Distance Over Time

by Nonchalant

First published

Sunset Shimmer knows she deserves worse than Fluttershy. She knows Fluttershy deserves the world. They have each other, though, which they both want to think is enough. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt, and six weeks can be an awfully long time...

Sunset Shimmer knows she deserves worse than Fluttershy. She knows Fluttershy deserves the world. They have each other, though, which they both want to think is enough. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt, and six weeks can be an awfully long time...

A submission to Oroboro's Sunset Shipping Contest: Endings, whose name I strongly believe should be "Sunset Shimmer Summer Shipping Contest"

Shoutout to Lex, fourths, and the associated server for providing feedback throughout the writing process!
Cover art edited by me, vectors found at the links below. If anyone knows of a better way to provide credit, let me know!
Fluttershy Vector
Front Sunset Vector
Back Sunset Vector

At Rest

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Part One - At Rest

Sunset stretched her hand into the air briefly, then let it fall again. She closed her eyes, content to feel the warmth of the sun through gaps in the leaves of the tree above her, and the gentle caress of a hand through her hair. She wiggled her leg to ensure that the edge of the bench hadn’t lulled it to sleep before letting out a contented hum. Cracking a wide grin at the light giggle she received in response, she opened her eyes again and looked up.

“Oh, did I distract you? I’m sorry. Please, go back to whatever you were thinking about.” The voice she so readily recognized as that of her girlfriend was as gentle and kind as ever, but now carried a distinctly teasing lilt. Fluttershy’s hand remained firmly entangled in Sunset’s hair, but it didn’t move while the two girls locked eyes for a moment. Soon, Fluttershy had joined Sunset in her amused smile, before breaking the staring contest and returning to idly gazing around at the line of trees across the park.

Sunset, however, kept her eyes on the pale girl above her while she fired off her own remark.

“Does that mean you’d rather I just keep thinking about exactly how comfortable you seem using your hand to keep my head on your skirt?”

Fluttershy’s hand froze again. This time, Sunset also heard an amused but reluctant sigh. After the obligatory light smack to her forehead, she heard Fluttershy mutter, “That wasn’t one of your best ones, Sunny.”

“I know, but it’s the only way I can keep improving!”

There was another stretch of comfortable silence as the two of them simply enjoyed the contact and the familiarity of the teasing exchange. As Sunset started feeling the effects of laying on a wooden bench for some twenty minutes, she stretched and got up. Fluttershy smiled warmly at her. “I really can’t get over how much you act like a cat sometimes,” she snickered. “Are you sure I can’t keep you at home?”

Sunset shook her head and sat down again. “Nope! I’m an outdoor cat. Pony. Whatever.” She shrugged. “Besides, aren’t you leaving soon? Same as every summer, right?”

Fluttershy looked down, hands meeting in her lap. “Yes,” she said. “We’re off to the airport in two days.”


“Yeah… sorry I didn’t say anything earlier.” Fluttershy grimaced. “I didn’t want to pressure you into coming out today or something just because it would be your last chance in two months.”

Sunset shook her head, worriedly creasing her brows. “Come on, Flutters,” she said, “you know that even if we were gonna see each other tomorrow I’d do my best to come today as well.”

‘Besides,’ she thought, ‘it isn’t like we really hang out that much outside of school regardless, so of course I’d be excited.’ Sunset took Fluttershy’s hand and pressed it gently to her own cheek. It was true, of course. While they had been on their fair share of dates over the past year and a half, Sunset still thought back to lonely nights sprawled on her couch, wishing her cushions were a better substitute for the comfort she now knew came with human contact after a long day.

When she snapped out of her train of thought, Fluttershy was nodding thoughtfully. “I suppose you’re right,” she said. Then she looked down again thoughtfully, eyes unfocused. “Though I think that also makes me a rather poor girlfriend, doesn’t it?” She ventured, “I know we’ve talked about my lack of communication, and by the way you’re talking about it, I think this might have been one of the important ones…”

The whole time, Fluttershy was fiddling with the hem of her skirt, not looking at Sunset as she trailed off. Sunset waited for her girlfriend to collect her thoughts. It gave her a familiar hollow sensation in her stomach whenever the paler girl started clamming up again. But that wasn’t the kind of thing Sunset wanted to think about while someone else was having a hard time in front of her, so with a deep breath she smiled reassuringly and pulled Fluttershy closer by her shoulders. “There, there. It really isn’t a big deal, okay?”

As the other girl melted into her arms and looked doubtfully up, Sunset continued, “What matters is that you’re thinking about it and getting better, right? Of course, you can’t take it too far either, mmkay? Don’t want you hurting yourself with unrealistic expectations and stuff,” she chuckled slightly.

Fluttershy’s only response was to frown lightly and purse her lips. Upon seeing Sunset looking sufficiently mollified, she nodded tersely. “I heard your tone there. You’re going back to that mindset you had last year, aren’t you?”

“What? No! But you do have to admit it’s kind of funny that it’s me of all people telling you to stop being so hard on yourself.” Sunset Shimmer’s smile showed her acknowledgement that this was, in fact, not something most people would smile about.

Fluttershy remained unimpressed. “You really need to stop that, sweetheart. You told me to tell you to calm down whenever you started doing this to yourself...” She took a breath. “...So I’m really sorry to be interrupting like that, but this should be for your own good.”

“You’re right,” Sunset said. She shook her head and squeezed Fluttershy’s shoulder again. “Thanks.”

The two lapsed into a slightly awkward silence. The playful mood from earlier had effectively been shattered, bringing thoughts of less than romantic moments to fill the gaps. Though Sunset didn’t want to admit it, the reminder of her well-meaning but ultimately ineffective coping thought processes was something that would likely stay with her for the next couple of days. ‘But that isn’t something Fluttershy needs to have bouncing around her head right now either…’

So she did the only other thing she could. Perking up, she looked at Fluttershy with her head quirked to the side. “So… looking forward to your trip then?” she prompted.

The smile that lit up Fluttershy’s face was still a little brittle, but it was the type of brittle that Sunset knew she could coax into the masterpiece that the pale yellow face truly displayed best. She tuned back in as Fluttershy started describing the various features of her trip. “—the petting zoo, just to see if it’s changed at all. Maybe the owners will let me volunteer there this time around, actually. I’m old enough, at least. And after that there’s the beautiful river that I want to spend a night camping by. Oh, I really wish you could come with us, Sunset. I really think you’d like it!” She started to trail off again. “Though I promise, I’m going to keep in touch on DragonFlare. Even though there’s a time difference, I’ll make it work this time around. Okay?”

“Alright. I trust you, babe.”


“After all, it’s only six weeks, isn’t it?” Sunset kicked her legs out in front of her. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad to only talk to you for that long. Provided you do it regularly, and maybe take a few pictures there, so I don’t forget your face?” Sunset gave her girlfriend a kiss on the cheek, followed by a light nuzzle.

Fluttershy giggled, turning her head for a proper, if chaste, kiss. “I can do that for you,” she said, “as long as I get a few voice messages too! You may think I’m lying, but I really do love hearing you talk. Or sing. Anything, really. It just makes me feel like you’re right there with me.” She smiled hopefully at Sunset.

The redhead groaned playfully. “Fine. If you’ve got such bad taste as to actually want to hear my songs, I leave you to your fate.”

“My funeral, right?”

“You got it, Flutters.” Sunset pulled herself off the bench, latching dramatically onto Fluttershy’s hand. “You’ll forever be doomed to listen to my crappy covers, bemoaning the day you ever told yourself that it was a small price to pay for love. And that’s not even getting into my actually original stuff! Even I can’t come up with a sufficiently dark and dramatic monologue.” Sunset paused. “Rarity just finished her English Literature course, right? Maybe I could ask her…”

“Maybe don’t?” Fluttershy grinned. “But speaking of leaving me to my fate… I really should finish packing.” She stretched her arms above her head, joining Sunset in standing. “But I do promise to text you goodnight, and again before I leave!” she chirped.

“Alright, babe,” Sunset said as she pulled the pink-haired girl into a familiar position, her left hand settling onto Fluttershy’s back as the right sought out her arm. “If you gotta go, then you gotta go.”

Wrapping her own hands around Sunset’s torso, Fluttershy looked up at her and smiled. “I’m not going to get very many chances to enjoy this kind of thing over the next several weeks, am I?” She pulled in closer, hugging her girlfriend tightly. “But really, I’m so sorry about the short notice. I’m not gonna let you down. Promise.”

Sunset didn’t giggle at the intensely determined expression now adorning her girlfriend’s face. She did, however, close her eyes and lean in for another kiss, prompting Fluttershy to do the same.

The two of them stayed in that position for a short while before Sunset sighed. Pushing Fluttershy to arm’s length she smiled softly and rubbed her shoulders. “Guess this is goodbye for now, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but still not for long!” Fluttershy pressed her finger against Sunset’s nose gently. “I will talk to you later tonight,” she nodded. “Stay safe on the way home, okay sweetie?”

“Of course. Can’t let you lose me before you’re ready to cut me loose yourself, right?”

Silence. A raised eyebrow.

“You know I was kidding! Come on, babe. I’m past that,” Sunset said. “For now, though, you’re right. I’ll talk to you later, then?” She asked, deftly pulling one of Fluttershy’s hands up to her lips and pressing it against her smile.

The ensuing light giggle was more than enough reassurance for her, and the two parted ways.

“Goodbye, Sunset!”

“Talk to you later, Flutters!”

It was only when she got home that Sunset noticed the hairpin she was now wearing. It was one that she knew well, since it traditionally rested on the head of her girlfriend. She took it off and smiled. “Something to remember you by, huh?”

In her hand were three pink butterflies.


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Part Two - Free Fall

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> [07:33] FlutterButter: I’m all set in our apartment! I got here safely, though it was very loud and a little scary on the plane over. Oh my, I just realized how early it is for you! I’m sorry! Hope this message doesn’t wake you up!

> [11:58] ShimmeringSplendid: Thanks for letting me know, babe!
> [11:58] ShimmeringSplendid: Silly as it is, I was a little worried for you. You’re alright after the trip? I know that kind of thing stresses you out :(
> [11:59] ShimmeringSplendid: Had a bit of a late morning, sorry. You didn’t wake me up at all!
> [11:59] ShimmeringSplendid: Gonna be a slow day though. I’ll get back to you with more excitement tomorrow. For now, I did find a cool song I think you’ll like. “A Trip Beyond the Seaside” by Resonant Chime. Lemme know what you think! :P stay safe, love ya!

Sunset stretched out on her bed. Looking fondly at the messages to and from her girlfriend, she idly plucked at her guitar. It was one of those low-energy days for her. As committed as she was to actually accomplish something over the school break, she had just gotten out of school. She deserved a bit of rest. Swiping over to the “Rainboom Rodeo” chatroom, she glanced at the jokes and videos Rainbow and Pinkie made a point of sharing nigh-religiously after waking up. Exhaling sharply at a particularly amusing clip of two dogs attempting to confront a duck rather disastrously, she turned her attention properly to her instrument. Running over a familiar solo seemed a good way to start, so she let her hands fall to the starting position that felt most fitting at the time. She remained perfectly focused on her task, guiding her hand through the notes and bends automatically while equally evaluating her own technique. She sighed and stopped, a particularly tight ascending melody coming out a little too muted. She repeated the segment a dozen times before moving on. While thinking on what song might benefit the most from practice, she absently strummed a set of chords she’d come up with not two weeks prior.

In fact, she’d come up with them for…

‘Fluttershy, huh?’ She stretched her fingers and started again. ‘I can’t believe I was stupid enough to think I’d surprise her with a new song right before she left. I knew it was gonna be soon. Too soon to finish the thing.’ She started adding little flourishes to the chords—there weren’t any lyrics yet.

Flipping open the notebook on her simple, sturdy nightstand, she decided to cut corners by seeing which previous lyrical idea she could co-opt for the new composition. ‘It’s gonna be a while before I hear from her again, though. She never was the best at checking her messages.’ Finding a suitable candidate, she kept going.

“Flying past the clouds, ran away, never looking back,
Shooting for the sun every brand new day,
Couldn’t turn around,
Though I wouldn’t if I wanted to
Looking for the wonders lying in my way…”

She nodded, satisfied with the fit. ‘Shame. It’s a good travel song. Hopefully the distance makes it mean something that offsets the quality.’

‘I wonder if she’d show it to anybody else. She says she has friends over there, but she isn’t very specific. Hopefully they’re for real. She needs to get out more. Meet more people that aren’t me.’

Sunset blinked hard. ‘Where in the hell did that come from?’

Thinking harder about it, she found that she agreed with whatever part of her had birthed the idea. It actually felt rather familiar, that thought. She knew Fluttershy had other interests, though beyond the generalities she couldn’t for the life of her recall specific details. ‘She likes cute stuff and animals, sure, but she never really talks about shows or anything. Says she likes to read, too, but we’ve never talked about that either.’

More strumming, this time for the chorus. The chords fell flat, implying a far more funerary meaning than she was comfortable with. ‘Let’s move this one up like… this? Yep. Sounds better. Let’s see…’

“Fly today to fly away,
Never stop until I pay my dues
Every sky along the way
Another life that has to say goodbye.”

‘Geez, that’s still kinda dark.’ Sunset shrugged, clearing her phone’s notifications.

‘I suppose there’s something to songs about starting over, isn’t there? Must be nice to do that willingly. No expectations, no preconceptions.’ She scribbled the chords over the corresponding lyrics, opening a voice memo app to record the melody.

‘I imagine that’s what these summers are like for Fluttershy. She must have found someone she likes over there.’ Sunset reflected again on the distance she’d felt last year around the same time. She hadn’t known when Fluttershy would leave then, either. She hit a sour note and paused the recording, falling back onto the deep grey pillows behind her.

‘That’s enough of that for today.’ The girl stood up. The guitar was sent back to its corner and the recording was named and filed away. She opened and closed several different apps in quick succession. Music, DragonFlare chatrooms, MyStable, Bakery Battles, HayTube…

Sunset took another deep breath. The familiar feeling in her core settled into place. She bit her lip, then sat down on the floor. Barely even registering it, her fingers went right back to the easily accessible DragonFlare icon.

‘I mean… I know I wouldn’t be so happy here if I were her. She talks about her summers so often…’

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> [12:42] ShimmeringSplendid: Enjoy your time away :P Should be enough time to get your head on straight and get to know some better people over there. You should be better off between them and the rest of the gang, eh?

She turned off her phone again and got up. Grabbing sunglasses from a small, angular desk across from her bed, she stepped outside. Pinkie had said she wanted to get the gang together for a late lunch, and it wouldn’t do if Sunset was the only one missing. Reflexively, she pulled out her earbuds and plugged them in. Reopening her music app, she pressed “shuffle” and put the phone back in her pocket.

She frowned. That didn’t quite sound right, did it? She pulled the phone out again and pressed “shuffle” one more time.




‘I love having a lot of songs, but usually I’d find something I feel like hearing by now…’

She kept on reshuffling the music the entire time she walked out of her small apartment building. Song after song she recognized flew past her eyes as she tapped out an impatient beat on her phone screen.

Ultimately she gave up, coiled up her earbuds carefully into her pocket and walked to meet her friends in uneasy contemplation.

‘Honestly? I’m not even sure I could eat right now anyways…’

Free Fall

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Part Three - Friction

Sunset Shimmer did not have a cold. She was also pretty sure the temperature both inside and outside her apartment was actually a little warmer than she would like. On top of that, she knew that she’d gotten a good amount of sleep for the past several days.

‘So why am I this out of it?’
A light buzzing interrupted her thoughts. Her phone, which she had left charging on the nightstand, was buzzing. The text on the screen read “3:00PM - Work Shift” momentarily before Sunset dismissed the notification.

Dragging herself up again, the girl blearily brushed the hair out of her face. Immediately she realized just how messy she looked. ‘Y’know what? Maybe I am sick after all…’ She groaned as she stretched the kinks out of her back and headed to her bathroom. ‘A quick brush ought to be enough. At least I showered this morning.’ She snorted, realizing that she was effectively congratulating herself on showering earlier that day. Quickly enough, she fixed herself up to the point where Sunset more or less felt human again. ‘As human as possible, under the circumstances, right?’

Given that she still had almost twenty minutes before she really had to leave for work, Sunset once more took out her phone. Almost before she realized it, she was looking at a familiar screen.

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> [12:42] ShimmeringSplendid: enjoy your time away :P should be enough time to get your head on straight and get to know some better people over there. You should be better off between them and the rest of the gang, eh?
> [14:28] FlutterButter: Sunset, please don’t think about yourself like that! I don’t know what I did to make you think I’m worse off for knowing you but I’m so sorry.
> [14:30] ShimmeringSplendid: hey, flutters. It isn’t your fault at all!
> [14:30] ShimmeringSplendid: i’m just being the same gloomy bastard I always am
> [14:31] ShimmeringSplendid: i just really don’t want you to feel like you have responsibilities towards me or anything.
> [14:31] ShimmeringSplendid: i just mean you kinda close yourself off sometimes??
> [14:31] ShimmeringSplendid: actually i just realized i’m really not one to talk
> [15:01] ShimmeringSplendid: i’ll stop bugging you about it then. Have a good night

‘Still been four days.’

Of course, Sunset had already known what the DragonFlare log would display. Checking the same page several times a day did that to a person. She sighed and refreshed it just a couple more times. Just to be sure. Nothing changed. Sunset collapsed the chat again and opened her email. Nothing important, of course, but the newest Sweet Shoppe mailing list deals had come in. ‘And Pinkie would kill me if I didn’t at least use one…’
Sunset’s phone, as though guided by some cruel, mechanical sense of humour, immediately lit up with a new notification from DragonFlare. Her heart beat faster and she scrambled to reopen the chats, but was simply rewarded with the same screen as before. Last active earlier this week.

A little more poking around revealed that the offending notification had come from another group, actually.

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> [14:12] PrettyInPink: Hey @everyone ! did you all see the new email from the Sweet Shoppe?
> [14:12] TacticalRainboom: hard not to
> [14:13] TacticalRainboom: u set it to important in my notifs
> [14:13] TacticalRainboom: and changed the alert to a party cannon sound
> [14:13] Diamond_Sparkles: Pinkie, would you mind telling me why you felt the need to alert all of us again to your email? We agreed that the “everyone” alert would be for emergencies only.
> [14:13] PrettyInPink: Sorry guys!!! But i just wanted you guys to comment on the first message from the NEW SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR FOR THE SWEET SHOPPE
> [14:13] Diamond_Sparkles: Caps, darling.
> [14:13] PrettyInPink: Sorry!
> [14:13] ShimmeringSplendid: oh congrats pinkie!!!
> [14:13] Diamond_Sparkles: I do believe congratulations are in order.
> [14:14] PrettyInPink: i knowwww
> [14:14] TacticalRainboom: nice
> [14:14] PrettyInPink: so how was it????
> [14:14] Diamond_Sparkles: Very professional and charmingly enthusiastic.
> [14:14] TacticalRainboom: ^
> [14:15] PrettyInPink: Sunny? What about you?
> [14:15] ShimmeringSplendid: oh. Pretty cool actually. Can’t wait to see how you hype them up
> [14:15] ShimmeringSplendid: you know the school so well you probably are the best fit for social media manager.
> [14:15] PrettyInPink: Thanks! It really means a lot to hear you guys say all that!!! <3 <3 <3
> [14:18] PrettyInPink: is everything alright sunny?
> [14:20] ShimmeringSplendid: of course it is
> [14:20] PrettyInPink: you sure? Your texting tone seems off
> [14:20] PrettyInPink: you still have a while before you leave for work.
> [14:20] PrettyInPink: wanna talk about it??
> [14:21] ShimmeringSplendid: how do you…
> [14:21] ShimmeringSplendid: wait, of course you’d know
> [14:21] ShimmeringSplendid: but nah. All good. Thanks pinkie, but of course i’d come to you guys if i had an issue.
> [14:21] ShimmeringSplendid: assuming it wasn’t something i could handle on my own of course. Those do still exist
> [14:22] PrettyInPink: she still hasn’t messaged you huh
> [14:22] ShimmeringSplendid: what?? Hell are you talking about?
> [14:22] ShimmeringSplendid: is this about fluttershy? We’re all good, thanks.
> [14:23] Diamond_Sparkles: Pinke! That was very inappropriate! Especially given that this is a group chatroom!
> [14:23] PrettyInPink: Oops! Sorry! I’ll delete those right away!

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> [14:23] PrettyInPink: sorry…
> [14:23] PrettyInPink: but do you want to talk about it?
> [14:24] ShimmeringSplendid: i…
> [14:24] ShimmeringSplendid: honestly don’t know
> [14:24] ShimmeringSplendid: I gotta go to work now. Sorry, Pinkie. But thanks for the offer.
> [14:24] PrettyInPink: okie! Good luck at work!!

Sunset sighed. She got up and grabbed her small bag for work. Even though it would only be six or so hours of standing around at the mall’s food court and ringing customers up, she appreciated having a notebook close at hand. She left without a word, locking her door with one hand even as she put on her earbuds with the other.

The steady noise of traffic was just as loud as always, and equally uninteresting, but for once Sunset felt a little bit odd about putting on her music. She quickly found a playlist that would more or less match the energy she wanted for her shift and started walking. She got to the bus stop rather quickly, and wasn’t waiting for long before she managed to get on her bus, once again thanking whatever power guided extradimensional equines that her school office had been more than willing to assist her in getting a student transit pass. On the bus itself she enjoyed relative solitude; the other three patrons were all enjoying a lively conversation in the back.

Sunset sat down by the exit doors and once more grabbed her phone. She didn’t even have time to read any alerts before it was already unlocked and, as was now the norm, open to one specific DragonFlare chat. She went to close it reflexively, but…

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She waited. There were no new messages from Fluttershy, and apparently the “typing” status was set to launch in nearly two months.

‘It might be a bug. It’s probably a bug’

She closed the app. Quickly checked her mail and a couple of inane games. Five minutes passed.

‘It’s probably reset, right?’

Once again, the DragonFlare logo popped up and spun around a few times before revealing the exact same activity status as before.

Again, Sunset closed it.

She opened the app again, immediately. Still online. She frowned and checked to see whether one of her other friends might have changed their usernames as a joke even as the rattling of the bus ground her clenched teeth into each other most uncomfortably.

She sighed, about to turn off her phone entirely.

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> [14:48] FlutterButter: Hi, Sunset! I’m so sorry! I’ve been really tired. Moving stuff around is hard enough with my brother helping, so this was an absolute pain. Then we went sightseeing for a couple of days, so I’ve been getting back around 8pm every night! I’m adjusted to the jet lag at least.

I wish you didn’t feel like you’re not good enough for me! I’m so lucky to have you… I’ll send a few pictures! There are so many cute animals here it’s amazing!! I can’t actually talk right now but I’ll be setting aside time every day for you afterwards, okay? It’s been nice to see some extended family I have here but I really do miss you. Be safe and have fun! I love you!
> [14:48] FlutterButter: image219340j3.jpg x
> [14:48] FlutterButter: image1837384.jpg x
> [14:48] FlutterButter: image2j993k2.jpg x
> [14:48] FlutterButter: image3hgg344.jpg x
> [14:48] FlutterButter: image827r464.jpg x

That was new. She read the message over and over again. It did make sense, she thought. Sunset knew already that Fluttershy got tired far quicker than her other friends, and she had definitely been excited about the trip beforehand.

Scratching her nose, Sunset made a face. Her chest was feeling very tight all of a sudden. The weight that had settled there over the past weeks was suddenly noticeable again, and perhaps heavier. She opened her jacket, though she knew it wouldn’t change anything. She wanted nothing more than to ignore the messages for a while, but…

Images flashed through her mind. A smile reflected in the black television across from the couch on which she lay with her girlfriend, the movie about to start. A bashful head of pink hair emerging from a changing room, reservedly looking at her for approval. Sunset sighed.

‘Hey, she’s still trying. As much of a pain as I am, she’s trying. I can’t expect her life to revolve around me, can I?’

Looking at the street beyond the window, she figured that there were a solid five more minutes before she had to get off. Maybe the energy she was trying to get wouldn’t work out, but there was really no excuse in her mind as to why she should leave the message from her girlfriend to linger.

‘Best to get it over with now, huh?’

She stored her earbuds and began to write out her own reply.

‘Hey babe! Awesome to hear from you!! I know you’ve got better things to do with your time… My time’s been pretty uneventful I guess? Not particularly productive at the moment. So much for strong and independent! Anyways, you’ll never guess what Pinkie managed to land today…’

Terminal Velocity

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Part Four - Terminal Velocity

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> [09:31] TacticalRainboom: sounds gr8 sunset! This song’s perfect to play w/ the Rainbooms
> [09:31] TacticalRainboom: 9/10
> [09:32] ShimmeringSplendid: it isn’t even done yet...
> [09:32] ShimmeringSplendid: besides, it doesn’t even have drums or bass or anything.
> [09:32] ShimmeringSplendid: more of a solo piece as it is
> [09:33] Diamond_Sparkles: Even better, darling! You could do it as an acoustic break in a show!
> [09:33] Diamond_Sparkles: If you haven’t noticed, Pinkie Pie gets rather… enthusiastic. From where I stand with the keyboard stand sometimes I need a little time to… dry off afterwards.
> [09:34] ShimmeringSplendid: riiiiiiiiight…
> [09:34] Diamond_Sparkles: Hey!
> [09:34] AppleJack: Break it up, now.
> [09:34] PrettyInPink: Hey AJ!
> [09:34] TacticalRainboom: sup
> [09:34] ShimmeringSplendid: Heya Applejack!
> [09:35] AppleJack: Hi all
> [09:35] AppleJack: What’d I miss
> [09:36] Diamond_Sparkles: Sunset here just sent us a quick doodle of a song she’s writing!
> [09:36] Diamond_Sparkles: It’s rather great, I think.
> [09:36] ShimmeringSplendid: you don’t have to listen if you don’t wanna, AJ. it’s not much anyways
> [09:37] PrettyInPink: Too late!
> [09:38] AppleJack: Shoot
> [09:38] AppleJack: it is pretty good
> [09:38] ShimmeringSplendid: oh… thanks!
> [09:38] Diamond_Sparkles: Told you sooooo~
> [09:38] AppleJack: I mean, I woulda used banjos more, but
> [09:38] TacticalRainboom: dammit aj
> [09:38] Diamond_Sparkles: sigh
> [09:39] ShimmeringSplendid: heh
> [09:39] AppleJack: gotcha, Dash!
> [09:39] TacticalRainboom: dammit aj… x2

Incoming call from PrettyInPink


“Hiya Sunset! How’re you doing?”

Pinkie’s voice was bright as always, but to Sunset, something felt different. Not quite forced, but maybe apprehensive? Sunset rubbed her eyes with the other hand as she woke up from her stupor, noticing that she’d kept the line silent for what was just about to qualify as an awkward amount of time.

“Oh! Uhh… I’m good, I guess. Still kinda sleepy?” Sunset gave a rather vague answer on purpose, hoping that Pinkie might take the hint.

From the speaker, a light tapping sound was heard. Likely her pink friend bouncing a pencil on her desk. “That isn’t just a vague and noncommittal answer so that I take the hint and leave you alone in your broodiness, is it?” Pinkie asked.

Sunset sat up on her bed, pillows falling from where they’d previously made a protective cocoon of warmth and comfort around her. “You… what? No! Of course not!”

Pinkie chuckled softly. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it was.”

A beat of silence. Then Pinke spoke again. “But if it isn’t, then you don’t mind catching up? You’ve been kinda inactive in the Rodeo over the last week, aside from today.”

Of course Pinkie Pie would take it upon herself to check up on Sunset. Not that if she’d ignored Pinkie’s call she wouldn’t have received three more within the day from each of her friends, but still. Then again, that wasn’t the kind of reply one gave to a friend so clearly concerned with one’s wellbeing. “Sure, then. What was it you wanted to talk about?” Sunset asked in resignation. She flopped right back onto her bed, pulling the only pillow not on the floor into her arms.

“I dunno. Kinda figured you’d have hung up by now.” Pinkie was probably shrugging. “ It’s a good thing though. This means you aren’t as moody as I thought you might be! And that means you’re probably gonna make it through juuuust fine. Not that it’ll be a piece of cake. Though I can probably get you one if you really want it.”

Sunset absorbed the monologue. It was perilously close to becoming a soliloquy when she decided to interrupt. “It’s fine, Pinkie. I get it. I… I guess it’s my music that’s on my mind right now. Figure if I make it so you guys wanna hear the end result I’ll be more likely to get it out, right?” She explained. That didn’t mean that she was sure of anything, but after spending the first third of the summer already wallowing and going through the motions, pretty much anything sounded better.

“What about Fluttershy?”


“What about her?” Sunset asked hollowly.

She barely really paid attention to what Pinkie said next. Her head was just full of static again. Reminiscent of a low, reverberating note played and held on a cello indefinitely, Sunset just couldn’t think of anything. ‘What about Fluttershy indeed?’ She thought. The mental image of their chat flashed in before leaving Sunset alone with her droning void. ‘Last Active over a week ago.’

“Sunset? Sunset, are you still there?” The voice was faint, and Sunset jerked her arm back up to her ear with a sheepish grimace no one could see. She didn’t even remember taking her phone away from her head.

“Sorry again, Pinkie. I’m just… really tired. I wish I was just using it to get you off my back, but I’ve got next to no energy for anything right now,” Sunset apologized, unsure of what else to do. Mentally, she braced for the coming comments on the benefits of a healthy sleep schedule and the spiritual good that it would do her to meet up with her friends more often.

Instead, she heard Pinkie sigh. “Seriously, Sunny. I’m worried for you. Not that I don’t think you’re super duper strong and responsible and all, but…” She trailed off.

Sunset had an inkling as to where that sentence was going to go. In no mood for being given the runaround, she replied tersely. “What, exactly? I can handle it.”

“You kinda don’t extend any of that to your own problems as much as everyone else’s. Sorry!”

“What kind of problem do I even have?” Sunset scoffed, but it was a sound born of the weight in her chest rather than genuine amusement.

Once again, the hesitation from the other end of the conversation was strong enough that Sunset could feel it. Listening more intently than ever, she thought she might have heard a second voice in the background. Rarity? Was this an intervention? Sunset dragged a hand through her hair in frustration. Couldn’t Pinkie Pie see that this wasn’t any of their business? As right as everyone was assuming that her seemingly random spike in productivity had something to do with Fluttershy, she didn’t want to alienate the girl from their friend group simply because Sunset was there to recount her side of the story and Fluttershy wasn’t.

‘Pinkie seems pretty determined, though… I guess I should at least not avoid the problem. Friends don’t hide things like this, right? Besides, Fluttershy’s probably been talking to them in some other chat more often anyways.’

This time, Sunset stood up. Phone still to her ear, she rummaged in her favourite jacket to find her earbuds. As she unravelled them, she turned her attention back to the call. Her internal digression had barely taken ten seconds, so she was just in time to cut off whatever Pinkie was about to summon up the nerves to say. “Pinkie, is there someone else there? Why don’t you just put me on speakerphone? If you guys really wanna talk it out, I’d rather just deal with it all at once actually.”

There was some shuffling and a few tapping sounds that felt like they were directly on the phone. Sunset used the opportunity to slip her earbuds in and lie down again, giving her arm a break. A soft chime notified her that the status of the call had changed, and so she ventured out a hesitant greeting. “Hello?” She ventured.

A slightly strained voice returned her greeting in its usual accent, causing Sunset to nod. “Hello, darling. I’m right here.”

“Me too! We’re the only three, I think.” A much more subdued voice was also present. If it wasn’t for the logistical impossibilities, she would have assumed it was Fluttershy. In this case, however, Twilight was a much more plausible option.

Pinkie Pie spoke up again. “Well, Sunny, we were just wondering. Cause Fluttershy hasn’t really stopped by to say anything in our group, and at least none of us three have gotten any messages either. If she isn’t talking to anyone much… we know it’d be hard for you, I guess? I know there was that time that Princess Twilight accidentally donated her journal that you assum--”

“Can we please not talk about that time?” Sunset groaned, remembering the time that she’d effectively spent a week as a high-functioning emotional husk as a result of being unable to convene with the Princess for their bi-weekly book discussions.

Rarity interjected just as Pinkie took a breath. “The point is, Sunset, that we want to know how you’re holding up,” she sighed. “Despite what you may think, we have noticed, and of course we care.”

“Well, in that case,” Sunset said, “yeah. I haven’t heard from her in like a week.”

“Oh.” Twilight was quiet, but Sunset at least caught it.

“That’s certainly unlike her, isn’t it?” Rarity tutted in sympathy.

Sunset exhaled sharply. “You’d think that, wouldn’t you?”

“I kinda did think that, yeah! How’d you know?” Pinkie butted right back in, but that same strained tone lay under her unreasonably naive response.

“Hey, Pinkie?” Sunset decided to play on a hunch. “Right now, it would probably be better to just be honest with me, and then cheer me up after. Sound good?”

There was some more quiet shuffling from the group in Sunset’s earbuds. She got up again and started pacing, taking a U-shaped course around her bed. Almost immediately, Pinkie spoke again. “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Of course. I trust you.”

“Then… are you honestly happy? With Fluttershy?” Pinkie’s reluctance in posing the question was incredibly, painfully clear.

“I… I should be, shouldn’t I?” Sunset was incredulous. “I thought you guys said you supported us. When we said we were dating you were all over the moon. Was that all a lie?” She was nearly shouting at the end of her accusation.

Rarity’s sharp sound of dissatisfaction cut through her anger. “Sunset! You know very well that was entirely uncalled for. We have always supported you, and we will continue to do so. That does not mean that we will stand by and let you self destruct for the sake of your relationship!” She sighed and picked up the phone, another soft sound telling Sunset that she was now speaking only to Rarity. “Please, apologize to Pinke? This is weighing far heavier on her than you might realize. Your absence has consequences too, you know? I’ll take Twilight and get out of your hair.”

The phone went back on some sort of hard surface with a dull thunk, and Sunset was treated to the sounds of Rarity stretching and standing up. ‘I had no idea one could sound so deliberately dignified working a kink out of their back…’

Then she heard the fashionista clear her throat. “I really think it’s best we leave Pinkie and Sunset to talk about this. Come, Twilight, dear. If it isn’t too much trouble, I would love to ask you a few questions about some books I found the other day that caught my eye…”

Another person got up and shuffled away. “Oh! Of course! Uhh… bye, Sunset! I hope you figure this all out soon… we all miss you,” Twilight half-yelled her farewells as she walked away. There was silence until Sunset heard the faint sound of a door closing, then the now-familiar crackles of the phone being scooped up from the table, the chime of being back to a one-on-one conversation, and then a rather different sound. What sounded like a sad sigh coupled with a full-bodied whooomp. For some reason, Sunset immediately knew this meant that Pinkie had just swan-dived onto her couch with the phone clutched against her chest.

“Sorry about that, Sunny. I was jus--”

“Swan-diving onto furniture? Please, I’ve known you for years at this point.”

Pinkie swallowed. “Uhh… right. Sorry.” She hummed softly for a few seconds. “Soooooo… about that question from earlier? It’s just us here. I promise it’ll stay between just the two of us! Unless you’re seriously in danger of getting hurt or thinking of major criminal activity, in which case I guess I’d hafta go to the police and all, but even then, I wouldn’t tell them about your relationship stuff. Pinkie promise!”

Sunset barely quieted the laughter that sprang right through the mass inside her chest. It didn’t break it up, but… she felt just a little better prepared to talk about it all.

“Thanks, Pinkie,” she said. “The thing is that I know at least that I love Fluttershy. That much I can’t argue with. I don’t know how to face this because I’ve never actually been a lovesick teenager before! I do miss her, and you know that I have a thing about communication. I’m not so sure it’s a healthy thing but I just can’t bear the thought of a relationship in which the participants don’t actually, y’know, keep up with each other! That isn’t to say I want to be controlling either, but I do wish that Fluttershy could tell me when she was gonna go off the grid like that so I could at least be prepared, and not left hanging on a broken promise that she’d make time for me!” She paused to take a breath, the pressure now in her throat as well. She stopped pacing and leaned against the wall, looking down and idly staring at the wavy cable of her earphones trailing into her hoodie’s large front pocket.

“The other thing is that I know I’m bad for her, right? I’m such a fucking toxic girlfriend! I mean, every time we talk about anything it turns into advice. I shouldn’t tell her how to live her life! I barely know what I’m doing half the time! And especially when it comes to someone who’s so damn different to me that I really can’t hope to relate unless she tells me more herself, which she never does cause of course I’d just throw it back in her face with stupid criticism masked as fucking advice again!” Sunset wasn’t quite sobbing, but she felt almost as bad as any of the times her own nightmares had led to a tearful awakening in the early hours of the morning to the faces of her other friends strewn about the room at a slumber party. She took a quivering breath and curled further into herself on her bedsheets. “It’s all my fault. I make her uncomfortable. She’s too nice to say anything cause sometimes we’ll have a nice time and all, and she probably thinks I need her help, too. Not necessarily a charity case I guess but damn fucking close to it. If I were in her shoes and with someone like me, I probably wouldn’t want to communicate either…”

‘Well that certainly was a soliloquy there.’

Pinkie had been making quiet sounds of affirmation the whole time, but now she sounded close to tears. “Sunset… I can’t tell you what to do, but that’s partly because it seems like your mind is made up already, isn’t it? Just… remember we all love you, okay?’

“Of course, Pinks.”

“In that case…” Pinkie sniffled slightly, a sad smile working its way into her voice. “Sounds like you have to have a chat with Fluttershy, doesn’t it?”

Sunset still wasn’t crying, but she was once more inside her nest of pillows. “I guess you’re right. Thanks for being here, Pinkie. You’re an amazing friend.”

“That’s the goal, heh. Good luck, Sunny.”


Sunset sighed, and it was thick with understanding. It would be another two hours before she got up again.


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Part Five - Impact

Another “Back to School” flier fluttered past Sunset’s feet. Walking towards one of the smaller parks Canterlot hid in its downtown core was usually nice, but the last week or so of summer meant that the whole journey saw Sunset beset by obnoxious advertisements for pens, notebooks, computers, and more.

The remainder of the last month had been more or less alright. At Rarity and Applejack’s insistence, Sunset had made more time for activities with them and the rest of the gang. Consequently, she’d found it hard to make as much time for wallowing as she’d done for weeks prior. A few days of aimless wandering and talking about nothing in particular had done wonders for her productivity, and even as she walked she was listening to the latest version of her song that the Rainbooms had put together. Minus Fluttershy, of course.


It wasn’t that Sunset was angry at her. Not really. More than anything, Sunset felt calm. She remembered Pinkie’s reaction upon hearing where she would be going that particular day.

“Just remember you’re not solely responsible for anyone’s happiness except your own. That’s gotta come first, otherwise you’ll be all frowny and won’t help anybody else feel happy either, which is the worst possible thing!”

The energetic girl had been there for Sunset a lot since their rather awkward phone call a month prior. Without the wake-up call that day… ‘Let’s just leave it at that, huh?’ Sunset shook her head. Her thoughts weren’t quite cheerful, necessarily, but at the very least they weren’t incapacitating anymore. The pressure in her chest, and eventually stomach and head as well, was manageable, but still weighed on everything she did. There would likely be no end to her guilt, she figured.

The music in her ears was interrupted by a bright little *ding!*. Reflexively, Sunset pulled her phone out and deftly flipped it the right way up. Immediately opening DragonFlare, she skimmed over the active chats.

Logged in as ShimmeringSplendid

Private Chat with FlutterButter

Preview Links enabled

Preview Images disabled

Chat created three years ago

Last Active two hours ago

> [13:58] FlutterButter: Hi, Sunset! I know it’s been about two weeks since I talked to you… I hope you’re alright? I’m back in town, actually. Since yesterday afternoon.
> [14:03] FlutterButter: I actually had a few text messages waiting for me from Pinkie and Rarity. They uhh… They said I should meet you in person, and that this wasn’t something to put off. Are you actually okay? I’m so sorry, and I’m really worried about you! Please be alright. I talked to my family and it should be fine if I’m at Daybreak Park around 4:30 in the afternoon.
> [14:08] FlutterButter: I wish I hadn’t given you such short notice. You’re probably going to be too busy anyways. Someone like you deserves better.
> [14:14] ShimmeringSplendid: Alright, then. See you there.
> [14:16] FlutterButter: Oh! Thank you! I’ve really missed you, Sunny. It’ll be great to see you again!

‘She really has no idea, does she?’ Sunset looked down at her feet, then back at her phone. She scrolled through the supportive messages the two or three Rainbooms in the know had sent, expressionless. It was one thing, she supposed, to know what kind of talk you were about to have with someone, and another to go through with bringing it up when you had a chance to get away from the problem altogether.

Then her phone buzzed. It was a text from Pinkie Pie. “Don’t get cold feet now, you silly pony! There’s no better option hiding around the corner. Good luck… again!” Sunset muttered the text to herself, fighting back a smile.

In fact, Pinkie’s timing could not have been better. Just as she turned the corner, Sunset saw Daybreak Park. It was beautiful. The steely grey-blue of the modern buildings that mixed so well with the solid, stalwart bricks of red, white, and brown that made up the older elements of downtown all gave way to the park. The green expanse may not have been more than a few blocks in any direction, but it was nonetheless a quiet, tranquil space. ‘Perfect,’ Sunset thought wistfully, ‘for a little privacy and space.’

She crossed the street, eyeing the large statue of some man she’d never heard of on top of a horse that undoubtedly deserved better that marked the entrance to the park proper. It was late enough that a good few people were already rushing home, giving Sunset a delightful feeling of anonymity and purpose while actually walking deeper into the park. As she walked, she noted the few couples taking up some benches, and resolved to take the longer walk around the park on her way back. She idly put away her earbuds and let the faint drone of the downtown activity wash over her. Looking ahead down the path, between the trees lining the paved sections, she saw a familiar head of hair. ‘No time for awkward. You’ll back out if you don’t just go ahead and do it.’

When that wasn’t enough to get herself moving, Sunset shook her head. ‘Well, at least you won’t be lying about being a fucking coward.’

Fluttershy took that moment to turn around. Seeing Sunset, she waved and sat down on the nearest bench. It took the redhead under a minute to reach her, but it was enough time for the dizziness to catch up.

“So…” Sunset offered lamely, “how’ve you been?”

Fluttershy frowned. “Fine, I guess,” she said. “But honestly a little worried. You’ve been… quiet.”


“You know what I mean.”

“I guess so, yeah…” Sunset dragged her hand through her hair. “Does it really matter?”

“It should, shouldn’t it?”

“I guess I hoped you’d ignore that.”

Fluttershy looked down. “I’m sorry.”

Sunset blinked. “What, why? You’re fine!”

“You can’t honestly think that, Sunny. I basically ignored you for half the summer!”

“Yeah, but I don’t really blame you.”

Fluttershy stayed silent, a concentrated frown on her face. Sunset continued.

“I mean, you haven’t been comfortable talking to me about a lot of things. I get that you’re kinda used to dealing with your stuff alone, but you also don’t hesitate to share about your animals, school work and such. I guess that means it’s more about being a problem with me, isn’t it?

“Not that you’re being inconsiderate or anything! I know I’m too intense. I know I’m always judgemental, and trying to tell you what to do and stuff… I’m sorry. I need to stop, cause it’s stupid and it’s toxic and even though I warned you it would turn out like this you still went for it and that still makes it my fault.”

As Sunset finished her small rant, Fluttershy stayed silent. Sunset looked around, taking deep breaths. Looking back at Fluttershy periodically, she started counting backwards in her head. Her third time through starting from thirty, she heard her girlfriend speak up.

“I don’t see why that means you’re the only one responsible,” she said, “it really seems unfair to yourself.”

“Is it, though? I mean, think about it! I’m super toxic to you.”

“I can’t think of when, though. Is this about the fact that you give me advice? I actually really appreciate that about you… You know I don’t do well when I’m unsure, but you always show up to help me figure out what I need to do!”

“Yeah but I’m a total bitch about it, aren’t I?”

“Well… I can see why you’d be a little peeved at some of the things I need help with. I’m fine with your tone being a bit more curt than usual. You’ve never actually called me names or anything.” Fluttershy fiddled with her hair while looking pointedly beyond Sunset.

‘I had no idea I had this bad an effect on her…’ Sunset squared her shoulders and followed Fluttershy’s line of sight. “Well, even then, I always make it about me. I don’t stop to support you or anything, and it’s gotta be stressful putting up with me whining about my life all the time.”

“Y—aren’t you an alien from another world, with a constant struggle to appear like you belong here?”

“That isn’t even what I complain about and you know it. Not to mention I constantly spam you about stupid junk artsy stuff I make.” Sunset waved her hand around in an arc. “It isn’t something that I’m proud of, but at least I can tell when I’m actively doing someone a disservice.”

It seemed that Fluttershy would not be taking this rant like she had in the past. “I’m really sorry, Sunset, but you have to listen to me this time. It’s really unfair that you’re doing this! I’m not the best at staying in touch, sure. I’m trying to work on it! I promise! But… the way you’re talking… you’re the one that taught me that relationships were about empathy and respect, even when we can’t communicate.”

“That’s exactly the fucking problem!” Sunset laughed. “Even if I just went to the rest of the gang, I’m just draining their time and effort and energy. It’d probably be better for everyone if I just went off somewhere none of you had to care about me.”

“Please take that back.”

“What for? Honestly, we were doomed anyways. I was only ever going to be a learning experience for you. Once we move on from CHS, what do I have? I think you’re more than ready for your life beyond me. You deserve better regardless.”

Fluttershy grabbed Sunset gently by her forearm and looked angrily, tearfully at her.

“Please, don’t look at me like that, Flutters,” Sunset croaked, “I promise I’m not gonna do anything stupid like actually disappear on you guys.”

“Even without that, you also said that this kind of conflict was natural in young relationships, didn’t you? Why is this different? I don’t understand…” Fluttershy was actually fighting back tears at this point. Sunset could tell she was frustrated and confused, but as much as it hurt, she still didn’t see any better options.

“Well, at least now you see what I meant by arrogant, don’t you?” Sunset cocked her head back and stared at the sun filtering through the trees. “I still think I’m right, and I think my mind is pretty much made up.”

Fluttershy took a deep breath and remover her hand from Sunset’s arm. Another couple of minutes passed with both girls staring awkwardly off into the park.

At last, Fluttershy spoke again. “If that’s what you really think is best… it would be stupid of me to fight it, right?” She shook her head. “Then I’ll have to respect your decision even if I think we could have made it through, right?”

All Sunset could bring herself to do was nod, her hands drumming quietly against her thighs. She was in exactly that position when Fluttershy hugged her.

“What?” ‘Shouldn’t she be yelling or running or something?’

Fluttershy’s grip relaxed just enough for Sunset to get her own arms around the quietly sobbing girl. After a few seconds, she started stroking Sunset’s hair softly. “There, there… Just like you've told me so many times, as friends or lovers or whatever we end up being, I'll be here to help you out if you need me. I understand this is something you feel you need to do, but that's no excuse for being a shut-in. It'll be awkward for a while but I think we can both get past that. Can we manage that, Sunny?"

“Uhh…” Sunset couldn’t bring herself to say anything. She sat there and let the girl whose heart she’d just broken comfort her, the lump in her throat becoming more painful by the second. After another minute or two, she finally found her words again.

“Of course, Fluttershy. You’re still a great friend and such a kind and caring person I’d have to… be an idiot to abandon you…”

"I understand. I still love you, Sunset. Thanks for everything you've done for me."

Sunset swallowed again. She… she was right, wasn't she? Instances of harsh words and bitter thoughts came readily to her mind, but here Fluttershy was… thanking her?

'Though I suppose I've helped her come out of her shell haven't I?'

That put some things in perspective. 'I was right, I'm a big problem here aren't I? But not quite for the reasons I thought… she isn't deluded, this just plain isn't working out!'

"I promise. I'll be better. You've changed me for the better too, Flutters. Thanks for being here."

"I kind of thought this was how this conversation might go, but… yeah," the paler girl sat back and wiped her tears onto her forearm. "I… I guess I should go, shouldn't I?" She asked.

As much as Sunset wanted to say no, she couldn't deny that she wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep until she couldn't feel anything anymore. "Yeah. I think we could use some time to think about it. For what it's worth… it was a privilege to be your girlfriend."

"The same goes for you, Sunny," Fluttershy said, "and please take care of yourself."

Sunset only nodded, and the two girls got up. After a tense moment, they hugged, letting all of the feelings come out through the physical contact. Regret, resentment and determination all mixed together, and when they parted, they found they could at least smile at each other.

"See you, I guess."

"Goodbye, Sunset."

'Well… that's that.'

The whole trip back home was empty for Sunset. She registered no one around her and barely noticed her music helping her tune out the world. Once she got home, she took off her jacket and draped it over the sole chair. She walked up to the mirror, squared her shoulders and exhaled.

'I'll be better. I have to be.'