A Ladder to the Sun

by FoolAmongTheStars

First published

Starlight tries her hoof in writing poetry, and while Sunburst knows more about the genre than her, she thinks she would rather die than let him read it, since most of them are about him.

Starlight is good with magic, but she’s no scholar—not like Sunburst. One of her best friends and arguably the smartest, cleverest, most prepared pony she knows. Who grew up with books in the same way she grew up with magic running in her veins.

The world is enjoying a new era of peace, but there’s still so much to do—new things to learn and try. Starlight thinks that there’s no harm in reading some of Sunburst’s books—to learn about the world in other ways instead of simply living in it.

Reading the books he recommends turns into an interest for poetry, for she can’t help but feel moved by the ancient Equestrian sonnets. Her unexpected interest in the genre makes her try her hoof in writing some. And no, they’re not very good, but they are sincere if nothing else.

And she would never, ever show Sunburst her poetry. Not when most of them are about him.

Part 1

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When Sunburst steps out of the train and sees Starlight, Trixie, and three carts parked beside them, he raises an eyebrow. But he smiles.

“We came prepared this time,” Starlight says, tossing the first suitcase into the cart.

Trixie takes her time picking the smallest and lightest valise she could find. “Please tell Trixie this is the last trip?”

“It should be,” Sunburst helps Starlight with a heavy trunk, using their combined magic to hoist it into the cart. “Most of my things came last week from the Crystal Empire.”

At the time, Trixie had been mortified by the number of things that Sunburst had accumulated in a lifetime. She would side-eyed the mountains of boxes piling the empty library that seemed to grow with every delivery pony that came through, avoiding the room entirely for fear of being crushed in an avalanche of ancient artifacts and hardcovers.

It took multiple journeys to get everything from Sunburst’s old life to Ponyville, but Starlight didn’t really mind. There’s more than enough room in the castle for all his things; and seeing the empty library full of books again will bring life back to the castle, more than the crystal walls and dusty banners ever did.

Once the carts are loaded Starlight takes the lead while Trixie and Sunburst trail behind her. Trixie quickly starts talking about a new trick she’s working on that involved her smoke bombs, and Sunburst listens and offers pointers to make it better. Starlight doesn’t butt in, partly because she doesn’t have anything to contribute, and partly because she is still unsure of how to be around Sunburst.

When it’s just the two of them, she tends to go overboard, so she’s glad she dragged Trixie along for this, using her friend as a buffer between her and the stallion.

He’s not terrible or a drag to be around, quite the opposite, he’s wonderful. He’s a lot more bright-eyed and wittier than she remembered. After years bending over dusty tomes, she expected some semblance of wisdom or serenity in his every movement. Not a pony her age. Not a pony that hums as he organizes his books on a checklist, not a pony that trips over rocks while he explains the latest magical theory he came across. He’s not much different from the colt in her memories—but something subtle in him is tempered. Stronger in a way.

Starlight wonders what the future holds for them. Everything around them has changed so drastically, it’s scary to think about sometimes. Going from living only for herself to gladly throwing her life away for her friends—Friends! Real friends! Ponies and creatures that genuinely like her—in a span of a few years still cause her whiplash.

She tries not to think about it and simply listens to Trixie arguing with Sunburst over how necessary it really has to be to pack books in alphabetical order.

(Trixie loses the argument).

Once the semester starts, Starlight notices that Sunburst is suddenly less sure of himself. He’s among ponies, now, young ponies that look up at him for guidance, some even trying to push his buttons to get a reaction out of him. Sunburst smiles to hide how flustered he is and stutters something vaguely diplomatic. He takes to barely leaving his office, reading and writing his lesson plans instead. Starlight lets the subject be.

For a month.

She takes Sunburst with her on errands around the school, using her rank to drag him out of his office. She hates to use it against him, but he needs to be more involved in the school life if he’s going to be vice headmare. She hopes that, if he shadows her long enough, he’ll pick up the tools he needs to deal with the students, especially the rowdier ones that like to get a rise out of the teachers.

Soon enough, the sight of the Headmare and the Vice Headmare walking together in the hallways becomes familiar to the students and faculty. If one saw Starlight alone, it meant that Sunburst wasn’t far behind, and vice versa. These patrols around the school, which sometimes turn into errands that take them to the town, are done in the kind comfortable companionship Starlight had actually never let herself hope for. It comes naturally to them when they’re both in quiet moods, or when they’re in the middle of a heated argument about magic or whatever topic they were debating about. Starlight likes it—having some pony there, not just her—more than she expected she would.

Sunburst’s a good Vice Headmare.

When Ocellus and Smolder move to Ponyville to become teachers, Ocellus immediately takes a shine to Sunburst, their quiet, contemplative personalities making them kindred spirits. And Starlight can’t help but feel please at how well Sunburst deals with Smolder, meeting her quips with his own and sometimes even taking the rebellious dragon by surprise with his cleverness.

When Silverstream comes along, he’s the only one with enough patience to answer all her questions. At first, Starlight tries to reign the over-excited hippogriff from bombarding Sunburst with too many of her interrogations, but Sunburst took them all with stride, no matter how mundane they seemed to Starlight.

When the new semester rolls in, Sunburst is much more confident and competent. He doesn't stutter when he talks in front of a classroom, the troublemakers soon learn that messing with him was the same as messing with her and pale when he catches them doing mischief. The faculty looks at him for guidance and Starlight’s workload becomes more manageable.

Before Starlight knew it, a year had passed.

They’re back at the castle, one chilly evening, and Starlight’s trying to get a fire going in the kitchen. The Pegasi are steadily pushing the winter towards the hamlet, and Starlight’s been busy preparing the castle for the oncoming chill, bringing out the warmer blankets from the closets, and buying other essentials. Trixie is out with Maud and her sisters (a friendship she never saw coming but has no complaints over), while Sunburst is doing some last-minute shopping for their dinner and would be back soon. Starlight would rather have the room warm before he does.

When Sunburst walks in and unravels the scarf from his neck, Starlight turns to greet him—and stops, her gaze caught.

He had been letting his beard grow, a fact that Trixie loves to tease him about, but now it’s trimmed and brushed in a way that framed his face instead of hiding it. He looks handsome.

He answers her unspoken question. “It was getting in the way, with how long it was, so I went to the barbers to have it trimmed.” He clears his throat and speaks in a lighter tone. “Now Trixie can’t call me a hobo horse anymore.”

“Ah,” she says. She’s still staring, she belatedly realizes.

Sunburst leans more into the humor. “Oh dear, did they do such a terrible job? Perhaps I should have considered another barbershop before I walked into that one. But they had a discount so I just—"

“It looks nice,” Starlight blurts and forces herself to be still and not look away. She can feel the heat rising from her neck to her cheeks, and to her surprise, Sunburst is blushing too.

“Okay,” he finally says. He is the first to recover in moments like these. “Thanks, Starlight.”

She smiles and helps Sunburst with the groceries, thinking about what they could make for dinner with the things he bought, but she’s still too flustered and barely registers what she’s placing on the counter. She’s the first to finish and she turns to the pantry, opening the cabinet where all the tea is stored in little glass bottles, labeled in Sunburst’s own scratchy writing. She stares at them, trying to really look at the jars, and not at Sunburst.

Sunburst clears his throat. “Hey, I, huh, got a present for you.”

At this Starlight turns to look at him.

He places a parcel on the counter between them.

“Oh, an early Hearth’s Warming gift?” She teases and takes the gift in her magic.

She doesn’t look at him, but she can see him fidget from the corner of her eyes. “No, just a little something…”

She undoes the coarse string holding it together and carefully unfolds the brown paper, revealing a book. It’s a hardcover, but there’s no title or anything special about it besides the golden stars engraved on the dark purple leather. She opens it and finds that all the pages are blank.

“You been pensive lately,” Sunburst explains as Starlight looks back at him. “I don’t want to force you to talk about it, but it’s not healthy to bottle it up—I find that writing what bothers me helps me understand what I’m going through.” He avoids eye contact, looking down at the groceries between them. “I’m sorry if I come across as presumptuous­—”

“Sunburst,” she says, unable to hold back the warmth in her voice. He looks at her, startled. She smiles wide and gives up trying to hide how she’s feeling. “That’s very thoughtful of you, thank you.”

She says it as sincerely as she can, hoping that he will understand how much this means to her. “Thank you,” she repeats, holding the book tight to her chest.

There’s a pause. Sunburst isn’t quite smiling—he is studying her like she’s the most important thing in the world, and he is committing the shape of her face to memory.

“I’m glad you like it,” he finally says and stops himself from saying anything else that might ruin the atmosphere they unintendingly created.

But Starlight, feeling warm and pleased in a way she can’t describe, smiles back. “Well, dinner is not going to make itself, right? What should we have?”

The moment—if it could be called that—passes. Their dinner is delicious.

Starlight still sleeps in the same room Twilight gave her when she first moved in and when she left, Starlight found no necessity to change rooms. She keeps the diary by her bedside, which is close to her desk.

Too close. She realizes that the book could be easily stained, or damaged by the half-finished spells and kites littering the surface. She picks it up hastily, holding it close to her chest, and considers the safest, most sacred place to store it could be.

She ends up walking around the castle, frowning. Despite the numerous rooms not one of them is quite right, quite safe enough, to place the gift.

She walks past Sunburst’s room, the small door overshadowed by the library’s double doors next to it. While the library was technically a shared space it had inadvertently become Sunburst’s space more than anyone else’s, his books were the ones filling the bookshelves carved into the walls after all. Thinking of all the books and space in there makes her realize that it’s the perfect place for this one blank book

The doors are open when she walks in. Sunburst is sitting on the table, his face hidden behind a book. If he’s surprised to see her, he doesn’t let it show, and continues with his quiet studying.

She walks along the shelves, reading the titles that are ordered by subject, and then alphabetically by author. They all have lengthy titles and grand words she never read before. She feels a little out of her depth here.

Reluctantly she turns to Sunburst, and feeling her gaze on him he glances up from his book.

“I was wondering where I could put this,” she answers and gestures to the book she’s holding.

He considers her words, and very carefully asks, “Do you want me to store it for you?”

Before she could answer with an I don’t know, her mind registers the odd, careful tone in which he speaks, the one he uses when he’s hiding something. She looks a little closer and spots the shimmer of hurt on his face.

He thinks she doesn’t like his gift, that she isn’t planning on using it.

Oh crap, Starlight thinks because that wasn’t the case at all.

“A-Actually!” she says a little too loudly and coughs awkwardly. “I was thinking of buying a bookshelf and place it over my bed, so I’ll keep it there instead.”

“A bookshelf over your bed…” Sunburst repeats.

“Well, not like floating over my bed, I mean nailing to it to the wall or something,” Starlight continues without thinking, “I can keep other books in there too.”

His expression changes when her meaning dawns on him. “To read! Of course, I never thought you’d be interested in books! I never even offered to share my books with you, I just thought that you weren’t interested in reading.”

“I like to read,” Starlight says defensively.

Sunburst nods eagerly. “Yes, of course, you do! I can think of so many books you might like. The shelf is a good idea.”

“Yeah,” Starlight says awkwardly. Sunburst stands and races to the nearest wall, a hoof pressed carefully against the spines of the titles as he browses his collection. “I’ll get to it then.”

“I’ll lend you some good titles once it’s ready,” Sunburst says and smiles. “And you’re welcome to any of my books in the future, by the way.”

Despite herself, she smiles back.

Sunburst lends her five books, once the bookshelf is bought, assembled, and nailed securely on the wall over the head of her bed. They included an encyclopedia of crystals and their magical uses, a book on kite construction and design, a compilation of legends from around the world, a tome of Equestria’s history, and the last one takes her by surprise: an anthology of old, archaic love sonnets.

She understands why he chose the first four, but the last one perplexes her. Sunburst picks up on her uncertainty and explains. “I think only reading non-fiction can be exhausting, you can read the poems when you just want to relax and not in the mood for the other ones.”

“Okay,” Starlight nods and, not wanting to sound ungrateful, she continues. “Thank you, Sunburst. I really appreciate this; we can go to the antique store next week and I’ll treat you to something there.”

He practically beams at her. “Sure! I hope you enjoy them and you can keep them if you want, you’ll get better use of them than I ever did. I think these would be a good place to start for you.”

Starlight trusts his judgment. She has all the time in the world to read them, and she’s determined to use it to really appreciate the tomes he got for her, that way the knowledge will stick to her head and she won’t have to bother him again.

That night in the flickering candlelight, Starlight reads the first book.

Winter in Ponyville is only a degree away from being downright freezing, and other than going grocery shopping and bringing in more firewood, Starlight spends most of her time indoors.

Sunburst is busy in the library more often than not, deeply absorbed in his books and theories. Starlight wishes she would join them in the living room—there’s no fireplace in the library, and the high ceilings made it one of the draftiest and coldest places in the castle. But she says nothing and keeps the fireplace roaring, and works on a charm that would warm the library without burning the books.

Trixie giggles from behind her hoof when she catches Starlight staring at the door. “Have you tried to, I don’t know, ask him to come downstairs?”

Starlight rolls her eyes. “I have, and he always forgets as soon as he gets back to reading,” her frown is mixed with worry when she glances at the door again. “I just hope he doesn’t get a cold or something…”

Trixie looks at her for a moment before she sighs, reluctantly getting up from her comfy spot on the couch. “Trixie will let you in on a little secret: if you want to draw crowds to your show, or reclusive book horses from their rooms, food always works!” Trixie grins at her skeptical look. “Just sit and watch.”

The former show mare prepares a pot of tea over the fireplace, and when the kettle starts to boil and the smell of ginger permeates the room, Sunburst appears at the door, his ears perked up with interest. “Are you guys making ginger tea?”

“Sure thing!” Trixie grins at Starlight as she pours the hot beverage in his favorite mug. “Come and get it.”

While Trixie’s tactic works eight out of ten times, Starlight still thinks of ways of making the library a more comfortable place. Even if she were to put a real fireplace or some magical heating crystal in the center, it would have to wait until spring for construction to begin. In the meantime, she seriously considers investing in a couple of hot water bottles—they will come in handy for the next winter, she thinks grimly.

But at that thought, the idea that everyone would be here to see the next snowfall, in this town, and that neither Sunburst nor Trixie are going anywhere—it sends her heart fluttering and makes her smile. She keeps these thoughts to herself though and doesn’t think about it too often. She savors it and it warms her more than any fire spell she could think of.

Starlight reads the books Sunburst gifted her often, at all times of the day. Her favorite spot to read is on her bed, underneath three or four comforters, with a cup of hot cocoa by her side, and flipping through the pages in the pale morning light—it’s a comfort she rarely indulges in, one that Sunburst is probably more familiar with. The luxury of taking her time with a book, instead of ripping through its pages and discarding it once she gets the information that she needs. It’s a bit odd to just lie there and read, that there isn’t anything urgent she needs to do. She knows that this strange peace won’t last—this is Equestria after all, something dangerous and fantastical is bound to come knocking on her door sooner or later. But for now, she enjoys this phase of unfamiliar quiet.

In true Starlight fashion, she doesn’t take Sunburst’s advice of reading the poetry book in between the non-fiction ones. She reads all the non-fiction books first, carefully and thoroughly, at least four times before she finally approaches the poetry tome. Of course, she could always skip this one and ask Sunburst for more books, but it didn’t feel right to ignore something that he’d carefully picked out for her.

She doesn’t know why she has been avoiding this book in particular, and it’s all very silly in hindsight—but she figured she was saving it for last. Judging by the worn-down spine, the dog ears on the pages, and the notes scribbled out on the margins of the text, Sunburst had really loved this book in particular. There is something uncomfortably intimate about reading it, she can’t look at it without picturing the many expressions he makes while he studies, wondering what kind of faces he made when he read the verses. Then again, if this book was so special to him, he wouldn’t have loaned it to her for so long. He could have given her another book or another copy of the same one, but no, he gave her his personal copy of this particular book, meaning that he was perfectly alright with her having it.

Perhaps Sunburst just wanted someone to discuss poetry with, in an academic sort of way. She doesn’t know.

Starlight Glimmer, you’re many things, but an overthinker is not one of them. Just read the stupid book and give it back to Sunburst, simple as that.

So she starts the book one night when the castle is asleep, and her candle only has enough wick to last for about fifteen minutes.

She reads the first poem, then the second one, and the third one, and the one after that. They’re not as bad she feared. They do require some effort and rereading from her part to really grasp their meaning, but they don’t feel like a waste of time or anything like that. They’re actually quite interesting, and she finds herself getting more invested with every poem that she reads, especially since no poem is the same. They all create a different atmosphere—some are delicate and flowery, others wry and yearning, others gut-wrenchingly sad.

One sonnet, in particular, is quite lascivious—but the author was clever enough to hide his passion behind double entendres. Starlight probably wouldn’t have picked up on it right away, if Sunburst hadn’t highlighted certain words and written the meaning on the margins. The poem, and the fact Sunburst had examined it so thoroughly, makes her cheeks and ears redden. It’s well written, even she could appreciate that.

One more and then I’ll go to bed, she thinks as she reads.

But she doesn’t follow through with her plan, and her candle burns out when she’s halfway through the poem she promised herself would be the last—so she lights up another candle, because she hates leaving things half-finish, and reads another ten pages.

It’s late when she finally closes the book and puts it back on her shelf.

She’s tired, but she lays there in the darkness and stares at the ceiling, at the moonlight filtering through the spaces between her curtains. She thinks of Sunburst before she could stop herself. Not about him in particular, just the way he said goodnight before she went to her room, glancing up from the book he was reading to give her a quick smile.

Starlight thinks about every other creature in Equestria, not just the earth ponies and the pegasi and the unicorns. She thinks of the griffons, the yaks, the hippogriffs, to the changelings and the dragons, every one of them saying goodnight, good morning, hello, goodbye, there you are, here I am—that maybe they had a sonnet in their hearts as well, or were living out their own poetry instead of reading it.

The history of the world, she realizes, is made out of these special bonds. A strange thought comes to her then: that reading these poems was a bit like having a glimpse into that private history, the kind of history that is so integral to the world, the one that no one really talks about.

And Sunburst is still on her mind and she doesn’t know why, but she feels serenity when she thinks of him—and another feeling she can’t describe, but it’s so faint that it will disappear if she examines it too closely, so she lets it be.

She goes to sleep, and the next night, in the quiet and late hours, she reads some more.

“Did you like them?” Sunburst asks absently when Starlight places a stack of five books on the edge of his desk.

“Yeah,” she says but looks at him cautiously, hoping that he won’t ask what she thought of each tome.

But it’s exactly what he does. “Really? That’s great! Which one was your favorite?” He smiles eagerly and leans forward.

She answers in what she hopes is a neutral tone. “They were all great, but it’s a tie between the kite construction guide and the poetry book.” This isn’t a complete lie—she really did like the kite designs presented in the book, but the poetry is her favorite by far. More than she expected; she ended up reading the volume over five times.

He looks surprised. Perhaps even embarrassed, if she didn’t know him so well. “Ah, yes, the anthology. I wasn’t sure about recommending that one, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“It’s just—” she pauses, trying to gather the words. “The way the authors transcribe something as complicated and fleeting as emotions, you can’t fake that, and maybe that’s why I like them so much, I like it when ponies are honest,” she smiles and shrugs. “I wasted so many years hiding what I was truly feeling, so I can’t imagine how some pony could open up their heart like that for the world to read…it’s really quite powerful.”

Sunburst stares. She knows she’s not making a lick of sense, but it’s Sunburst, she’s sure that he won’t mind hearing her rambling. He’s probably the only one with enough patience to listen to her and try to understand her.

The door opens and Trixie waltzes in, shaking the snow from her withers. “A word of advice from the Great and Wise Trixie: don’t go out in this weather.”

“Ok, then why was the Great and Wise Trixie out in this weather?” Sunburst asks with a raised eyebrow.

Trixie huffs. “Not out of Trixie’s free will, she was waiting for a very important package!” She grins and waves a hefty box in her magic like a foal in Hearth’s Warming morning. “And Trixie was gracious enough to pick up the mail for you both.” She tosses a parcel of letters onto the desk, one clearly bigger than the other.

Starlight looks at the smaller one and sees her name written in her father’s writing. She glances at Sunburst, who’s flicking through his letters with a slight frown on his face.

“Are they from Sire’s Hollow?”

“Yeah,” Sunburst mumbles. “Honestly, I’m surprised by the small amount, you should’ve seen the boxes of letters my mom sent—oh.”

Sunburst stops and reads a particular letter. It immediately stands out because it’s not the expensive white stationary that Stellar Flare uses. The envelope is light brown, but of no lesser quality, and Starlight recognizes the stamps as the ones they sell in Trottingham.

“Who is it from?” Trixie asks, glancing from the practical magic items she’s pulling out from the box.

“I don’t know,” Sunburst frowns and flips the envelope, his eyes widening. “Wings and Scepters!”


“Wings and Scepters,” Sunburst looks at both mares with wide eyes. “They own the largest collection of decorative arts in all of Equestria.”

“So, is it like an antique store?” Starlight asks carefully.

“It’s a museum nowadays,” Sunburst tears open the letter and reads through the contents.

He’s quiet for a long time, long enough for Trixie and Starlight to share a concerned look.

“You’re not in trouble, are you?” Trixie breaks the silence when it’s too much for her. “I mean, they’re not coming to size up the competition or something like that? Celestia knows you have enough junk to open a museum of your own!”

Sunburst smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “No, just an old roommate from magic school that wants to see me about a business proposal.”

“Okay…that’s very sudden,” Trixie says and motions for him to go on.

He sighs. “Back in college, Flemish Meyer and I were kindred spirits because we didn’t do so well in magic school, but while my mom was understanding when I failed, his parents…weren’t. Last I’ve heard his parents forced him to take on the family business.” He looks at the envelope, tracing the companies symbol printed on the paper. “I knew his family was affluent, but I never guessed they were the owners of Wings and Scepters, so I’m a little shock.”

“Well, he gave you a warning before he dropped by, so let’s give him credit for that,” Starlight says with humor, nudging Sunburst good naturally. “Are you going to take it? The business proposal?”

“Probably not,” Sunburst says. “I mean, I don’t even know what he wants, but I have a pretty good thing going here, it’ll be stupid of me to blow it away just because.”

Starlight’s smile could have lightened up the darkest room. Trixie coos. “Aw, stop it, you! You’re making Trixie blush.”

They all laugh, and soon they are roped in by Trixie to help her try the new props she bought.

While Sunburst is distracted by Trixie’s new card tricks, she can’t help but think, are you happy here, in this town, in this job, with us, with me? One day, an opportunity will come that you can’t pass up. One day, you may leave.

This is more than enough for me, but I wonder if this is enough for you?

Part 2

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Flemish, as it turned out, was not a good friend. He was exactly the type of pony Starlight feared Sunburst had grown into before they reunited—he looked down on her and Trixie, at the work that they do, at the mistakes that they made. Fortunately, Sunburst recognized this and sent Flemish packing, though he didn’t leave quietly, apparently.

After he came home from the station, Sunburst looked stricken and barely said a word to his two friends. Trixie tried everything to get him to talk and looked at Starlight with a shrug when nothing worked.

Starlight’s strategy was to leave him alone until he was ready to share, and a week after Flemish left, he finally spoke up.

“I know I’m not the most observant,” he slowly states, as they sit together to have lunch during their break, “but he was not like that when we were in magic school. Maybe something happened to him to make him change? Could I have tried harder to get through to him?”

Starlight chews on her sandwich slowly. She wants to offer advice, but wonders if she has the right to do so, she had been just as nasty as Flemish not too long ago, and her doubt probably reflects on her face.

But Sunburst—still not looking at her, grimaces.

“Or perhaps he had always been this way, but I was too self-absorbed to realize...it would not be the first friend that I let down,” he says. His tone is sad all of a sudden, and—oh. When he meets her eyes, Starlight swallows with difficulty and her heartbeat slows. Oh. She hadn’t realized the extent to which he appreciated his former friend. Hadn’t realized Sunburst cared about this because it symbolized something else, something bigger to him.

“Maybe,” Sunburst continues, distracted, lost in his thoughts, “it’s because I cared more about my books and little else, not like you that cares about others so deeply.”

Starlight’s eyes widened. She never would have described Sunburst as uncaring. But for him to call her kind…rings oddly poetic, resonant. Like a thought carefully hidden, a secret, revealed by chance.

“I, what?”

Sunburst flushes. “You were the first to reach out to me, you were the one that pulled me out of my shell, kicking and screaming, because you cared. You just—you care about others more than you let on. You wouldn’t have changed your ways if you were truly selfish. And,” he hesitates, “you been through so much and yet you always do what’s best. I don’t know how you do that. I sometimes wonder if you even know that such ease—is difficult for others.”

“I—” Starlight has no idea what to say, and her pulse is rather loud in her ears. She veers back to self-deprecation, knowing that she’ll need time to think over his words. “If Spike hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have the courage to knock on your door. You’re giving me too much credit.”

Sunburst’s still looking plaintive, in an unaware sort of way, the way he only lets himself be around Starlight. Thinking about it, she realizes how guarded he is around those he doesn’t know well—but with Starlight, he seems to feel more comfortable in acknowledging what troubles him. She wonders when he started trusting her so openly.

“If I had shown that I cared, maybe Flemish would still be my friend,” he says, melancholic.

Staring at him, Starlight gets the impression that there’s something else on his mind—for when Sunburst is worried about something, he tends to avoid the subject and concerns himself with the little things. Starlight has some gleam, a sliver of understanding, that the fixation with his former roommate is just scratching the surface of a much larger problem.

Starlight doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she knows she has to try and say something. “But you did.”

He looks up.

Starlight continues, her voice sounding far away and insistent and...strange to her. “Sunburst, friendship is not a competition, even I know that it can’t be measure or counted as a scientist does with specimens. You were the best friend you could be to him. Flemish wouldn’t have remembered you, come all the way here, if you weren’t. Whatever happened to him, whatever he decides to do in the future, is not up to you, and that’s that. But who knows—if he comes back and decides to change, you can offer him a second chance, and hope for the best?”

There’s a pause.

“Oh,” it’s all Sunburst can say.

Starlight’s blush turns the purple fur on her face into a darker lavender. She looks down at her sandwich. Who was she, to talk about love and friendship like this? To talk to Sunburst like this?

She dares to sneak a look, only to find Sunburst studying her.

He nods, slowly, to himself, like he’s come to an agreement, and he exhales. His back relaxing like a heavy load has been lifted. And then, from behind his glasses, his eyes crinkle and the corner of his mouth curls up—

—And his smile is so simple and small, but it strikes Starlight deeply; makes her heart stutter, her blood freeze and burn in seconds. She has no idea why.

“I think you’re right,” he says, his voice lighter. “And it makes sense. And,” his smile grows, and Starlight can’t look away, “I think you should give yourself more credit, for understanding things that I may overanalyze.”

I don’t understand as much as I wish I did, Starlight thinks. You make me wonder, a lot, and I don’t always have the answer.

There’s silence between them. They hold each other’s gaze. Sunburst is calm. His posture straight, the tightness in his jaw gone. Starlight is the opposite, she’s rigid, her brain going blank and her heart is doing cartwheels. She wonders what does he see in her.

Then again, nothing is more important to her than the normalcy between them, the comfort of their routine. Starlight refuses to spoil this, and she knows she needs to back away from the edge that she’s toeing, in the next few seconds, or something will be forever changed.

“Your fries should be soggy by now.”

Sunburst looks down at his plate in surprise. “Oh!”

Starlight wolfs down the rest of her sandwich before heading back to work.

She spent the rest of the winter reading more of Sunburst’s books, to the point that he’d stopped directly loaning them to her and made it clear she doesn’t need his permission to take them.

Starlight ended up reading all the poetry she could get her hooves on, without really being able to explain why. Sunburst doesn’t comment on this, as though it was normal—as though it was perfectly plausible that his usually pragmatic friend developed an interest for classical literature, and that she asks him the meaning of intricate words enough times that he shows her a dictionary.

She still has the blank book, Sunburst’s gift, close enough to touch—and she held it often, traced a hoof over the cover, wondering what she could write in its pages to justify marring the pristine paper.

Spring returns, and Starlight is busy as ever with running the school, giving classes, and mentoring the new teachers. She barely has time to read.

She’d assumed that being cooped up indoors due to the weather was the only reason she been reading so much. But now that the world is sunny and warm and full of life, and work is hectic as ever—she still finds herself reading in the evenings, during the hours she isn’t working or practicing magic or hanging out with Trixie, gossiping away.

She liked to read—but now she loves it more than ever. The ponies that know her find her new hobby funny, probably assuming that she spent all of her time thinking of the school.

But Starlight is only as much of a headmare as Sunburst is a wizard—which is to say, both of them are ponies first. Ponies capable of more than a singular trait, ponies more than the stereotypes that others assign to them.

So Starlight works, and Starlight does magic, and sometimes, Starlight reads. She stops wondering why.

One night, shooting stars streak through the sky. It’s a singular event since it was not commanded by Princess Luna—and Sunburst, of course, was dying to see it. It’s an event that happens every fifty years or so according to his books, and Sunburst already knew everything about it, more than Starlight could understand from his earnest lectures on the subject. He prepares his telescope, a picnic blanket, and a bag filled with other essentials, and they trek to some damp hill-peak, arriving late in the afternoon so they wouldn’t miss anything.

Starlight had been tired. Last week had been finals week, and she been grading stacks upon stacks of exams and signing report cards. Trixie had opted to stay in and recuperate from the hectic week, and Sunburst assured her that he could go on his own, that she was under no obligation to come with him—and Starlight had given him a stubborn look each time, and insisted on coming along.

She supposed she could take a nap once they arrived. She’d always been a light sleeper, and Sunburst could always wake her if he needed her.

But they are delayed by a landslide that covered a good part of the road thanks to the summer rains, making it too dangerous to cross, so they opted for a different route that took twice as long to get to the hill. By the time they arrived in the late twilight, the first stars started falling from the sky.

Sunburst, practically vibrating with excitement, ran ahead and prepared his telescope in less than thirty seconds, alternating between looking through it and writing in his notebook like his life depended on it.

She sat next to him, and her exhaustion vanished.

She has never seen so many stars. Starlight lays on her back over the blanket and stares at the heavens, and Sunburst, sitting up next to her, grins with delight.

“I didn’t think they’d be so—I’ve never seen anything like this! I wasn’t expecting much, but, by Starswirls beard! Starlight, they’re so—!”

“I know,” Starlight agrees.

They look at the sky, strewn with constellations parading on and on into infinity.

Something occurs to Starlight. It’s a story she heard long ago, and she isn’t sure if Sunburst remembers since it’s a piece of folklore her father passed on to her when she was a filly.

“You should make a wish,” Starlight says.

He looks surprised when he tears himself away from his telescope to look down at her. In the darkness, she grins cheekily without really knowing why. Perhaps she’s just happy she knows something that he didn’t.

“It’s what you do,” she explains, “with shooting stars.”

Starlight’s eyes are focused on the stars, even if they’re too bright and dizzying to look at for too long. She just smiles and lets the world spin madly around her. When he speaks, his voice is quiet—not in a sad way, but in the way that indicates that the gears are turning in that big brain of his too fast for her to follow.

“You should make a wish, too.”

“I don’t feel like it, I’m happy with what I’ve got.”

“Then I’ll make one for you,” he stubbornly says, “and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Starlight huffs and throws his stubbornness back at him. “Then I’ll make one for you too.”

“A trade of wishes? How generous of you.”

The giggle she tries to hold back comes out in the form of a snort. After a beat, they turn to look at the sky.

“It’s almost over,” Sunburst says, thoughtful as he stares into the night. “Last chance to make a wish.”

So Starlight stares at the stars, focusing on the slowest, less dazzling one with all her heart, and wishes. She wishes for Sunburst’s happiness—the kind that sticks with you for a lifetime, the kind that’s earned and never leaves. For real, true joy for Sunburst.

Because it doesn’t matter if he does leave someday. If he quits the school, leaves Ponyville, makes a new life somewhere else, meets new ponies, and makes new friends. Starlight had thought about it for months, and it comes to her with sudden clarity, and it’s as bright as the shooting stars: that it doesn’t matter if he leaves the castle, if he goes off to follow his dreams, she’ll still care for him, because she’s his friend, and she gave her heart to him, expecting nothing in return. She will miss him terribly, and she will cry and be sad, but she’s not alone this time and she will have help in picking up the pieces. Their bond may weaken and be strained, but she’s sure that it will never break. Because there would always be a place for him by her side—because he’s not just anyone, he is Sunburst, and he would always be dear to her.

She’s breathless as by the profoundness of it all.

“I made your wish,” it’s all she says.

And he answers. “Me too.”

Something changed. Since the night they looked at the shooting stars, Starlight has felt—different. Better. She is emboldened in her assurance that she would never stop being Sunburst's friend, regardless of the path that he chooses.

One morning, she’s alone in the castle, with time to spare. Sunburst is in Canterlot, Trixie’s giving remedial classes at the school, and it’s only her and a book, comfortably reading in the living room.

A stray thought comes to mind: that this quiet day is the perfect day for her to start writing in that journal Sunburst gifted her.

Sunburst writes all the time, he goes through notebooks like a sick pony goes through tissue papers, and he always finds more. Maybe it’s because Starlight is so sure of herself, of the fact that she’ll stay in his life as long as she remains his friend—maybe it’s the comfort, that despite nothing had technically changed, that makes her realize that she’s been too cautious with his notebook. It’s meant to be used. She can write in it, and get more notebooks once she runs out of pages. Sunburst would prefer that scenario instead of never using it.

The idea that she would finally make use of his gift invigorates her. She closes the book and takes it along with her to her room, a silent companion in this odd venture. She clears her desk with a sweep of her magic—pulls out an unused ink bottle and quill, and sits on her chair. She tosses the book on the bed, where it lands harmlessly on the pillows. The first page of the open notebook faces her. It’s not as scary, this blank page—because while Starlight is busy sharpening the edge of her quill, she’s thinking about what she wants to write.

A poem.

The thought’s ridiculous enough to make her laugh. Starlight Glimmer, former villain, graduated student of the princess of friendship, now a part-time poet. She has no eloquence, no grand vocabulary to guide her. She’s not very talkative, she never burst into tears at the sight of a flower, like most poets she’s read appear to have. She has no book smarts, her grasp at etymology and linguistics is basic at best, no sense of rhyme, no sense of wit. She can’t even hope that she will write well.

But she has her experiences and her honesty. It will have to be enough.

Starlight takes herself too seriously at times, but she forces herself to just let it go this once. No one besides herself will read this. And she is reckless, impulsive, and brave enough today to try something she will be awful at.

She writes the title on the top of the page: About Stars and Friendships.

She pauses, her quill hovering, and then, not wanting to ruin the paper with ink blotches, she quickly writes some more. The words come. She barely thinks about it, and to her astonishment, something in the shape of a poem appears on the page, in her messy writing.

We saw them together,
the stars that fell like tears in the night.
But between us, no sadness could be found,
only peace that comes with silence.

You look at the world,
for answers and questions,
and were surprised to find
that there was room for wishing as well.

I found a star
and poured my heart to it,
so my wish may be granted.

When I wished for you happiness
something else happened too,
I found a peace,
I never knew.
I knew I would never leave,
whether my wish is granted or not,
because being with you,
after all this time,
it’s a wish come true.

Everything seems to have a wish,
But I pray that there’s a stronger chance
of you finding happiness,
after I gave my heart to the stars.
Because it’s not just your interest,
but my goal now too.

Two ponies, wishing for one’s joy,
surely should come true.
That’s what I hope.


Starlight reads it over once.

She knows there’s no structure or rhyme. Nothing about it is elegant. But at least it’s down on paper. She waits for the ink to dry, turns the page, and writes the next title. What is Magic, really?

He gave his life away to understand it,
gave away years of his peace for an answer.
But has come no closer to finding it.

In exchange he has gained knowledge,
in other things,
found a purpose in his journey
and a place to call his own.

His open heart draws in
those that look for refuge
from the uncertainties of the world.

What good is my magic,
if I can’t protect that?
If he can use his magic to care for others,
then I’ll use mine to defend them.

I don’t claim to understand magic,
for all my power, I could not describe,
the terrible beauty that is magic.

For all his wisdom,
he doesn’t know, doesn’t see,
that magic is wonderful
and beautiful and awful.

And it’s all around us.
In our hearts,
In our souls,
In our minds.


Starlight purses her lips, staring at the poem. It contains nothing but the truth, her own truth at least, but the poem meanders in places. She could always rewrite, she supposes, but maybe later.

The next entry is not a poem, just a set of sentences she strings together. Like a diary entry, or a vow to carve in stone:

Please, remember these words, this promise,
I will never leave Sunburst, that’s my choice,
Because he is my best friend,
because of the love I bear for him.

The odd note she writes down is done in an almost trance state—and she realizes, as she finishes, that the final line is true.

She loves Sunburst; always has, in her own way, and she realizes that it might not be as simple as she first thought—might not be as platonic as the love of a best friend, and nothing else.

She gasps. The spell is broken; and she feels out of her depth, like she’s falling. She had known, deep down, about her feelings, but never worded it, never dared to give it power over her, and now—she forces herself to stand, to breath, and tells herself this changes nothing.

But she closes the book with more force than necessary, and the verse still echoes in her mind, for a long time: the love I bear for him. The love I bear for him.

“Starlight, are you alright?”

Starlight’s in her office, has her back to him, and she only nods. She focuses on watering Phyllis instead.

Sunburst hesitates. “Oh,” he says, “ok then…”

Starlight knows that it cannot do to love him. Not like this.

As a friend, she has overstepped.

And Starlight knows herself, knows that she is no good at pretending. Not anymore. Distance will be necessary; she can no longer talk to him as causally as she used to.

Her coldness hurts him, she can tell—but it’s for the best.

She’s guarded, silent, and aloof around him now.

And the diary containing the terrible truth is still on her desk, collecting dust. She covers it with other things like a shameful secret, for she can barely look at it without guilt chilling her to the bone.

Trixie gives her the look more often these days, as though she’s saying, How silly you are.

Well, she’s not entirely wrong.

Trixie tries, many, many times to get her to talk, but Starlight won’t budge. This is the one thing she can’t share, even with her best friend, and so she remains quiet about it—evades her questions and pushes her away. Now Sunburst and Trixie won’t talk to her, and the two spend more time together in the corner that Starlight pushed them into, unsure of what to do.

Starlight says little these days—it’s the old silence she once used and stopped being used to. She stops reading altogether, gives the books back to Sunburst, and her shelf is an empty void above her bed. She buries herself in her work and tries not to think.

But at night, in her dreams, it still echoes, still resonates: that the love she has for Sunburst will take a long, long time, if ever, to fade.

How terrifying, the assurance of it.

Part 3

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Once upon a time, when he was small and naïve, Sunburst had grown—in a way so quiet, so solitary—with the barest, vaguest idea of what friendship and companionship were meant to look like.

He is no longer small, he thinks, but he’s still inexperienced. But it’s a different, tempered sort of immaturity. He just so recently started living that he feels young, when he thinks of what little he has truly experienced. But he doesn’t feel ancient, no—the weight of living had yet to wear him down.

Sunburst only had Starlight when he was a little colt, along with his mother’s fondness. He had the pleasantries of teachers he got along with. He had the infrequent, warm words from his father and the simpering compliments of his fellow classmates. He had the little nods of acknowledgment from the pony at the book store, and the companionable silence of his massive collection of books and antiquities.

And it had been enough, not knowing any better, and he’d never expected any of it would change.

But then, oh, then, Starlight came back. Starlight, who he hadn’t thought of in years, coming to rub her accomplishments in his face. Starlight, who he misjudged before she had a chance to explain herself. Before he realized just how much he had missed her, before he realized just how empty his life had been without her, and he realized, even as his horizons broaden, that he’d grown to value her companionship above everyone else’s.

It’s an old and cliché story. Two best friends grow apart. They reunited and a shaky companionship grows between them. Sunburst wants to be the best friend he could be. He doesn’t always succeed, but he tries, and he learns.

His clumsiness makes him unsure, and he treated her like a stranger at first—out of respect for what she been through—and, then

—they somehow got their friendship back. Not only that, it was stronger than ever before, more fulfilling in a hundred tiny, blooming ways. He’s let himself think of their tie to each other as an assurance. A promise. A gaze, held—for she never looked away from him, no, not once.

But maybe, Sunburst thinks, he was never meant to have Starlight. She’s drifting away, and it stings, and it angers him, and he’s lost in the face of this new reality: that it’s his turn to be the one left behind.

Sunburst wakes in the middle of the night. He thrashes, gasping for breath. He sits up instantly, ripping the blanket away, his magic clutching the fabric rough enough to tear it. He has always been a restless sleeper.

The books on his lap tumbled and fall to the floor, hitting the carpet underneath with a muffled thud. The sound of his books reminds him to breathe.

Sunburst rubs his eyes. Just a nightmare, already fading.

He exhales heavily, puts on his glasses, and looks at the window, assessing the darkness outside.

He puts on a robe, heading downstairs to the kitchen. He needs a cup of tea, something to calm him down, and he’ll do it as quietly as he can since Starlight’s room is closest to the kitchen.

Starlight, who used to make tea for them both, the winter before. Tea that was always delicious, and warm, and different from the tea Trixie makes, or the ones he makes for himself. Sunburst only makes tea for himself out of a mundane need for a drink. When Starlight made him tea, it had felt like a careful sort of gesture; it tasted like a gift.

Sunburst stops at the landing, getting lost in the memory. He feels the shape and the contours of that familiar, leaden heaviness in him. In the darkness, in the silence of the night, it’s easier to get lost in the melancholy. Sunburst only fights his unhappiness when he must, but it envelops him now, like an old friend.

As he steps to the ground floor, his attention is caught by the light pouring from the kitchen.

This makes him stop, and he stares at the slightly ajar door, listening as a muffled sound reaches his ears.

He walks to the door, his pace fast, and sees her—sitting on the counter, her head resting on her hooves, useless spells appearing and disappearing in erratic motions. A spoon, a fork, and a butter knife spinning in circles, over and over, for no apparent reason.

She looks weary to the bone. She looks miserable.

Something about the sight is too much for Sunburst; anger and hurt and worry brims over, and it burst forth in a loud, “What is the matter with you?”

She lifts her head slowly and stares at him. He doesn’t miss the way she tenses.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she says. “Nothing is the matter.” Her voice is short. Her horn stops glowing, and the utensils fall with a clatter and just lay there, resting on the surface of the counter. She studies them, avoiding his gaze.

“Since when is doing magic at every possible moment the cure for insomnia?”

“It's none of your business.”

“Of course it is!”

She looks up, catches his gaze for a second, and then her eyes shift back down. He sees her swallow. “Why? Why does it matter? It’s just a little magic.”

His voice is brittle. “It matters because you’re hiding something. Why are you lying to me? What is making you like this!?”

She meets his eyes and the expression on her face makes his breath catch—it’s screwed up, guilty, troubled over something clearly very important to her.

“Starlight, please,” he says, softer.

“Don’t,” she answers. She seems to be clashing with herself, warring over what words to tell him, he sees panic and frustration in every line of her face.

“Starlight,” his voice is urgent. “Just tell me what it is.”

She shakes her head, eyes shut tight. “I can’t.”

“Don’t you know I’d do anything for you?” Sunburst says, angrier, but on the verge of falling to his knees just to get her to speak. “Why do you have to—hide away from me, like I’m diseased? We’re friends!

Something about the last sentence makes her snap, because she reacts, jarred and upset, with a shout. “Maybe we shouldn’t be!”

“Why?” He throws back.

The world has shrunk. Shrunk down to the two of them alone, here, now.

Starlight gets up and starts pacing, back and forth like a caged manticore, shaking her head. Whatever it is she’s trying to hold back—whatever she’s fought with for days, he thinks—it’s winning. As though she is giving up, she slumps. Her expression unnerves him; she looks sickened with herself. And then—

—she speaks up. “Because it makes falling in love with you too easy,” and it sounds like an admission of defeat, of embarrassment.

The world stops. Sunburst stares at her. She looks away. She looks drained, exhausted. And the world is not moving anymore, not spinning; it is tethered to the space between them. All Sunburst can feel is his heartbeat stuttering in the silence.

In the quiet.

In the silence so deafening—

—and then everything picks up again, too fast, too soon, and the shock returns to his body, tuning into something twisting, aching inside him and it makes him stagger.

The world is moving differently, strangely, the ground seems unsteady underneath his hooves. The planet is spinning too fast now. He feels dizzy.

Sunburst breathes in, and breathes out, and speaks. “Don’t run away from it. If you mean it, then don’t hide from it. From me.”

“What do you want me to do?” Her voice is quiet.

“Tell me properly,” he sounds oddly calm—a distanced calm he does not comprehend—and says, “help me understand.”

Starlight gasps, sharply, and the words spill from her mouth in a panic frenzy. “No, no, I can’t! If I do that—if I tell you now, lay my bones for you, I might be sick. If I tell you everything, no, heavens no, just—read the diary you gave me. I can’t talk about this, I—what I feel—this isn’t another curiosity for you to study!”

She runs to the door, and Sunburst scurries out of her way. Then chases after her before the door closes on his face.

“I can’t do this,” she says again, as though to herself. She doesn’t turn to see him as he stands there, rooted in the foyer, and she disappears in a flash of turquoise.

Sunburst stands in the empty castle for a long time, until his eyes get used to the darkness, wondering where she had reappeared, what place she needs to exists in for her to calm down.

And then he turns and marches up the stairs, still mildly in disbelief at his calmness. He finds her diary underneath a slightly dusty kite and sits down on her empty bed, and Sunburst reads everything in it.

Over and over and over.

On Sunburst’s tenth birthday, Princess Celestia gave him a toy soldier. It was wrapped in colorful paper, inside a cardboard gift box, and it was made out of wood, carefully carved and painted, the little details in its armor making it more alive. Sunburst thanked the Princess, but the gift instantly troubled him—made him wonder. The soldier stood at the ready, looking ahead, and was all alone. Most of the time these toys come in a set, sometimes with other soldiers. At times, with a Princess to defend.

Celestia’s smile told Sunburst that she had guessed his thoughts. “Curious why this soldier is alone, are you?”

Sunburst, just ten years old, slightly miffed, his uniform smudged with grass stains from when he’d run into the garden that morning to avoid his bullies, had replied. “What do you mean by it? Are you making fun of me because I can't make friends?”

Celestia’s voice had been so gentle when she said, “It’s not meant to be funny. My dear student, none of us are lucky enough to spend our whole lives without ever feeling lonely. Someday—perhaps for long, perhaps for short—you will be alone. You must understand that you have to be strong when the time comes, be good, and live knowing you honor yourself—so that the right ponies fill that loneliness, someday.”

She petted his messy mane. “This soldier, see him smile? He stands alone, but he is happy. You can find happiness, even in solitude. And when this soldier finds a friend, he will know friendship truly, because he understands himself, first.”

Sunburst picked his words carefully. “You want me to…understand myself?”

“Very good, Sunburst,” was all Princess Celestia said.

In the journal, Starlight writes of her love for Sunburst. Sunburst reads all the words until he has them memorized, his hooves tracing over the messy writing. Starlight writes of never leaving Sunburst’s side. Starlight writes, for all his wisdom, he doesn’t know, doesn’t see, and Sunburst thinks, she’s right.

He is so blind to the world around him, to the obvious, until it turns around and bites him in the face. Even then he has a hard time understanding.

But this...

Something inside him asks, that's all well and good, but, do you love her back?

Sunburst tilts his head at the unspoken question.

“I’ve loved her,” he says, into the silence, “my whole life.”

He’s still holding on to Starlight’s diary when she comes home, late that night. The front door to the castle opens and she steps in. She’s calmer, but still very nervous. Her cheeks darken when she sees him, sitting on the bottom of the grand staircase, holding her journal.

There is silence.

Until Sunburst finally breaks it. “Starlight—can we talk?”

“Sure,” she says. She doesn’t seem afraid. Sunburst cannot help thinking, looking at her, that she has never been afraid of anything for too long. He can tell that she’s no longer afraid of her feelings for him.

She sits down next to him on the bottom step, and they face each other. A beat passes before Sunburst asks. “What would the ideal outcome be for you?”

She takes a deep breath and releases it with a sigh. “We move on. You forgive me. You continue to work at the school as nothing happened.”

Sunburst holds the diary tighter until he can’t feel his hoof anymore. “I want something else.”

At this, Starlight's shoulders slump, defeated. “I figured you would.”

At her statement, Sunburst unexpectedly freezes, a wave of nervousness pouring over him. His calm fades. Starlight looks at him and holds his gaze, and it comes to Sunburst’s mind clearly—she’s looking at you, and she won’t look away, not unless you ask her.

He can no longer hold back the truth. “I—I want to stay, too. But I don’t need to forgive you, because there’s nothing to forgive, because, what you want, it’s what I want. What I feel for you is the same way you feel about me. And—my wish, remember when we traded wishes? I wished for you to find peace. I want you to have peace, and I want to be with you. I just hope that our goals align.”

Starlight is looking at him, she never looked away—never broke away from his gaze as he talked. She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t need to. Her smile speaks for her, it tells him everything he needs to know.

“I love you,” he confesses, loudly, more to himself than anything, because he sees that Starlight already knows, they both know.

“I thought,” Starlight says, hesitates, but she continues, “I thought you would leave one day, to become a researcher or something.” She’s still smiling, simple and joyous and wide, and the sight of it makes Sunburst feel more awake, more alive than he ever has been. Nothing feels real. Everything feels too real.

“I’m happy with what I have. I’m happy here, with you. And if I ever have to leave, I’m taking you with me this time. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Starlight says.

She surprises him, as usual, by taking his hoof in hers and holding it gently. “Thank you,” she says.

“Don’t be silly.”

“I have always been silly, you should be used to it by now,” she replies easily.

He’s so caught off guard that he laughs before he can stop himself.

There’s a commotion in the kitchen, and they both recognized Trixie’s shrill voice as she fights with the kitchen utensils. “Oh, it’s Trixie’s turn to make dinner.”

Starlight stands. “I’ll make some tea, then.”

Sunburst beams at her and asks. “Can you make it every evening?”

She raises an eyebrow, but from then on, she does.

A week later, it’s the Summer Sun Celebration in Ponyville. Musicians play music in the decorated, open square, large tables hold all kinds of foods and drinks. Stands provide games and other entertainment. Colts and fillies play and chase each other, the elderly smile and greet each other as long-time friends, the other creatures that aren’t ponies take in the festivities with a sense of awe and participate in them with eager smiles, and the night air is fragranced with something festive and warm.

When Sunburst asks Starlight to dance, she jokes, “I didn’t know you could dance,” even as she nods and takes his offered hoof.

“I’m no good at ballroom dancing,” he affably agrees. “But this kind of dancing is easier.” He holds her hoof up as she twirls, and every creature around them seems to be smiling at them, but Sunburst only has eyes for her.

“It’s certainly more fun,” she says with a laugh as they spin. The dimples on Sunburst’s cheeks appear as he grins. They dance in the moonlight, comfortably lost in each other’s presence, for long hours into the night.

As they walk home in the early morning, Sunburst looks at her, and Starlight is looking ahead as she hums a song she’s making up as she goes. He thinks, I'm never leaving, there is no place I will rather be than here and watch her do the impossible, she could probably build a ladder to the sun and be crazy enough to climb it.

And he would be right behind her because he loved her that much.

He stops her from stepping up to the castle’s entrance and kisses her. She’s surprised only for a second before she responds just as eagerly, her soft hoof cradling his cheek tenderly.

As they break apart, she smiled at him. He beams back.

They turn when they hear a commotion from the bushes, where Ocellus, Smolder, and Silverstream tumble out of the greenery. Ocellus smiles sheepishly and disappears with a flash, Smolder yells after her and runs away, Silverstream just shakes the dust off her feather and flies away with the biggest grin she could muster.

Sunburst bursts out laughing even as Starlight's cheeks turn as red as a pair of apples.

But that night they fall asleep holding each other, ignoring Trixie’s knowing grin when they come down for breakfast in the morning. Life was complete.

“Show me one of your poems,” he tells her one day, “and I’ll tell you a story.”

Starlight considers this. They’re having dinner, with bowls of steaming vegetable soup between them. “I’ll show you the new one I’m working on,” she agrees. “What kind of story will you tell me?”

“The story,” he grins, “of how I fell in love with you. I’ve never told you my side of it.”

Starlight tilts her head. “You're right, you never told me that story, I’d like to hear it.”

Sunburst, resting his face on his hoof, tells her, “We can keep exchanging stories and poems, and finding more as we go. Sounds like a plan?”

She answers, completely serious. “Sounds perfect.”

When she says it, it sounds like a promise, a promise that Sunburst knows she will keep, and an oath he will fulfill as well.

“A promise, then,” he says. “I look forward to us keeping it.”

And they do.