.”
“Rares, c’mon!” Applejack was still smirking at her friend. “Ah’m a farmgirl wearin’ a cowboy hat, Ah know how stereotypes go. You’re a city girl, you’re prim and proper – ‘course you’re into rebels! It’s in your blood!”
Rarity made a pout. Just a little one. “While I’ll admit you are a walking cliché, I’m better than that and you know it.” She huffed. “And it is most certainly not in my blood, thank you very much.”
“Oh, you sure?” AJ grabbed her cider. “How did your parents meet again?”
A small pause.
“…That is not important.”
“Daddity had a motorbike, didn’t he? And your mom was swept off her feet. Apple don’t fall far from the tree?”
Rarity’s glare could have melted iron. “I am fairly sure that is not how biology works, my dear.”
Applejack arched an eyebrow. “Uh-huh. Twilight?”
“Hm?” Twilight looked. “Yeah?”
“Is that how it works? Say yes.”
“Uh.” Twilight blinked. “…Yes?”
“Bam.” Applejack winked at Rarity. “See? Twilight’s always right. That means Ah win.”
“...I'm ignoring you,” Rarity said, lifting her cup of tea. “I'm ignoring this argument from now on.”
"That means Ah win twice."
They all drank in unison.
“This is really nice,” Fluttershy said after a while, resting her back on the chair. It made a slightly different schlorf noise. “I kind of wish I could take a shower, though.”
“Kinda wish them windigos didn’t bleed that much, too,” AJ said. “It’s annoying.”
“Kinda wish we didn’t have to stab them in the first place,” Twilight said.
“Naah. That one's fun in small doses.”
“Ah!” Rarity clapped and looked at Twilight. “This reminds me,” she said. “Do you know if windigos can shapeshift, perhaps?”
“Hmm?” Twilight blinked, thought about it. “Well,” she said, “I don’t know. Traditionally they always look like horses.”
“So they can’t look like humans?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t go so far as to say they can’t. They did go through the portal, and if the sirens became human, why wouldn’t the windigos? Maybe they look like humans here and they just change to look like horses.”
Rarity nodded at this, and sipped at her tea. “I see,” she said. “Well, that’s a relief. I thought I’d seen our dear Sunset kill a homeless person, but I guess my worries were unfounded.”
“…What?” Rarity frowned at her friends. “Why are you staring at me like that? Come on, we all know that if any of us ever did that, it would be Sunset Shimmer.”
Applejack nodded, raised her cider. “Pinkie Pie, though.”
“Oh, good point. Okay, Sunset Shimmer or Pinkie Pie.”
“Rarity,” Fluttershy said, “I don’t think your reaction is, uh. How to say this…” She squinted. “I think it’s a little bit…?”
“Sociopathic?” Twilight said.
“I was going for ‘not very nice’, but I guess that’s one way to put it.”
“Oh, please.” Rarity rolled her eyes. “I’ve spent the better part of the morning stabbing ghosts to second death, so excuse me if my moral compass is slightly off. I was just asking because I saw Sunset Shimmer over at the football field and she had a… Let’s call it passionate encounter with a man in blue.”
Twilight looked at her. “A man in blue?”
“Or a blue man. Blue all over.” Rarity shrugged. “I just saw Sunset bashing his head in with a baseball bat. And she’s reformed now, isn’t she? So it was probably a windigo.”
There was another pause. The kind that involves a lot of soul-searching, and trying to calculate if a teenage girl is strong enough to kill a man in one hit.
And then Applejack broke the silence. “Sunset Shimmer with a baseball bat?”
Rarity nodded. “Mmm-hmm.”
“Let me guess. She was wearin’ that leather jacket of hers?”
“Handsome one, that Sunset Shimmer, ain’t she?”
“Gosh, tell me about it, she was dreamy with that baseball bat,” Rarity said. “Give her a cigarette and she can sweep me off my feet any time she—”
“Rares.” Applejack’s smile was as honest as it was condescending. “Bad girls count as bad boys."
“THEY DO NOT.”
The next day, the wind howled, the door opened, and three new people entered Sugarcube Corner. They weren’t as beautiful as they were scary, but they weren’t as scary as they were handsome.
“Handsome,” Sunset said as she sat down by their usual table and put her baseball bat down. She left new bloodstains on the seat as she did. Schlorf. “You know, that word keeps popping up lately. Fluttershy used it yesterday, too.”
“Oooh!” Pinkie bobbed in her chair. If the others were drenched in blood, Pinkie was pretty much bathing in it. She looked like a particularly happy nightmare. “Did she call you handsome? Did she? Did she?”
Sunset frowned. “A little, I guess? I don’t get it.”
“Pfff.” Dash didn’t sit down, she slouched. It was less comfortable and she couldn’t quite move, but it looked much more casual. “What’s not to get? I’m awesome, Twilight’s smart, Pinkie’s funny, you’re handsome. It’s like, our thing.”
“Right, but why would you call me handsome, though? Like, why not use pretty?”
“But you’re not pretty,” Pinkie said. “Well. You are! But you’re more handsome.”
“Yeah, Pinks is right,” Dash said, nodding towards Pinkie. Pinkie reciprocated with some extremely serious fingerguns. “Rarity is the pretty one. You’re the handsome one.”
“Uh-huh.” Sunset arched an eyebrow. “Is there a difference, or...?”
“Of course there is!” Pinkie said, slamming her fists on the table. The other two didn’t flinch. Sunset had swagger. Dash, physically couldn’t. “I would buy Rarity flowers, because she’s really pretty!”
“Or a beer,” Dash added.
“Oh, right, she’s into bad boys. Or a beer!”
“Hmm.” Sunset crossed her arms and frowned, though there was the hint of a smile on her lips. “But you wouldn’t buy me flowers?”
“Nah,” Dash said.
“Not really!” Pinkie chirped.
“But I’d let you, say, marry my daughter.” Dash gave Sunset an appreciative look, from top to bottom. “You’d treat her right.”
They made their orders. Sunset Shimmer got a cherry cola. Dash got an energy drink, her favorite brand, the one that smelled like gasoline. And Pinkie Pie got a smoothie.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Dash asked, looking at Pinkie’s drink. “I don’t think that’s going to sit well in your stomach with all this moving around.”
“But I need the energy!” Pinkie chirped. She slurped some of her smoothie – it was pink and sweet, just like her, only slightly less gory. “To keep killing windigos!”
“Defeating, Pinkie,” Sunset said. She drank some cherry cola, straight out of the bottle. “We’re defeating the windigos.”
“Oh, right! Sorry!” Another slurp of the smoothie. “But we’re totally killing them, right?”
“Well. Yeah. But they’re made of wind, so it’s not like they’re really alive anyway.”
“Haha. Moral gray area! I love those.”
“Lot of blood for a summer breeze, though,” Dash said, sipping from her drink like it was expensive wine. “Am I the only who’s getting a little tired? Like, I’m all for kicking some butt, but geez.”
“Huh.” Sunset blinked. “You’re getting tired?”
“Yeah.” Dash arched an eyebrow. “You’re not? It’s been two days already.”
“…I’m probably just being nostalgic. You know, hurting people used to be my jam.” Sunset shrugged, drank some more. “Have you tried using a baseball bat?”
“I’m not that gruesome.”
“Oh! I am! I am!” Pinkie said, jumping on her seat. “I wanna use the baseball bat! It looks fun! Does it make a funny noise when you hit windigos?”
Sunset thought about it. “Not really.”
“Can I tweak it so it does?”
“Uh.” Sunset frowned. “I guess?”
“Cool!” Pinkie laughed and finished her smoothie. Immediately, from the back of the store, came a reply: a baby’s giggle. Pinkie stood up. “Oh my gosh!” she said, smile as bright as the sun. “The twins are awake! I’m going to say hi to them!”
“She really likes those kids, doesn’t she?” Sunset mused, toying with the half-empty bottle of cherry coke. “It’s so cute.”
Dash smiled. “Yeah.”
“Say.” Sunset looked back at Dash. “If I’m the handsome one, and Rarity is the pretty one, then what are Fluttershy and Applejack?”
“The cute one and the strong one.”
“Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we all look pretty good – like, we’re at least an eight out of ten – but you, Rarity, and Fluttershy are the knock-outs. Unless you’re into coolness.” She pointed at her chest with a thumb. “Then I’m the winner.”
“Pfff.” Sunset shook her head and rolled her eyes. “…And is there a consensus on who’s the best-looking? I mean, I won’t get offended, I’m guessing you’re going to say Fluttershy, but I’m just curious about—”
“Naaah.” Dash waved a hand. “I actually think the best one’s Rarity. No offense.”
“Cool. But, seriously: Rarity.” Dash nodded to herself, and gave a low whistle. “Half the guys in Canterlot High are crazy about her. And really, can you blame them?”
Sunset swished her bottle around a little, and then finished it in one big gulp. “No,” she said. “I suppose not.”
It was the third day of the Apocalypse, and now Princess Twilight was there. She was the one without glasses.
“I mean, in Equestria we deal with windigos by hugging really hard,” the princess said as she opened the door to Sugarcube Corner. “Maybe you should try to, I don’t know. Achieve world peace real quick?”
Regular Twilight came in after the princess. She was covered head to toe in blood again. She had the face of someone who’s been stabbing magical ghost horses to death for the last seventy two hours.
She stared at Princess Twilight.
“…Somehow,” she said, “we never thought of that.”
"Huh. Funny how that happens."
They whole gang was there, so they made their orders: a cider, some water, tea, energy drink, smoothie, cherry cola, and two coffees.
“So, Twilight!” Pinkie chirped once they all had their drinks. “Princess. The one without glasses! What can we do with the windigos? Because Sunset is having fun, but Dash isn’t, and I want to try the bat but the twins don’t giggle if I’m covered in blood!”
“We want the windigos out,” Dash translated. “Because fighting them every day is getting boring, and also saving the world and all that.”
Sunset frowned. “That again?” she asked. “How can you say you’re bored? Thirty seconds ago you were stabbing a windigo’s eyes out!”
“Yeah, well stabbing is fun – but we’ve been doing this for three days!” Dash took a swing from her drink. “I’m missing soccer practice, and summer season starts in two weeks!”
“Pfff—what?” Rarity put her tea down in shock. “Rainbow Dash! The world is ending, and you worry about soccer?”
“Pot, kettle, the world is ending and you still worry about fashion, blahblahblah.” Dash rolled her eyes. “Soccer’s fun, okay?”
“Yes, but it’s not the same!” Rarity waved a hand. “We have to wear clothes no matter what, don’t we? There’s no harm in me having a little bit of fun.”
“Uh-huh.” Applejack, who had been drinking till this point, tipped her hat at Rarity. “Rares?” she asked.
“You’re wearin’ a tuxedo.”
“Really comfortable attire to stab wind horses, Ah’m sure. Lotta mobility it gives you.”
“Okay. Can we go back to the main topic?” Sunset asked. She leaned over the table, to show she was serious. “I don't want to talk fashion. I want to talk stabbing ghost horses.”
“Of course, of course.” Rarity smiled at Sunset, then eyed Applejack. “And for the record, darling, I’ll let you know that it was Fluttershy who asked me to wear this today. She figured my skirt would get in the way when fighting. Because it is comfortable.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “Of course. Anyway, so the windigos—”
“Wait.” Regular Twilight looked under the table. “Isn’t Fluttershy herself wearing a skirt? Why would she say…?”
Fluttershy didn’t reply. She just smiled and looked at Princess Twilight. “So how can we take care of the windigos?”
“Well.” Princess Twilight took a sip of her coffee. “We stopped the windigos from the other side—crazy story, I’ll tell you about it later, Spike almost drowned—but they breed really fast, so I don’t think that will help. So I guess—”
Rainbow Dash had knocked her can off the table with her elbow, startling them all. “Whoops. Sorry. Rarity, do you mind? You’re closer to it.”
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Rainbow Dash,” she said as she got up. “I swear, sometimes you’re just like a child.”
“Hmmm.” Dash said nothing, and the moment Rarity went for the can, she immediately elbowed Sunset. “Hey. Remember yesterday?”
By pure coincidence, Rarity happened to be sitting next to Sunset. And by pure coincidence, the can had been knocked off in such a way that if Rarity had to grab it, the lower half of her body—always the most interesting half—would rise up, and end up close to Sunset’s face.
By pure coincidence, Sunset didn’t mind it.
“There you go.” Rarity sat back on her chair, and handed Dash the can. Then, she blinked. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“…Nothing,” Sunset said, smiling. “Nice pants, by the way.”
“Oh? Uh. Thank you?”
“You’ve got a really thin waist, did you know?”
Rarity didn’t blush, but she did bat her eyelashes. “Why, that is nice of you to say,” she said. “Fluttershy has wonderful taste in clothes, doesn’t she?”
Fluttershy didn’t say anything.
But, under the table, she and Rainbow Dash bumped fists.
Princess Twilight Sparkle had been observing this with something like amusement, but then she went back to royal mode. “Anyway,” she said. “I do have an idea. It might be just crazy enough to work…”
The timberwolves took over the city. The portal changed their shape, but it did not change their fury. And they brought the Forest with them.
They hunted the windigos first – they ate their hearts and chased away the winter, but they did not stop there. Men came next, those with weak legs and tender flesh. The timberwolves ran with the autumn breeze. They smelled like pumpkin spice, and they turned the leaves red with blood.
In the name of Mother Nature, they hit Civilization back for everything it had done.
And in that day, humans understood why it’s named the Fall.
“…Well,” Princess Twilight said, looking out the window. “In my defense, we ponies are really, really, really bad at warfare.”
It was the fourth day of the Apocalypse, and all the windigos were dead.
And that's where the good news ended.
“Um, well, the windigos were spirits of wind, so I didn’t really mind them,” Fluttershy was saying as she fiddled with her water bottle, the tiniest of frowns appearing on her face. “But the timberwolves...”
Rarity was by her side, face cordial, cleaning tree sap off Applejack's hat. “They are a bit scarier than the windigos, are they not?”
“What? Oh, no, no, no.” Pause. Fluttershy blinked. “I mean, yes. I’m terrorized. This is horrible. I keep having nightmares, but it isn’t that. It’s just… I mean.” She squinted. “What are the timberwolves? Are they animals or plants?”
Applejack thought about it. “Both?”
“Right.” Fluttershy nodded. “And… well. I’m a vegan.”
It took Rarity a moment. “Ooh,” she said. Then: “Ooooooh! Oh, dear, I would have never thought of that! I’m so, so sorry for you.”
“Yeah. I am not quite sure which particular belief of mine I’m betraying here? But I’m sure it’s at least one. So.” Fluttershy shrugged, still looking down. “I don’t know. I guess I’m a little sad.”
“Oh, sweetie.” Rarity finished cleaning AJ’s hat and gave it back to her, then put her hand on Fluttershy’s shoulder. “Don’t be. We’re saving the world, right? That means we’re saving a lot of… animals?” She blinked. “Uh. Plants? What do you want to protect, again?”
“I don’t even know anymore!”
“Well, if Ah’m one to say,” Applejack said, putting her hat back on with the most satisfied expression a person could muster, “Ah care more about the plants.”
Rarity looked at her. “Oh?”
“Yeah. Ah mean, Ah’m a farmer, right? Ah’m all about murderin’ animals. It’s my job!”
Fluttershy’s face darkened. “Um.”
“Like, Ah slaughter so many of ‘em. Eeeevery single day. Farm’s been smellin’ like blood for ages. We don’t even bother to clean up the mess anymore!”
Rarity blinked. “Uh. Applejack, dear? You run an apple farm.”
“Yeah, but we still own pigs and cattle.”
“Oh.” Pause. Frown. “…Why?”
“Mostly to slaughter ‘em, really,” Applejack said. “But murderin’ plants? That’s where I draw the line.”
“Well,” Fluttershy said. “That is going to make my nightmares more interesting, I guess.”
“We use the blood to water the apple trees!”
“Girls!” The door to Sugarcube Corner opened, and Sunset Shimmer made her way in. She had a Frown in her face. It was like a frown, but Stronger. “Have you seen Pinkie Pie?”
“Hey there, Sunset!” Applejack tipped her now-clean hat at the newcomer. “Takin’ a break again so soon? You getting’ tired of huntin’ timberwolves too?”
“What? Pff.” Sunset looked around, saw that nobody else was there, and sat with her friends. “Nah. Pinkie’s not picking up the phone, and I thought she might be here. Is she?”
“Sorry, no luck.” Applejack tipped her hat at Sunset. “We’re talkin’ about how I keep murderin’ animals in my spare time!”
Fluttershy hit the table with her forehead. “Oh my goodness.”
“Yeah. Like, day in and day out. All day every day!”
“Ah don’t know why you’re starin’, but Ah’m gonna take it as an invitation to keep talkin’!”
Fluttershy got up, face stern. “I’m going to tickle the twins,” she said, heading towards the back of the store. “That’ll summon Pinkie Pie.”
“Good idea!” Applejack got up, too, and followed. “Ah’ll talk about the cows while you do that! Okay, so first Ah make ‘em lick some salt, right, so they suffer. And then…”
The sound that came from Fluttershy’s mouth wasn’t human.
Rarity and Sunset were left alone.
“…You know?” Rarity was the first one who broke the silence. “I can never tell if Applejack is the densest one of us all, or if she’s by far the smartest.” She smiled at Sunset. “It takes a clever woman to play a fool, don’t you think?”
“I guess.” Sunset was still squinting. “I take it Fluttershy has been giving Big Mac the eyes again?”
“Indeed.” Rarity rested her chin on her hand. “So why are you looking for Pinkie Pie, darling, if I may ask? You seemed awfully angry back there.”
Sunset’s face clouded over. Like, say, a sky full of windigos. “Yeah,” she said. “I was. I am. Remember how I promised Pinkie that I’d let her use my bat?”
“I don’t, but go on.”
“Well.” Sunset raised the bat up high. “Turns out…”
And then she turned around and hit the wall with her bat, as hard as she possibly could.
“…that she actually took it,” Sunset finished.
Rarity pointed a ladylike finger at the bat. “Did that…? Is that, like, the sound it makes all the time now or…?”
“Well.” Rarity stopped pointing. "Yikes."
“That’s… unfortunate. I’d ask how can that be physically possible, but then again, this is Pinkie Pie we’re talking about.”
“Yeah, but now hunting timberwolves isn’t nearly as fun. It was getting really good and now I’m barely enjoying it.” Sunset put the bat down and crossed her arms… And then she realized what she’d just said. “Uh.” She gave Rarity a shy smile. “I mean, sorry for being creepy there. I don’t mean that I was—”
Rarity finished her cup and let out a satisfied sigh. “No need to be coy, dear,” she said. “I understand what you mean perfectly.”
A frown. “You do?”
“Absolutely. I was as surprised as you were when Rainbow said she was getting tired, darling.” And here Rarity looked Sunset straight in the eye, and gave her a trickster’s grin. “I’m just better at hiding it.”
Sunset let the frown go. “Okay,” she said, resting her back on the chair. “You’re pulling my leg.”
“Hmmm. I wonder?” Rarity signaled Mr. Cake so he’d know she wanted some more tea, and then pointed at Sunset, mouthed the words Cherry cola. “To me, it’s because… Well.” She fixed her hair. “I saw you smash a windigo’s head in with a baseball bat, and I liked the aesthetics of it.”
“The aesthetics?” Sunset snapped her fingers. “Oh, right. You’re into bad boys.”
“What? Come on, it’s not a secret.”
“Hmph.” The tea and cherry coke arrived. Rarity thanked Mr. Cake with a smile. “However, while I did enjoy the way the scene looked, there was something else there. The thrill of the hunt. The sense of power. The sound they make.”
“Yeah. Yeah!” Sunset’s face light up. “Yeah, the sound is—gosh, it’s so great, isn’t it? It’s so—”
“Crunchy?” Rarity asked.
“Crunchy! Yes! Exactly! Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you’re saying this. Twilight just looked at me like I was a psycho, and you saw what Pinkie did to the bat. Finally someone gets it! I thought I was alone!”
“I like to make them whimper before they kick it, personally.” Rarity giggled. “Twist the knife a little, you know?”
“Yeah! Yeah, and then they look at you all weird and for a moment you think they’re going to beg, and then bam! Hahah!” Sunset was bouncing up and down on her seat. “It’s so great! It’s amazing!”
“I do say.” Rarity’s smile went down a little. “Say… Sunset? Have you ever wondered if you’re a good person?”
“A good person?” Sunset thought about it. “Eh. I tried to take over the world.” Pause. “Twice and a half. So, y’know. Kinda there.”
Rarity stopped short of a sip of tea. “Twice and a half?”
“Kindergarten was weird.”
“Fair enough.” Rarity stirred her tea. “Personally, I do not consider myself a monster, but… I am a bit more…” She made a face. “Let’s say, self-centered than the rest of our friends? I wouldn’t call myself egotistical, but I do tend to prioritize my own needs a little, sometimes, maybe?”
Sunset finally drank from the cherry cola. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m actually surprised you noticed that yourself. Shows a lot of self-awareness.”
Rarity frowned. “A polite friend would have reassured me I am, in fact, a good person, Sunset.”
“Pfft.” Sunset chuckled and drank again… And then she saw that Rarity wasn’t replying. “Hey.” She frowned, and grabbed Rarity’s hand. “Rarity, I was just teasing you. You’re not egotistical. You’re good people. We’re good people. You know that, right?”
“I mean, just because we find killing timberwolves fun doesn’t mean we’re villains, it just means—”
“Why, of course!” Rarity arched an eyebrow and shook Sunset’s hand off. “Me? A villain? Dear, don’t make me laugh.” She took a sip of tea. “I’m too pretty for that.”
“Yeah, Dash agrees.”
“I am, however, aware that perhaps hunting windigos or timberwolves is… Well. They do look human-like here, don’t they?” Rarity smiled. “And attacking them is a good thing. But it seems to cater to our most primal instincts a little too much, maybe?”
Sunset thought about this. “That kind of make us look like psychopaths.”
“But,” Sunset said, “if you say it’s adding some spice to your life, it sounds better, right?” She patted Rarity’s back. Say, do you wanna go and hunt with me once I get the bat fixed? I can help you get one for your own, it’ll be great.”
“Sunset, sweetie.” Rarity shook her head, got up, and grabbed something from under her chair. “Have you been listening to me at all?”
“What?” Sunset frowned, up until Rarity showed her what she’d grabbed. Then eyes went wide. “Oh my gosh,” she said. “A golf club? You’re beating timberwolves to death with a golf club?”
“I told you, my dear.” Rarity rested the golf club on her right shoulder, and put on a wolfish smile. “You and I are the same. I’m just way better at hiding it.”
When the fifth day of the Apocalypse came, most people ran away, because things were clearly not getting better by the weekend. Only the brave and the foolish remained.
But Sugarcube Corner remained open. Not because Mr. and Mrs. Cake were fools, but because you didn’t hire Pinkie Pie as a babysitter for two years straight if you were a coward.
“Well, that’s it. No offense, Rainbow Dash, but this is the last time I go saving the world with you.” Sunset Shimmer opened the door to the bakery by pushing it with her bat, scowl on her face. “That was not cool. Hi, girls.”
“Hey.” Rainbow Dash came in, too, and closed the door behind her. “No complaints here. Love you too, Sunset, but we don’t work well as a team.” Pause. “Hi, girls. Are we late?”
Princess Twilight shook her head. “You’re just in time, and Rarity isn’t here yet anyway. Take a seat?”
Dash nodded. “Sure, just let me order first. Where’s Pinkie?”
“Playing with the twins in the back.”
Regular Twilight followed Rainbow with her eyes all the way to the counter, and then she looked at Sunset. “What happened?” she asked. “Dash seems upset.”
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Sunset waved a hand. “We disagree on some technical details, is all.”
“Yeah.” Dash walked back to the table, drinks in hand. She handed Sunset a cherry cola, and opened her own can. “I mean, I’m all for gruesome killing, right? At least for a while. We’re saving the world and all that. I don’t mind slaughtering animals..”
“Oh, boy,” Fluttershy said, massaging her temples. “This again.”
Dash clicked her tongue. “So forcing the timberwolf to go and bite the curb? Sure. I dig that. I can see it working. But forcing its children to watch? Come on.”
“Oh, please! Don’t give me that!” Sunset rested her back on the chair—schlorf—and took an angry sip of her cherry cola. “I mean, why would you make him bite the curb otherwise? This is textbook!”
“What. What?” Sunset looked at them. “Like you haven’t done that before. We’ve been at this for five days, girls.”
Fluttershy looked at Applejack. “So is this...?”
“Nah, too much even for me,” AJ said, shaking her head. “And Ah go to town with those pigs at the farm, let me tell you.”
“Why, you’re all here already?” Rarity opened the door to Sugarcube Corner and immediately darted to the table, taking the seat Fluttershy was offering her. “I’m awfully sorry I’m late, girls. I got quite wrapped up in a fight, and, eheheh.” She put the golf club under her chair. “So what are we talking about?”
“I made a timberwolf bite the curb.”
“And then made the children watch?”
“Ah-hah!” Triumphant smile on, Sunset pointed at Rarity and looked at the rest. “See? See? Rarity gets it!”
“What is there even to get? If you make a villain bite the curb, you get their children to watch before doing the stomping,” Rarity said, frowning slightly. “This is textbook, isn’t it?”
Dash was looking at them with something that could have been fascination, frustration, or a mix between the two. “And I let you two meet my parents? Wow.”
“Hi, Rarity! And Dash! And Sunset!” Pinkie finally appeared, took a seat, and thus the fellowship was complete. “Are we talking curbstomping?”
Regular Twilight frowned. “You could hear us all the way from the back of the store?”
“Not really! You just have curbstomping faces.”
“There. See?” Dash pointed at Pinkie with her thumb. “You’re at Pinkie’s level now, Rarity. Contemplate that.”
Rarity frowned, and all the glee went out of her face. “Oh,” she said. “I… Right, I suppose that’s not quite normal for—”
“Oh my gosh! You’re at my level!” Pinkie grabbed Rarity’s hands. “Rarity, I’m taking this as a compliment! We’re buddies now!”
“Whatever.” Sunset stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Rarity, I think I’m only going to go save the world with you from now on. At least you get it.”
“Oooh.” Pinkie blinked twice, almost coyly. “And what about good old Pinkie, then? Dash says I’m like Rarity!”
“No. Still angry about the bat.”
A look at Sunset, a doubtful look at Dash, and Rarity’s smile came back “…It’ll be my pleasure, darling,” she said. “To team up, that is. I am sure we’ll make quite the fearsome team. And it’ll do wonders for our world-saving efforts, yes?”
“It’ll be fun, too.” Sunset winked at her. “Add some spice?”
“…Yes.” Rarity cleared her throat with a cough. “We’ll, hm, talk about that later. Now, if I remember correctly?” She looked at Princess Twilight and Regular Twilight. “This was a strategy mission, was it not? Do we finally have a working plan to save the city?”
“One that doesn’t simply armageddonin’ it harder, if possible,” Applejack said. “Ah got a farm here and all that.”
Princess Twilight blushed. “We do, actually,” she said. “And don’t worry, this time it’s foolproof!”
“We spent two days thinking about it together, working out all the quirks,” Regular Twilight added. “And I think we’ve finally got it. With this, we will save the world without any more problems.”
After the thousand parasprites ravaged the city, Human Canterlot was left not only deserted and bloodstained, but also half in ruins.
“Okay,” Princess Twilight said. “I’ll take the blame for this? But, next time, let’s not ask a literal copy of myself to proofread my plans.”
This wasn’t an invasion. This was an infestation.
Bright flowers grew where the mall had once been. Ladybugs and dragonflies drank at the lake that one day had been the pool. A giant acorn tree sat atop the hill.
Anything man-made, the parasprites ate, leaving behind only Nature, and fear, and death. Spring blossomed in August, but its beauty was stained by blood.
“But on the other hand,” Regular Twilight was saying, “this is great for the ecosystem, don’t you think?”
“Twi.” Applejack looked at her. “People are dyin’.”
“Great for the ecosystem. I’m sure Fluttershy at least is really happy about this.”
Fluttershy frowned. “Well. I mean. Applejack?”
“Are you happy about this?”
“I see.” Fluttershy nodded, and then smiled at Twilight. “Then I am happy.”
“Come on, at this point you’re just being ridiculous!” The conversation was halted when the door to Sugarcube Corner opened, and Sunset appeared—then held the door open so Rarity could come in first. “Just accept you’re into bad boys already! We’ve been going on about this for like a week!”
“I am not—oh, thanks, really chivalrous of you—I am not into bad boys, and that is final, darling.”
“Why does it even bother you so much?” Sunset laughed, punched Rarity’s shoulder. “Come on!”
Rarity rolled her eyes, but the anger in her voice felt too happy to be real. “Because,” she said, batting her eyelashes at Sunset, “I just refuse to be this stereotypical. The beautiful, elegant, sheltered girl, who’s into bad boys to add some spice to her life? Come on.”
“How on Earth are you sheltered? I just saw you break a monster’s spine with your bare knees!”
“That’s just because my definition of ‘shelter’ is better than yours, dear.” Rarity waited until Sunset was seated, and then acknowledged the rest of her friends. “Hello there, girls. Sorry we’re late. We lost track of time.” She looked at Twilight. “You said there was something important to discuss?”
Twilight – Regular; Princess wasn’t there today – was frowning. “How can Sunset be chivalrous?” she asked. “She’s a girl too, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” Dash said, slouching. “But she’s handsome.”
“And handsome people can be chivalrous?”
“Dear, handsome people can do anything,” Rarity said. “But surely this isn’t what we were supposed to talk about?”
“Nope!” Pinkie appeared – seemingly out of nowhere, probably from under the table – startling everybody except for Sunset, who was too busy thinking about handsomeness to really notice. “We have important business to talk about! Super important business!”
“Hi, Pinkie Pie.”
“Hi, Sunset! Also, they’re bringing the Army and bombing the entire town.”
A beat. Everybody stared.
Pinkie took a sip of her drink. “Ah,” she said. “Also, that’s what we’re talking about. This is a good smoothie!”
Five minutes and some mild panic later, Fluttershy was up again, and Twilight had taken up the expository torch to make sure Pinkie didn’t accidentally traumatize everybody yet again.
“I mean, really,” Twilight said, “I guess it makes sense. There are monsters in here, and they will get out of the city and spread across the entire country if we don’t manage to stop them.” She frowned. “And, uh, we’re not really managing that, so…”
“So they just…? I mean, shouldn’t they at least bring soldiers here or something first?” Dash leaned on the table. “Come to think of it, like—where was the Army until now? Why didn’t they help from the get-go?”
“I’m guessing they were just following the protocol for magical beasts from another dimension, Dash,” Twilight said.
Fluttershy squinted. “…They don’t have any protocol for magical beasts from another dimension?” she said. “I think?”
“Yes, Fluttershy, my point exactly.”
“Okay,” Dash said. “So the people who actually should have dealt with this whole issue are finally going to do it. Good. How do we stop them?”
“Uh. Do we have to?” Applejack looked out the window. “Ah mean, Ah agree bombin’ the town sounds scary, and Ah love my farm, but the city’s kind of in ruins already. Wouldn’t make much of a difference, Ah reckon.”
“Well.” Twilight scratched the back of her neck. “It would destroy the portal to Equestria, for example.”
Pause. Everybody looked at Sunset.
Sunset frowned. “Sounds like bad news,” she said.
“Best case scenario, you’ll be forever stranded from your homeworld, yes,” Twilight said. “And we’ll probably lose our magic. That’s why we asked Princess Twilight to stay in her side. We don’t want to risk her being trapped here.”
Fluttershy’s eyes were open wide. “And that’s the best case scenario?” she whispered.
“What’s the worst case scenario?”
“Portal explodes, magic goes haywire, and half the country goes up in smoke.”
“Oh, wow. That sounds serious,” Pinkie said. Then she grinned anyway, because at heart, she was a rebel. “But they haven’t bombed the town yet, right? We can still save the world! Without destroying it even harder!”
“Hmm. Yeah.” Twilight nodded. “I mean, Shining Armor told me that the only reason they haven’t levelled the city yet is because we’re here.” She blushed. “And, uh, I guess it would be bad publicity to put us in danger? We’re kind of famous."
This made Dash look at her. "We are?"
"Yeah. People like us.”
“Wooo!” Pinkie waved her hands in the air. “Hooray for being pretty middle-class teenage girls!”
“So when are they doin’ this?” Applejack asked. “Are they gonna tell us beforehand or…?”
“Well, they will ask anybody who’s still in here to leave before they bomb the city, yeah.” Twilight shrugged. “And they will do it as soon as the public stops being invested in us, I guess?”
“Right,” Dash said, frowning. “So, to save the world, we have to be as pretty, middle-class, and girly as possible?”
“I see.” Rarity closed her eyes, and she grabbed Sunset’s elbow. “Then, my dear,” she said, and her voice was fierce with passion, “you have found your warrior.”
“The trick is to look good while you’re breaking the parasprite’s face with your bat,” Sunset was saying the next day, gesturing wildly with her cherry coke as she spoke. “Right? So what I do is to smile handsomely while I’m breaking the parasprite’s face in two.”
Applejack was unimpressed. “You smile handsomely while breakin’ faces.”
“Yes. Because I’m handsome.” Sunset pointed at her face. “Rarity is pretty, so she bats her eyelashes a lot. I guess you can do that?”
“Wait, Ah’m pretty?” Applejack frowned. “Ah don’t know if Ah’m pretty. Ah thought Ah was handsome?”
“Good question. I have no idea.” Sunset turned to her left. “Rarity?”
Rarity was checking her phone. “Hmmm,” she said, not looking up from the screen. “Farmgirls are charming, dear. Or astounding, best-case scenario.” She glanced at Applejack for a second. “So you pucker your lips and let your hair down. Can you kick in slow motion?”
“Learn how, and we’re never losing this city, dear.”
It was the eighth day of the end of the world, and routine had made its way back into the girls’ lives. Because bomb threats are scary, and world decimation is scarier—but when your back’s against the wall, you don’t care if the wall suddenly gets harder.
“Quite frankly, girls.” Rarity finally put the phone down, and gifted her friends with her gaze. “Fighting monsters is horrible, but to gracefully show both beauty and strength in front of the camera? Oh, I was born for this.”
“Ah still have no idea if you like this or not.”
“Love the beauty, hate the, uh.” Rarity thought about it. “Spicy bits? A lady’s feelings are complicated, darling.”
“That sounds weird.”
“That sounds really interesting in a way you probably didn’t mean,” Sunset said, poking Rarity’s side and staring at the phone on the table. “Also, that’s a lie and you know it. Who were you talking to?”
Rarity’s face was that of a kid who just got caught stealing a cookie, only with murder. “Dear,” she said, “do you mind not outing my dark side in front of our friends, please?”
“Yes. Who were you talking to?”
“Fluttershy.” Rarity frowned. “She said… Well, you can just look at it.” She picked up the phone, turned it on, and showed Sunset the message. “See?”
Sunset read it. “Picking flowers and…? Oh. Wow. Wow, okay, is she being literal here?”
“I hope, because if this is a euphemism, then Fluttershy is macabre.”
“Hmmm.” Applejack looked at them, Thinking Face on. It was like her normal face, only more Intellectual. “Is that bad?”
Sunset and Rarity looked at Applejack. “What?” Sunset asked.
“Bein’ macabre. Is that bad? Ah mean, we’re savin’ the world—as long as the job’s done, it doesn’t matter how we do it, right? Might as well have some fun with it.”
Sunset and Rarity didn’t exactly smile, they didn’t exactly grin—they just did something with their faces. Something beautiful, that they had no business doing, seeing how they were talking murder.
“Well,” Rarity said, voice sweet with hope and relief. “I suppose that is a way to see it, yes.”
“Yeah!” Sunset yelled in glee. “Yeah! I mean—it’s for a good cause, right? So as long as we’re not hurting anybody we can go a little wild!”
“Ah guess. Ah mean…” Applejack made a face, and rested her elbow on the back of her chair. “It was a lil’ bit bad, right? All with that killin’ and whatnot. Didn’t feel natural, like Ah was doin’ something, Ah dunno.” A grimace. “Evil?”
Rarity looked to the side. “Right.”
Sunset did not. “Right!”
“But then Ah got used to it!” Applejack smiled at them. “Helps to picture ‘em as pigs, not gonna lie.”
“Yeah!” Sunset was nodding so hard her neck hurt. “Yeah, exactly! The thrill of the hunt, right? It’s exhilarating!”
“A lil’. Bit weird, but Ah get it.”
Rarity mellowed, heart a-flutter. Applejack was the honest one of the bunch. If she said brutally murdering others for the sake of the world and/or your sick fantasies was okay, then it was okay.
“Celestia bless moral gray areas,” Rarity whispered.
“I agree with you,” Rarity said, immediately flashing a smile at Applejack. “Is what I said. A lady always knows when to add spice to her life, does she not?”
“Did you just swear by our principal?”
“I’ve been hanging out too much with Sunset Shimmer lately, yes.”
“Boy. This is great!” Sunset was talking, and also laughing, and somehow managing both. She finished her cherry cola and then fist-bumped Applejack. “Look, I know a spot by the supermarket where the echoes makes them sound extra crunchy. I could show you. Sounds good?”
“Sure! Moment Ah finish my cider, Ah’m coming.”
Rarity arched an eyebrow. “Sunset, dear,” she said, lightly touching Sunset’s arm. “Not to be a bother, but I believe you already had plans with me this afternoon. We were supposed to go drown parasprites by the pool?”
“What?” Sunset looked at Rarity. “No, that’s—Rarity, are you listening? We can do that later, this is important! It’s Applejack!”
“Ah can wait till tomorrow, Sunset.”
“What? No!” Sunset shook her head. “Look, I can hunt with Rarity whenever, that doesn’t matter. But you need to see the supermarket!”
And then Rarity stiffened.
Because two is company, but three’s a crowd. And relief is good, and Applejack’s approval was great…
…But a lady’s feelings are complicated.
Sunset then turned around, completely oblivious to the inner turmoil her friend was going through. “Listen, Rarity,” she said. “What if you just join us and—”
But Rarity was already up. “Do not worry,” she said, not looking at them. “I’m already leaving.”
“What?” Sunset blinked. “Uh, no, I—listen that was not…”
“You’re excited because Applejack is into killing parasprites now, yes,” Rarity interrupted. She picked up her golf club, finished her tea, and left the cup on the table. “It’s not just the two of us. We don’t have to hang out anymore. I know. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“…What? Wasn’t this what you—Rarity!” Sunset frowned. “Come on! I love hunting with you. It’s just—if I show this to Applejack, and if she really likes it, we can go together! The three of us!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t even dream of getting between the two of you. Thank you very much.”
“Okay, now you’re just not making any sense.”
Applejack looked at Rarity—smiling—and then at Sunset—confused—and then she raised her hands. “Aaaand that’s it,” she said. “Ah’m not takin’ part in this conversation. Nope. Ah’m out.”
“No need to, dear.” Rarity smiled at Applejack even harder. “I’ll just go around with Fluttershy. She was picking flowers, and that sounds wonderful. Far more adequate for a lady like me, I’m sure of it. You go have fun together.”
“This means,” Rarity interrupted, and her voice was like ice creaking, “that you are going to have a delightful afternoon with Applejack. And I will have a delightful afternoon with Fluttershy. And everybody will be much better this way. Good bye.”
“And then Fluttershy had the worst nervous breakdown I’ve ever seen, and I live with myself,” Regular Twilight said. “We had to ask for whatever professional help was left in the city, which mostly means Pinkie Pie wearing a clown nose.”
Pinkie Pie nodded gravely, clown nose still on. “Laughter,” she said, with the voice of a soldier, “is the best medicine.”
“Which immediately caused a second nervous breakdown, because Fluttershy is deathly afraid of clowns, and/or Pinkie Pie.”
Pinkie Pie nodded gravely again. “I,” she said, “am not a doctor.”
“So.” Regular Twilight looked around the table. “Anybody know what happened?”
Everybody—except Fluttershy, obviously—was there. Dash looked confused. Sunset and Applejack looked at each other.
But Rarity, she just looked down.
“Wait a moment,” Dash said, frowning. “Fluttershy has been bathing in the blood of her enemies for two weeks—and now she had a nervous breakdown?”
“She was sobbing hysterically,” Twilight said.
“She always sobs hysterically. Why do you think she bathes in the blood of her enemies?”
A blink. “Uh,” Twilight said. “I… I thought you were being metaphorical.”
“What? Nah.” Dash waved a hand. “She says it’s soothing. But seriously—she cries while she kills, it’s terrifying.”
“You know, it’s at times like this when I remember why I was a loner through most of my childhood,” Twilight said, resting her forehead on her hands. “It was so relaxing.”
“But what I’m trying to say here is—Fluttershy’s tough.” Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Sure, she acts meek, and she is shy, but she’s as strong as any of us. Maybe even more! She listens to Applejack on a daily basis!”
“Hey.” Applejack pointed at Dash menacingly. “Ah’m just annoyin’ her. Moment it gets too bad, Ah stop.”
“Right, so you’re aware.”
“Yeah, she keeps givin’ my brother the eyes, see.”
Dash arched an eyebrow. “So do half our classmates.”
“Yeah! But with Fluttershy, Mac gives ‘em right back!”
“Girls,” Twilight said, raising a hand. “Any other day, I would gladly let you talk about this—but the only reason the town isn’t up in flames as we speak is because Princess Twilight crossed the portal just to make cute poses for the camera. So, if we could focus…?”
And then Rarity talked.
What she said was: “I’m sorry.”
And something in her voice made the words echo across the room.
“She was with me,” Rarity explained, still looking down. “I’m afraid it was my fault, dear.” Then she looked up, and smiled at Twilight, and that smile broke Sunset’s heart. “I, ah, did not think before acting.”
Pinkie Pie pouted, and grabbed Rarity’s hand. “Aaaw,” she said. “Don’t be sad! It wasn’t your fault!”
“…Rarity, there’s no need to feel guilty,” Twilight said. For added effect, she grabbed Rarity’s other hand. “At least, if she was with you when… whatever-it-is-that-happened happened, you can tell us about it, right? Did the parasprites, like, eat a person or…?”
Rarity took her hands back and crossed her arms. “No,” she said. “That is not what happened, dear. I’m afraid it was me that happened.” She took a deep breath. “It was me who… scared Fluttershy.”
Pinkie leaned towards Applejack. “Good time to make a joke?”
Applejack shook her head. “Bad time to make a joke.”
“Rarity,” Sunset said. She reached a hand, but Rarity gracefully flinched away. “Hey. What happened? I mean, Fluttershy is really sensitive, but that doesn’t mean it’s your—”
“It is absolutely my fault, thank you very much,” Rarity said, and she almost huffed while saying this. “I… Well, remember the message I got? The macabre one?”
Sunset nodded. “Yes.”
“It wasn’t a euphemism, but I kind of…” Rarity made a face. “Turned into one?”
“Oh.” Sunset blinked. Understanding dawned in. “Oooh. Oh, wow. With the golf club? Right up…?”
“Even though parasprites don’t necessarily have a…?”
“Yes. With the other parasprite.”
Sunset bit her lip. “Well—I guess that would scare Fluttershy. But come on, she can’t even watch horror movies, it’s not like this means…”
“It means what it means, I’m afraid.” Rarity got up. “I’d love to call it spice, but even I am self-aware enough to see what I did to the poor dear just because I was feeling jealous.” She rolled her eyes. “Really ladylike. Really hero-like. I will apologize to dear Fluttershy when she wakes up—Twilight, be a dear and call me as soon as that happens?”
Twilight frowned. “Sure. But, uh. Where are you going?”
Rarity picked up the golf club. “Why, I’m going to save the world,” she said. “And I’ll look great while doing so.”
“Rarity.” Sunset reached for her, and this time she managed to grab her sleeve. “Hey, don’t beat yourself up over this. You made a mistake, but you’re a good person. You hear me? You didn’t try to hurt Fluttershy.”
Rarity simply shook her head. “There’s no need to be melodramatic, my dear. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s brutal murder to commit.”
She was already out.
No matter how many times Sunset called, Rarity refused to pick up her phone.
She didn’t come to Sugarcube Corner the next two days.
“I mean, not to take away from the dramatism of the situation, but that literally just means that Rarity is out there constantly trying to save the world instead of coming here every two minutes,” Twilight said. “Do you have any idea how much time we waste on these breaks? It’s insane.”
Sugarcube was empty, aside from Twilight and Sunset. They’d been talking for the last thirty minutes, but Sunset would be hard pressed to tell you what they were talking about.
She couldn’t find the time to listen. She was too busy—busy not smiling, busy not laughing, busy not drinking her drink.
Hopelessness is not a feeling—it’s the lack of it. It’s a void, an empty whole that takes the space you used to stand on. It’s the absence of light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’re actually making progress against the parasprites, the city isn’t getting bombed any time soon, and with Pinkie helping us, the princess and I are coming up with a plan faster than ever,” Twilight pointed out. “Literally anything that could go well is going well.”
Yes, the absence of light at the end of the tunnel, Sunset was saying. No hope whatsoever.
“Seriously—if you don’t count the teenage angst? We’re doing okay! You fighting with Rarity has probably saved more lives than we can count. Even Fluttershy’s kind of happy.”
Sunset sighed. Twilight’s words were dragging her out of her dark place, what with all that logic. “Yes,” she said. “But what’s the point?”
“Protecting the human race.”
“Indeed. What’s the point?”
And here it was Twilight who frowned, and she put down her mug. “You know?” she said. “You aren’t usually this dramatic, at all. You’ve been hanging out with Rarity a little too much lately.”
“And Rarity has been hanging out too much with you, too. She ate a flower the other day. Like, she just. She picked up a flower. And then she ate it.” Pause. “Might have been a parasprite’s heart. It was unclear. But the point still stands!”
“I don’t know.” Sunset sighed again. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just frustrated.”
“No. Depressed. You’re depressed.”
“Frustrated,” Sunset repeated. “Like—I got Applejack to enjoy killing, too! I was this close to making Rarity’s week. And then she gets mad, and then Fluttershy has a nervous breakdown, and now Rarity’s shutting me out.”
Twilight rolled her eyes.
“I mean, I just don’t get why she even got angry in the first place! The only reason I tried to bring AJ to the mall was for her, because she kept being insecure about her own morals, and now she’s jealous? Why?”
“Sunset.” Twilight grabbed Sunset’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Come on. You know why.”
Sunset made a pout. “Right,” she said. “Well. Not my fault if she didn’t get it.”
“You didn’t get she was jealous either, so I guess it’s on both.” Twilight chuckled, finished her drink, and gave Sunset another squeeze. “Come on, you know how Rarity is. If you just wait it out, she’ll go back to normal.”
“Right, but I don’t want to wait it out,” Sunset said. “Rarity is the first person I’ve met in years that knows exactly how it feels to be friends with perfect people like you and the others—but she’s beating herself up over it.” She shook her head. “And you know, I used to do that, too. You know what happened?”
Twilight cocked her head to the side. “You went genocidal?”
“I went genocidal!”
“Yeah, I can relate.”
“Because self-hatred’s not exactly the healthiest headspace to be in!” Sunset ran a hand through her hair. “See what I mean? This is horrible! I don’t want to wait it out!”
Twilight nodded. “Right.”
“I want to cheer her up, get her to stop thinking she’s an awful person, and then go murder something!”
“Of course.” Twilight nodded again. “And what are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to do what I should have done ages ago!” Sunset got up, and her hair flowed majestically behind her as she did so. “I’m going to fight fire with fire!”
“OH MY GOSH, FLUTTERSHY HAD ANOTHER NERVOUS BREAKDOWN!”
And that’s how they got Rarity to come back to Sugarcube Corner.
She got there in ten minutes, and Sunset was there waiting for her. She was wearing her leather jacket, and resting her baseball bat on her leg, and looking like a million dollars.
No trace of Fluttershy.
“…Oh.” Rarity saw this, and squinted. “I see. It was all a lie.”
“Yes.” Pause. Sunset bit her lip. “Well. Kind of? I’m a method actress.”
“Hi, Rarity!” Pinkie Pie said, coming from the back of the store, clown nose on, dragging out an unconscious Fluttershy. “Bye, Rarity!”
“Bye, Pinkie Pie.”
And Rarity, once they were left alone, sighed. “Sunset Shimmer,” she said. “I appreciate your efforts, but—”
“Shush.” Sunset would have laid a finger on Rarity’s lips to shut her off, but better women had lost their fingers for less. So she just smiled. “Rarity. Turn around.”
“I don’t know what—”
“Turn around and look out the window.” Sunset’s left eye glinted. “Trust me.”
Rarity didn’t know if she should trust her.
But she turned around.
And her eyes went wide. “Oh my gosh,” she gasped. Her knees went weak—and Sunset grabbed her from behind to keep her standing. “Is that…? Is that a…?”
“A motorbike,” Sunset purred, squeezing her shoulders. She purred. “A black one. I don’t even own a helmet, I like how the wind feels through my hair when I ride it.”
“Sweet merciful Celestia take the wheel.”
“You’re a walking stereotype, Rarity,” Sunset continued. “Come on—I didn’t even need to ask you if you’d like this. Because you’re super into bad boys. And you know why?”
Rarity blinked. “Well,” she said. “You better be going somewhere with this, because that is one fine motorbike if I’ve ever—do you even have a license.”
“Oh my gosh.”
“See?” Sunset laughed. “Fancy girls are into bad boys, especially if they have motorbikes. And you know why?”
“…They’re a surefire sign of financial stability and—”
“Because you think you can tame them,” Sunset interrupted. “Because you’re good—you’re real good—and you love the contrast. Because you like things that are different.” She winked at Rarity. “Because it adds a little bit of spice to your life.”
Rarity’s face melted into a smile. “Sunset, that is so sweet of you.” She patted Sunset’s hand. “I appreciate the gesture, really, but—”
“No, listen to me.” Sunset turned Rarity around so they’d be facing each other. “Hey. You’re a good person. Okay? You love your friends, you try your hardest for them, even if it doesn’t come naturally. And what the hell—ask any of our friends! We would all die for you in a heartbeat. If you don’t trust me, trust them.”
Rarity blinked. “I trust you,” she said.
“Yeah, you should. ‘Cause, hey, I used to be bad!” Sunset rested her hands on her hip. “And I mean bad. Evil-army levels of bad. I got demon wings and everything. But I got better—and you know how? By changing how I acted, and forcing myself to think like a good guy. I made an effort. And I deserve a lot of praise, right?”
“Well.” Rarity frowned. “Um, yes. We’re all really proud of you.”
“See?” Sunset arched an eyebrow. “Same applies to you!”
“No, don’t ‘oh, please’ me. So you’re a little selfish, so you like to hurt things, so you scared Fluttershy—come on, why does that matter? I forced myself to be better, and now everybody thinks I’m great. But you know what? I fell into those impulses once. I went full monster.” Sunset still didn’t dare to touch Rarity’s face, but she did punch her shoulder. “But you? You never did that. You fought those impulses from the start.”
Rarity heard all this, but her face didn’t show it. She was just staring blankly. “Sunset,” she said.
“So.” Sunset pointed at herself. “You know how I’m a good person, now? As good as I am, you’re ten times better. Always. Because you’re into bad boys, you’re into motorbikes, and you’re a walking stereotype: the fancy, pretty, goody-two-shoes.”
Rarity pretty much tackled Sunset to the ground. She moved like a lioness, straight for the kill, and Sunset had no chance to react in time. The best thing she could do was to yelp in surprise.
And then Rarity kissed her.
Lip touched lip, tongue touched tongue, and things went as these things go. Sunset followed along. She was a little surprised, and a little excited, and a little something else a lady shouldn’t say out loud.
Panting, Rarity let Sunset go. Ish. She was still hugging her by the neck, she was just not trying to eat her face. “So!” she said. “Now that your point is made, are you going to return that motorbike to wherever you got it from?”
Sunset blinked, still dizzy. “Uh,” she said. “…I guess I don’t have to. You, uh. You want a ride?”
“Darling, I thought you’d never ask. I’ll even wear the tuxedo just for you.”
“Oh, hey. You noticed?”
Rarity wiggled her eyebrows.
And then they kissed again.
They were too busy to talk for a while after that.
“So that’s another friendship problem solved!” Princess Twilight said, raising her cup of coffee. “And on top of that, we finally saved the world! Cheers for a job well done!”
“Cheers!” everybody toasted.
In the background, a building collapsed—and the living, breathing cloud of parasprites that had devoured what once had been a town moved to the next one.
“Woo!” Pinkie drank her smoothie in just two gulps. “We’re so good!”
It was later, on the same day. Sunset was not one to gossip about her love life, but Rarity sure was—and she had Fluttershy on speed-dial.
“Ah think the toast is a lil’ over the top, though,” Applejack said, eyeing Rarity and Sunset, who were sitting in the corner doing unladylike things and loving it. “And Ah thought you couldn’t come to this side, Twilight? The princess one. The one without glasses.”
Princess Twilight smiled at Applejack. “Oh, that was just a preventive measure,” she said. “But now we know that the portal isn’t going to get bombed.”
“Yeah!” Regular Twilight said. “Now we have a plan that’s really foolproof. The city is saved!”
Fluttershy frowned. “Um,” she said. “Are you sure?”
“Because, well, that’s exactly the same thing you said last time, and…”
“Nooo, no, no, no.” Princess Twilight shook her head. “This time, Pinkie helped!”
“That’s right!” Pinkie said. “I helped!”
“And that’s exactly what we needed—a third opinion on the issue.” Regular Twilight took a sip of coffee. “Trust us, Fluttershy: the parasprites are as good as gone.”
Windigos ran wild through the city, freezing everything that stood in their way, and with them, Eternal Winter came.
“YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDIN’ ME.”
“Okay.” Princess Twilight was squinting as they all looked through the window. Outside, the magical ghost horses froze and killed everything in sight. “In my defense, this looked much better in paper.”
Fluttershy’s face was completely neutral. “Um,” she said. “Princess Twilight? Are you sure you’re the protector of Equestria?”
“And it still exists?”
“Hey, I told you already.” Princess Twilight crossed her arms. “We don’t fight like this in Equestria! When monsters like windigos come by, we just hug really hard and…! And…” She blinked. “Sunset Shimmer?”
“What are you doing?”
“We’re cuddling, Twilight, dear,” Rarity said, a little annoyed. “If we could get a little intimacy, please?”
“Cuddling.” Princess Twilight frowned, looked at Rarity and Sunset, looked out the window, frowned some more. “Cuddling, you say? Hmm… I think I might have an idea…”
“So we just moved the portal, and the city was bombed, and now all the windigos are dead,” Pinkie Pie explained. “Turns out we could have done that from the start!”
“We’re not good at saving the world,” Dash added. “We’re working on it.”
And Principal Celestia just nodded. “I lost my job and everything I’d ever worked for,” she said.
“We’re really not good at it.”
As August turned into September, Sugarcube Corner opened again. Summer came back just in time to go away, and the portal was put back in its place, this time without danger.
Life, as it tends to do, moved on.
“But it wasn’t that bad, was it not?” Rarity said, drinking some of her tea. “Of course, I wouldn’t do this every summer, but it was an… interesting experience.”
Sunset smiled. They were holding hands. “Tell me about it.”
“I don’t know. I kind of miss our old routine, to be honest,” Regular Twilight said. “Going back to highschool will be nice. Don’t you think, Principal Celestia?”
“That building was my life. And it burned down. Nothing remains.”
“Yeah, it’ll be nice.”
“Well, Ah’m not lookin’ forward to that,” Applejack said with a grimace. “But Ah do want to help with the rebuildin’. That’ll be fine!”
“Um. Are you sure?” Fluttershy asked. “I, uh, I don’t know anything about building houses. Or cities, I guess.”
“That’s no issue! We’ve rebuilt our farm like a million times already. We can just help y’all!”
“Oh.” Fluttershy blinked. “That could be nice. I should ask Big Macintosh to teach me.”
“Yeah! That’ll—hey.” Applejack frowned. “Don’t make me go get the pigs.”
“Maybe we could ask Princess Twilight for help,” Sunset said. “I mean, she has magic, right? She can probably help from Equestria or something.”
“Darling, I know you’re full of good intentions, but after everything our dear Princess has done, I feel she’d try to fix the city by setting fire to the ruins.”
“Hmm. Good point.”
Rarity sighed. “Rebuilding everything will be, well, I expect it to be a dull job, to be completely honest.” A sip. “But it will be rewarding, I’m sure of it.”
“Oh, yeah,” Applejack said. “Hard work always is!”
By her side, Principal Celestia started sobbing quietly.
Outside, the city was bursting with activity. There was debris to clean, trees to cut down, corpses to move out of the way. Most of what remained was only ruins, but some buildings had survived, and with a little bit of work the city would come back to life.
Things looked tough, but good. There was a little more love in the world, and a little more sadness. Some people had suffered, and some had had fun. The crisis had passed. The sun was shining.
And there were no more monsters nearby.
From the back of the store came the sound of the Cake twins giggling.
“…Hey,” Sunset said. “Do you think they’ll let us have a coffee break now and then? While we’re rebuilding the city?”
“Oh, definitely,” Rarity said. “Why, this place is fundamental to our activities at this point. I don’t know what we’d do without it.”
“We’d probably stop Armageddons far sooner, I suppose,” Regular Twilight said. “I mean, if you really think about it, Sugarcube Corner is the reason so many people died.”
Fluttershy frowned. “Um,” she said. “I’m not sure if that’s quite right.”
“Yes, Sugarcube Corner is the reason so many people died.” Regular Twilight looked around. Bloodstains covered the bakery—the walls, the floor, the table, all of them red fading to brown, filling the room with the smell of iron and murder. “Kind of spooky, if you think about it. I mean, their coffee is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but…”
“This is a spooky place now!” Pinkie said. “Is that what you mean?”
“Yeah.” Regular Twilight nodded. “Delicious coffee, evil place. I guess it’s worth the trade-off.”
“Well,” Rarity said, sipping her tea. “It’s hardly a surprise you all love it so much, then. Personally, I’ve always suspected it, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.”
“What, that we like coffee?”
“No, not quite, darling. That you’re projecting.”
Applejack frowned. “What? Projectin’? What do you mean, projectin’?”
“I mean what I said, dear,” Rarity said. “You’re all projecting. It’s what Pinkie just said, is it not? You love Sugarcube Corner, but it’s a bad place.” And here Rarity took a sip, and even though her face remained neutral, one could clearly hear the smile in her voice. “And I’ve always known you all love bad boys."