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Night-Light of Friendship

by Wayward Sun

Chapter 1: On Your Side


Author's Notes:

EDITED 5/8/2015!

This fic references the special holiday comic. If you haven't read it, here's the skinny: Basically, Sunset is being reformed and all is going well. Then a blog appears (the blogger named Anon-A-Miss), and makes it look like she's gone back to her old ways. The Hair 5 turn their backs on her, not believing her that she isn't at fault. It's revealed that it was the CMC all along. Many bronies feel the comic was lacking, or just plain bad, but that's personal opinion.

The sounds of a first-person shooter were overwhelmingly loud in Pinkie's little room. Rainbow Dash and Rarity were playing some kind of capture the flag game on Pinkie's Z-Box, and Rainbow had insisted that the volume be turned up as high as possible. Applejack sat next to Rarity and whispered tricks to the game in her ear, leaving a very confused Rainbow wondering how Rarity was beating her.

Fluttershy and Pinkie were looking at cat videos on Pinkie's laptop, adding to the abundance of noise. The occasional "meow" or bit of them laughing made me smile.

I sat on Pinkie's bed as I watched them. It was almost like they had never not been friends, the way they all seemed to mesh together so well, and it seemed... Well, magical. I suppose most things these girls do are magical, being the Elements of Harmony and all.

I reflected back on the night that we defeated the sirens and remembered that I had a bit of magic in me, too. This had confused me, though, since the other girls transformed because they were reunited with their Elements. I was just... Me. I'm not even a good person--or pony--but I still transformed. It just didn't make sense.

Well, I was a better person, at least. After the Fall Formal, Twilight's friends had reluctantly agreed to give me a second chance. I actually grew to care for the girls after not too long, and my regrets were apparent. Now I consider us all friends, for sure, but they have a special bond that just... Doesn't include me.

I was suddenly startled out of my thoughts and remembered I wasn't alone at the moment.

"Sunny! You've got to see this video!" Pinkie leaped onto her bed and nearly landed in my lap as she shoved the screen into my face. I was greeted with the site of a cat, poking at a toaster. After a few seconds, a slice of toast popped up and the cat fell backwards off of the counter-top.

"Aw!" I gushed, "Poor cat!" I couldn't help my grin, which was shared with Fluttershy and Pinkie. They both seemed surprised at my reaction. Fluttershy moved onto the bed, and they each sat on either side of me with the laptop in my lap. They showed me a few other videos, all of which were pretty funny, before we realized it was after midnight. Usually a Pinkie slumber party lasted until late, but we had band practice the next morning, so we decided to turn in for the night.

I made sure to grab my spot near the window. It was a long way from the bathroom, but it was worth the price. I had already settled down when I realized the curtains were closed. Not a big deal. I got up and opened them a little before settling down again.

"Why do you need the curtains open?" Rainbow asked.

"I like seeing the stars." I shrugged her off and turned over, getting ready for sleep.

"But isn't it a full moon tonight?" Rainbow persisted, "It's gonna be too bright to sleep!"

"No it won't." I huffed, "Besides, I only opened them a little."

"Girls, girls! Just calm down. We all need our beauty rest for tomorrow." Rarity attempted to end the fight, and flicked the bedroom light off. After a few moments our eyes adjusted to the dark, and I cringed.

Rainbow was right. The moon perfectly lit up the room; not like an actual light would, but enough that Rainbow could argue her case.

"See?" The blue girl sighed, "It's too bright. Are you afraid of the dark or something? Close the curtains already."

"I'm sure she meant to add a 'please' at the end." Fluttershy whispered to me from her spot on my right. Reluctantly, I got up and pulled the curtains shut.

The room went pitch-black. Satisfied, Rainbow turned over and went to sleep. The other soon followed, and before too long various snores could be heard across the room.

I sat there in my sleeping bag, wide-awake. The inky blackness of the room made my heart rate pick up, and I leaned against the wall under the window. My breathing was shallow and fast. I hadn't been this scared of the dark since I was a filly--a foal, almost. But at that moment, the darkness terrified me. Rainbow's question rang through my head and made me blush in shame.

Are you afraid of the dark or something?

I tried sleeping; really, I did. But around three in the morning I realized I was fighting a losing battle. I stood up slowly and managed to inch my way around the girls and tip-toed out of Pinkie's room. Once in the hallway I had an easier time and began to calm down thanks to a lamp on a table in the hall. I made my way to the living room and sat on the couch.

And now you're alone. I sighed. I didn't want to tell my friends that I couldn't sleep if it was too dark; they'd laugh at me, I was sure. Big bad Sunset Shimmer, afraid of the dark? No way!

Oh, how I wished that was true. Instead of sleeping, I was sitting on the couch alone in the middle of the night, all because I couldn't tell Rainbow the real reason I wanted the curtains open. But if I had told her, she would have laughed at me. She would have made fun of me, surely. Not that I didn't deserve it for all the things I've done in the past.

A clatter from the kitchen nearly made me jump out of my skin. Imagine how funny that would have looked.

"Calm down, Boulder." I heard someone whisper. I smiled as I realized it was only Maud, probably giving Boulder a snack. While I didn't fully understand her, I had to admit she was an original.

I walked into the kitchen and saw her digging in the refrigerator. "Hey, Maud."

"Hello, Sunset Shimmer. Did I wake you?" Her monotone voice was oddly soothing.

"No, I've been awake. Boulder hungry again?" Honestly, I found her attatchment to the rock a bit of a put-off. I never doubted that she was a good person or anything--I saw how much she loved Pinkie--but she always seemed so... Strange. Her blank face and lack of emotions made her seem so different.

She nodded, "I was looking for that pudding from earlier. There it is." She grabbed a Tupperware container from the top shelf and sat it on the counter. "What are you doing up this late?"

"Couldn't sleep." I admitted, crossing my arms. I leaned on the counter beside her and frowned, looking down.

"I understand. I have nights like that, too." She didn't ask why, but I wished she would. I felt ready to burst with the information, but of course Maud wasn't one to talk much.

"Promise you won't laugh if I tell you why?" I was desperate to tell someone at this point; I wanted someone to know why I was so uncomfortable... and scared. Maud seemed like a trust-worthy person, and besides; who would she tell? Boulder? I just hoped she was willing to listen.

She gave me a blank look.

"Promise."

I chickened out at the last minute. I couldn't tell her the whole truth, I just couldn't. But I could tell her something else, something more predictable.

"...I'm scared of losing my friends." I expected her, even as monotone as she was, to say something snarky, or demeaning, or even to smile. But she didn't.

She nodded, "That's a real fear for many people."

"Losers, maybe." I snarled out of habit, and immediately regretted my words. That wasn't me. That was the old Sunset Shimmer, the queen bee of the school. The new Sunset would never dream of saying such a thing.

What had I become? I was automatically on defense, even though I had willingly told her my secret. Well, sort of.

"Did you tell the others?"

"No... I was afraid they'd laugh at me. They all think I'm this tough girl, and sometimes I am, but..." I wrapped my arms around myself, "I just..."

I couldn't think of the right words to say. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and it made me resent Maud a little. How come she couldn't understand? I was afraid of losing the only people to ever care about me... but she was acting like it was common. It was irritating, to some degree.

"When I was younger, about your age--" I tried to remember how old she was. Pinkie said Maud was four years older than her, so she was about twenty-one. "--I was afraid of people. Terrified. If it wasn't someone in my family, I wanted nothing to do with them. A lot of the times I would even have panic attacks, just by being around people."

I blinked and waited for her to continue. Afraid of people? I could understand that. People were unpredictable and brash.

She sighed, obviously hurting a bit from the memories of the past. "Of course, Pinkie had already begun to dedicate her life to throwing parties, and even in the small town we lived in she was capable of inviting many people over. It seemed no one could say no to a Pinkie Party." She smiled slightly, but I blinked and the smile was gone.

"...What did you do?"

She closed her eyes. "I hid it. For a long time." She gave me a pointed look, and I slowly realized where the conversation was going. "Finally I realized that by hiding it, I was pushing Pinkie away. It almost tore us apart." Maud glanced away for a second, and I saw sadness flash in her eyes. "Once I told her, she blamed herself. Of course I didn't blame her, but with Pinkie... You know how she is. She stopped throwing parties for a while, and it worried me."

She looked hard at me, "But the point is, once she knew, she helped me deal with it. I went from having panic attacks every time I met a new person, to being how I am now. And I know what people say about me, I know I'm still odd, but I'm better than I used to be. No, perhaps happier is a better term. But it's all thanks to Pinkie."

I winced, having been one of the people to judge Maud based on her blank facade. I never thought she had any reason for being how she was; I thought she was just strange. But a fear of people made sense, and put it in perspective for me. It also explained Boulder, and her obsession with rocks. If she couldn't make friends with people, surely she would find a substitute somewhere.

I also realized that it wasn't my place to judge her at all. It didn't matter if she was strange or not; it was none of my business unless she made it my business.

Maud looked at me with a strange expression--something between pride and loathing--before she continued.

"We all fall flat sometimes. That's why we need our friends and family." Maud gave me another blink-and-you-miss-it smile, "I'm sure if you told them, they would understand. And maybe they wouldn't think you were serious at first, but if they're real friends, they'll help you."

She had a good point, and I knew it. "Yeah, you're right... Thanks, Maud."

"Anytime." She nodded. With her pet rock in one hand and the container of pudding in her other, she began the trek back to her room, and left me in solitude yet again.

I considered what she had told me very carefully. It was obvious to me that she wanted me to tell my friends, and she had good reasons why. I could start pushing them away if I hid and lied to them, and I didn't want to lose the only friends I'd ever had. I'd worked so hard to get to that point, and I didn't want to throw it away. Still, though, that nagging voice in my head told me that telling them could ruin me. It could take my already-bad reputation and make it worse.

So was there really a good call? It seemed no matter what I did, I would fail or lose friends. And since I didn't have any family, I had no back up plan.

"Sunny?" Pinkie's voice sounded from behind me, and she was quickly by my side. "You look sad! Oh, I just knew something was wrong!" Pinkie gripped me in a bear hug and successfully cut off my oxygen.

"Any particular reason you're pouting in the kitchen at four in the morning?" I looked over Pinkie's shoulder and saw the other girls. Rainbow, who had spoken, looked torn between being annoyed and concerned. The others looked torn between being concerned and being asleep.

Oh, great.

"I... I couldn't sleep." I found myself explaining. My heart-beat thudded in my chest as Pinkie pulled back and looked at me. Her look was one of confusion at first, but then it turned almost scolding.

"Why not?! It's not a sleep over if you don't actually sleep!"

"Yeah Sunset, somethin' the matter?" Applejack yawned, which made the rest of us yawn as well.

I took a deep breath to calm myself, and remembered what Maud had said. I didn't want to push them away, I didn't want to lie. But that meant I had to tell them the truth, and not just the lie I had given Maud.

It also meant I had to admit to myself that it wasn't a lie. I truly was afraid of losing my friends, and I realized that was part of my fear of the dark. It wasn't just the dark; it was being alone in the dark. The revelation sent my mind reeling, and I didn't know what to say.

I... I... "I'm afraid of the dark." I winced and continued, "It-it was too dark for me to sleep." I gulped as I explained part of my fear. The other part I would have to work out on my own, I knew. But they needed to know something, anything. I had to take that first step and admit that there was some kind of problem.

There was silence for a split second before Rainbow started laughing, loud and obnoxious.

"W-wait, are you-you serious?!" The others and I glared at her, but I wasn't really angry. Just upset, and embarrassed. If they thought that was funny, surely she wouldn't have any support if she questioned their friendship... again...

"Yes," I hissed, "I am."

"Why didn't ya say anything?" Applejack walked over to me and hugged me. Fluttershy and Pinkie followed.

"I was embarrassed." I said timidly, relieved that Applejack understood.

"Well, yeah. How old are you again?" Rainbow snickered. This time Rarity grabbed her shoulder and squeezed. Hard.

"Ow-ow-ow-ow! Okay, okay!" Rainbow whimpered into submission.

"We do not make fun of our friends' phobias." Rarity narrowed her eyes.

"Sorry."

That interaction meant a lot more to me than anyone could have guessed. Rarity waved off my fear of the dark, and immediately also soothed my fear of being alone--and she didn't even know about the second part.

"Well, now that we know the problem," Applejack cut in, "Let's get Sunset here ta bed. We have to wake up again in a few hours, remember?"

We all agreed and began to walk back towards Pinkie's room. The small interaction was a step in the right direction, and I felt more confident in my ability to tell them things. I didn't know when I would be okay with telling them more, but I knew that eventually it would happen. I took Maud's words to heart, and reminded myself that lying would only push people away. That was the opposite of what I wanted to do.

"But what are we going to do now?" Fluttershy peeped, "Rainbow said the moon was too bright, remember?"

Rainbow stopped dead in her tracks in front of us. She looked over her shoulder, her face pensive.

"Wait," She frowned, "You didn't say anything because of me?" She seemed honestly surprised and off-put by this, which made me a bit angry. Did she really not know how she acted? Did she not realize how obnoxious she was?

Probably not. I couldn't really hold that against her. She was a brash, offensive person in general. Heck, so was I. That was the main reason we were friends; even if we didn't get along, we understood each other in a way that the others didn't.

"Yeah..." I confessed, "I didn't want you to know."

"You're not the most welcoming of souls, Darling." Rarity said, not in the least bit surprised.

"I'm sorry, Sunset." Dash turned and faced me fully, regret on her face. I was honestly surprised that she felt so bad about this. I mean, wasn't it my fault for being afraid of the dark in the first place? Sure she was being a cruddy friend by teasing me, but still. "Did you really not trust me enough to tell me why you didn't want that window closed?"

"The first thing you did when I told you was laugh." I cringed at how unintentionally harsh I sounded. I didn't blame her, really. I was upset, and scared. I wasn't like the normal me; confident and cool.

She didn't know how to respond to that and looked down at her feet, which left us all in an awkward silence as we walked back into Pinkie's room.

"I think I still have my old nightlight." Pinkie said suddenly, "It's a pink sparkly cupcake!"

My face turned a deep red at the thought of using a nightlight--and of people finding out I used one. I hung my head, ashamed. Rainbow looked at me again and smiled, this time encouragingly. All of my friends did, and I felt a bit better.

"A nightlight is a splendid idea." Rarity said from her position in her sleeping bag, as she pulled a sleeping mask over her face. Everyone else agreed and settled down.

I knew Rainbow was sorry, and I hoped she knew I wasn't entirely mad at her. I wasn't mad at any of my friends. In fact, I was relieved that they accepted my fear so easily. True, this probably wasn't the last time it would be brought up, but at least I would get some sleep before the next time. And while Rainbow would surely tease me, the idea that she felt guilty for making me feel uncomfortable was, well, comforting.

"Let's get to sleep." Applejack commented as Pinkie found her nightlight and plugged it in next to her bed, not far from where I was laying down. The light was a soft pink color and not too bright, meaning that Rainbow should have had no trouble sleeping. Not that I thought she would complain again.

"Thanks, guys." I whispered, falling asleep soon after laying down


The next morning the others didn't wake me up for band practice. Instead, Maud woke me around eleven and told me they would come back to Pinkie's for lunch. I was thankful for the extra few hours of sleep, since if I had gotten up with them I would have been running on four hours tops. On the other hand, though, doubt surged through my mind. They had all woken up in the middle of the night to help me, and I was afraid they would figure out I wasn't worth the effort.

I was afraid. And this time, I couldn't blame it on the dark.

"Yo, Sunset! You missed a totally awesome rehearsal." Rainbow jogged into the living room and brought me out of my thoughts. I rolled my eyes at her awkward way of greeting me.

"I'm sure there will be more, Rainbow." I hoped there would be, anyways.

"Didja sleep well, sugar cube?" Applejack's drawl made me turn, and I saw the others walking into the room as well.

"I did." I smiled, blushing a bit. I still felt kind of guilty for waking them up, and for making them deal with my problem. It just didn't seem fair to me that they had to suffer when I did. I had almost always been alone to suffer, as I should have been. My business was my business, and there was no need to bring others down with me. It was something Celestia had taught me long ago, and while I didn't agree with her often, that was one belief that I firmly thought was true.

They joked around a bit more for a bit, and I smiled and laughed along as they told stories about the practice. It was amazing how much could happen in just a few hours, and at only a band practice. With those girls, however, it wasn't all that surprising that Pinkie had apparently set a drum set on fire. Without matches. Or anything.

Y'know, it's probably not a good idea to ever be on Pinkie's bad side. Even I'm not stupid enough to test that, though.

Eventually we got back on the topic of the night before. My stomach felt queasy as I was once again tempted to tell them the reason why. I could have left it as a fear of the dark, but I knew they deserved more. They deserved the truth.

"Is there any particular reason you're scared of the dark?" Rarity inquired slowly, unsure if it was a safe topic, "I mean, is there some kind of cause or trigger for it?"

I wondered how much I should tell them. I could have played it off and said I just never grew out of it, but that could lead to questions about my past that I didn't want to answer. I could tell them the truth, though, and maybe they could help me with the nightmares. They helped me get over myself once, surely they could do it again?

"Well... I've been having these nightmares." I admitted, "I...I had nightmares for weeks after the Fall Formal." My voice shook a bit as I began to confess. Oh, how I had wanted to tell them, but at the same time feared it. "I mean, I guess turning into a demon and being blasted nearly to death would do that to someone." I chuckled nervously, and gulped at their guilty faces. It wasn't their fault. I knew it wasn't. Why did they think it was their fault?

"Sometimes, they were horrible. I would be hurt, or paralyzed, or any number of things." I waved my hand, as if it were no big deal. "The worse ones were the ones that... That weren't dreams. Just memories. Beca--because then, when I woke up--I couldn't tell mys-self it didn't happen." I ducked my head as my voice failed me. My eyes burned as I tried not to cry, and I felt them all gather closer to me.

Rarity tried to offer words of comfort, but I cut her off. I knew if I stopped, I wouldn't start again. And I needed to say my piece. They needed to know as much as I could say.

"But those weren't the worst. The worst nightmares were mostly the same. I would be sitting in a cold, dark room. I could barely walk, and it felt like I had been blasted with the Element of Magic all over again. And it would just hurt so bad." It hurt, because once again I was alone. But my pride bubbled up inside me, and I couldn't say that.

"I would always start off a-alone in that dream, but eventually I would see a pair of g-glowing red eyes. Sometimes even a glint of light off of a pair of--of fangs. And usually, I felt like I was on fire." I cringed at the memory, and felt a tingling go along my arms. The discomfort was brief, but unexpected, and I paused.

"The dreams stopped for a while after the Battle of the Bands." I admitted quietly, "But I still remember them, and sometimes I still have them." Usually after being left alone. Things began to click in place for me as I spoke. "That's why I had a hard time sleeping last night." Pinkie's red alarm clock didn't help matters, and in fact seemed almost mocking. But that was an unnecessarily detail. As was details such as any bed-wetting that may or may not have happened after most of the nightmares.

"That sounds awful." Fluttershy put her hand on my shoulder. Her eyes were red and puffy, and I realized she had been silently crying by my side. I was touched that she felt for me so much, and also a bit guilty that I had made her cry.

"You should have told us sooner." Applejack said sternly, "We coulda been lookin' for a way to help ya all this time."

"I'm sure Princess Twilight would know how to help." Rarity smiled, and I gave her a confused look.

"I just... Didn't want to bother you guys with this." I admitted.

"Bother? This is what friends do!" Pinkie grinned, and so did the others. I couldn't bring myself to be happy at that statement, though.

"But-after the Anon-a-Miss thing, I just figured you guys wouldn't care about something like this."

The room went silent. I was worried that I had said something wrong, and that they would be mad at me. They had told me the incident with the blog wasn't my fault, but it was around that time that I started to feel left out of the group. Had they not meant to alienate me? I honestly thought they had, at least to some extent.

Pinkie was the first to break, of course with a hug. "I'm so sorry!" She whispered, "We didn't mean to make you think that!"

"We've all been trying to be better friends." Rainbow cut in, "Especially towards you. You just always seemed to want to be alone, so we thought giving you space was the best solution."

"T'weren't nothin' against you, Sunset." Applejack said softly.

"I hate being alone." I shook my head and held Pinkie close. "I thought you guys were mad at me still, and..." And wanted to punish me. I couldn't say the words, but their faces of regret told me that I didn't need to. My eyes watered, and Pinkie gripped me harder as I buried my face in her shoulder and sobbed.

"We're sorry, Darling."

"We didn't mean to upset you..."

"We're still learning this whole 'friendship' thing too, you know."

"An' we've got lots to learn."

"We didn't mean to take your smile..."

Each of their apologies made me feel better, and slowly I felt less and less guilty and alone. I began realizing that I hadn't truly been alone; not since these girls let me into their lives. I wiped my eyes and sniffled. I didn't understand, not fully, but I was beginning to. And so were they.

"Group hug!" Pinkie squeaked, and we all leaned in together.

"We promise to include you more." Rainbow said solemnly.

"And I promise not to act like such a loner."

"And ya need to not be so afraid to ask for help." Applejack scolded, "We're you're friends. You're supposed to be able to come to us with these things."

I nodded furiously, "I'll remember that next time." I considered saying something else when Rainbow laid her head on my shoulder. I knew, to her, that was the biggest apology I would get. I could tell she was sorry for harassing me: She made that much obvious. What I didn't know is if she wouldn't do it again next time. I still wasn't sure if I could trust her.

"Hey," She said suddenly, "Didn't we sing a song about not being afraid of the dark?"

"In my defense," I said seriously, "That was Fluttershy's song."

Said girl giggled, which resulted in the rest of us cracking up. We sat there for a few minutes more, all wrapped up in a hug. We discussed going out to eat and just hanging out together for the rest of the day. It seemed like a good plan to me.

So we all made a promise to trust each other (Pinkie taught me how to do this thing called a "Pinkie Promise"). If anyone felt uncomfortable or needed to share something, we all were willing to lend an ear. After that we all got ready to go, and the others went outside to Rarity's car. I hung back a bit and watched them all pile in, and smiled to myself.

My fear of them leaving me didn't leave right away. It took a long time for me to even begin to have faith that they wouldn't leave. But I was always thankful for them. That weekend was one of the happiest weekends of my life because for once, I realized I had the best friends a girl could ask for.

"Yo, Night-Light, you coming or what?"

And whatever Rainbow Dash is.

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