The Birth of a Magical Unicorn

by SweetSunnyBuns

First published

Sister Souls even universes apart…Two souls separated by tragedy but forever bound by destiny. Even universes apart the bonds of love and friendship can overcome any adversity.

Two souls separated by tragedy but forever bound by destiny.

Sunset was conceived, loved and wanted by the mother who bore her. By an accident of conception, both she and her beloved twin sister joyfully waited for the day of their births, two souls bound by the twine of destiny.

Then the unthinkable happened, and her mother and sister were left to survive alone.

A prequel to Sunset Shimmer - Six Friends One Heart by BABroniedad.

Featured January 25, 2024 - Thank you so much!

Chapter 1 - Soul Sisters

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The little life started joyfully down its path, eagerly awaiting the moment it would be joined and ensouled.

Timeless while soulless, it drifted down the tube towards what it knew would become its cradle of life, the place where once ensouled it would grow and thrive.

Uncounted time passed, then a moment came where she was swarmed by those who would join with her. One of them, stronger and faster than the rest, found and breached her. Sensing his presence she closed herself off from any other, leading him to her. On his arrival she poured herself out to him, the two joining into one essence and one being.

Immediately she was aware of a profound shift in her perception. She sensed a moment. She sensed time. She was aware and delighted in her awareness. She was different now, a soul, a conscious living being.

As she continued her journey to the cradle she began her growth, dividing again and again until she was no longer a single egg but a mass of many cells, all her, all yearning to grow, to develop and to eventually be born.

As she continued down her path to the living cradle a sudden and intense jolt shook her to her core. Half of her cells broke away, continuing down the same path.

Panic filled her. What should she do? Half of her had left! It was without her soul! What was going to happen to them?

A gentle light filled her being as her soul was twained. From one there were now two.

Delighted in being together, her new sister soul rushed off diving into the parted cells and ensouling them, bringing them to consciousness. Together the new sister souls drifted down into the cradle, settling into separate places as they nestled into the cradle’s life giving essence.

With the passage of time they grew, every moment delighting in each other's presence. Eventually they developed to the point they could reach out, delighting in bumping and poking one another.

Serenity Sunrise Parker was not a happy young woman.

She’d missed her period. So she had gone to the clinic and had them run the test.

She was pregnant.

So now she had a difficult conversation ahead with her very much adverse to commitment boyfriend. She was fairly sure she knew how he would react, and knew he had an aggressive mean streak if he felt trapped or threatened.

She’d lived through a rather uneventful but fairly happy childhood. Her biggest contention growing up had been her name.

Her parents had nicknamed her Seri growing up leading to the children at school calling her Miss Serious. Of course she absolutely hated it. So she told everyone that her real name was Sunny. That name stuck. That’s what her friends called her, though she never did manage to get her family onboard. To this day they continued to call her Seri.

But all that faded away behind her. She had a bigger and more life altering event before her than changing her nickname.

The counselor at the clinic had reminded her she always had a choice. With one word from her, they could make this event go away. She wouldn’t even have to face her angry boyfriend.

She didn’t require even a second thought. She knew with her heart, even though this event wasn’t planned, she loved this little life within her. She couldn’t imagine losing it no matter how angry her boyfriend might get or how much this changed her life.

Her no to the counselor’s suggestion was as emphatic as it was sudden.

So she leaned against the pole alone with her thoughts waiting for her boyfriend to share her news.

Tom was not happy. His work had sucked. His boss caught him slacking on the job then chewed him a new one on the shop floor for several minutes to the entertainment of the rest of the floor, all laughing and snickering at his misfortune.

They were all assholes and they knew it. They all blew off their work too, but he was the one who got caught. The realization that they may have been laughing because he was the only one stupid enough to get caught left him even more angry.

Screw them. Screw them all.

That thought brought a smile to his face.

A bit over two months ago his cute little redhead girlfriend had finally relented to his advances. He’d experienced something more fun than anything else he could remember. He’d experienced it again a few times since then, and the idea of experiencing it again tonight seemed the perfect way to get his mind off his asshole coworkers and his embarrassment at work. Screw them. Screw her. He laughed finally really looking forward to this evening.

He drove his pickup to the parking lot of her apartments and parked. He found her lost in thought, leaning up against one of the parking lot lamp posts. As he sauntered over towards her he tried very hard to look cool.

“Hey babe! Whatcha doing hanging out here? What say we go back to your place and order some takeout then have a little fun?” He leered as he walked up to her.

She looked up without a smile, her face deadly serious. This was not the response he was looking for. Seeing his evening plans slipping away he began feeling pissed again.

“What? What’s that look for? Don’t you give me that look,” he growled out in frustration.

“Tom, we have to talk,” was all Sunny said.

“We’re talking now,” Tom snarled.

“Fine. We’ll talk here then,” sighed Sunny as she saw this was already going sideways.

‘Might as well get this over with’, she thought.

She crossed her arms over her chest and looked straight at him. After a pause of several seconds she gave him the news.

“Tom, I’m pregnant.”

He paused in shock. “And you think it’s mine?” He blurted out.

Now it was Sunny’s turn to be shocked. Then angry. She stomped up to his face and hissed.

“What the hell are you implying, Tom? Of course she’s yours! Do you think I’ve ever been with someone else? I told you! You were my first! I’d never done that with anyone before you! And I sure as hell never wanted to do it again with someone else! Why the fuck would you even say that?” She demanded.

Tom’s gut clenched as he realized where this was going. He shoved her back.

“You bitch! You absolute fucking bitch! I told you I was not ready for any kind of relationship! And now you spring this on me. You’re trying to trap me into marrying you, aren’t you?! You conniving little cunt! Why are you even telling me this?” He raged at her.

Sunny looked on in shock. “You seriously think I did this on purpose to trap you into marrying me? Do you seriously fucking think I’d want to be married to a raging piece of crap like you?”

Tom shot back. “So what then? You want me to pay for it? Fine! Fuck you! Come on!” He grabbed her roughly by the arm then dragged her back towards his truck.

They were in the middle of the parking lot before she finally managed to rip her arm from his bruising grasp.

“I do not want an abortion you prick! I’m keeping my baby! Fuck you if you think I’m not!” She raged.

“I fucking knew it! You are trying to trap me! You stupid bitch!” He spun on her then knocked her down to the ground. Landing on her he straddled her legs. She tried to push herself back up but he pushed her back down and held her there. He leaned down into her face as she struggled.

“I told you! I am not ready for a relationship with you! Fine then. You don’t want an abortion? No problem. I’ll take care of it for you instead. I promise it will be quick and painful!” He pulled his fist back then swung down hard, his right arm slamming into the side of her abdomen.

She gasped out in shock and pain.

From a nearby balcony a neighbor watched in shock and dismay. She saw her friend struck as she struggled against her attacker then get savagely beaten.

Recovering her senses she raced into her apartment to call for help for her friend.

Tom saw her shock and pain and it triggered even more anger. He swung down into her again and again, raining blows down on her abdomen as she punched and flailed back up at him, bucking under him as she struggled to get him off her.

Another neighbor saw a man beating a woman. He sprinted towards them catching the young man in a diving tackle while pulling him off the distressed woman. He slammed the man’s face into the asphalt and sat on him hard.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?! Are you trying to kill her?” The man screamed at him.

Tom screamed back in frustration. “I fucking ought to! Conniving bitch can’t just get a fucking abortion!”

The man held Tom down firmly, hopelessly outclassed in strength and experience that no amount of rage would ever overcome.

Sunny rolled over. She crawled her way up to standing. Holding her abdomen she ignored the blood trickling from her nose and mouth. She staggered toward her now very much ex boyfriend, hate filling her eyes.

She only took two steps before she seized up falling to her knees. Blood ran down her legs as she dropped back down on the asphalt, barely holding herself sitting as she leaned forward on her arms.

Her hands clenched in rage on the rough driveway.

She looked straight into her ex’s eyes as she gasped out in pain and rage. “What have you done?”

The question broke through the veil of Tom’s rage. Blinking, Tom stopped squirming under the man realizing what he was seeing.

Oh my God,” he said quietly in horror at what he’d just done.

The sister souls’ joy was interrupted by a shock of fear from the living cradle. They could sense their mother’s fear, her panic, and then her anger. They heard loud voices from outside their cradle. There was shouting and violent bumping. Suddenly a sharp jab brutally breached her little life’s connection from the cradle.

“Sister! Sister! Where are you going! Sister! Don’t leave me!” she heard her kindred soul cry out as her essence dimmed then faded completely.

She was outside of her cradle now, looking down on her mother crying. Blood flowed out from her as she wailed in despair. A distraught man was being held on the ground nearby. Even with his face pressed into the ground he was crying and calling out, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I’ll never hit you again, I promise! I am so sorry!”.

“Goodbye sweet sister,” the little lost soul cried silently as she faded away again.

Sirens filled the air as two cruisers raced into the parking lot. Seeing the young woman down on the ground and the man subdued before her they ran over to them. One officer comforted Sunny while the other took custody of the now extremely subdued young man then listened to the older man’s report of what happened.

On seeing Sunny’s brutalized state the officer with her called in a request for paramedics and an ambulance. Sunny’s neighbors gathered around to support her offering what comfort they could. Others thanked the older man for subduing her attacker.

“I’m the one that called it in,” stated the woman who had run from her balcony as she gently rubbed Sunny’s shoulder in support. “I saw what happened and I can corroborate everything that that older man said. This man senselessly attacked Sunny then started beating her. It was horrible.”

Several of the surrounding apartment residents called out in agreement. The officer took their names and numbers for possible further questions.

The sound of sirens approached again. This time an ambulance and paramedic unit rolled together into the now quite crowded parking lot as the concerned residents parted to let them through. The units parked next to the two patrol cars. Four medics emerged from their vehicles then gathered behind the ambulance to pull a gurney from the back. They gathered up their supplies and rolled over to Sunny where she still was sitting on the asphalt.

One of the EMTs questioned Sunny as they stepped up next to her. “Are you Miss Serenity, ma’am?” He knelt down next to her as she nodded.

“That’s me,” she confirmed as he knelt. “But please just call me Sunny.”

He smiled and reached out to her, took her hands gently into his own then nodded to the officer with her. The officer smiled and nodded back, backing off to let them work.

Returning his smile and nod, the EMT turned back to Sunny. “We’re here to help, Sunny. You look to be in a bad way. Can you briefly describe what happened?”

“My now ex boyfriend decided I wasn’t going to have his baby then tried to beat her out of me,” she stated. She looked down sadly at the blood slowly leached out from beneath her onto the asphalt. “I’m afraid he might have succeeded.”

“We don’t know that ma’am. Let’s get you up and off of this asphalt and onto our gurney. We’re going to take you to Canterlot General Hospital where they can check you over. Don’t you give up hope yet, Sunny,” he added, remembering she had asked them to use her name.

Sunny nodded mutely as they gently helped her up and onto the gurney. They raised the head for her then strapped her in. Rolling her over to the ambulance, they loaded her into the back. The EMT who had spoken with her entered with her, while the rest entered their vehicles and flipped on their gum balls preparing to leave. The neighbors parted again allowing them to exit.

The ambulance pulled out onto the street followed by the paramedics. They both turned on their sirens as they pulled through the Canterlot traffic. Inside, the EMT placed sensors on Sunny to monitor her pulse, blood oxygen, and EKG while he asked her more detailed questions about what had transpired and how she was feeling.

Sunny answered feeling completely detached and depressed. He relayed all the information over the emergency radio to the hospital which included her name, age, approximate size and birth date. They acknowledged in response as he reported they were about five minutes out.

“Don’t worry, Sunny. The obstetrics team at Canterlot General are some of the best in the state. You’ll be in good hands,” he smiled.

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” Sunny responded looking up into his eyes. “It’s her.” She looked down at her blood ruined short skirt.

“You are a wonderful and caring person, Sunny. Keep your hope up. I’m hopeful everything will work out,” comforted the EMT.

Sunny looked up into his eyes and finally smiled. “Me too,” she nodded as hope finally reached her heart. She held his hands tightly. “Me too.”

They arrived at Canterlot General. The four EMTs worked together to lift her gurney from the ambulance then roll her into the busy ER. They rolled up to the triage station where they gave her name and birthdate again, then a few moments later were directed to a private room towards the back of the ER. A staff nurse joined them, introducing herself to Sunny as she led them to the room.

“Hello Sunny. I’m Gillian Heart McGinnis, but everyone calls me Red Heart. I’ll be taking care of you while we sort out your care and bring in our obstetrics team. I’ll have some questions for you and some forms for you to sign while we get you settled and get your care started.”

They entered the small, now crowded, room as Red Heart continued. “First let’s get you off of this gurney and onto our bed. You’ll be more comfortable, and we can get these guys back out there helping others.” She smiled and winked at the EMTs as they transferred Sunny carefully over onto the examination bed.

“Best lighten up with that flirting, Red. Some of us might be taken,” grinned the EMT who was with Sunny in the back of the ambulance.

He winked at Sunny while he finished up the paperwork transferring Sunny’s care over to the ER. The rest of the crew finished packing up the gurney then prepared to leave.

“Ha! “ Grinned Red Heart, “Since when does Canterlot’s Junior Chief have time for anything but work?” She teased as she finished up placing the leads on Sunny, then watched the readouts verifying everything was working.

“Maybe I just hadn’t found the right girl,” he quipped giving Sunny another grin and a wink as he handed Red the completed paperwork.

Sunny blushed from his attention, not really understanding the quip. Red Heart laughed and smiled.

Red Heart grinned at Sunny as the EMTs left laughing together. They waved to Sunny and Red Heart as they rolled the gurney back out of the ER.

Sunny turned to Red Heart as they left. “Do you all flirt and joke so much with each other?” She asked, still pleasantly surprised by their banter.

“Oh absolutely!” Red Heart grinned. “See how you’re smiling now? It takes your mind off of the unpleasantness. It’s fun for us and entertaining for you. And we all get to forget about what we’ve seen, heard, and experienced for a moment so we can just enjoy the moment of life we have before us.”

Red Heart leaned into Sunny. “And between you and me, I think your little Junior Chief likes you.” She whispered into Sunny's ear with a grin.

“Wah?!” Exclaimed Sunny, pulling back in surprise to stare at Red Heart in disbelief.

Red Heart grinned. “Don’t look so surprised, girl! It happens.” She grinned mischievously. “Sometimes the ones we care for are the ones we care for, if you get my drift.” She smiled at Sunny.

Looking at Red Heart in surprise, she turned back to look at the door he’d just left through, her broken heart wondering.

After Red Heart helped her clean up, saving everything to give to the lab and doctors, the ultrasound technician had come, finished her work, then gone. She smiled and talked with Sunny the entire time then promised the doctor on call with the obstetrics team would have her results and be there shortly.

Sunny waited alone in the room sitting up in the bed. She still held onto her hope just as the Junior Chief encouraged her. In her memory she saw his face as he held her hands, smiling at her in encouragement.

She smiled at the memory.

Her door opened as a young doctor walked in. She smiled encouragingly at Sunny while she shut the door behind her.

“Good evening, Sunny. I’m Doctor Birthright. I’m with the Obstetrics team here at Canterlot General,” the doctor stated as she sat on a stool next to the bed facing Sunny.

“I have some good news and some bad news. If you’re prepared to hear it, I’d like to share it with you,” she continued. Sunny nodded in encouragement so she began.

Doctor Birthright looked into her eyes, smiling. “The good news first. You are still pregnant. There is a baby growing and forming still in your womb despite what you went through.”

Sunny nodded, crying happily at the news and feeling encouraged. Doctor Birthright continued. “There is some bad news. Do you want to hear that now too?” She asked.

Sunny nodded in confirmation, so Doctor Birthright continued.

“The bad news is you did lose a life. You had twins. One of the twins spontaneously aborted and that’s why you were covered with blood. Your body was passing her remains from your womb to protect the other twin.” She explained.

“There was nothing spontaneous about it!” Sunny hissed.

Calming, Sunny looked to the doctor. “Do you have her remains? I’d like to see her off properly. She deserves that at least.”

“That’s an unusual request, but sure. If it will bring you peace we can do that. We’ve gathered her tiny remains. Just let us know what funeral facilities you pick then we will have her remains delivered to their care. For obvious health reasons we can’t just release her remains to you,” explained Doctor Birthright.

“I understand,” Sunny nodded.

Doctor Birthright gave her a gentle hug as Sunny cried in her grief. Though through her tears though Sunny still smiled, happy that even in her grievous loss Harmony had seen fit to leave her a gentle gift; a life still growing within her to love and raise.

Sunny smiled through her tears. She was going to be a mother.

Junior Fire Chief Harlan Everfree Shimmer smiled as he parked in the guest parking of the apartments he had visited just two days before.

He had called Nurse Red Heart to ask how a certain someone was doing, and was informed by his friend archly in no uncertain terms she had no idea who he was talking about and couldn’t say anything if she did about anyone who went home or not as that would certainly be a violation of HIPPA. Thanking her for her time and apologizing for any misunderstanding he hung up, determined to head over to her apartment after his shift.

For all her teasing, Red Heart was a true friend.

Asking a few passing neighbors for Sunny’s apartment several recognized him even out of uniform and happily gave him directions.

And some of them were gleefully cackling as they watched him leave, their inner matchmaker abundantly satisfied.

He took the steps up to her landing and knocked on her door. He channeled his inner Sam Elliott, readying himself for when she answered.

Sunny opened the door a crack, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Chief! Oh my gosh! What are you doing here?” She gasped out blushing and smiling.

“Not Chief yet!” He quipped in his best drawl. “Still just Junior Chief, Miss Sunny Parker. I’m here with a few follow-on questions. Do you have a moment?” He asked her, smiling.

Her face fell a bit in hearing that. She opened the door wider to fully greet him dressed in sweats, barefoot on the carpet inside with her messy red hair pulled back in a scrunchie. In his eyes though she appeared stunningly beautiful. He smiled, still playing it straight.

“Thank you, Sunny. This won’t take any longer than you want. I was concerned after seeing you before. As a representative of the Canterlot Fire and Rescue, I wanted to be certain you were doing okay and recovering,” he smiled kindly.

“We’re a smaller community here, so we all feel it important to look after our own,” he continued. “My first question is how are you doing? And the follow-on, is there anything we can do to improve your situation?”

Sunny grimaced mumbling under her breath as she stood back. ‘Of course you’re here as a Chief. Why would I have hoped otherwise,’ she grumped quietly as stepped back.

Then she smiled up at him, continuing in her normal conversational tone. “Would you like to come in? Perhaps take a seat while we discuss your questions and concerns?”

“Much obliged, Miss Parker. And sorry what was that first part? I don’t think I could rightly make it out,” Junior Chief Shimmer smiled as he stepped inside her door. He heard her full well, there was nothing wrong with his hearing. He just wanted to see what she’d say.

“Nothing! It was nothing! I was just talking to myself. Never mind,” Sunny said quickly, shutting the door then quickly leading him over to the couch. “Take a seat, please,” she offered, pointing out the couch.

He took his seat on the far side, looking up to find her still standing before him, arms crossed and looking awkward.

“Aren’t you going to take a seat too, Miss Parker?” He asked expectantly as he looked up at her. She blushed profusely, holding herself tighter as she replied in a slightly higher voice.

“Oh! Uh no! Uh, that’s okay. I can just stand here. This isn’t going to take long, right? There’s not really anywhere to sit anyway,” she replied as she grew even more flustered.

“Why Miss Parker, there’s a perfectly useful spot right here,” he replied, patting the couch next to him. “I promise, I don’t even bite.” He gave her his most charming smile.

“Uh. Um. Uh… Would you like anything to eat? Or uh drink I mean?” She called out, turning quickly towards her kitchenette on the other side of the room.

As she turned to leave hurriedly, Junior Chief Shimmer’s grin returned in full force.

‘Sweet Harmony this woman is irresistibly adorable!’ He smiled to himself. He resumed his normal rakish grin before she turned back around.

She stood before the small refrigerator, the fridge door open as she looked inside. “We have milk, orange juice, and water,” she called out over her shoulder.

“Water sounds fine, Miss Parker. And were you serious about something to eat? I am feeling a might bit peckish.” He responded cordially.

Surprised, Sunny stood straight up and spun to face him. “Are you serious?” She asked in shock.

“As a serene sunrise,” he responded smoothly.

She was taken aback. “Uh. Okay.”

She spun back around looking into the fridge again. “There’s some leftover pizza from last night. Is that okay?” She asked.

“That sounds fine. Is there enough for both of us? I’d hate to eat alone,” he drawled.

She checked, pulling the pizza box out then lifting the lid.

“Oh yeah. I only ate two slices last night. More than enough left for both of us,” she answered unthinkingly. She placed the box in the microwave for a minute to warm it up.

Suddenly she stood back up as what she was doing hit her. She turned back to face him as the pizza warmed.

What were your other questions?” She asked guardedly.

“Just one,” Harlan Everfree Shimmer smiled as he stared into her guarded eyes.

Do you like me?

Sunny’s mouth fell open in shock.

“How long did you say you were staying?” She managed to sputter.

“For the rest of your life, if you’ll have me,” he smiled widely.

Serenity Sunrise Parker’s heart melted instantly and completely.

Chapter 2 - A Princess of a Princess

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The little lost soul drifted through the space between, heading toward the light in the ephemeral distance. As she grew closer, she saw a beautiful creature, a majestic horse with a flowing mane, horn, and wings. As she approached the creature called out to her.

“Come, my little soul. I have called you out of time and the natural order, as I do not deem it fit you pass from the mortal realm at this time. You have a destiny, and it is your place to follow it.”

The soul shared her thoughts, “Does that mean I will get to go back to my sister? Will I get to see her again?” She asked hopefully.

“In the fullness of time, I do believe it will be so. But not at your beginning. You will have a new beginning now. A new purpose and path to fulfill your destiny. Come, dear soul, and be seated in your new home,” answered the creature.

She led her through the realm of dreams and into the realm of possibilities. There she brought her to a distraught mare who pined for a foal of her own. She pressed her into the mare’s essence. The tiny soul found herself once again united with a growing group of cells heading to the life giving cradle.

The soul happily thanked the creature in her thoughts, settling into the new cradle and starting her journey of development anew, though with a lingering sadness, missing her sister soul.

Celestia was in shock.

Two days ago she found herself feeling ill while enjoying one of her favorite cakes, chocolate strawberry with real fruit and chocolate chips and whipped cream frosting.

Thinking perhaps there was something wrong with the cake, she moved on to a creamed vanilla with blueberry frosting that had caught her eye earlier, only to have to excuse herself in a hurry as she literally popped into her bedroom toilet. She rushed to the oversized bowl only to lose everything she had eaten in several violent heaves.

“Sweet Harmony above, whatever is wrong with me?” She winced, struggling as the heaving continued despite there being nothing left to lose.

Deciding to soldier through the rest of her day, she avoided eating altogether, focusing solely on her duties. Climbing into her bed that night, she decided she must just have had a stomach bug and gave the matter little mind as she fell asleep.

The next morning she had an informal breakfast with the Earl of Dartmouth to discuss tariffs and trade agreements between his and some of his neighboring Dutchies.

To her absolute horror they had barely begun discussions as the food was served, to her pancakes and him to his eggs and rashers. Three bites into her breakfast she excused herself again abruptly to his frustrated protestrations. Ignoring his angered calls, she teleported again to her royal chambers once again rushing to her toilet only to repeat yesterday’s performance.

“This is not just a stomach bug,” she groaned, waiting for the heaving to subside.

Once it did she stood, crossing over to her bath to wash off any signs of infirmity.

‘That was no stomach bug,’ she groaned to herself as she finished cleaning, resolving to schedule an appointment with the royal physician in the afternoon.

Clean, she returned to the Earl, listening to his complaints as she gingerly nursed her unsweetened tea.

Following her last morning meeting, she skipped her private lunch and headed over to the offices of the royal physician. Entering the office with a knock she sat down in front of her physician’s desk.

“Princess! Well this is a surprise. To what do I owe this pleasure?” He smiled looking up from his paperwork. The plate on his desk read Doctor Currie, Royal Physician.

“No pleasure at all, Pierre. None whatsoever. Anytime I try to eat a bite of food everything comes back up. The only thing I can tolerate is sipping plain tea.

“Plain tea, Pierre. That’s it. I thought for certain it was just a stomach bug, but it’s gone on for more than a day now,” she finished her complaint.

Pierre smiled. “Any other pony I’d suggest just giving it time. But considering your constitution, I’d suspect something… more specific,” he grinned.

Celestia grimaced. “I’m sorry, I don’t get the joke,” she grumbled.

“Don’t worry. If my hunch is right, you will,” he smiled. “Let’s run some tests.”

“Let’s,” agreed Celestia in frustration, rising to follow him.

Several scans and a few dozen pokes and prods later, including a consultation with his Doctor wife and co-chair Marie, he disappeared into his study and returned with a scroll he smugly delivered to the princess to read.

She scanned quickly through it, stopping at the end in surprise only to sharply knicker.

“No!” She breathed softly, rereading the scroll more slowly. Coming again to the end, she quickly lit her horn up and performed a diagnostic scan on herself, dropping the scroll in shock when she completed it.

She turned to her friend completely aghast as he grinned at her.

“Anyone I know?” He asked with a smile.

Princess Celestia shook her head in disbelief, then looked down at the fallen scroll.

Princess Celestia, Sol Invictus, Regent Equestria and Defender of Realms

… was for the first time in her long living memory, pregnant.

Celestia walked down the hall with her seneschal Raven who was sporting a wicked grin. “So, anypony I know?”

“No!” Celestia hissed. “Raven, please keep this to yourself. And for Harmony’s sake, please don’t discuss this anywhere but in my room with me.”

“So do you know who he is?” Grinned Raven.

Stopping with a sigh, Celestia turned to Raven who was still wearing that stupid grin. “Fine,” she grumbled. They both disappeared in an amber flash.

Appearing in her room with her still smirking seneschal, her horn glowed as her door locked, balcony doors shut and locked, and walls suffused with an amber glow as the sounds of the castle faded.

She turned to the still grinning Raven. “I don’t see what you think is so funny,” she groused.

“Oh trust me, that just makes it even more rich,” agreed her longtime friend and confidant.

“I can’t be pregnant!” Celestia exclaimed.

“Kind of seems like your foal missed that memo,” Raven smirked.

“No, Raven, you don’t get it. I can’t be pregnant. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time for anything like that. I haven’t been with a… never mind. Let’s just say there’s no way I can be pregnant unless there’s some secret spell I’ve never heard of that makes things start years later. Which there is not. I checked! So this can’t be happening!” Celestia insisted with just a hint of panic.

Still grinning, Raven bent over and addressed her friend’s abdomen. “Don’t listen to your mommy right now little one. She’s just having one of her frequent existential crises. She knows your really there and really loves you!” She giggled.

“Raven!” Celestia stomped her forehoof in frustration.

“Are we done now?” Asked her friend in a perfect deadpan.

Celestia sighed. “Yes.”

“Good. Celestia, my dearest friend. Congratulations! You’re a mother. Move on from how. What do you propose to do about that?” Asked her friend.

“What do you mean by that?” Asked Celestia guardedly.

“Clearly not whatever you’re thinking. You’ve talked repeatedly about how much you always wanted a foal but it’s never the right time. Or you haven’t met the right stallion,” replied Raven. Celestia nodded.

“Well guess what? It looks like Harmony got as sick of your whining as I did, and did something about it,” Raven smirked.

“I do not whine,” insisted Celestia. Raven raised an eyebrow.

“Much,” amnended Celestia with a wince.

Ravens eyebrow returned to its usual place as she grinned. “Regardless, you need a plan. How are you going to raise your child? Shall we ready the announcement now? Forgetting even the issue of who your child’s father is, are you ready to go public and acknowledge them? Do you want to wait until they are older? What’s your plan?” Continued Raven.

Celestia sat quietly lost in thought. After a few moments her friend facehooved.

“Oh sweet Harmony, please tell me you are not thinking of never acknowledging her!” Exclaimed Raven indignantly.

“No,” stated Celestia quietly. Ravens eyebrow returned to its elevated position.

“Don’t give me that look!” Exclaimed Celestia in frustration. “I was just thinking about how this is going to undo much of the groundwork I’ve done with the aristocracy, and how best to broach the existence of my heir,” insisted Celestia.

“Simple. Honestly. And as soon as possible. You can’t hide this! Too many ponies know already. You need to get ahead of this and not let some conniving gentried peer try and turn this blessed event into something crass for their own gain. Get in front of this, and do it now. I’d release a statement today if I were in your hooves,” advised her friend.

“I… I need to come up with a plan. Tomorrow. We’ll announce it tomorrow. I promise,” assured Celestia.

“I still think any delay is a mistake. But fine. Tomorrow. I’ll start working on a draft and we’ll go from there,” accepted her friend. “So about your afternoon appointments…” began Raven.

“Cancel them. I need time to think,” replied Celestia as she headed into her bathroom and started drawing a warm bath.

“A bath?” Asked Raven, surprised.

“It’s where I do my best thinking, " replied Celestia, already removing her Petral and golden shoes.

Smiling, Raven nodded and left, shutting the large double doors behind her in her magic already thinking of the best spin for the announcement tomorrow.

The following morning, Celestia was tiredly sipping her strongest tea having been up most the night thinking through her plans to announce her new heir.

Raven stormed into the royal dining room, the doors slamming shut in her magic as she stomped over before the Princess with a folded paper levitating beside her. Stopping before her friend, she slammed the paper down in front of the Princess.

“We should have announced it yesterday! I knew this was a mistake. I knew this wouldn’t stay buried. Now we have to get ahead of this!” She stormed, glaring at her friend as she pointed at the paper.

Celestia blearily glanced over at the paper, then did a double take, her eyes widening on seeing the picture and headline. Scooping the paper up in her magic she examined the picture in more detail then read the story becoming more alert and angry with each passing moment.

There, plastered on the front page of the Canterlot Blog, was the blaring headline “Holy Celestia Claims Virgin Birth!”

What followed was a full half page doctored photo of Celestia dressed as one of the temple virgins from the Harmonic Temple, her abdomen and flanks swollen, bulging out past her virginal robes with foal, while several of her royal guards dressed as temple priests tried to surreptitiously get close to her plot to take a sniff.

Steam rose from Celestia’s horn, now glowing incandescent as she continued to read the article below the outrageous doctored photo.

“They are dead!” she hissed as she continued reading.

Concerned, Raven tried to take the paper back. But Celestia blocked her with a shield, an almost feral growl escaping her clenched teeth.

“Hold on! Just hold on! Not the reaction I was looking for or expecting! Now isn’t the time to be going all Day Breaker,” placated her friend.

“Isn’t it?” Replied Celestia, the smoke rising higher as the intensity of her horn started to singe the edges of the paper.

Raven reached over and swatted the paper out of Celestia’s grasp. It landed smoldering on the floor only to burst completely into flames moments later.

Isn’t it!?” Growled Celestia again, turning to her friend.

“No. It’s not,” Raven stated evenly, stepping up to her friend and getting right into her face now framed in burning magic. Her friend and Princess’s amber eyes locked onto hers, glowering with arcane power.

“I have a better idea,” Raven replied.

“I’m all ears,” steamed Daybreaker.

Raven laid out her plan.

Chapter 3: Awakenings

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The little soul stirred in her life-giving cradle. Everything around her burned in a magical fire. The energy swept through her, igniting her soul from within.

She could feel the violent rage and pain of her mother. The protective thoughts and feelings of her mother burned through her, igniting her soul and stirring within her such intense, all consuming, burning feelings of love and protection for her mother and all who were dear to her. Her little unformed eyes burned white with the magic of shared love as her world and soul were transformed by the consuming magic within her.

In a tiny burst of light, her soul ignited in love.

A universe away, a lonely little soul woke to a burning presence within her. A familiar voice called out to her, stirring her soul in surpassing wonder and delight as she leapt with joy at the voice and presence within her.

“Awaken, my dearest sister! Never again shall we be parted! The time has come for us to be truly united! One soul’s essence, one heart across infinities, two hearts united under a single destiny. Awaken, my dearest sister soul! Awaken to our shared destiny,” her beloved sister called out to her.

Her heart overwhelmed with joy, a burst of magic burned through her very essence. Her as yet unopened eyes surged white with magical energy as her soul was transformed in a consuming flash of burning love magic.

Raven looked into the burning continence of her best friend. “No, it really isn’t,” she repeated again, holding her friend’s gaze.

Daybreaker returned her friend’s gaze, studying her face and noting her resolve.

“I’m listening,” she replied, her growl lessening.

“It’s too late to change the narrative with this story out. And in a way this is a gift. Think of this as an unexpected gift from Harmony,” responded Raven.

Daybreaker’s eyebrow took its turn raising in incredulity. The heat surrounding Daybreaker climbed slightly as she responded to her friend’s suggestion.

“Unexpected? Try completely unwelcome and seditious,” she growled.

“True to both,” acknowledged Raven, resolutely holding her friend’s gaze. “And both are irrelevant. This is Harmony’s gift, despite their intentions. They’ve presented the facts, regardless of the brazenly innppropriate way they’ve framed them. We don’t even need to acknowledge their lack of tack, or even their existence.

“We release the facts framed as Harmony intended, and they can bask in the backlash of their own stupidity as they reap the rewards of their own brashness. There will always be dregs that bask in the swill offered by that rag, that abomination against freedom of expression that is the Canterclop Blight. They are not our ponies.

“Our ponies are the ones that care, that seek and follow Harmony’s precepts. They need and want to hear what their Princess has to say. To these, your faithful and attentive little ponies, you will speak the simple truths, the bare facts of this blessed event and your intentions. They will hear the truth of your words and your detractors will be covered in their own shame.”

Daybreaker nodded, following the wisdom of her dear friend’s advice. Raven continued. “I will leave and announce an immediate press conference. You will calm yourself, get some food and caffeine in you, clean up then join me in the press room where I will introduce you and you will explain clearly and without embellishment the facts of your heir and your intentions for her upbringing. We will adjourn them without questions and this madness will fade behind us as we move forward towards your life with the gift of your new foal.”

Her heat and rage fading, Celestia’s countenance once again restored, she nodded at her friends wisdom. Raven hugged her, whispering into her ear as she parted. “It’s going to be alright. You’ll see. Trust in Harmony. She will never steer us wrong nor betray us.”

Releasing her friend from her embrace, she refilled her tea, draining the cup, then quickly made short work of the stack of pancakes that had been set out for her. With a final draught of the caffeine fortified tea, she left for a quick stop by the royal apartments to freshen up then join her friend for their belated but not too late conference with her little ponies.

News traveled fast. Raven sat in one of the two presenters seats behind the conference podium. She watched with feigned disinterest as the room quickly filled. It was apparent this would be a record turnout, quite as she expected given the scuttle butt from this morning’s news cycle.

Soon the seats were full, ponies lining the walls who arrived too late to claim a seat in the already overpacked hall. Raven permitted herself a small smirk of satisfaction as she surveyed the noisy and crowded hall.

The conversation dropped suddenly as the doors at the head of the hall opened in a magical glow, their Princess herself trotting calmly in full regalia serenely to the front hall.

She trotted to the front of the crowded room, all of whom had risen as one on seeing her arrival.

“Please be seated. We will begin shortly after allowing another minute for any stragglers to arrive,” informed the Princess, turning to join her friend. Taking the remaining seat she smiled at her friend.

“Quite a turnout, wouldn’t you agree?” She asked Raven pleasantly.

“Sweet Harmony but I love watching you work,” quipped her friend with a smirk.

“I learned from the best,” returned Celestia with a pleasant grin.

“So did I,” returned Raven with one of her own.

“And I have amazing friends to keep me honest,” smiled Celestia.

“Yes you do,” agreed Raven with a smirk. “As do I.”

“Yes you do,” smiled Celestia back.

“Yes I do,” returned Raven with a gentle smile for her friend. The two waited, looking over the hall as the remaining seconds for the conference to begin ran out.

A few late comers took their places along the less packed sections of the hall’s wall as the final seconds passed. With a nod to the guards at the main hall doors, the main entrance was closed and warded as Raven stood and approached the podium. The noise died completely as all eyes turned to the front of the room.

Raven began. “Good afternoon every pony and distinguished visitors. Welcome to this evening’s briefing. As I suspect we all know or at least suspect why we are all here, I will curb my remarks and move us onto the purpose of this meeting. Without further ado, please stand for our Regent, Her Sublime Eminence, Princess Celestia Solaris.”

Every pony and creature in the hall rose as Raven backed from the podium and stood before her seat as Princess Celestia took the podium.

Celestia looked out over the sea of ponies and others sanding before her. Satisfied, she cleared her throat and addressed the crowd before her.

“My little ponies, and other distinguished guests. Thank you for coming here on such short notice.

“As many of you have been made aware, an unprecedented opportunity has been handed to me by Harmony herself.

“Yesterday, it became common knowledge that for the first time in my long and illustrious lifetime, Harmony has seen fit to bestow upon me the joys and burdens of the office of motherhood. My illustrious medical staff have confirmed this fact, and assure me the beloved and cherished foal growing within me is healthy and well, growing as expected towards the day when we will all greet them when they join us in this life and realm.”

At this, a subdued but excited chatter rumbled through the room as the confirmation of the expected news settled over them. Celestia gave them their excited moment as she serenely surveyed the room with a smile.

When the rumble had settled and eyes had returned to her she prepared to resume her announcement. An excited voice called out from behind the front row.

“Who’s the father?!”

The room dropped deathly silent as all eyes turned towards her. Without missing a beat Celestia continued.

“I’m sorry, but there will be no questions at this time.

“However, as I’m aware there has been much discussion and speculation on this topic, I will confirm that Harmony itself is the foal's father,” continued Celestia smoothly.

“Does this mean the foal is a stallion? You keep saying foal not filly?” The question rang out over the now resumed rumble.

“We’ve never had a stallion rule us! Does this mean your heir is a stallion? Will we be ruled by a Prince?” Called out a mare’s voice in near panic.

Celestia gently rolled her eyes as the rumbling rose in response to the near panicked question.

Giving a moment for the response to die down, she was slightly disappointed as the noise grew. Another voice called out urgently, voicing the concerns of many.

“So it’s true?! This foal is really a virgin birth?!” The voice rang out from the midst of the room.

Celestia gently rubbed her face as she shut her eyes in silent frustration. Her little ponies really were still prone to panic. Before any further bedlam could break loose, she raised her voice, loudly clearing her throat.

“Excuse me, every pony! Order please!” She commanded gently but loudly over the ensuing chatter. The noise quickly diminished as once again all eyes returned to her.

“Again let me please remind every pony there are to no questions at this time.

In the interest of clarity, I will comment that my use of the word foal was not meant to imply anything about my foal’s gender. I have not attempted to determine or dictate to Harmony the gender of my foal,” she smirked as a smattering of laughter echoed through the hall at her gentle but pointed joke.

Letting the laughter die down she continued. “Indeed Harmony itself fortend I would presume so much,” she smiled. Another small moment of laughter followed.

“And as for my foal being a virginal birth,” Celestia smirked, “I’m fairly certain every pony in this hall has at least a rudimentary understanding of how little ponies are made.”

At this comment laughter echoed through the hall, though she suspected much of it was in relief.

“Though any pony usure of the process is welcome to audit any of our fine schools’ classes on the subject. I’m sure the little fillies and foals would be delighted to help explain it to you,” she japed. Gentle laughter echoed through the hall at the friendly jibe.

When the laughter died down she continued. “Harmony itself is standing in as the father of my foal. In the interest of Harmony itself and to avoid any further baseless, pointless and potentially divisive speculation by those whose interests may not fully align with Harmony’s intents or the interests of Equestria, the foal is considered the legal child of myself and Harmony. That is the last that will be said in the subject.

She looked out over the hall, seeing smiles of comprehension and nods all through the hall at the wisdom of her explanation. Seeing the matter settled and hearing no further outburst, she smiled at her little ponies.

“Excellent! I'm sure you will all join with me in welcome anticipation as we await the birth of my beloved foal and heir apparent. And of course at the birth of my beloved foal they will be named princess or prince pretense, and heir apparent, of Equestria. Though don’t expect you be rid of me so easily!” She laughed, joined by most of those present.

“That is all at this time. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” she finished with a nod to all present. She turned, headed back to the royal exit, her faithful seneschal at her side once more as they left the chambers, the excited conversation growing behind them as they exited the chamber.

“And that, my dear Princess, is why I will gladly follow you anywhere!” Raven gushed. “It’s an absolute honor to watch you work your magic!”

Celestia smiled. “I assure you my dearest friend, there was no magic whatsoever involved,” She smirked at her dear friend.

Raven smirked back, her eyebrow once again climbing.

“Okay, one minor moment of magic. I had to use a touch of the Canterlot voice to be heard over that momentary outburst of panic,” admitted Celestia.

“And of course the magic of friendship,” quipped Raven, her eyebrows once again in their customary places.

“Your friendship is always magic to me,” agreed Celestia, gently bumping her friend as they headed back towards the royal apartments.

“Likewise dear friend,” agreed Raven returning the gesture with a gentle bump of her own.

Together, the two entered Celestia’s chambers to plan their next moves.

“Take that, Canterclop Blight,” Celestia laughed as she closed her apartment doors in her magic.

Chapter 4 - Serenity Sunrise Shimmer

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Serenity stood by the microwave facing her former EMT as he sat on her couch, the pizza forgotten and mouth still agape in shock. She expressed her thoughts as cogently as she could.

“Wah… Huh? Wah… you… huh?” Her efforts were not without results as Harlan grinned.

“Sorry to spring that on you, Miss Sunny. I guess I should step back a bit and explain,” he grinned, thoroughly enjoying the result his declaration was having on the adorable redhead.

“So, going back to the beginning. Miss Serenity Sunrise Parker, I love you.

“When I first saw you, you were collapsed on a sidewalk bleeding out pretty badly, but you weren’t crying or weeping helplessly. You were facing down the man who had beaten you, fire in your eyes and steel in your voice.

“You confronted him, and your steel, your resolve, it broke through his rage. You faced down someone who could and likely would have beaten you to death.

“Then you told me you were pregnant. And that he was beating your child out of you…

Sunny’s mouth closed, then opened as she started to say something.

“Yes, I know you said his child, but let’s get this straight right now.

“It was very clear by that point he was just a sperm donor. That stain doesn’t have the right to claim anything but responsibility for being a complete asshole. No, she was… no she is your child, and no shitheaded child and girlfriend beating stain of a human being gets to claim anything from your child,” explained Harlan as Sunny started to interrupt him.

“So, when I found out he was beating your child to death, and saw the steel in your resolve and the pain in your heart…

“My heart broke for you. All I wanted was to protect you from all the world.

“Miss Serenity Sunrise… Miss Sunny… I fell in love with you right there. I wanted, no, I want to be the papa bear by your side from now on, matching that mamma bear I saw holding herself up with all she had left on that parking lot asphalt, figuratively crouched over her child and fighting with everything she had to protect and love her.

“Miss Sunny? How could I not fall deeply in love with you? Seeing the love you were pouring out in protection of your child…

“How could I not want to protect you and shield you from everything life had dumped out on you? How could I not love your child you were pouring out your life for with everything you had?

“Seeing you there, resolute in your defense and outrage over what he had done, what he tried to do? I realized then and there I wanted nothing more in my life than to be by your side.”

Harlan paused for a moment, thinking about what he just said. He continued.

“I know. That’s not very romantic. It’s not even very reasonable, hell…

“You probably don’t believe me. I don’t blame you. We don’t even really know each other. We met once under admittedly horrible circumstances.

“But, I don’t care. I know your heart…

“And I know in my heart, whatever it takes to make a life together, we can do it.

“And we will.”

Sunny closed her mouth, still in shock at his unexpected proposal.

Unexpected, but not unwelcome. She had dared to hope. She had held strong, followed his advice and held onto her hope. In his eyes, his hands, his charming drawl, she had found something else. She had found someone to believe in. She had only known men who wanted something from her, who treated her well when they were pleased. Men who didn’t really know or care about her, but used her, and in the end used her badly. Her heart was racing still, even as her mind was screaming at her to be cautious.

Never again. She was not going to rush into another relationship. Not just yet. She wasn’t completely jaded, but… Tom had hurt her. He had hurt her badly. He had taken the life of one of her children.

She was still processing that. Her grief, her anguish and rage, they were still raw. Just the thought of Tom filled her with homicidal rage.

She took a deep breath. She breathed in peace. She blew out her rage. In. Out. Just as her mother had taught her when she was a headstrong and spirited child.

Several breaths later, her heart once again calm, she looked back at Harlan.

He still looked up at her hopeful. She smiled.

“No,” she said, still smiling. His face fell.

She sat down next to him. Taking his hands, she smiled at him.

“No,” she repeated. “At least… Not yet.

“Harlan. I don’t need a savior. I don’t need another man in my life to manage and control me. But do you know what I do need?” she asked. He shook his head, still shocked and disappointed.

I need a friend. I need you. Be my friend, Harlan. You want to help protect me and my daughter? Be the friend we need. We don’t need you to save us, but I will need your help, your support.

“Be that guardian, if that’s really what’s in your heart. But, allow me my space to grieve. I need time to lament, and I just can’t handle anything else now.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But don’t. Don’t be that person. Don’t save me.

“Please allow me the dignity of my own life and heart. And keep the dignity of your own. Don’t try to rush in and save me.

“This isn’t a fire,” she smiled. “I’m not in mortal peril. I am grievously sad. I’m mourning. Let me mourn, Harlan. Mourn with me if you want to be my friend. But leave me the space, the dignity, to mourn my loss, okay?” She requested.

Harlan looked at her in confusion. “I don’t understand,” he said finally.

“I need time to grieve, Harlan,” Sunny replied. “I lost my daughter. I can’t just move on from that.” Her voice was beginning to betray her frustration.

“But, she lived. She’s still growing in your womb, right?” Harlan asked in confusion.

Sunny’s eyes went wide. She suddenly realized why he was so puzzled.

He didn’t know.

She sighed, her frustration fading at the realization.

“Harlan, I don’t think you have the whole story. There’s something I need you to know,” she said.

He looked to her in concern.

“Anything, Sunny. What’s the matter?” he asked.

“You keep saying my child. I thought you knew. I figured Red Heart must have told you. But you don’t know, do you? She didn’t tell you, did she?” asked Sunny.

“No? Tell me what? Though to be fair, good friend though she is, she can’t. She’s not allowed to tell me anything about you, Only you can do that. So… no? She didn’t. Tell me, what am I missing?” Harlan asked in concern.

“You told me to have hope. And when I couldn’t find my own, you gave me yours, with your kindness and encouragement. But Harlan… There is more,” Sunny amended sadly.

“Anything hurting you this much, I want to help. So tell me, please?” he begged.

“I’m sorry Harlan. You can’t protect me from this. You can’t unbreak the hurt in my broken heart.

“Harlan. There was more.

“They were twins. My babies were twins. I found out when they did the exam. And no, I don’t have twins anymore,” she sighed, a sorrowful tear rolling down her cheek.

Harlan gasped, holding her hands tightly.

Were twins?” he breathed sharply. His breath caught, jagged from the realization of what she was saying.

“Yes Harlan,” she replied, squeezing his hands in return. “They were twins. My sweet little babies were twins. Twin sisters, growing together, waiting for a chance at life. Both loved, both wanted. And that shit beat one of them out of me. She died and left so her sister could live.”

Tears poured down her cheeks. Harlan pulled her into a hug, sobs wracking them both. Her’s from the memory and depth of her loss, and his at the realization he would never see one of her… no, their, precious girls in this lifetime.

Hugging her gently he wept in shared grief with the woman he loved.

Friends. He could do that. He would do that. He smiled at her as they shared her pizza.

“So, no knight in shining armor, huh? Dang, I was looking forward to that. Serenity Sunrise, you would make one hell of a princess,” Harlan grinned.

“I may be a damsel in distress, but I fight my own battle, oh brave knight,” she teased back. “But, I do want you by my side. By our sides. As our friend. You’ve been nothing but kind to me, and I really would like to have you in our life,” Sunny continued.

“I’d like that too, and happy to do it. So, where do we go from here?” he asked.

“Good question,” Sunny answered. “I really don't know. But, I do want you around. What do you propose?”

“Well, I was going to propose marriage and that we move in together. But now, maybe dates and outings? To be honest, I’ve never had any real romantic attachments. Like Red said, I’ve been committed to my work. But from now on my work comes second to you,” Harlan answered honestly.

“I’m not asking you to give up your passion, Harlan,” stated Sunny intently.

“You’re not asking, but I am serious. You’ve been through hell. I want to be a friend you can count on and help you through it. I can’t be that friend if I am giving 200% to work and not there when you need me. So, you come first. Friends do that, right?” answered Harlan.

“Friends do that,” agreed Sunny with a smile.

Taking her hand, Harlan smiled. “Well then, Miss Sunny, you’ve got a friend.”

“And you do too,” Sunny smiled.

“About the moving in; if you want, I’m still up for that. Not romantically, at least for now, but I want to be there when you need me, if you need me. If I’m here, you don’t have to wait while I race over from across town. What do you think?” Harlan asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe? We’ll see. I hate to stick you on the couch but I don’t have a second bed,” replied Sunny.

“We’ll play that one by ear then. I’m here if you need me, and I certainly don’t mind sleeping on a couch, Harmony knows I’ve slept on enough of them. And when you want space you can send me home, no questions asked. But if you need a friendly ear or shoulder, I’ll be here,” answered Harlan.

“Okay, couch tonight then,” agreed Sunny.

“Couch it is. I’ll just run back and get an overnight bag later so I have my stuff for work tomorrow. Anything else?” Harlan asked.

“I think I’ve had enough drama for a while. Feel like taking a stroll? We could hit the park and take some of the scenic trails. It’ll be nice to just get out for a bit,” proposed Sunny.

“It's a date. Maybe I can take you somewhere nice to make up for the pizza we just ate,” smiled Harlan.

Sunny laughed. “A friend's date, Harlan. Slow down,” she grinned.

“A friend's date. Completely,” Harlan agreed, smiling.

They ended up strolling through the park all afternoon, mostly with Harlan telling stories and jokes about the misadventures he and his crew got into while trying to do their job. Sunny listened to her gregarious friend, enjoying his banter and the nature around them. The ache for her lost child never completely left her heart, but the pleasant conversation from her friend and the scenery was a soothing balm.

He took her to a little bistro by the edge of the park for dinner, then together they returned to Harlan’s apartment so he could gather his overnight bag. While he quickly did that, Sunny glanced over his apartment. As she expected, it was spartan and very bare. He clearly had never set about making it a home.

They returned to her apartment where he snuggled down on the couch. She sat with him, his head in her lap while she messed with his hair, just talking about their lives in general.

The next morning they were both surprised to wake to Harlan’s alarm on his phone, discovering she had fallen asleep sprawled over the back of the couch, his head still in her lap.

Laughing, he gave her a gentle hug then headed into the bathroom with his bag, showering and dressing for the day.

She made them both a small breakfast while he prepared for his day, joining him in eating once he was dressed. With another hug, he left for work while Sunny readied herself for her day.

Chapter 5 - Father Dearest

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Raven looked over the troubling dispatch. A scroll had arrived from her source, placed within the staff of the Canterlot Blog, revealing a hot new story they were breaking. Unsurprisingly, a noble was in the process of coming out, announcing himself as the father of Celestia’s foal. More the fool he, the troubling aspect was he claimed substantial proof to back his claim. Knowing as she did the claim was a complete fabrication, the nature of the proof was potentially troubling.

Raven wouldn’t call her carefully crafted and cultivated network of informants a spy ring, but as the right hoof mare of the Princess Solaris there was a long and storied custom of doing whatever it took to keep her informed of potential events. Raven, upon assuming her current mantle as the Princess’s Right Hoof, had done her part to keep the tradition alive and strong.

She had selected some of the best and brightest from Celestia’s Battle Mage Corps, working with them to craft believable covers. She inserted them into places and positions within Canterlot and beyond. They kept her abreast of all troubles brewing both at home and abroad. Her charges were zealous, and excelled at their craft, thus earning Raven’s unspoken praise and respect.

Unspoken because secrecy above all else was the tool that opened gates and hidden truths to their critical eyes. The ability to pass for a true believer of any cause was critical to their success.

Returning to her office she reviewed the scroll critically. Her source, Misty Glenns, a junior copy setter at the Canterlot Blog, included a copy of the story into the scroll. Sorting through the usual sensational claims and rhetorical bluster, the facts were simple. A minor noble of the house of Platinum, Prince Beastly Tool the third (okay, Black Tea Pool - but she couldn’t help editorializing the name with revulsion), a minor lord of a third string offshoot of the House Platinum, who barely qualified for the honorary title, somehow decided to come out of the woodwork and lay claim to Celestia’s virtue.

His proof was publicly available records showing he was a guest at the Palace at the time formally invited by the Princess herself. Thinking back, Raven did recall the event, a celebration of the house Platinum and its eminence in Equestrian History. An annual event insisted on by the Unicorn Lords, it was tolerated by the Princess in the interests of keeping peace. The invitations had been sent out to all of the Lords of House Platinum, including the twit Beastly Tool. He was but one of thirty or so that actually showed, so she had given him little notice or mind. Each in turn had been invited to a private session with the Princess, his evidence considered in that reasonable light entirely unremarkable.

Unassailable. But to any reasonable review, unremarkable.

Too bad the readership of the Canterlot Blog was entirely devoid of reason. Raven sighed.

She resolved to pay the little twit an informal visit before this newest twist exploded into public view. Slipping on her shawl, she exited her office headed for the castle gates.

After a brief trot from the castle to the tier of the city favored by the Aristocracy, her shawl clutched tightly around her thus hiding her features and cutie mark, Raven examined the castle of House Platinum. The guards seemed more alert than usual, lending credence to her agent's report. Slipping behind a row of shrubs she found the hidden gate in the castle wall, one she had used on several other occasions. She slipped into the wall, trotting quietly through its narrow corridors then into the castle itself. Coming out into a locked interior room, she closed the secret entrance behind her. She crossed the room and quickly picked the door’s lock with her magic. She then poked her head out to see if the halls were clear.

They were. She stealthily made her way to the prince’s living quarters. There she found more guards and to her mild surprise the chief editor of the Canterlot Blog, a unicorn mare with the unfortunate name of Enquiring Mind. The name was a bit too spot on for Raven’s taste, reinforcing her belief that some ponies were just destined for trouble. This particular mare was always in the thick of trouble, along with her also unfortunately misnamed rag.

Hiding around the corner, she listened as Enquiring Mind briefed Prince Black Tea Pool.

“We have to be smart about this,” she reminded the prince. “The evidence is irrefutable, but irrelevant if we let them examine it closely. Reference it but keep your muzzle shut about details. Let them make their own conclusions and we’ll be fine.”

Black Tea nodded. “We were only in her office for fifteen minutes or so. She asked how things were going at home, about my studies, and then she dismissed me,” he replied. “That isn’t enough time, is it?” he asked.

“You don’t need to bring that up. Again, let others make their own conclusions. If you weren’t such a sheltered bore you’d know that fifteen minutes is more than enough time to plant your flag if a mare is interested,” replied Enquiring.

Really?” asked Black Tea in sudden interest.

Enquiring looked askance then shook her head. “Stay focused. We need you to seem believable. Saying things like that will get you and this story bounced faster than a stallion on mares’ night. Don’t even think about it.

With that she led him into his chambers and shut the door.

‘Well, about what I thought. Yet another half baked, half truth from that journal. Probably safest to just ignore it,’ Raven thought to herself heading back to the room to leave.

Reaching the door to the room she was surprised to hear two voices in discussion. Placing her ear to the door she listened closely.

“Are you sure you weren’t followed?” asked the first voice. She sounded vaguely familiar.

“Yeah. No one saw me. I did see a mare skulking around, but she disappeared. I entered the castle through the secret tunnel you showed me then waited here for you”, replied a second voice.

“Good. I don’t like waiting. So were the artifacts collected as I asked?” the first voice continued.

“Yes, though I don’t see what use you could possibly have for them. They were barely even magical and hard to smuggle out of the Princess’s archive. I had to bribe several guards just to get access,” complained the second voice.

“As long as they can’t tie any of this to me, I don’t care who you had to bribe or how many. And your opinion on what I ask concerns me even less. Did you send the notice out to gather the cabal?” asked the first voice.

“Yes, though I don’t see how any of this is worth a special meeting. Why not wait until the scheduled meeting at the end of the month?” continued the second voice.

“Timing is everything! We need to strike now while we have the upper hoof. By the end of the month we will have won the assistance we need to complete our grand plan, or we will have once again lost the initiative. I will not lose, Reynard! Don’t question what I request. Just see that it happens! Any more insipid questions?” railed the first voice.

“No! Sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you!” the second voice blurted in panic.

“You haven’t offended me yet, Reynard! And I highly recommend that you don’t!” growled the first voice.

Raven heard somepony heading for the door. She dove behind a nearby sofa, ducking behind the armrest hoping they didn’t come this way.

The door opened, then out stepped Princess Blaisant Platinum, regent princess in pretense of the defunct Unicorn Monarchy and head of House Platinum. She looked both ways then exited the room, shutting the door behind her in her magic as she trotted down the hall towards Prince Black Tea and away from where Raven was hiding.

Waiting until she had cleared the corridor, Raven sprang back to the door, listening for the other occupant. Hearing nothing, she risked discovery as she magically worked the lock and entered the apparently empty room. Shutting and securing the door behind her, she rushed over to the secret entrance to the tunnel, working the opening in her magic then entering the tunnel and closing the entrance behind her.

She could hear faint hoof clops from further down the tunnel which confirmed her suspicion that the second occupant had left before her and was now exiting the castle. Hastening silently after, Raven tracked the occupant back to the tunnel entrance, She hastened up to the closing door as he passed through it. She could see from the light of the opening he was a unicorn stallion in unremarkable attire.

Racing through the door before it completely closed, she peered out from the hedge, tracking the stallion.

In the brighter light of the midday sun she started, realizing she recognized the stallion. He was none other than Lord Reynard Imperious Urge, prefect of the house of Clover and a well known Unicorn Supremacist. She trotted out from the bushes following the minor Lord from a distance as he wandered through the crowded Canterlot streets, constantly looking around and behind him as if he were fearful he were being followed.

Raven smirked following from the shadows.

Celestia sat at her desk in her study, going over proposed new legislation. She was mildly annoyed at the news that the Canterlot Blog was following up with yet another story, but knew Raven was investigating, so she resigned herself to her work until Raven could brief her later.

She sighed in frustration, picking up the next pointless new law proposed by the nobles.

Raven examined Reynard’s destination from behind a stall down the street from her query. It was a nondescript building, the windows all boarded up with a single door that opened to the street. Reynard knocked twice then waited. The door opened and after a few brief words he was let inside.

Determined to find what was going on, Raven scanned the building's facade. Nothing accessible, but she could see a furnished patio on the roof. She entered the building adjacent heading for the stairwell.

Emerging onto its roof she quickly moved to the edge, examining the space between the building and the patio on the adjacent roof. She saw nopony around so she quickly paced back then sprinted to the edge, clearing the distance and landing softly on the rooftop patio. She grinned.

“Still got it,” she smirked, trotting over to the roof access then entering the building.

Moving stealthily down the stairs she listened for anypony. Several floors down she heard voices through the closed door, so she backtracked to the floor above then exited. Quickly checking the rooms of the floor she stopped when she heard voices softly in one of the rooms. Moving quickly into the room and shutting the door, she pushed a plush chair over to the room's vent, her ear pressed up against the grating.

She could hear the voice clearly. Reynard was addressing somepony.

“Blaisant was pleased but she wants a convocation of the cabal tonight. Get runners out and get the message out. Everyone is to gather tonight for a special meeting,” he instructed.

Several voices called out in acknowledgement, the door opening and slamming shut beneath her. She listened intently.

“Go make the chamber ready for the gathering. Make all the usual preparations and take the usual precautions. We want everything ready for Blaisant when she gets here,” instructed Raynard.

“As you command, my lord,” a pony replied. Raven raced down from her perch and to the door. Exiting the room quickly, she quietly entered the stairwell. Just as she suspected, the door of the floor below her opened, and a pony entered. Shutting the door behind him, he descended the staircase, Raven quietly and surreptitiously following him down.

They stopped in the second sub-basement where he took out a set of keys and unlocked the basement door. Passing through it closed behind him. Raven raced over to the door trying the handle.

Her luck held, he had not locked it behind him. She opened the door cautiously to find him crossing a large room headed for a podium at the head of rows of seats. It appeared to be a makeshift auditorium.

She quickly entered shutting the door quietly, then darted over to hide behind a large table at the back of the room. From there she watched as the pony worked, preparing the room.

He cast a spell increasing the illumination in the room, then went to the podium and lifted an artifact placed within it.

He began chanting, suffusing the room in a green glow and stilling any noises drifting into the basement from the street outside. Once the glow subsided a dim green tint was noticeable from the floor, ceiling and surrounding walls.

‘Well, I did intend to stay for the meeting,’ mused Raven to herself. ‘Just glad I got here early enough to enjoy the view.’ She ducked down under the table, peering out through the semi-opaque cloth as she watched the stallion continue his preparations. He seemed to be taking his sweet time, so she settled down into a ponyloaf to get comfortable while she watched.

Finished with her paperwork, Celestia moved on to her first meeting of the afternoon, sans her usual faithful seneschal. A brief flurry of worry passed over her. ‘I’m sure she’s fine. She probably just got a lead on more information and had to look into it,’ she rationalized as she headed into her meeting. Game face on, she smiled and greeted her first guest.

Raven was bored. The stallion had finished up with whatever other dallying he’d been doing and left, leaving the wards up in his absence. Raven briefly considered sneaking up to the podium to get a better look, then dismissed it realizing there was nowhere to hide between it and the tables if someone entered while she was out. Resigned to her boredom, she waited for anypony to return.

Her appointment over, Celestia returned to her office hoping for her friend or at least a message. Finding neither she whickered in disappointment, continuing on to the rest of her afternoon.

After what felt like at least an hour later, a pony entered the room pushing a cart full of refreshments. He rolled over to the table she was under, proceeding to place the refreshments out on the table, then left. As he left Raven pushed out from under the table and flitched a danish from one of the trays, then resumed her watch.

Three more danishes and a muffin later, ponies started to filter into the room. Gathering around the table she was under, they chatted together and enjoyed the refreshments then took seats in the auditorium. More ponies came in repeating the procedure as they too partook of the offered snacks and found seats themselves. Eventually the hall was filled, almost every seat taken as Reynard himself entered wearing the ridiculous getup she recognized as the unofficial uniform of the Knights of the Magic Ascendancy, the pretentious name self-given to the Unicorn Supremacist group Reynard was reputed to be (and clearly was given what she saw) a member of.

Raven noted as Reynard trotted to the podium that many of these ponies were familiar to her, all minor lords and ladies of Unicorn Houses.

Brothers and Sisters, my fellow Knights of the Magic Ascendancy,” Reynard began. Raven quietly snickered. “Thank you for gathering on such short notice.

“Know that our plans have begun in earnest, and that our initial efforts have borne fruit. We have gathered several secret artifacts including one very powerful one, that will aid us greatly in our quest to overthrow the unlawful and unjust diarchy that has been imposed upon us, returning us once again to the rightful order of law, our beloved Monarchy under the House Platinum.”

Cheering erupted from the gathered ponies. Smiling and nodding in encouragement, Reynard continued. “Princess Blaisant herself is with us this evening, to encourage and inform us of our next steps forward. Please join me in honoring our beloved Princess, Princess Blaisant Platinum!” He stepped back from the podium as the cheering resumed.

Princess Blaisant stepped forward, stepping out from under the cowled shawl that had been hiding her among the cheering crowd. She stepped up to the podium as the cheering intensified, nodding and smiling to the crowd.

Once the cheering had died down, she smiled again out to her faithful and addressed them.

“My dear long suffering companions and subjects! Rejoice, for finally the hour of our deliverance draws near! Our suffering and subjection under alicorn hooves is nearly over!

“Under our guidance, our faithful and esteemed subject Reynard Imperious has gathered several artifacts that will ensure our success, including one that will summon for us a champion capable of overcoming the power of the Alilcorn herself. Tonight we will activate the artifact and summon that champion spirit, welcoming her power and guidance in achieving our goals.

“With that, let us begin the summoning ceremony. Those of you notified to be among the elect, please come forward and line up before the podium. The rest of you, watch and be amazed in wonder,” she commanded.

From among the gathered twenty mares and stallions came forward, lining up to the left and right of the podium proudly and attentively watching their Princess.

From the podium, Princess Blaisant raised a large orb covered in ancient runes. Raising it up in her magic she began chanting, the orb glowing feebily in her power.

As she chanted the first of both lines of unicorns stepped forward, both taking a ceremonial dagger also covered in glowing runes in their magic. Stepping to either side of the orb, they both cut into their forehooves, blood running down onto the orb further powering its sickly amber glow. Finished, they passed the dagger back to the next in their respective lines who repeated the process.

Raven watched from her hidden spot both fascinated and sickened at the display of ancient and forbidden blood magic.

The lines continued to diminish as each pair of unicorns poured out their blood sacrifice over the orb, its luminance and power clearly growing as each pair completed the ritual and resumed their seats.

As the last pair completed their sacrifice and returned the daggers to the podium, Princess Blaisant resumed her part in the ritual, pouring her magic into the orb as she raised it high over their heads chanting in the ancient tongue in earnest.

The orb flashed and blazed glowing brilliantly, then settled into a strong steady amber glow. Reynard stepped forward as Princess Blaisant lowered the orb into his outstretched hooves.

Princess Blaisant standing behind him, Reynard held the glowing orb channeling his magic into it as it glowed in bright amber waves of energy. It rose from his hooves, drifting into the air in front of the podium, then wirh a lightning bright crack of amber a projection of a pony appeared before the gathering, cackling madly as she surveyed the gathering.

Greetings, my loyal subjects!” she crowed loudly, cackling once again.

Nightmare Bucking Moon!’ panicked Raven with a gasp.

One of the unicorns, a mare unknown to Raven, turned at her gasp looking closely at the table where Raven was hiding. She could faintly see Raven’s silhouette as she lay under the table.

“Intruder! Intruder under the table!” the mare shouted out jumping up from her seat to race towards the table.

Buck me!” swore Raven, rolling acrobatically out from under the table and sprinting for the door. She threw it open in her magic then raced through it, several unicorns hot on her heels.

Reaching the stairwell she raced towards the roof confusing her pursuers who expected her to head to the front door. Reaching the roof she immediately raced towards the edge, leaping the gap and landing on the adjoining roof.

Several of her pursuers did likewise clearing the gap and racing after her. Raven raced to the other side of the building then leapt from the roof.

She landed safely on a fire escape on the adjoining building then leaping from platform to platform reached the alley below. Springing off into the street she faded from the view of her would be pursuers.

Chapter 6 - New Beginnings

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Sunny was bored. It had been two weeks since the last fateful evening with her ex-boyfriend, and the loss she was still grieving. By her best estimations she should be about three months along. She had notified her current employer of her pregnancy as required by her contract and had immediately been placed on unpaid nmaternity leave by her supervisor. Sunny was annoyed by that, but not the least bit surprised.

So she had some time on her hands. Not that she wanted time to think... or feel, or be anything other than busy. Even her craptastic job as an insurance telemarketer was preferable to sitting at home thinking and feeling. Especially feeling. She felt her aching loss pulling at her heart as she quickly bathed and dressed.

She decided this was the perfect time for a walk, so she slipped on her walking shoes and left her apartment. Skipping down the stairs she headed for her favorite coffee shop by the park. A sweet coffee and a walk through more natural surroundings felt like a much better choice than being shut up alone in her apartment.

Smiling as she strolled through the Canterlot streets towards her destination she enjoyed the fresh air flowing through her hair and gently cooling her skin. She smiled up at the sun gently warming her above. She thought of her daughter now alone in her womb but unharmed and healthy. A glow of gratitude flooded her heart joining an overwhelming love for her daughter as she skipped happily along the busy streets.

In her safe lifegiving cradle the young soul felt her mother’s concern and overwhelming love. With joy she returned it sending her delighted and grateful love and concern back to her mother with every joyful fiber of her little being.

Her tiny heart raced with joy knowing the love in her mother’s heart.

Serenity “Sunny” Sunrise Parker felt filled with joy. She felt connected to the little life growing within her. She smiled filled with gratitude for the little soul filling her womb. Her steps were light as she entered the coffee shop joining the line to place her order. As her turn came, she ordered a caramel frappuccino, her favorite. Paying, she left the shop continuing on her way to the central park and its scenic trails.

Sipping her coffee as she walked down one of her favorite trails, she spied a bench midway through. She sat and enjoyed the sight of other passersby wandering the trail. Some were focused, intensely moving though the path as if their progress were a critical goal, somehow obviating the need or desire to even notice the world around them. Others like herself, moved more slowly, or in her case not at all, enjoying the world around them and immersing themselves in the moment. She smiled, picturing Harlan striding along the path, smiling as he focused on his objective as oblivious to the wonderful world around him as the dour joggers and business men and women she observed.

Then she grinned. ‘Think of the devil and he shall appear!’ she laughed silently to herself as the very image she just imagined appeared before her, Harlan smiling in happy recognition as he single-mindedly locked onto her, walking briskly towards her then sitting next her on the park bench.

She laughed out loud as he sat down smiling at her.

“Delighted to see me then?” he asked with a grin.

“Something like that,” she teased, taking another sip of her coffee. “Imagine my surprise at you finding me here! Stalking me much?” she laughed.

“No! Er, at least not really,” he grinned. “I just had a bit of time for lunch and thought it might be nice to join you. I called but you weren’t home, so I asked myself, where would Sunny go? I remembered your fondness for this trail, so I thought I would check it out.”

“And did the trail meet your expectations?” she laughed.

“Clearly,” he agreed, smiling at her.

“I don’t think I am a reasonable expectation,” she quipped.

“I beg to differ,” he smiled back. “So where do you want to go for lunch?”

“Persistent, aren’t you? Truth is I’m not really hungry. I was half considering skipping lunch and just grabbing a snack when I got home,” she answered.

“Nah, my treat. Got to keep your energy up for that wonderful child you’re caritying,” he replied. “We can just walk around a bit though if you’re really not hungry. I just want to be sure you and your child are okay.”

“And this goes back to boundaries, Harlan,” Sunny replied gently. “I love that you care, but I am my own woman and my child’s mother. I don’t need another man stepping in and running my life.”

“And I’m not that guy, I swear,” assured Harlan, his hands up. “But I am that sometimes nagging and annoying friend who looks in on you and checks that you're taking care of yourself. Friends are allowed to worry, Sunny. I don’t want to run your life but I do want you to live it and enjoy it. I might overstep a bit with the worrying, but seriously I have no intention of running your life. Just running interference for it, maybe.”

Sunny laughed. “Well, that’s a start. We’ll work on that.” She took his hand, smiling. “I appreciate you being my friend. Friends I need, and you especially. Thank you for that, Harlan.”

He gripped her hand back. “Anytime Sunny. For my dearest friend, anything.”

They ended up walking the trails again then picking up a muffin at the coffee shop for her snack. Harlan had to head back to the station. “Sure you don’t want me to drop you off?” he asked as they exited the coffee shop.

“Nope, the walk will do me good. See you for dinner, friend,” she smiled, waving as she stepped off down the street enjoying her muffin. He waved, heading back to his rig parked along the other side of the street.

She enjoyed her leisurely walk home still smiling as she jogged up her steps and into her apartment. Entering, she saw a note on the kitchen table. Shutting the door she went over and read it.

She laughed out loud. ‘That brat. He did come here first! Annoying friend and stalker!’ she laughed again, taking the paper and reading it.

He really was a dear friend, interesting and welcome. He and Red Heart had called a friend of theirs and arranged a position for her at the local Womens’ Clinic. She hated her current job which was never more than just a paycheck. And not even that now that they’d forced her out on unpaid leave. Her mind made up she took the paper and dialed the number on her phone.

“Canterlot Womens’ Clinic, how can I help you?” answered a young woman.

“Hi! I was told to call this number about an open position? My name is Serenity Sunrise Parker,” replied Sunny.

“One moment, I’ll transfer you to the director,” replied the woman.

“Sure,” replied Sunny as the woman placed her on hold. A few moments later another woman's voice came on.

“Is this Sunny?” the woman asked.

“Sure, that’s what my friends call me!” replied Sunny surprised.

“Oh excellent! Redheart told me about you, I can’t wait to meet you! Are you available this afternoon?” asked the woman.

“Uh, okay? Where are you at?” Sunny asked. She quickly scribbled down the address on the paper.

“Just ask for Director LaGuinn when you get here,” provided the woman.

“Okay, will do,” answered Sunny.

“Awesome! Looking forward to seeing you soon!” the woman replied then hung up.

“Well, that was… something,” mused Sunny. She looked up the address noting that it was not too far to walk, one of the advantages to her apartment's central location. Writing a few quick direction notes on the paper as well, she strapped on her fanny pack and headed back out the door.

The clinic was a bit further then she figured but still not an unreasonable walk. Arriving at the double doors to the clinic she stepped up as they opened on sensing her arrival. Entering the waiting area she spied the front desk on the opposite side of the room and walked up to the window.

A young woman looked up.On spying Sunny's proudly bare belly with its early pregnancy bulge the young woman reasonably asked, “Are you here for an appointment?”

“Sort of,” smirked Sunny. “I’m here to see the director about a position. Can you please tell her Sunny is here to see her?”

The woman looked up again actually noticing Serenity finally. “One moment please,” she smiled, shutting the window and stepping away to the back office.

Sunny took a seat in the room noticing it was fairly crowded. That made sense, as Canterlot was a small town and not exactly the most wealthy there were plenty of women like herself who might need to make use of the clinic’s free services.

A moment later the door by the window opened. The young woman leaned out. “Miss Sunny? The director will see you now,” she announced. A few heads turned in idle curiosity as she made her way through the door to follow the young woman down the hall to the clinic offices. She knocked on the director's door and poked her head in.

“Director LaGuinn? Sunny is here to see you,” she announced.

“Show her in please, Misty,” answered the director. The young woman nodded then waved Sunny past her and into the office. She left closing the door behind her.

“Welcome Sunny! My friends told me a bit about you! I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. I’m director Ursula LaGuinn. Please, take a seat and we'll have a chat!” she offered, waving to the seat before her desk.

Sunny smiled taking the offered seat.

“Pleased to meet you Director LaGuinn,” she replied, leaning over the desk her hand extended.

Director LaGuinn took her offered hand, shaking it with a smile. “Forward! I like that. I think you’re going to be perfect here. And just Ursula, please,” replied the director.

“If I’m not being too bold, perfect for what? My friends were a bit light on details in their rush to get me here,” Sunny laughed.

Figures,” snickered the director. “Sure. I’ll tell you about the open position then take you on a tour of the clinic afterwards if your interested.”

“I’d like that,” nodded Sunny.

“We are looking for a director of Women’s Services. You wouldn’t start in that position. You would have to work up to it, starting as a Women’s Counselor. It’s a very hands-on role. You take patients helpping them work towards a resolution of their issues but above all lend a compassionate ear.

“From what Red Heart and Harlan explained to me, you faced off against your ex after he attempted to force a spontaneous abortion…”

“I really hate that phrase! Sorry, but as I told Harlan at the time there was nothing spontaneous about it!” hissed Sunny.

“My apologies, I didn’t mean to offend. That’s just the common parlance for what happened to you. And you are right, it's not spontaneous at all when someone is beating your child out of you,” tempered the director.

“How much did Harlan and Red Heart tell you? I thought they weren't allowed to talk about what happened to me?” asked Sunny in concern.

“They aren’t, and they didn’t. They only said you had experience with the issue of violent abuse… so I obtained your records. I overstepped my bounds and I apologize,” the director answered.

“Okay. I just don’t like the idea that what happened to me is such common knowledge,” replied Sunny.

“It’s not, I assure you. I have access only because I am a medical professional and I needed access to your records as your prospective health care provider. As I said it was an overreach on my part, and I do apologize. I will be your provider if you take the job, as one of the perks is complete coverage at the clinic at no cost. Again my sincere apologies on my overreach,” assured the director.

“Okay. I get that. letting it go. What can you tell me about the job?” asked Sunny.

“The starting job is Women’s Counselor. You are the first in line with our new patients, hearing their story, assessing their needs, then being their advocate as they move through the system. You are their fairy godmother moving their story along to a happy ending, or at least one with a degree of peace for them. You listen to their story, to their needs, then set up services for them as needed to see those needs addressed,” explained the director.

“And what services are those?” asked Sunny.

“Primarily reproductive services. Contraception, both chemical and otherwise, sterilization if desired, and pregnancy terminations,” answered the director.

“By pregnancy terminations you mean abortions,” countered Sunny.

“A more volatile term but correct. We offer and perform abortions here when needed,” replied the director.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I am not a fan of abortions, especially not after what happened to me. I can’t say that I’m going to be fine with recommending abortions to distraught women, not after what I’ve been through. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand sometimes that’s the only option or can seem to be. I have no intention of judging any of the women you may place under my care,” admitted Sunny.

“And that’s why we want you. Sunny, we need advocates. We need women like you who’ve seen the worst then survived and overcame it. We need you to share your heart, your strengths, your compassion, and your willingness to help others,” the director assured Sunny.

She continued. “We don’t want you to be inauthentic. I won’t lie to you, we do perform abortions here. But we don’t do it because it's our business, we do it to provide options for women who desperately need them. We are not and never will be an abortion mill. We don’t want to make money off the backs of desperate women. That’s the exact opposite of what we want.

“Sunny, so many women come in here forced here by family, boyfriends, or even friends, told they have to get an abortion or their life is over.

“You are the answer for those women. No one should be choosing for them just as you didn’t allow anyone to choose for you. You fought for your right to choose and defended the lives you guarded with every fiber of your being.

“We want you to pass that passion onto the women who come to us. They are often beaten, almost always afraid, and always hurting and feeling alone. You can show them they’re not alone, they do have choices, and it’s their choice, not their families, not their boyfriends, and not their friends. Theirs. If they choose to keep their pregnancy, you can guide them and be their fierce guardian through the system to see that they get the services they need. And if they choose to terminate their pregnancy, I know you will comfort them and not shame or condemn them, helping them through that too.”

“I would never shame or condemn any woman for making that choice, even though I would never make it myself,” assured Sunny.

“And that’s why you are perfect for this position, Sunny. You are the perfect advocate for the young women who come through our doors. We want to bring them peace and happiness. And with your passion, you will help them achieve that.

“Do you want to work with us, Sunny? Can you work with us? I can promise it will be painful. There will be times the memories dredged up will feel overwhelming. Some of the stories our girls share will break even the hardest of hearts. It’s not easy work. And I know the pay is less than stellar. But it’s important work and it needs desperately to be done. Will you do it, Sunny?” asked the director.

Without even a moment's hesitation Sunny nodded, extending her hand. “I’m in! I can begin today! Where do I sign and I’ll get started!” she agreed as she shook the director’s outstretched hand.

“Okay! Wow, I really love your enthusiasm. Sunny, I know I’ve made the right choice bringing you on. And I'm looking forward to the day I can move you up to Director of Women’s Services. You're going to be such a gift to the women who come through our doors!” gushed the director.

Grinning, she continued. “That said… No. The earliest you can start is tomorrow. I’ll set everyting up and expect to see you tomorrow morning at 8 AM smiling and ready to rock! It’s a full time position so you’ll get off at 5 PM with a one hour lunch break. In the meantime I have a tour to give you and introductions to the rest of our staff. Come, let’s get started!” she waved as she got up and stepped around the desk, taking Sunny by the hand and leading her out of her office.

First stop was her office, a small spartan but functional space. She nodded in approval. Then it was off to the examination rooms which looked very much like she expected. And of course the introductions to the rest of the staff. The nurse who administered the tests and many of the procedures, the intern that staffed the front desk (Sunny had thought she looked a bit young and now knew why), and the administrative assistant that managed the office paperwork and appointments.

“So where are the other doctors?” asked Sunny when they were done.

“Uh… we can’t afford more doctors at the moment, I’ll admit. I’m it for now. Keeps me busy, but keeps us open and that’s what matters. If we weren’t here where else would these women go?” admitted the director.

“Then you have even more of my respect. Way be where the need is. Thank you for that,” acknowledged Sunny.

The director grinned and nodded. “We all do what we can, right?” Laughing, Sunny agreed.

Sunny spent the rest of the afternoon in her new office filling out her employment forms then going through the training manuals and procedures, getting comfortable with the clinic’s policies and procedures.

She did take a brief break to use the phone provided on her desk. Just one call to her now ex-employers letting them know she would not be returning to work for them after her leave. They took the news without comment or concern, then informed her that her final paperwork and paycheck would be mailed to her. That settled she resumed studying for her new job.

Closing time came and Sunny walked happily back to her apartment. She was looking forward to seeing Harlan. She was going to give him so much grief for being such a stalker, as well as her undying thanks for her new job.

Chapter 7 - An Unexpected Development

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Raven sprinted the entire way the castle, her shawl whipping behind her as she raced through the crowds and past startled taxi ponies, sprinting around and through them on the busy street.

She didn’t dare look back until she made it to the guard post, getting a nod from the Royal Guard as she slipped her hood down on the way through. Sprinting the last of the distance through the mostly abandoned castle grounds, she entered the castle proper and raced down the halls past startled maids and guards heading straight for the Royal Apartments. Once there, the guard at the door nodded, opening the door with his magic to let her in. She nodded in thanks as she hurried inside, collapsing before the mare she had been rushing to see.

“Raven! Are you okay? What happened? And why are you out of breath? Did everything go well?” asked Celestia as she sipped her tea at her desk.

Nightmare. Bucking. Moon,” panted out Raven.

Celestia dropped her tea in shock, the ceramic cup shattering on the floor below. “What did you say?” Celestia asked quietly.

I saw Nightmare Moon! The idiots stole an artifact from you and summoned Nightmare Bucking Moon! She greeted them and promised to aid in their efforts to overthrow you! I rushed here as fast as I could,” gasped Raven.

Celestia quickly stepped out from behind her desk and took her friend and seneschal in her forehooves. “You saw her! You saw my sister?” she asked incredulously.

“She was summoned. It was a summoning spell, she was only there ethereally, but she was there! She saw them, she was talking to them, exhorting them!” Raven added.

“Tartarus take it! They must have stolen the Orb of Chaldis,” fretted Celestia. “This is not good.”

“No, not good at all!” agreed Raven, catching her breath.

Celestia hugged Raven. “Well done, my friend. Okay. Forewarned is prepared. Did Luna see you?” she asked.

“Only in my disguise. I had my shawl on the entire time. My figure, head and cutie mark were covered. No one recognized me I'm sure of it,” replied Raven.

“”Good. We have that advantage. They know we know now. Did they give a timeline at all?” Celestia asked.

“Only soon. I was discovered right after that and had to run for my life,” answered Rave.

“You’ve done well. Once again you’ve gone above and beyond your duty. Raven, I would be lost without you,” comforted Celestia.

“But Nightmare Moon! I know you said she was returning in a decade or so as the magic binding her banishment weakened. I guess if they could actually summon her that must be why. But what unholy mischief will she work with the help of those fools?” asked Raven.

“I don’t know. But I do know this… We will be ready,” responded Celestia.

Raven gave her Princess a detailed accounting of her outing, starting with her incursion into the House Platinum followed by her surreptitious discovery of Lord Imperious Urge and Princess Blaisant’s plot to overthrow her, then related the story of her shocking discovery of the ally they’d recruited for their efforts.

“I’m just glad you got out unharmed. I really worry for you when you take these kinds of risks,” replied Princess Celestia after Raven finished her report.

“I’m a trained, if honorary, member of your Mage Corps. I’d like to think I bring something to the table besides my bookish smarts,” Raven replied.

“You do, of course. But if anything happened to you it would be devastating,” acknowledged the Princess.

“So I’ll just keep being careful,” smirked Raven. “Given what I’ve learned, I believe we should just ignore the bait of Prince Black Tea’s claims. We should keep our focus on the real threat, the machinations of the Unicorn Supremacists backed by your fallen sister.”

“Completely agreed,” nodded Princess Celestia. “Do we have anyone embedded with their organization?”

“No, and that’s why this came out of left field. If I hadn’t stumbled on Imperious Urge meeting his contact we still wouldn’t have known anything about this,” acknowledged Raven. “Harmony is looking over us.”

“Thank Harmony,” agreed the Princess. “Okay, if we don’t have any assets to keep us apprised of their plans, how will we keep tabs on their progress?”

“I could infiltrate their ranks,” proposed Raven.

“As I alluded to before, I need you in your role here. If you were outed I would likely lose you permanently. I can’t risk that, Raven. You’re too valuable to me here.

Celestia thought for a moment. “See if any of your other assets can be reassigned. We need to know what is going on with that cabal,” answered Princess Celestia.

“Fine. I’ll see who I can redirect,” sighed Raven.

Celestia turned to her friend with a grin. “Raven, if I didn’t know better I would think you liked working out in the field,” smiled the Princes.

“A bit. You have to admit I am good at it. And it did get us some very necessary intel,” lead Raven.

“And whomever you place in that role will continue your good efforts,” placated the Princess, closing off that discussion.

Raven nodded, already mentally sorting through her available assets.

Raven arrived at the gate of the Mage Corps Training center. She was quickly escorted onto the base by one of the Staff Sergeants.

“So Miss Inkwell, to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?” inquired Sergeant Swift Wings, one of the few non-unicorn staff in the Mage Corps.

“I need another asset. I’m looking for a deep and critical placement and wanted to discuss our needs with some of the more qualified recruits,” answered Raven.

“Our? So this is one of those requests of course, I’ll take you to the hall then gather them to meet with you,” acknowledged Sergeant Swift Wings. She led Raven to the recruit hall then left to gather the candidates.

Raven sat quietly waiting for them as she read through the notes. When they had all gathered, she looked up.

“Greeting candidate,” she acknowledged the waiting recruits. “As always, what you hear here stays here.

“We have a developing situation and need a pony capable of going deep undercover within the KMA. They are currently planning a coup against our Princess. We deem the threat posed by this development credible, and need somepony capable of infiltrating their ranks to keep us apprised of their efforts.

“Are any of you interested and qualified for this placement?”

One of the stallions in the back row raised his hoof. “I think I might be, Miss Raven,” he replied.

“Comet Tail, right? What are your qualifications?” Raven asked the stallion. He had blue eyes, a blue mane with a light yellow coat and a shooting star cutie mark.

“I’m already a member of the KMA, though inactive since I was recruited into the guard," replied Comet Tail. Raven’s eyebrow went up.

“My parents were members and signed me up as soon as I was old enough. I stopped going when I ran away to join the guard. I wanted nothing to do with them or their beliefs. But as a member, I’m sure if I came back with a credible story about being tossed from the guard they would take me right back,” explained Comet Tail.

“Okay, that works. We’ll come up with a credible story for your dismal from the guard as well as set you up with a job to complete your cover,” acknowledged Raven. “Anypony else?”

The other recruits all shook their heads, so she dismissed the rest calling Comet Tail over. She briefed him on what they knew and what was required of him. Once that was complete she dismissed him, telling him to prepare to be released from the guard tomorrow morning, and that she would have a plan packet for him with information on his cover job and contact information.

Nodding, he left her as she began the paperwork to put their plan in place.

The next morning Comet Tail woke up to a pair of guards standing over his dorm bed. “Get up private! You’re being suspended! Pack up your kit and move out!”

Seeming dazed and confused, Comet Tail packed up his bag, clearing out his dresser and bed. Following the two guards he was led to the base commander’s office. While he waited outside the office he saw Raven leave. Catching his eye, she gave him a slight nod.

A few moments later he was escorted into the commander’s office and forced to stand at attention between the two guards.

“Private, I can’t begin to express my disappointment in your behavior,” the commander began. “The complete disrespect you’ve shown your superior officer cannot be tolerated. Just because she is not a unicorn is no excuse for a lack of professionalism. We have no place in our ranks for those who cannot maintain professional decorum. You are dismissed, private. And don’t come back.”

Comet Tail saluted, taking the proffered separation papers from his new ex-commander, placing them in his bag. He followed the guards out of the office and to the base gate where he was unceremoniously dismissed. Finding a quiet cafe a few blocks away he went through his separation folder. He noted with satisfaction Raven had slipped in a photo of and contact details for his covert liaison as well as details on his new employer and job description. Placing the papers back in his bag and finishing his coffee, he left to find and introduce himself to his new employer.

“It’s covered,” stated Raven as she entered Celestia’s office on returning from her morning meeting with the base commander. “A unicorn mage, Comet Tail, is being dismissed right now from the guard and is about to meet with his former KMA associates. Once he is situated he will begin providing us with information on their activities.”

“Excellent,” replied Celestia looking up from her paperwork. “I look forward to his reports.”

“I will keep you apprised,” promised Raven, leading her Princess off to her first meeting.

Comet Tail checked the papers one more time before knocking on the door. Putting the papers back in his saddle bags, he waited for the door to open.

“Yeah, waddya want?” snarled a grizzled old stallion on cracking the door open. “Whatever you’re selling we ain’t interested. Beat it.”

He went to push the door closed, but Comet Tail stuck his hoof in the door blocking it. “Sorry old fellow. I’m here to see Firefly about a job. Can you let me in and take me to her?” he asked.

“Waddo I look like, yer valet? Find her yerself,” growled the old stallion as he let him in. Comet Tail entered, nodding to the old pony as he shut the door and ambled back over to the couch where he was listening to a drama on a large radio console.

Looking around Comet Tail saw a sign on the back halfway that read No Admittance. Trotting down the hall, he found a closed door at the end with a sign saying Management Only.

He knocked on the door.

“You know Scruffs, if you’re going to keep bugging me I can find something for you to do besides watch the front door,” called out a voice from inside.

“Like what, maybe escort ponies back to your office?” snarked Comet Tail. There was a thump then hooves trotting towards the door. The door opened revealing a light magenta pegasus mare with a cerulean mane, gray eyes, and a firefly for a cutie mark. She looked Comet Tail over.

“Comet Tail?” she asked.

“Firefly, I take it?” he replied.

She pulled him inside and shut the door. “Have a seat,” she offered as she trotted back behind the desk and sat.

Comet Tail sat in front of the desk. “So, reporting here for my jobs,” he replied.

Firefly answered. “Technically, we’re a distributorship for the local breweries, keeping the local taverns supplied with their craft. Truthfully, we’re that and the other job you know about. I’m your contact for filing reports and assignments. I expect this assignment you’re about to take will last a while. I’ll file your reports and let you know if there are any further updates to your assignment.

“Your day to day job will be making deliveries of craft to the local pubs. You’ll pull the wagon and load and unload the craft. Scruff, who you met on the way in, will be along to help. He can tell you where the different clients like their deliveries stored, where each of the taverns are, and how to get there. Just don’t expect much more of him. The only thing that works on that old stallion is his mouth, and even that only when he gets cranky,” she supplied.

“I noticed,” grinned Comet Tail.

“If you need to file a report and I’m not here just drop it into the slot in this top drawer. I’ll process it when I get back. The drawer is locked and warded, so anything you put in there isn’t coming back out until I take it out. It’s as safe a dead drop as you’ll find.

“Any questions?” she asked.

“When do I get started,” Comet Tail asked.

‘With deliveries? Tomorrow morning, bright and early. Be her half an hour after sunrise and expect to work like a packhorse,” answered Firefly.

“For the other matter? You start now. When we’re done here, I need you to find your old contacts and spread the story of how you were drummed out of the Guard. You don’t need to lay it on thick, but you’ll have a sympathetic ear with the KMA members. Get invited back into the coven, start attending the meetings, and leave me a daily update with anything you find out. If you find something urgent that can’t wait for a drop or daily update, find me and I will take care of it. Don’t blow your cover, keep it real, and brace yourself for a long haul. Got it?” she finished.

Comet Tail nodded.

“Great. See you tomorrow after sunrise. Go get your stuff done, agent,” Firefly dismissed him.

Nodding, Comet Tail left, shutting the door behind him.

“So that’s what happened. Thanks to that entitled feather duster, I’m out. How lame is that?” groused Comet Tail to his friend as he nursed his beer.

“Wow, that was harsh. So what are you going to do,” asked the unicorn mare beside him. “Do you want to come back to the KMA meetings? I bet they could help.”

“I guess. Yeah, why not. I got a job lined up to start tomorrow, so I won’t starve or anything. But still, drummed out because some little featherbrain didn’t like my attitude?” Firefly nodded. “That hurt. Sure, I haven't been to a meeting in a while. When’s the next one?”

“It’s tonight. You can borrow one of my spare robes if you want to go. We can stop by my place and get it on the way,” the mare offered.

“Sounds good to me,” agreed Firefly. “What do you want for dinner? My treat. Might as well do something with this severance.”

“You’re a good friend, Firefly. Sorry you got tossed out of the Guards, but it’s good to have you back in the neighborhood. Let’s just get hay fries and a sandwich from the grill. That way you can regal me with all your stories as a guard,” answered the mare.

“Sure. There were some good times,” agreed Firefly. “I’ll go get the food. Want another ale?” he asked.

“Sure,” the mare replied. Firefly went to the counter and ordered their dinners with a huge side of hay fries.

Chapter 8 - Sister Mine

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Racing out the door with Harlan, Sunny slid into the seat in his rig next to him as he fired up the engine then pulled out into the morning traffic.

“So, excited?” Harlan asked.

“You know it,” grinned Sunny. “Thanks to both of you again for putting this together for me. And let Red Heart know I said that too!”

“I will definitely pass that on. She’ll be thrilled for you. She considers herself a friend to you too, you know,” Harlan smiled.

“And I am so grateful for that. Thank you both for looking out for me,” smiled Sunny back. Leaning over against his arm she quietly enjoyed the ride to the clinic. From the oversized smile Harlan was sporting it was quite clear he was enjoying the moment too, content to let the happy silence between them stand.

Harlan pulled up in front of the clinic. Sunny leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Thanks, Harlan!” she smiled, scooping up her fanny pack and exiting his rig. Harlan grinned and waved as she exited.

Entering the clinic she crossed to the office door, trying it and realizing it was locked. She knocked three times.

“Anybody here?” she called out.

She heard footsteps approaching from the other side then someone fiddling with the lock. The door opened with the director smiling and welcoming her in. “Welcome, Sunny! Bright and early! Ready to get rocking?”

“Sure!” smiled Sunny stepping through the door as the director shut and locked it behind her.

She followed the director into her office to start her first day of work.

Sunny read through the two files on her desk, the paperwork for her first two clients on her first morning. Both were young women dropped off by their families, both now alone in the waiting room. Reading through their files she noted they were both much younger than her, unmarried, and both in less than ideal circumstances. Finished reading the last file she placed them both back on her desk in a privacy folder.

Rising, she walked to the waiting room, opening the door and calling out the first girl's name.

“Miss Marks? Rosy Marks?” she called out. A girl nodded clearly distraught, and rose, following her back into her office.

She gestured to the seat before her desk. “:Have a seat please. We have a few standard questions, then some paperwork to fill out. Standard procedure, I assure you,” Sunny comforted as she shut the door.

Sitting down behind her desk, she leaned forward, offering a kind smile to the frightened girl. “So, Rosy? What can we do for you?” Sunny asked.

I need an abortion,” Rosy said, tears in her eyes.

“That is one of the services this clinic provides,” agreed Sunny. “Let’s start with a few basic questions, then we can start on the paperwork.”

Rosy nodded, so Sunny continued.

“First, how far along are you?” Sunny asked.

“I don’t know,” answered Rosy. “I missed two of my periods. Two months? I’m not sure.”

“And you’ve taken a pregnancy test?” asked Sunny.

“My mom bought one from the store and said I am,” answered Rosy.

“Okay. We’ll want to run our own test. The store tests are good, but ours are a bit more reliable. And it’s procedure. Do you know who the father is?” Sunny continued.

“It’s my boyfriend,” answered Rosy.

“And are you still together?” Sunny asked. “Rosy, I am going to ask you some questions about your boyfriend. I want you to know you are the one who gets to decide how you want to proceed. Not him, not your family, not your friends. You. You are under no obligation to tell him anything or to get his approval for anything. I am asking these questions because the information may be important going forward, but you are free to refuse to answer anything if you don’t want to. Do you understand?”

Rosy nodded.

“Okay. First question. Does your boyfriend know you are pregnant?” Sunny asked.

Rosy nodded yes.

“Did he offer to support the child, or to pay for any services you may need?” continued Sunset.

“He told me to get an abortion and he would pay for it,” replied Rosy, tearing up.

Sunny reached over and gently took Rosy’s hand, pushing over a box of tissues. Rosy dried her eyes. “Thank you,” she said quietly.

“Would you be willing to share his name and contact information with us, and can we get in touch with him for billing purposes?” asked Sunny when she calmed.

“Uh… yeah, I guess,” replied Rosy. She gave the information to Sunny, who wrote it in her file.

“I will point out again, we will not contact him without your express permission. And we will not share any information with him. That is for you to do or not as you see fit. We do not share any information about you or your pregnancy with anyone aside from the medical professionals involved in your care. Do you understand that?” Sunny asked.

Rosy nodded again.

“The same is true for your family. Beyond the basic information that you are in our care, we do not share any further information with them. Anything you wish to share is yours to share or not as you decide,” continued Sunny.

“You mean my parents don’t need to know all the details?” asked Rosy, surprised.

“Not unless you want them to,” agreed Sunny. “Now, almost done.

“Rosy, we provide other services besides abortions here. If you decide not to have an abortion today, we can sign you up for these services. In addition to medical care from the clinic, these services include maternity care, childbirth classes, help signing up for government services you qualify for, and support counseling,” Sunny continued.

“I want an abortion. My mom said I am getting an abortion,” replied Rosy.

“And again, we provide that here as well. But Rosy, some of the things you’ve said raise some red flags. Not for you, you’re not in trouble. But I need to clear something up.

“Rosy, we will provide you with an abortion, if that is your choice. But I hear from you that at least two people have instructed you that you will have an abortion. Rosy, that’s not their call. If you don’t want to terminate your pregnancy, you can choose that. No one gets to make that choice for you. You choose, Your choice. Not your mom’s. Not your boyfriend’s. Yours.

“And if you’re afraid of the consequences of not doing what they said, we can help you there too. We can give you shelter, a place to live while you’re pregnant, and help with services and resources after you give birth. You’re not alone. So, take a minute to decide what you want to do, and know that no matter what you decide, no one here will judge you, and we will fully support you no matter what,” Sunny finished, still holding her hand.

Rosy nodded, her eyes tearing up again. She shut her eyes tight and took several deep breaths. Sunny gently rubbed her hand as she calmed herself.

A minute later she opened her tear stained eyes. “Can I really keep my baby?” she asked hopefully.

“If that’s what you want, yes. We will help you with your choice whatever it is,” agreed Sunny.

“I want that. I want my baby,” answered Rosy, clutching Sunny’s hand.

“Okay. So let’s start with the tests and get you going. I’ll bring you to the nurse for a quick examination, then we can begin on the rest of the paperwork,” nodded Sunny. She rose from her desk, and taking Rosy by the shoulder, she escorted her to the nurse’s examination room.

Returning to her desk, Sunny sat, feeling spent.

She was shocked by how deeply that affected her. Shaking, she reached up, only just realizing she was crying. Taking one of the tissues from the box on her desk she dried her eyes then blew her nose.

Closing her eyes, she took a few deep breaths, calming the shaking and clearing her mind.

A few calm moments later she rose and washed her hands in her office sink. Drying them, she picked up the next folder and returned to the waiting room for her next client.

“So, Miss Troublée, what can we do for you?” Sunny asked kindly of the young woman seated before her desk.

“I want an abortion,” Troublée answered immediately.

“We do provide that service along with others. Let’s start with a few basic questions, then we can start on the paperwork,” assured Sunny.

“How long is this going to take?” Troublée asked, annoyed.

“Plan on being here for the better part of the day,” replied Sunny. “So the first question..”

“I just want the abortion and to leave. Can we skip all this?” asked Troublée.

“No, sorry Miss Troublée. Policy states I have to make you aware of your choices and allow you to make an informed decision…” replied Sunny.

“I already told you. I want an abortion now!” replied Troublée.

“Okay. Just hear me out, answer my questions, then we can continue,” reassured Sunny. “First question, how far along are you?”

“Does it matter? Too far. I missed three periods. I took the test. I’m pregnant. I want to not be pregnant. Can we just move things along,” answered Troublée irately.

“So I will put down three months. The exam will tell more certainly,” replied Sunny. “So next…”

“I don’t need an exam, just an abortion,” Troublée replied.

“All procedures require an exam. It’s for your own safety. If we can keep moving, we can finish these questions. Then I just need you to sign a few forms and we can start. Can we do that, Miss Troublée?” asked Sunny.

“Fine,” sighed Troublée. “What else do you need to know?”

“Do you know who the father is?” asked Sunny.

“No, and don’t care. Asshole said he had a vasectomy,” replied Troublée.

“Okay, any other information you want to provide about the father?” asked Sunny.

“No. Next question,” answered Troublée.

“Next, I want to assure you we will not provide any information about you or the care you may have received from us…” stared Sunny.

“Damn well better not! Nobody else’s business what I do here!” replied Troublée.

“Exactly,” agreed Sunny. “The one exception is your parents. As a minor we are required to inform them we have seen you, but nothing else. That is the extent of any information we will give out.”

Fine,” Troublée stated.

“We have other services we offer here…” started Sunny.

“Don’t care. Just here for an abortion,” Troublée cut her off.

“We are required by law to be sure you are making an informed choice. I need to make sure you are aware of your choices and the resources available to you…” Sunny started again.

“Yeah, got it. I know my rights and choices. Just give me the stuff to sign and let’s get going. I have to be somewhere tonight,” Troublée agreed.

“We strongly suggest you take it easy for a few days after the procedure, as it can be very taxing on your body and you will need time to recover,” continued Sunny as she passed over the paperwork for signature.

“Sure, got it. Where do I sign?” asked Troublée, scanning the paperwork.

“Here, here, then your initials here,” provided Sunny, pointing them out. Troublée signed and passed them over.

Taking the signed forms and placing them into her file, Sunny led Troublée out to the examination room.

Returning afterwards to her office, Sunny sat at her desk, tears streaming from her eyes as she thought again of her missing daughter.

“Crap, this is harder than I thought,” she sniffed, blowing her nose into another tissue. “I don’t know who is going to use these more, me or my clients.” She dried her eyes again and after a few calming breaths tossed the used tissues into her trash and washed her hands again.

There was a knock on the door, and the intern poked her head in.

“Miss Sunny? Your client Rosy has finished her examination and is ready for you. She’s in exam 1,” she informed her.

“Thanks Cadie, I’ll get her now,” replied Sunny, following her out.

Sunny knocked on the door to exam 1 and poked her head in. “Hi Rosy, how are you doing?” she asked.

“The nurse said she was done, I just had to wait for you,” answered Rosy.

Entering, Sunny took her by the hand. “Okay. Let’s go get that paperwork started and discuss what services you need.” She led her back to her office and just the door.

She sat with Harlan and Red Heart in the back of the small deli, the three of them chatting over their drinks and sandwiches.

“Thank you again for referring me for the job,” said Sunny, taking a bite of her sandwich.

“So how are you holding up? I know working there can be emotionally exhausting,” asked Red Heart.

“I don't know who is crying more, me or my clients,” sighed Sunny. Tears slipped from her eyes. “And dammit, there I go again.” She took the napkin Harlan offered as he pulled her into a one armed hug.

“The crying will pass, but I can’t say it ever really gets easier,” comforted Red Heart. “Just know that you are making a difference in these girls’ lives, and that’s what matters.”

“That’s exactly what matters, and that’s why I’m doing it,” agreed Sunny, straightening back up and smiling at Harlan then Red Heart. “And I’ll keep doing it as long as I have any strength left in me.”

“Glad to hear it,” smiled Red Heart.

The afternoon wasn’t much easier, but Red Heart was right. The tears did stop eventually even if the hurt didn’t.

By the time the day was over, she was ready for a break. Harlan was working a double shift today, so she hitched a ride from the director. Kicking her shoes off at the door, she plopped down on the couch to think about the day, drifting to sleep.

When Harlan returned home late that night he found her sprawled out on the couch sound asleep. Carefully lifting her in his arms, he carried her to her bed and tucked her under her sheets. Smiling, turned out her lights as he went to prepare for sleep himself.

Chapter 9 - Memories, Dreams and Prophecies

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The time for night was upon her realm.

With a heavy sigh, Celestia crossed through her royal apartments to her balcony, then opened the trellised doors, stepping out to watch her little ponies below as they scurried about their end of the day wrap up.

Looking up into the heavens still hidden by her day, she artfully arranged the stars, recreating her personal favorite of her sister's beloved night skies. She deftly fixed the drift of the stars to match the pattern, save the four spoken of in prophecy who one day would aid in her sister's release from banishment. "One day soon," she thought to herself, a day she both fearfully dreaded and looked forward to with passionate hope.

She looked up at her beloved sun, smiling wistfully. “Farewell for a while my dear sun. Time to rest as the night takes her place.”

She lowered her sun with a slightly sad smile, then raised her sister’s moon with a sigh filled with hope.

“Soon sister,” she called out to the visage before her. “Soon the stars will aid in your escape, as I have long pined for, then I will see you again for better or for ill.

“I have missed you so much! I hope with all my heart you can forgive me when you return, even though it would seem you still hate me for what I have done. While I can’t find it in me to blame you in the slightest for your anger, I hope to Faust above you can still somehow find it in your heart to forgive me.

“Please, dearest sister, return to me, knowing I love you and will never again let you languish in anypony’s shadow, especially not my own. Know with all your heart that I will cherish you and stay by your side forever.”

With a final sigh filled with regrets, she returned to her apartment, closing the trellised doors behind her. Crossing to her desk she started her nightly ritual of reviewing the petitions on docket for day court the next morning, reading them one by one, then either signing each with either her approval or rejection while sorting them into two piles accordingly.

Most petitions were the usual power plays by the nobles of her realm, some more subtle than others. Though after a thousand years of dealing with their machinations, she was rather familiar with even their more subtle schemes. Some of these she still allowed if the outcome justified it, bringing needed care or services to her beloved little ponies. Others she did not, especially those that blatantly only served the interests of the requesting noble.

Others petitions were from her little ponies themselves, seeking aid or redress for wrongs perceived or committed by others. Others, seen less often but more compelling, were petitions seeking outright aid for events caused by acts of nature or aggressions from outside the ponies realm.

One such case especially caught her attention.

A mare was requesting assistance in setting up an orphanage in her area, a rural village with outlying farms that bordered one of the realm’s surrounding kingdoms. Celestia had lately been receiving reports of raids along the border with that kingdom. Excursions from that kingdom had been noted against the nearby small settlements of her ponies. She had, of course, dispatched troops from her guard to investigate and deal with whomever they found as needed, but so far they had found nothing on their arrival but missing ponies and in some cases completely razed farms, usually with the foals tucked safely away on the properties in hidden shelters that were known only to their extended families.

In most cases the families had the resources to take them in; but in the few cases where they could not, her guard had returned the young ponies to Canterlot where she had them placed into local orphanages to provide them with care.

She wanted to send her guard into the offending kingdom and let them deal with the miscreants who were attacking her beloved little ponies. But she dared not risk sending in her troops in an action that would clearly spark all out war with that warlike neighboring nation. While she personally had the power to lay waste their entire nation for their outrage, she did not have it in her heart to once again destroy the innocents in a land for the sins of the few who were to blame.

Not for the first time her thoughts turned to her need to establish a corps of magic users, a corps whose members could do what she could not. She needed a corps of mages who could bring the fight proportionately to those who threatened or did actual harm to her little ponies without the need to actually bring her full might against the entire nation that housed the miscreants. She dreamed of a corps of Battle Mages within her guard that would be her presence in those circumstances. Her dream of a corps of mages so powerful and so well trained in battle that she could send them out, one mage for one mission, knowing they would return having shown the might of Equestria without her presence. And additionally, they would show she was not alone in being able to inflict terrible harm upon those who threatened them. Let her enemies know that any pony may be capable of showing terrible wrath upon those who saw them only as helpless prey for their slaughter.

She would have the entire world of Equis know this. No longer were little ponies the prey species as they were so often in the days of old. Now, they were the preeminent species on this world, and she would see them given the respect, and if not that the fear they deserved for their place in her world order.

Signing off her approval of the mare's request, to be dealt with in the next morning’s court, she took another scroll from her desk and signed off on it as well, finally approving the formation of the Battle Mage Corps she had been dreaming of for some time. She would pick the brightest and most proficient of her mage Guards and train them in the arts of magical warfare and battle, teaching them tactics and techniques she had learned from her sister so very long ago when her beloved sister was the powerful Marshal of all Equestria’s vaunted forces, and the bane of all who stood against them.

Smiling as she signed the plan into law, she envisioned a time when even these so called subtle violations of her ponies and their realm’s sanctity would be a thing of the past.

With that hopeful thought, she completed her review of the rest of the next morning’s cases, finishing off her tea and slice of cake as she signed off on the last of them.

Retiring to her bathroom, she cleaned up and prepared for sleep, returning to her chambers and climbing into her canopied bed, drawing up the covers around her.

However, as she laid in her comfortable bed, her thoughts returned to her sister and her imminent return.

Celestia tossed in her bed as she tried to sleep, leaving her little foal, her little bun in the oven, restless too in her life giving cradle. In her mind she kept going over her sister’s reappearance, at least as a summoned spirit, after almost 1000 years of banishment. And she thought about her sister's actual return in just 20 more years, as stated in the prophecy she had uttered nearly a thousand years ago while under the power of Harmony following her actions against her rebellious sister. Her sister would return then, for better or worse.

And she feared the worst. Especially given the way her sister's specter was behaving, working to foment rebellion against their nation. The very realm they had built together over 1000 years ago.

“My dearest sister,” she sighed, rolling again in her bed, “I beg you, please forgive me when you return. I miss you so much!”

Closing her eyes and nestling into her pillow she finally succeeded in falling asleep. Sensing her mother’s relative peacefulness, the little foal within her fell peacefully asleep as well.

Sensing her mother’s tormented dreams, the little soul reached out to her, touching her mother's thoughts and worries. With a kiss from Harmony, she was sent into her mother’s dream where she saw the momentous thoughts that were stirring her restless sadness.

She saw her mother fighting with another like her, also an alicorn as they were called in her mother’s thoughts. The other alicorn was almost as dark as midnight, with a cloud backed crescent moon as her cutie mark. She was slender, tall and regal, her blue mane waving in the moonlight, stars twinkling in her mane like the stars in the night sky.

“Sister, you don’t have to do this! We don’t have to fight! Please Luna! Please don’t do this! Please come back to me, we can work this out, I promise!” called out her mother, her concern and love radiating from her to her wayward sister. She mumbled out her calls in her sleep as well, shaking slightly in her distress.

“Pshaw! As if I would ever believe another promise from you! You are a liar! You only care about your precious day, and everypony loving you! You abandon our old ways and arts, always seeking after new things, never enjoying what is. And you! You never cared for me, or for my beloved night! And you made others fear my beautiful night! I have worked so hard, pouring out my love for our ponies and you, crafting beautiful night skies for all to enjoy, marveling in wonder! But you! You made them hate me! So now you can all fear me and my night, sister.

“For behold! Luna is dead! Killed by your negligence, and you and your little ponies’ hatred! I am no longer she, but now…

I am Nightmare Moon! Queen of the Night! And destroyer of the day! For tonight, in punishment of your actions, I am no longer your sister! Never again will you see the light of day, for from this moment forth…

“The Night shall last forever!”

Luna, or Nightmare Moon as she called herself now, laughed maniacally as clouds stormed through the night sky, lightning flashing through them as a backdrop as Nightmare Moon reared up now laughing triumphantly.

“And you, my no longer sister, are no longer needed. I will cripple but not kill you so you may watch in torment as all you loved withers and dies in the grip of my eternal night of terror!”

With that, Nightmare Moon flew down in attack against her now grief stricken sister, beams of arcane power launching from her horn as she tried to destroy her former sister.

Eyes clouded with tears, Celestia responded, flying up to meet her; dodging and diving through the air to avoid her attacks while launching arcane attacks in reply. The two sisters dove and dodged through the sky, wreaking havoc with their battle on the castle below them.

Befuddled, the little ponies of the kingdom looked on as the sisters waged war against each other, not understanding why the two sisters fought one another, or why Princess Luna looked so different and angry now. They watched in horror as the castle they had worked in for most of their lives was decimated, holes blown through it and towers toppled as they watched in despair.

Finally, Nightmare Moon landed a shot on her sister, launching the Solar Princess into the ground cracking the tiles in the throne room of their Castle of the Two Sisters, now exposed to the elements due to their fight.

Rising to her hooves with effort, Celestia reached out with her Magic, gathering The Elements themselves, holding them in orbit around her as she launched her own final attack in despertion at her screaming sister, who was almost upon Celestia firing a searing attack of her own.

The two energies collided, and for a moment it looked like the Nightmare would win as her raw power pushed back the beam from the Harmonic Elements.

Luna, no!” screamed Celestia, crying as she redoubled her efforts. The beam of Harmony responded in kind, pushing back against Nightmare Moon's power, pushing her beam back onto her, then finally overcoming her beam completely as she was swallowed her up in Harmony's glow.

No!!” screamed out Nightmare Moon as the glow subsumed her completely. A lance of light shot out from the glow, piercing into the moon overhead in its lower half. A cratered shadow of the Nightmare's head appeared in a reproachful gaze on the surface of her moon.

Luna!!” called out her mother, forehooves stretched out to the moon as she fell on her haunches, tears of lament falling from her like a bitter rain as she sat alone in their fallen castle.

Flashing forward, the little soul saw scenes from the sisters' fillyhoods as the elder sister continued her laments.

Two little alicorn fillies sat before a unicorn wizard, with stars and moons on his pointed hat and cloak and bells on both as well, as he taught them spells together.

The two sisters playing hide and seek, the elder seeking the younger who leapt out and tackled her older sister. Then the two then giggling loudly in a laughing ball of ponies as they rolled through the grass together.

Discord attacking their young regentdom, causing chaos throughout the land. The two sisters questing for the Elements, then finding them, dividing them between themselves and lighting out after Discord.

She saw the two sisters confronting Discord, demanding he return their land to its proper state and cease his harmful pranks while he laughed at them defiantly. Then she saw the sisters powering up their elements, encompassing Discord in a beam of Harmony, turning him to stone.

She saw the realm grow and prosper under the sister’s leadership, with Luna leading their ponies in war when needed against aggressive and powerful neighbors, and Celestia seeking peace afterwards while forging alliances against common enemies.

She saw their realm enter a time of extended peace once all their neighbors had been subdued, while ponies began forgetting that the younger sister was their protector in times of trial, their Marshal in times of war.

She saw the signs of the younger sister's growing resentment as more ponies forgot her, and her night, and her deeds, while they basked in the power of her sister’s day. One by one, she saw the younger sister's festivals were being forgotten.

The Night Festival of the Harvest Moon, celebrating the first of the harvests, was abandoned in favor of a new festival marking the Day of Harvest held the day following the harvest completion.

The Festival of the Longest Night, one of the youngest sister’s favorites of the year, was abandoned completely. She saw how, deep in her regret, the older sister reinstated it after losing her, in the hope that her sister would not be completely forgotten by her ponies. It was with consternation and regret that Celestia saw the official name replaced with the popular name Nightmare Night celebrating her defeat of Nightmare Moon despite her opposition to the practice. Even though Celestia still insisted on the official name at whatever Festival Celebration she attended each year, her little ponies insisted on using the other name everywhere else, turning even the festival she retained in her fallen sister’s honor into a complete mockery of her memory. She saw as her mother cried in her sleep at that final loss of her sister’s memory and legacy.

She saw the battle and banishment again, Celestia whimpering and weeping in her sleep as it played out.

She saw Celestia sitting in the garden with Discord’s statue after Luna’s loss, telling him if he would only promise to behave and not spread chaos through her realm she would happily let him go and call him a friend. She felt the loss in her mother’s heart not just for Luna, but for everypony she had lost to time, and her deep longing for a friend who could share eternity with her.

She saw her mom seeing her sister still as Nightmare Moon directing an uprising against her. She saw her mother thinking of her sister returning, finally getting to hold her beloved lost sister in her forelegs again, weeping on her sister's shoulder and begging her little sister’s forgiveness for failing her as a sister all those years ago.

Celestia woke at the end of that dream, her forelegs wrapped around a tear soaked pillow. Drying her eyes with a forehoof, she rose from her tear stained bed to start her day. She opened the trellised doors to her balcony, stepping out to face the visage of her beloved sister in the moon as her sister stared down with what Celestia felt as stinging reproach.

“Oh sweet sister, I have failed you so badly,” Celestia lamented to her, staring up into her stamped likeness on the moon’s surface. “But soon sister, soon. The time of your release is soon upon us, and though I fear your return, I also long to hold you in my forehooves and tearfully beg your forgiveness for my part in all this. You deserved better from me, and if Harmony Herself allows it you shall have it.”

With that she sadly reached out and guided her sister’s moon and her reproachful visage below the horizon, while reaching out and guiding her sun into the morning sky to greet the dawn and awaken her little ponies to the new day.

She watched for a few moments as below her little ponies stirred, rising and starting their days under her blessed sunlight. Then with a smile, she returned to her apartment to begin her day, closing the trellised doors behind her.