by Albi

Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Bat Outta Equestria

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Its nose twitched.

Somewhere beyond the trees, there was a feast. The sweet aroma of apples drifted down the country lane and into the sanctuary, making its nose twitch again. It was supposed to be sleeping like the rest of its colony, but the smell was too strong—too enticing.

The vampire fruit bat opened an eye, seeing the empty sky floating beneath it, bathed in the orange light of the bright yellow ball of fire. Above it hung the ground with its rolling hills and green canopy. Twisting its head left and right, the bat saw the rest of its tree mates had not stirred. Could they not smell the succulence that lay only a few hills over? That was fine; more food for it.

It flipped up onto the branch, turning the world right-side up again. The bat leapt from its branch to follow the heavenly scent trail. In an hour, when the sun was down, perhaps the rest of the colony would follow. In the meantime, there was a feast to enjoy.

The smell of food led the bat over the hills and toward a bright purple and blue tree. The ridiculous shine irritated the bat’s eyes, but that’s where the food was. Drawing closer, the tree didn’t seem to be made of wood. It was like one of the buildings the ponies lived in.

The bat opened its mouth and screeched, letting the sound waves bounce up the shiny building. There had to be a way inside somewhere; the food was just out of sight! It flew a little higher and screeched again, this time finding a large hole cut into the shiny, hard wood.

Inside the tree, the bat found not apples, but a room full of multicolored rectangles. They were shoved into the walls, and stacked from the floor to the ceiling. Frustration and hunger building, the bat used its echolocation again to find a path to the apples, but came up short. It swooped around the room trying to find any sort of passage deeper into the tree.

It landed in front of a large something that looked like the hole it had flown through, only, there was already another vampire fruit bat standing in the threshold. It had gray mottled skin, large ears, bushy eyebrows, and long fangs protruding from the front of its mouth. In fact, the bat looked quite familiar.

The first bat moved to the left, and the other followed it. The same thing happened when the bat moved to the right, and again when it jumped into the air. This newcomer seemed to copy every move the first bat made.

With a loud screech, the two bats lunged at each other. The next thing the bat knew, it was swirling down a whirlpool of colors, its entire body stretching and pulling in several directions at once. It spun and spun and spun, faster and faster while the colors blended together into an unruly mess. All the while, something within it changed.

When the swirling stopped, the bat found itself outside again, lying on hard gray dirt. It got up and flapped its wings a few times, still feeling incredibly dizzy. Its vision went in and out of focus, so it relied on its echolocation. Something very large and solid was in front of it, but there were a few openings. It must have been another building.

Sticking its nose into the air, it smelled sweet food coming from within. Apples? No, something far richer and tastier than that!

The bat took to the air, wobbling as it searched out an opening. Its vision came back, and it flew through one of the holes in the building. Why would ponies make holes in their homes anyway?

Actually, as the bat landed on the ceiling, it saw the creatures below it weren’t ponies. They were too tall, too thin, and had too many claws to be ponies. Seven of them were in the room, most of them clustered together in one spot.

“Ready?” The blue skin one asked.

There was a consensus before the most horrific sound assaulted the bat’s ears. It was like a thousand primal roars and screeches at once—blood-thirsty creatures all screaming in the night.

The bat lost both its footing and its consciousness from the infernal racket, falling into a small, black cavern on the floor.


Sunset Shimmer let the last chord fade into silence—a silence that was immediately broken by Twilight Sparkle’s clapping. Sunset’s pony ears and tail vanished in a glimmer of gold dust, and she and her fellow bandmates floated back down to the stage.

Rainbow Dash undid her guitar strap. “Great work today, girls. If we keep this up, we’ll get our own record deal someday!”

Applejack scoffed. “We’re good, Dash, but we’re not that good.”

“We’re good enough that we create magic when we play!” Rainbow argued.

Sunset waved her hand. “One thing at a time, girls. We sound pretty great; let’s just leave it at that. With enough practice, who knows what could happen?” She jumped off the stage and approached the only occupied chair in the band room.

Twilight smiled at Sunset’s approach. “You were very good—I mean, you all were very good.”

“Thanks.” Sunset fiddled with her guitar strap, looking for something else to say. Twilight was no longer looking in her direction, instead, she was staring down at her shoes. “So… uhh…” That at least got Twilight to look up again.

They stood in an awkward opposition, while the rest of the Rainbooms packed away their equipment. Twilight folded her hands behind her back. “So, you girls practice like this often?”

Sunset nodded. “Tuesdays, Thursdays and whenever we can on the weekends.” Twilight was still a new addition to their group dynamic, having only transferred a few weeks ago from Crystal Prep after the debacle that had been the Friendship Games.

It had been an odd transition. Having a Twilight different from Princess Twilight walking around the school tended to cause confusion. Sunset also knew this Twilight didn’t appreciate being compared to the Princess.

Still, the Rainbooms had been as supportive and sympathetic as possible. Twilight hadn’t found a groove yet, but they were making progress. She had at least shown enough differences so that no one compared her to the Princess… as often.

Twilight adjusted her glasses. “I see.” She eyed Sunset’s cherry red guitar. “It’s very… mysterious, all the different ways you channel this magic. By feeling certain virtues and by playing music, it’s…” She hesitated.

“...Fascinating,” she finished quietly.

Sunset placed a hand on Twilight’s shoulder, shuddering at the excited jolt that ran up her arm. “Hey, it’s okay to be interested, I told you that. There’s nothing wrong with being curious.” She blinked and took a large step back, feeling her cheeks burn. “A-about magic and stuff. That’s what I meant.”

“Y-yeah, you’re right,” Twilight murmured. There was a beat of silence. “So then, you wouldn’t mind if I studied it a little next time and took some notes?”

Everyone paused in the middle of their take down. They glanced at Sunset, then started to laugh.

Twilight flushed and took an uneasy step back. “What?”

Sunset stifled her own snickering. “Nothing, it’s just… well, you can study it if you want to. But, I already tried a little while ago. I learned absolutely nothing that way.”

Twilight’s shoulders dropped, both in relief and disappointment. “Oh.”

“But, maybe you can learn something by getting some hands-on experience.”

“What do you mean?”

Sunset made a wide gesture with her arm. “Well, the past two sessions, all you’ve done is watched us play. I was thinking you could join us next time. You know, learn to play something.”

“Whoa, hey!” Rainbow spoke up, snapping her guitar case shut. “Umm, band leader, remember? Don’t I get a say in who joins?”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Were you going to object?”

“Well, no—”

“Then stop talking.” Rarity gave an encouraging nod to Sunset.

Sunset scratched the back of her head. “Anyway… what do you say, Twi; wanna join our band?”

Twilight tapped her fingers together. “That’s really nice of you, but I don’t know how to play anything.”

“I can teach you guitar!” The words spilled from Sunset’s mouth, far louder than she intended. Her face heated up again, and she turned away.

“Oh, well then, sure.” Twilight’s own face turned red.

Applejack snickered. “I don’t know, Sunset. You sure there’s enough room for her with Dash’s giant ego?”

“Oh, ha ha!” Rainbow crossed her arms and huffed. “I can totally handle having three guitar players on the same stage. Three.”

Rarity waved her hand. “Ignore her, Twilight, the rest of us are looking forward to sharing a stage with you.”

Twilight tried to smile, but it came out more as a grimace. “Out of curiosity… what did the other Twilight play?”

“Nothing,” Sunset said. “She only did vocals.”

Twilight’s face brightened immensely.

The Rainbooms finished packing their instruments away and placing the sound equipment back in the storage room. Sunset snapped her bag shut and swung it over her shoulder. Was it her, or did it feel a little heavier than she remembered? She shrugged it off and picked up her guitar case, following her friends into the hall.

“So, what are y’all's plans for the rest of the evenin’?” Applejack asked.

“Homework,” Twilight said brightly.

“Homework,” Sunset said dully.

“Homework,” Rarity parroted.

“Video games.” Rainbow smirked before catching Twilight’s eye. “I mean, yeah, homework, sure.”

It was Sunset’s turn to smirk. “You know, there’s a reason you have a 2.3 grade point average.”

“Mind your own business. My grades are fine,” Rainbow huffed.

Sunset shrugged, still grinning. “If you say so. Just remember, college doesn’t start with a D.”

Rainbow swiped a hand at her, which Sunset ducked under and laughed along with everyone else. They emerged onto the schoolyard, the sun glowing like a dying fire behind the line of houses across from them. A cool, spring breeze rustled the grass and made Sunset’s leather jacket flutter.

They walked around into the school parking lot and loaded their things into their individual cars. Sunset leaned her guitar case against her motorcycle and looked toward Twilight, standing in the middle of the lot, tugging a lock of hair with uncertainty and glancing between her friends and the bus stop.

Sunset took a deep breath, calming the butterflies in her stomach and walked over to her. “Twi, do you want a ride home?”

Twilight jumped at the sudden proposal. She looked at Sunset’s motorcycle, then back at her. “Is it safe?”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Yes, it’s safe.” She saw Twilight glance over again, this time eyeing the guitar case. “Yeah, you’re going to have to do me a favor and hold onto it.”

After a final cautionary glance, Twilight nodded.

“See you girls tomorrow!” Sunset called.

“Later, Sunny!” Pinkie called back.

“Have fun you two!” Rarity said, winking.

Sunset turned away before any of them could see her blush. She helped Twilight get her arms through the shoulder straps of the case, then handed her the only helmet.

“Are you sure you don’t want it?” Twilight asked, examining the interior.

“I’ll be fine; I’ve been doing this for a while. Plus, I think you’ll appreciate the extra protection.” Sunset inwardly facepalmed as fear crept into Twilight’s eyes. “Not that it’s dangerous! It’s just… a precaution. I’ll drive nice and slow, I promise.”

Twilight’s fear waned, replaced by trust, and she slipped the helmet over her head. “It smells like strawberries… you have nice shampoo.”

Sunset unconsciously ran a hand through her hair, while her lips stumbled over a simple, “Thank you.” She swung a leg over her bike, then pulled Twilight up behind her. “Just hold on tight, okay?”

A firm grasp around Sunset’s middle was Twilight’s only response. The contact made Sunset’s heart flutter. She pushed the feeling away and started the engine. With a final wave to her friends, she pulled out of the parking lot and set off down the road, keeping at a much slower speed than normal.

Her slow speed gave her time to appreciate the beauty of the evening sky; the fading orange color blending with the dominating purple and pink of the new night sky. Stars winked into existence one by one. Back on the ground, the streets were illuminated by the bright lamp posts. Parents called their children in for the day, and the small businesses closed up shop.

Seeing all of it made Sunset feel at peace with the world before she felt that last remaining nettle of guilt. She had moved out from the shadow of her past long ago, but she still cringed when she remembered how she had tried to take all of this away.

Twilight fidgeted behind her, and Sunset’s guilty feelings faded, replaced with empathy. It had been against her will, but Twilight had been through similar circumstances. It wasn’t the best thing to connect on, but turning into raging she-demons was something they had in common.

They had shared several talks in the days following the end of the games. Sunset had done her best to help Twilight heal the mental and emotional scars from her transformation. The fact that Twilight was willingly hanging out with everyone now was proof of her recovery.

Sunset came to a stop in front of Twilight’s driveway and turned off the engine. Twilight slowly unwrapped her arms from Sunset’s waist and dismounted the bike, her legs shaking.

“That was… fun.” She pulled off the helmet, her glasses going askew as she did.

Sunset laughed and adjusted them for her, lingering for a moment before she drew her hand away. She had looked into Twilight’s violet eyes many times in the past weeks, yet it was only recently that they stirred some reaction deep in her heart.

She cleared her throat. “Glad you enjoyed it,” she said quickly. Both girls shifted their feet, unsure of how to proceed.

Twilight tugged on her bangs, a common habit Sunset had picked up on. “Thank you for the ride home.” Twilight avoided further eye contact. She then became aware of the guitar still on her back and tried to get the straps off.

“Oh, here, I’ll help.” Sunset moved behind her and helped take the guitar off, her fingers brushing against Twilight’s shoulders. Over the weeks, Twilight had cried and leaned against Sunset numerous times,, and Sunset had hugged and comforted her as best as she could. But much like staring into her eyes, it was only in the last few days that any physical contact with Twilight sent electricity through Sunset’s body.

Sunset set the guitar down and took a deep breath to calm her pounding heart. She faced Twilight again, watching her lace her fingers together and fold them in front of her skirt.

“Thanks,” she repeated, looking at the ground.

“You’re welcome.” Sunset shoved her hands in her pockets.

Silence reigned between them. Only soft pink hues remained against the night sky. Twilight tapped her foot against the pavement. Sunset twiddled her fingers in her pockets.

“So, yeah,” Sunset said, unable to stand the silence any longer. “Just tell me when you want those guitar lessons. I’m up for it any time.”

Twilight finally smiled. “That sounds nice.”

“Great!” Sunset picked up the guitar case and strapped it to her back. “Well, I guess I should go. See you tomorrow?”

“Yes, certainly.” Twilight teetered on her feet like she was unsure as to move toward Sunset or the door.

Sunset made it easy for them both and backed up to her bike. She hopped on and slipped the helmet over her head before waving good-bye.

From her side mirror, Sunset saw Twilight waving back. Even after Sunset took off down the street, Twilight still lingered there.

Now alone, Sunset could ride at a faster speed; one that matched her heart rate. Was it because of their shared experience of being corrupted by magic? Or was it her intellect and quirky demeanor? Sunset couldn’t say. Either way, she felt something for this Twilight Sparkle. Something that was definitely more than friendship.

She rolled up to a red light and braked. Is it weird that I like like this world’s Twilight Sparkle and not the princess? I mean, they are two different people when you get down to it.[/i ]Sunset drummed her finger on the handlebar. Having a crush on the dimensional counterpart of your best friend was… odd for lack of better words. Sunset hadn’t dared to tell anyone yet, least of all Princess Twilight.

There was a honk behind her, jolting Sunset upright from her slumped position. She noticed the green light and sped forward, blushing furiously under her helmet. She put her thoughts of Twilight away until she got home.

Home was a small apartment complex called Shady Oaks. Sunset often wondered if it got the name from being built near some rather shady looking business stores in a grimy part of the suburbs. She parked her bike in her designated spot and crossed through the courtyard. It was square with four patches of dead grass surrounding an old, naked oak tree.

She fished her keys from her pocket and climbed the stairs to the second floor. The neighbor’s tabby cat hissed at her as she walked by. Sunset playfully hissed back, earning a glare from the cat.

Apartment 206 was her destination. Sunset unlocked the door and stepped inside to the kitchen, inhaling the musty scent of the old place. It was small, though Sunset tried to think of it as cozy. Just beyond the kitchen was the door to her room, and to the left was the closet and bathroom. It wasn’t much, but it was livable.

Sunset dropped her guitar off in the closet, then carried herself to her room. She kept it nice and tidy; bed made, desk organized and carpet vacuumed. She set her book bag on the desk chair, then flopped onto her bed.

Twilight entered her mind first. That was nothing new. Sunset couldn’t stop entertaining the idea of being together with her. It was both terrifying and fascinating, and made her heart flutter and her stomach tremble. She had never truly had a crush on anyone before. She had faked everything with Flash.

She cringed. These were real emotions she was feeling, right? They had to be. But what was she supposed to do with them? How did she tell Twilight how she really felt? She was certain Twilight’s first concern would be whether Sunset actually liked her, or was just using her as a stand in for the princess.

Sunset knew she liked the human Twilight. She had been in correspondence with Princess Twilight for half a year now, and felt nothing when she thought about her or wrote to her. Sunset was sure she could assuage that fear. But that was even assuming human Twilight swung that way.

Glancing at the clock, Sunset decided her time for daydreaming was over. She needed to get her homework done so she could eat and go to bed. She sat up, kicked off her boots, and peeled off her jacket, making herself at home before reaching for her bag.

She picked it up off the chair and dropped it onto her bed. When she reached back to her desk for her science textbook, she heard something rustle nearby. She paused, her fingers on the textbook. The room was quiet.

Sunset waited another second, then picked the book up.

Something moved again.

She set the book down and gave a scrutinizing look to her book bag. After a few seconds, it wiggled. Sunset scooted across her bed, making a loud, “Eeep!” as she went. The bag rustled once more, emitting a shrill cry of its own.

Okay, so something got into my bag. Probably just a raccoon or something. The bag made another shrill, chittering noise. Okay, that’s probably not a raccoon. Don’t panic, Sunset, just grab your broom. Sunset leapt off the bed and pulled her broom out from the closet. She wasn’t going to kill it of course—Fluttershy would have her head if she ever found out. Sunset was just going to humanely beat it into unconsciousness then drop it into the bushes.

Very slowly, Sunset reached a hand out and undid the clasp. The flap fell open, but nothing emerged. Sunset raised her broom higher and took a step forward.

“Come on out, little thing. Pay no attention to the big broom in my hand. I’m not going to hurt you.” Much.

Something gray and winged shot out from Sunset’s bag and took to the air. Sunset swung on instinct, hitting nothing. The gray winged beast circled around the room and dived for Sunset. She squeaked in terror before dropping to the floor.

When the wings stopped flapping around her ears, Sunset rolled over and looked up, letting out another squeak. “Sweet Celestia, you’re ugly!”

Hovering in the air was what looked like a gray rat with leathery wings. Its ears were long and pointed, much like its fangs. Red eyes and a scrunched nose rounded out its raggedy features. In Sunset’s opinion, rats might have actually been cute compared to it.

The bat (though none of Sunset’s biology books had a picture of a bat this ugly) screeched and swooped again. Sunset swung her broom, knocking it back into the air. It made a lap around the room before coming back at her, teeth bared.

“You’re taking that ugly comment personally, aren’t you?” Sunset swung again, nicking its wing so it spiraled out of control and crashed onto the floor. As Sunset lunged forward, the bat scurried into the narrow space beneath the bed.

“Oh no you don’t! Get back here, this isn’t over!” Sunset stuck the broom under the bed, blindly slapping around. She hit something solid and tried to look under the bed, but it was too dark to make anything out. She stuck the broom back under, poking the solid object with the bristles. It was far too large to be a bat.

“Where the heck did it go—ow!” Sharp fangs dug into Sunset’s neck, locking up her entire body from the initial shock. Her blood was drained out of her in quick, short sucks; she was already feeling light-headed.

Sunset’s body unfroze, and she ripped the bat off and tossed it against the wall. She took up her broom again and smacked it once more as it tried to fly up again. It crashed to the ground and twitched feebly. Sunset contemplated killing it as payback for biting her, but Fluttershy’s disapproving glare burned in her mind.

Then again, it’s not like she’ll ever find out, Sunset thought, rubbing the bite mark on her neck. It’s a good thing Equestria has a shot for rabies. Sunset pulled her hand away, finding only two tiny beads of blood. She was a little light-headed; the bat had managed to get a good meal out of her.

Considering she just had her blood sucked, Sunset thought she had every right to kill the flying rat, or at least toss it out the window. Half a year ago, she would have without a second thought. Instead, she went to her closet and pulled out an old shoe box. Using her boot, she pushed the stunned bat inside and closed the lid, then poked a few holes in the top.

“There, you just sit tight until tomorrow. I’ll give you to Fluttershy so she can take you to some bat sanctuary or something.” Sunset rubbed her neck again. Rabies or not, that bite had hurt. She thought it best to consult with Fluttershy about any other disease bats might carry.

Sunset wasn’t the paranoid type. Other than a little irritation and lightheadedness, she felt fine.

Just fine.

Next Chapter: Chapter 2: Once Bitten Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 59 Minutes
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