Paradise, or at least as close to it as you could get in Equestria. The area itself was surrounded by a dense ring of trees. Long strands of glowing beads that dazzled in all colours dangled from every single branch to form a glistening curtain around the enclosure. A magical dome, purple in hue, lay just beyond the curtain until curving up over the entire sanctuary. From the inside, it gave the sky a pink tone, keeping with the soft colour scheme that ran through the scene. The clearing itself was dominated primarily by a crystal river; all manner of water-loving flowers lined the banks. At the head of the river lay a gentle waterfall that made only the quietest of soothing sounds.
In the northern section, an area for preparing and eating food had been formed out of magically shaped trees. Next to that in the east, a canopy of naturally woven leaves covered the array of large, soft cushions that formed one large spread of red and pink fabric. To the south of both lay the mud hot spring, the temperature of which was controlled by more magic to ensure optimal comfort. The entire set up was designed for the sole purpose of providing maximum comfort and relaxation, without detracting from the natural essence that gave the sanctuary its unique charm.
The portal at the far south bloomed into life, quite literally. Purple flowers opened to soak up the magical energy pouring from the pink surface of raw magic. A gold slipper emerged from the portal. It rolled to a stop roughly a metre out onto the thick grass. Bags of all shapes and sizes began to follow, their exits becoming increasingly fast and airborne. Several moments passed during which nothing passed through the portal, until a bedraggled Twilight Sparkle stumbled through in a huff. Dozens of bags weighed heavily on her sides, keeping her wings pinned very tightly to her body. Most of her mane had fallen down in front of her face, to the point that she tripped over a bottle of hoof polish, and landed face first into the luscious green surface below.
“I swear, Rarity is never going to do the packing for my vacations. Ever. I’ll exile her for all eternity to the stars if it comes to that!” The explosion of magic from her horn hurled all of the items she had brought with her across the sanctuary. All that came into contact with the dome were possessed by pink magic until they settled into a wonderfully organized arrangement near the cushions. The rest soon followed after. “Celestia wasn’t kidding; this place really is focused entirely on eliminating any source of stress, including messiness.” With her luggage out of sight on the other side of the sanctuary, she had a moment to sit down and take in the scene. Even the air itself buzzed with magic, draining away the stiffness and tiredness from her body.
She stood there for several minutes afterwards to let the magic settle before beginning her self-tour of the sanctuary. “Alright. River, check.” With a quick sniff of the flowers, she brought her clipboard and pen into existence. A list of the features Princess Celestia had specified about the sanctuary glowed in bright gold letters as she looked over each of them. With the pen, she marked off the river. “Waterfall, check.” Near her sleeping area, the water continued to flow from a spring just inside the curtain. On the other side of the river, a constant downpour of water droplets from four tall trees flowed away to the south. “Natural shower, check.”
The three main attractions remained. Food that quite literally came from the trees she would be preparing food at, possibly the most comfortable place to sleep possible, and of course the mud spa. She dipped one hoof into the deliciously warm liquid. Bubbles swirled around her hoof, making barely a splash as they reached the surface. When she removed her hoof, only a thin layer of mud remained. That was easily returned to the pool with her magic. “Mud spa, check.” The food area looked in peak condition, and she had eaten before entering the portal anyway. The last item remaining was her favourite in this case, a place to sleep. For a moment, she looked around in the odd chance she wasn’t alone. Assured of that, she fell back into the sea of cushions. “One very comfortable sea of cushions, check!”
A couple of suitcases hovered over, the ones she actually intended to open during her stay. The first contained several of her favourite books, while a few more contained materials for writing. “Enough books and writing materials to keep me occupied while I sit back and relax, check. I’d say that’s everything!” The suitcases rested down near the large table for the next day. Overhead, she watched as the brightly tinted sky began to change in colour. Night wasn’t too far away at that point, mostly because of Rarity’s packing and the last minute list of things for Spike to work on while she was away. At last, she had a chance to stretch out her hooves and wings, to simply lie there and exist while magic tended to her every need. “Five days, almost a week. Just long enough to enjoy it, without getting sick of it. Everything is just as it should be. Perfect!”
The sleep she had enjoyed that night was unlike any other. Without the need for a blanket in the sanctuary, her wings had been no bother at all. When she woke, it felt like her entire body had been relieved of all its burdens. Not a single part of her felt tired and heavy. Breakfast only made it better, fresh fruit literally dropped right onto the wooden benches for her to prepare with her own magic. Every single bite brought an overwhelming rush of rich juices that caused all sorts of sensations in her mouth. Strong tangs of orange that caused her to suck her cheeks in out of an embarrassing reflex, sweet tides from apples of all colours that made her swoon with each taste. And strawberries that created a vibrant energy, spreading all through her body until she couldn’t simply eat any more.
Papers, quills, and inkpots rushed to the open table around her meal. Immediately, she began scribbling out letters and pages of a story she had been working on. Many times, there were at least three different quills writing at once, at one point she managed to maintain six with her magic for a good few minutes. Hours began to pass, and the energy rush brought on by breakfast began to settle down again. Already, she could see tomatoes and lettuce growing from the trees around her, preparing for lunch. Several pages of written text surrounded her at that moment, all waiting for the right time to be organized. “Later, I think I’ve earned time to relax.”
She removed herself from the seat at the table, making her way towards the mud spa. It bubbled away quietly as she made a few minor adjustments with the magical will of her horn. The number of bubbles increased, and a little more steam rose up off the surface. “Much better. I can’t wait to try out the magical wing and back massager.” She took a step towards the creamy brown liquid when something caused her to hesitate. In the middle of the spa, she could just barely see a glowing spot. Within seconds, it grew larger and larger, until over half the pool was glowing in some sort of weird magic. “Uh oh, maybe I turned it up a little too much.”
Different bubbles began to appear in the centre of the glowing circle. They were larger, and didn’t appear in a constant stream. Almost exactly in time with her own breathing. “Celestia didn’t mention about there being a portal in the hot tub! What if it’s some sort of time warp? Am I going to meet myself from the future again?” The bubbles began to grow intense. A form began to rise up out of the glowing part of the pool itself. Twilight felt like running away at that moment. But the sanctuary was quite literally flooded with pure, good magic. Nothing with harmful intent could even penetrate the dome, let alone do anything to her.
Despite that self-reassurance, the form continued to rise. As it grew taller, its figure began to thin. By an estimate, it was roughly a pony and a half tall if it was standing on the bottom of the spa itself. With each second, more mud began to slip away, until Twilight could make out enough of the figure to reach a conclusion. “What in the hay is a human doing here? I thought travelling to Equestria from that world changed everybody into ponies.” She approached the spa again slowly as a pair of hands reached up to clear the face. Bright blue eyes stared back as the chocolate-like coating was removed from them.
“Twilight Sparkle?” The voice was familiar enough to Twilight for her to perform a cleaning spell. In one sweep, all of the mud on the human above her waist was cleared, a decision she quickly began regretting. Standing before her was none other than her somewhat evil, and supposedly reformed counterpart, Sunset Shimmer. And she had no clothes of any description on. Upon realizing that, she immediately covered her breasts with her arms in a great moment of awkwardness. But it was too late for Twilight, who could only stare at the naked figure of a human she had never expected to see. Especially in the mud spa she was about to slip into.
“Uh, this may be a stupid question... But what in Equestria are you doing in my mud spa!? And why aren’t you a pony!?” Tears began to stream down Sunset’s face. Something wasn’t right about her appearance at all, and not just the fact that she hadn’t become a pony in the process. A towel emerged from the luggage, hovering over until Twilight could control it with her own magic. “Sorry, you just caught me off guard. Especially in the one place that nopony is supposed to be able to disturb me in.” She averted her eyes as Sunset stepped out of the mud spa, eventually wrapping the towel around herself. Once the mud had been removed, Twilight guided Sunset to the main table.
In just a short minute, a soothing bowl of fruit that had been left over was ready in front of her. After several bites, she finally made eye contact with the pony princess. “I honestly don’t know how I got here. The portal is still closed, and there’s no magic back in the human world for me to even think about opening another. I’m just as confused as you probably are.” Each time she picked up a piece of fruit, Twilight could see just how much her hands were shaking. It wasn’t the Sunset Shimmer she had left behind at all, even after her crushing defeat. Coming back to Equestria had obviously had a very deep impact on her.
While Sunset ate, she organized her papers that had been scattered over the table. “Well, I’ll be honest with you; I don’t have a clue on how to get you back. And unfortunately, that means you’ll be stuck here for the next two years.” A grape dropped from the pinching grip. Tears began to roll down Sunset’s face. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t think that sugar coating the facts are going to help. But things could be worse. At least in Equestria, everypony is always willing to give others a second chance, no matter what.” Twilight couldn’t tell if it had any impact on the crying human in front of her. And something about putting a hoof around her shoulders didn’t seem quite right.
Eventually, a few strawberries entered her mouth. In contrast to Twilight’s earlier experience, they seemed to settle Sunset down as she exhaled deeply. “It’s alright. To be honest, I’m glad I’m here. Things back there, haven’t been going so well.” Twilight moved to sit down opposite her. It had only been six months since the whole incident, in fact she had almost completely forgotten about most of the minor details, only recalling them when concentrating. Life in Equestria had settled down again for the most part, but so far, it didn’t seem like the same applied to the human world. Or at least, according to Sunset Shimmer.
“Well, for starters, nopony is going to force you to go back. It’s your choice really, but I don’t see how things could be that bad. Haven’t the girls helped you make a new start and find friends?” The towel covering Sunset began to slip. Twilight fixed with her magic instinctively. It didn’t bother the girl opposite her in the slightest as she continued to eat piece by piece. “Alright, I’ll try not to ask too many questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have any human clothing with me, but luckily Rarity did pack a sleeping bag that you should fit into. I just wish I could do more to help with your... uh, lack of clothing.” It wasn’t so much a matter of not wanting to look at her; ponies didn’t wear clothes as a normality after all. But she couldn’t ignore the fact that human nudity was, different.
Sunset reached her hand out across the table, gently holding her hoof. “Thank you, again. I’m still a little stunned that you’re so willing to help me out on a moment’s notice.” She finished off the last of the fruit in her bowl. Compared to when she first arrived, her mood was much calmer. The sanctuary carried the empty wooden bowl away to another part of the area they occupied, presumably for magical cleaning. “So, what is this place? I don’t recall there being any source of magic powerful enough to tend to your every need. Maybe I skipped out on Celestia too soon.” Twilight grinned briefly as she finished organizing the papers. Now that the awkwardness and discomfort had settled, all that remained was adjusting to Sunset’s shift in personality.
The superior edge in her voice had vanished altogether. And yet, nothing had taken its place. There was no defining factor in how she spoke, just a reasonably normal tone, with a pleasant manner to back it up. And for the most part, she didn’t seem excited or afraid of returning to Equestria under the most unusual of circumstances. Almost, disappointed. “You know, there’s something I’ve been wondering about. Can you use your magic? I know Zecora can without a horn, maybe the same applies to people with magic in their heart?”
She blinked before removing her hand from Twilight’s hoof. “I’m... not sure. I assumed that human forms couldn’t conduct magic as a rule.” Her free hand flicked around in a variety of ways. Sunset’s face was full of concentration, determined to produce even the tiniest spark of magic from her fingertips. But no such spark came. “Well, that settles it. I’m a unicorn without a horn, without even the most basic magic. Unless, this place is suppressing it.” Twilight shook her head. She had seen no sign of any evil left in Sunset, and the dome would easily recognize the same.
“I wish I could help. But the portal back to Canterlot won’t open for another six days, not even Celestia can re-open it. It’s just how this place decides to run itself.” Sunset’s hands covered her face as she leaned in. “At least it isn’t a two year wait before we can leave.” From the way the blue eyes peered over the top of her hands, Twilight knew she had gone too far with that line in particular. “Okay, there’s a shower across the river, and the sleeping area is just behind me. The food grows off the trees around us, and there’s a spring at the east that is perfectly safe to drink from. I think I’ll go check through the things Rarity packed, in case there’s anything else you could use.”
Twilight left the human with only a towel to cover herself with at the table. The organized arrangement of cases and bags loomed below her as she approached. “I wish there was a spell to pull out anything that would be useful to a human.” She knew what was contained in most of the bags and cases, but searching through the remainder would still be a long task. Lunch had arrived by the time she finished. A white spa robe was draped over her back. “This is designed for ponies, but I think it should fit. Might be a bit high on the hips though.”
She turned her head well away as Sunset got up to try it on. After several moments, she felt a light tap on her shoulder. As expected, the robe ended rather uncomfortably close to her hips. Unexpectedly, it didn’t quite overlap her chest. Twilight averted her eyes again, though this time Sunset didn’t seem bothered. “I can live with cleavage. It’s just you and me, and this is certainly better than a towel. It’s not like there’s much to see anyway.” Sunset wrapped the towel around into a temporary skirt while Twilight began preparing lunch. As each ingredient rolled onto the bench from the trees, she carefully sliced it up and added it to the two waiting bowls.
Little conversation passed between the two as they ate. One was too swept up in the calming nature of the sanctuary to feel like interrupting the peace. The other chewed on lettuce leaves until they had the consistency of liquid. For the first time, ‘paradise’ had lost virtually all appeal.
That night had taken a long time to end. Sunset had difficulty finding a comfortable place to sleep, and even then, it became apparent that her only clothing wasn’t doing much to help. Some time after midnight, Twilight found the human pony huddled close to her. By morning, she was gone again, showering as Twilight soon discovered.
Under the leaves of the trees that produced endless water, she could see her pale figure. Vibrant streams of red and gold poured from her head. Twilight didn't let her eyes wander lower, to where she instinctively guessed her cutie mark would have been. It only took a brief glance out of the corner of her eye to work out that the human form didn't share that trait. Eventually she overcame her shyness, and approached Sunset. "I'm sorry about last night; I should've considered that everything is slightly colder for you, than it is for me." Sunset looked over her shoulder, staring directly at her. The strands of red hair stuck to her face looked scarily like blood for a moment.
"It's alright. I've learned to accept what I've got in the past six months." Twilight took a deep breath before entering the downpour. The experience was just as odd for both of them, though neither quite seemed to realize that. Seeing for herself that Twilight's head was around the height of her upper chest caused Sunset to shiver ever so slightly. "We're both mature adults, right? You'd understand some of the things I've been through since you left better than anypony here in Equestria. Could I talk to you about it over breakfast?" The request seemed rather odd to Twilight, especially since both of them were now soaking wet, and almost unwilling to leave the natural warmth that the water carried. "Or we can just stand here, while you stare at my breasts, and I consider whether it's out of surprised curiosity... or there's something more to it."
Twilight immediately turned her head away at that moment. It brought a small smile to Sunset's lips, one that had been painfully absent until that moment. When she looked back to protest, she held her tongue instead. Her wandering eyes had helped cheer her up in some small way. Sunset's comment in the meantime stirred Twilight's own train of thought. [i]Was I actually admiring her for a moment there?[/i] "Before I apologize again, let's just leave it at the former suggestion. I'm still trying to work out why you didn't become a pony.”
Eventually, both stepped out of the downpour. Twilight returned to the food area upon seeing the final stages of breakfast growing, while Sunset dried herself off with another towel. The original one was still with her robe at the food area. “So, I don’t suppose those trees produce milk and cereal? No offence, but fruit salad loses its appeal after a few days. I’m not sure I’ll make it a week, or however long until the portal reopens.” She kept the towel around herself while rejoining Twilight. By then, the pony had already sat down to begin working on the multitude of papers she had brought with her. “I’m surprised; you didn’t quite seem like the accountant type.” After a quick glance, she grinned again. “Ah, a writer. That makes more sense, you did like books a little too much, you gotta admit.
Sunset stepped away to make further adjustments to her hair. Upon realizing that she lacked a brush, one hovered over from the bag area. Twilight’s cutie mark was printed on the back. “Nice, I didn’t realize that they made personalized items like this.” The first brush was effortless, like running the brush through silk. More magic, in this case a convenient form of anti-tangle. It was another small comfort that went a long way towards relieving the stress of her unusual situation. “When we return to Canterlot, do you think Celestia will consider letting me stay here, in Equestria? It’s not like I can actually do anything, since my magic is gone.”
It caused Twilight to pause in her writing briefly. “She was pretty concerned about you when I got back, and I think you’ve already shown that you actually have changed. Funny how I can’t say the same about your appearance.” She was about to resume writing when the strangeness of her question occurred to her. “But why do you want to stay here? Wouldn’t you be better off in the human world, where you don’t have to worry about lacking magic? And besides, pony architecture might get on your nerves after a while. She may not be able to turn you back.”
Sunset sat down across from Twilight at that moment. Her hands cupped together as she bit down on her lip. A sure sign that she was about to discuss a sensitive matter. “Things, didn’t go so well for me after you left.” Twilight pushed her work to the side at that moment. It would be rude to continue anyway. But in this particular case, she wanted the space in case it became difficult for Sunset to explain. “The first month was alright. Everyone settled back down into normality, and the girls helped me learn how to approach others in a far more friendly manner. For a while at least.” Her next breath was deeper than a normal, passive breath. Very deliberate, in an attempt to keep calm. “People just began to drift away. I was doing my best to try and make up for what I had done, but they just stopped caring. Last month, even the girls stopped saying hello.”
Twilight’s head sank. She had only known the girls for a few days, but she had little reason to doubt Sunset Shimmer’s word. Equestria was a lot different to the human world, and there was a good chance that they simply didn’t hold friendship in the high standard that she did. “I’m sorry to hear that, I genuinely thought that leaving you there was for the best. It’s been ten or so years since you left for that world. That’s a long time to just leave behind everything you know.” Hands met hooves again. Blue eyes stared back at purple irises. “I assure you that things will be different here, Sunset. Nopony is going to forget you’re around, and in need of help in understanding friendship. I promise.”
It was around noon the next day that Twilight hit a bump in her writing efforts. In this case, editing some of Rainbow Dash’s attempts at writing. “It’s ‘you’re’, not ‘your’. And why doesn’t she get the difference between which and then?” She leaned back to exhale. Editing for a friend was quickly becoming one of her worst ideas yet. Especially since in this case, Rainbow Dash wasn't exactly the best writer. “I feel like my eyes are going to catch fire at this rate. How can anypony possibly write fifty thousand words in the one story, and still have the grammar of an eight year old filly?” She felt Sunset's hand slide onto her shoulder. Her hoof came to rest on it.
“She makes a decent attempt. Maybe with some practise, and tutelage from you, she could end up writing a brilliant autobiography.” Twilight giggled to herself. It wasn’t hard to see that the ‘novel’ in front of her was really just the life story of Rainbow Dash. But it showed promise, and it was definitely a lot safer than some of her other hobbies. Her thought process was disrupted as Sunset sat down very close to her. “It’s funny; you brought all this because you wanted something to do while you weren’t asleep or resting. Why not take a break; you’ve got me for conversation now, right?”
Twilight glanced at the arm around her shoulders. There wasn’t really anything between them, one just happened to be a powerful pony princess. And the other was a human with nothing but a glimmer of her former self left. “Alright, I’ll finish this page, and then we can hang out in the mud spa. And when we get back, I’ll take you to the real spa in Ponyville some time.” Sunset’s head leaned against hers softly. Sunset’s head leaned into her neck softly. As red and gold mixed with shades of purple, it created a range of colours that resembled a picturesque sunrise and sunset, combining into a shower of soft, yet strong streaks of hair. Twilight gently encouraged Sunset’s head away from her neck at that moment. "Sorry, my neck hurts from all this editing. Maybe after we’ve relaxed in the spa.”
Sunset withdrew herself from Twilight’s side at that moment. “Of course. But promise me that you won’t be too long.” She had removed her robe and slipped into the mud spa by the time Twilight finally decided to finish with her work for the day. “It feels odd. I don’t quite remember the bubbles being here when I arrived.” Her hair dangled out over the edge of the spa as she slid further down into the mud, letting it reach her shoulders. The bubble streams adjusted to caress her feet and hands in particular. “Much better. And this is all free too, right? There’s no lasting impact on Equestria’s magic by enjoying these simple little things, is there?”
There was a nod from Twilight as she made her way over. Her wings stretched out to their full extent, ruffling both before she folded them back in. “I still haven’t gotten used to them, can you believe it? And I still haven’t been given a book on how to take proper care of them either.” Upon reaching the edge of the spa, she bit down on her lip. Sunset looked unusually pleased to see her. In fact, she had been keeping very close to her that whole day, always with a supposedly innocent smile on her face. “Look, Sunset. Promise me in return that you’re not going to do anything… inappropriate. I hate to say it, but you’ve been unusually nice today, a bit too nice for personal comfort. Is there something I should know about?”
A pair of hands reached out from the mud to pull her in. By accident, she stumbled forward, right into Sunset. Her horn came rather close to hitting her face. Immediately after, she pulled herself back to the opposite side of the spa. The whole fiasco had Sunset laughing rather loudly. “Twilight, you really are too wound up. I wish I could help the fact that my being here is intruding on your vacation, but can you at least try to enjoy it anyway? It’s not like I’ve done anything inappropriate.” Twilight took a deep breath and let herself settle down into the soothing mud. The spa was large enough so that Sunset’s feet didn’t even reach Twilight’s knees when both stretched out. It didn’t reassure the latter too much that things were perfectly innocent below the surface.
At one point while relaxing deeply, she felt something nudge her hoof. Upon opening her eyes, she found Sunset sitting next to her again. “Alright, I’m sorry I didn’t consider the fact that you’ve had very little social contact for the past month at least, and you’re just looking for a bit of company. Just respect my personal boundaries for now, okay?” She shivered as the distance between them was closed. Nothing wrong with sitting this close, side by side at least. This time when the inferno of hair rested against her, she moved her left hoof to give Sunset a little extra comfort. “You’re right. It does feel more relaxing, now that I have somebody to share it with.”
Late afternoon. Through the pink of the dome, the first hours of sunset began to set in. In the river stood a solitary girl, watching the sky that gave her namesake. After a few moments of silence, she let herself collapse into the flowing river until she was completely submerged. A good minute passed, during which the surface of the river returned to its normal state. Thirty seconds later, a purple alicorn splashed wildly into the water, dragging the girl from the water in desperation. “Sunset! Come on, what happened?” Sunset rolled over to cough out the small amount of water she had swallowed before Twilight had dragged her out. The tangle of red and gold concealed her face quite well as tears started to follow.
A towel wrapped around her body, shortly afterwards a pair of hooves helped her back up to her feet. Reluctantly, she walked over to the only seat available. “I...” The words caught in her mouth. Twilight hadn’t been in the human world long enough to understand some of the concepts it didn’t share with Equestria. She wouldn’t understand what had driven her to lie in the river, refusing to surface. But she was persistent in this case, going so far as to use her magic to part the curtain of hair that hid Sunset’s face from view. There was no escape this time.
“Sunset... just why? Anybody who wants to relax in a river, doesn’t do it face down. If this is because of last night...” She bit down on her lip. At one point during the night, she had heard crying, but didn’t bother to inquire. “How bad did it really get? I don’t understand why you’d try to... drown yourself.” Sunset’s eyes met hers for a brief second. Realization hit her fully in the face. “Is this how you arrived here, in Equestria? You tried to kill yourself?” It seemed to fit. Her initial depression, then the euphoria as the magic of the sanctuary first entered her body. But as her tolerance for Equestrian magic returned, the underlying problem was free to resurface.
And I didn’t even stop for a single moment to consider the signs... “Sunset, why didn’t you tell me? I wouldn’t have judged you for it, that’s not what friendship is about. I would have helped you work through it. And I certainly wouldn’t have pushed you away for wanting close company.” Her hooves wrapped tightly around Sunset’s bare shoulders. Water began to soak into her coat and mane, but Twilight didn’t care. “It was irresponsible of me to leave you behind with nothing, without considering all of the possible outcomes. Will you forgive me?” She felt Sunset shift around until she could hug back. Twilight’s head came to rest on her shoulder. “I guess it’s easy to forget that not everypony’s life is as easy as my own. This time, I won’t forget.”
The hold lasted for several minutes. Both had dried off by the time they finally released each other. Sunset blinked at Twilight before taking a deep breath. “It was late at night. They had an end of year party, one that I wasn’t invited to. So, when everybody there outright ignored me, I just drove off until I found a river to drive right into. Somewhere between crashing through the barrier, and water filling the car, I passed out and ended up in the mud spa.” Her calmness during the entire explanation surprised Twilight after her very emotional display. At least the issue at hand had been brought to the surface, and both of them could confront it properly.
Strawberries began to drop down from the trees above onto the table. One bumped off Twilight’s horn into her hoof. “I guess the sanctuary responds to mood pretty quickly. Well, open wide.” She lifted the strawberry on her hoof to Sunset’s mouth. There was a momentary exchange of glances between them; neither quite knew how to proceed. Eventually, Sunset bit down on the strawberry offered. The simple act caused Twilight’s stomach to begin fluttering. “Until we get back to Canterlot, let’s not take things too far. But for now, I think I’m okay with the hugs and cuddles. And feeding each other strawberries, cheesy as it may be.”
A small smile formed on Sunset’s face again. Her hand moved up to Twilight’s soft face. “Honestly, I’m just grateful that you were willing to listen. It’s more than I’ve ever had for the past six months. But on the topic of what’s acceptable, does this count?” In one motion, she leaned in while gently pulling Twilight’s face towards her until their lips met. For both, the initial experience was strange, given the difference in mouth shape between them. Neither released, instead their link settled into a more comfortable, passionate embrace. As Sunset’s hands settled onto Twilight’s shoulders, they suddenly gripped hard as she broke their kiss. “Twilight, why does it feel like my hands are on fire?”
Twilight looked down at her hands. They weren’t on fire per se; a bright green aura surrounded them instead. A magical aura. “Do you think... Try manipulating something.” Sunset released her hold to look at her hands again. Instinctively, she stretched them out, letting the green aura spread. At that moment, her appearance began to change, right before Twilight’s eyes. Her fiery hair returned to its normal state, the towel wrapped around her gave way to a magenta shirt. As the spread of magic reached her waist, her trademark leather jacket materialized, along with her orange skirt. Once the magic reached her feet, a golden aura covered her whole body for a brief moment. There was a simple explanation for the unexpected transformation, one Twilight quickly caught onto. “It must’ve been our kiss. As the Princess of Magic, I must’ve reignited your own magic.”
Sunset got to her feet, which were now covered by knee height boots. At will, the green aura surrounding her hands faded in and out, exactly like unicorn magic. “You don’t suppose, this also may be because I wore the Element of Magic for a short time?” Her attention settled on Twilight. A purple alicorn princess, one whose magical power exceeded hers beyond imagination. The one she couldn’t help but admire for mastering something she hadn’t ever been able to understand. “If I hadn’t tried again, and we hadn’t talked about how bad things got, none of this would have happened. I’d still be thinking about the fact that I should be dead.” Twilight stood up as well, though it was quite clear that offering comfort would be harder, especially with the extra height Sunset gained from her boots.
“I’d say it was a result of learning one of the most basic principles of friendship, forgiveness. In this case, forgiving yourself.” With a little effort, she managed to balance on her back hooves long enough to hold Sunset properly. “I realize it would be a bit weird to consider having a relationship with a potential student, but perhaps we can combine the two. I could teach you more about friendship through experience, if you’d like.” Sunset’s arms wrapped around Twilight, gently resting below the base of her wings. “Just remember, relationships aren’t an overnight thing. And nopony else knows about the kiss, not yet at least. For now, let’s just take things one step at a time, nice and easy.”
Across the sanctuary, a spark of magic in the portal frame swelled out to form a thin sheet of purple. Both glanced between it and each other as it opened. In the moment of silence, Sunset bit down on her lower lip. “So, I take it that we... can’t right now?” Twilight grinned as she got back down to her normal standing position. Eventually she shook her head. “Just asking. Well, I guess I should start thinking about how I’m going to explain all this to Celestia.” The line of luggage began to make its way over to the portal. The pony and the human soon followed, both crossing the river with just a hint of apprehension.
As the last suitcase went through, Sunset looked down at Twilight again. “Well, here’s to the first day of learning the meaning of friendship. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Canterlot.” She stepped towards the portal, only to bang her nose on the top of the frame. After a moment of stinging pain, she ducked her head down and proceeded through. Twilight giggled to herself for a moment, waiting until the heel of Sunset’s boot passed through before following.
“This is going to be an interesting year.”