The Kind Regard of Quiet Things

by Amber Spark

Chapter 1: Shadows of Memory

Nothing twisted Sunset’s heart like hearing Twilight whimper in the night.


The shape beside her shifted and stole more of the soft blanket, enough to make Sunset shiver in the cool castle air. It didn’t matter, though, especially not when she felt faint tremors coming from the other side of the bed. A little ball of dark-blue fabric huddled against the very edge.

Sunset sat up and reached out a hoof. “Twi?”

Twilight tensed and flared her wings, as if trying to shield herself.

Sunset pulled away, sighing. “Come on, Twi. You’re okay. You’re safe.”

Another whimper. Twilight curled into a tighter ball.

Sunset swallowed and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She forced herself to take a deep breath and shoved down the knot in her throat. Sunset Shimmer wasn’t one to let the pony she loved suffer.

After a moment of concentration, the light from her horn glittered off the crystalline picture frame Twilight kept on her nightstand. For just a moment, Sunset’s eyes locked onto their two smiling faces, half-covered in book dust and surrounded by arcane formulae. She lingered on Twilight’s smile. She licked her dry lips and focused on the task at hoof.

Teal magic enveloped Twilight’s wings. They glistened slightly in the light, ruffled from Twilight’s restless sleep. Last night, Sunset had done her best to preen them, but she hadn’t quite mastered the technique. Still, they’d been together long enough for Sunset to learn most of the special little spots along Twilight’s wings. Most of the time, she used this knowledge to wonderful—or at least entertaining—effects.

This wasn’t one of those times.

With a few gentle caresses of her magic upon several key flight muscles, Sunset managed to collapse Twilight’s wings.

The moment Twilight’s wings closed, she thrashed briefly and let out a little wail.

It took a few more precious seconds, but Sunset scooted closer and managed to wrap her hooves around Twilight. Maybe a little too tight. She forced herself to ignore Twilight’s clammy coat and trembling wings. Sunset winced at every knotted and straining muscle in Twilight’s body, from her twitching shoulders to her rigid hindlegs.

Every twitch fueled Sunset’s growing sense of helplessness. It took more effort than she wanted to admit, but Sunset shoved her own pain aside. Once Sunset managed to get herself under some semblance of control, she squeezed Twilight’s forehooves.

Twilight struggled for only a second before her entire body spasmed. She sucked in a breath and went still.

“Sunny?” came a small and quiet voice. It sounded like the voice of a filly, not the Princess of Friendship. “Is… is that you?”

“It’s me, Twi,” Sunset whispered into her ear. “I’m here. You’re safe.”

Twilight made a little noise that was a cross between a sob and a sigh. She wiggled backward and let Sunset hold her tight.

Sunset relaxed, if only a little. She had come to terms with the fact that, for the rest of Equestria, Twilight needed to put on a brave face. She had to be a leader. A champion. A princess. And while Sunset could respect that, she had made it abundantly clear—on numerous occasions—Twilight wasn’t allowed to be that pony when it was just the two of them.

“Another dream?” Sunset asked.

“Nightmare,” Twilight said. “Can’t… can’t really remember much of it…”

“You want to talk about it?” Sunset readjusted the covers with her magic, gently pulling out the bundle of cloth wrapped under Twilight and stretching it out over the bed. Both of them shivered for a second, then the blanket settled back down and warmth returned. She made sure the covers were securely—though not tightly—wrapped around Twilight’s shoulders.

“Mhm,” Twilight replied, which could have easily been a yes or a no. At this time of night, it was hard to tell. A long moment passed before Sunset sighed.

“Twi, it’s not good for you to keep this sort of thing inside. Luna’s told you that… like… a few dozen times.”

“I don’t like going back through it,” Twilight mumbled into her pillow. “It hurts.”

“Yeah,” Sunset agreed, snuggling closer and resting her head in Twilight’s mane. Even though it was a mess, she still smelled of lavender and rose petals. It reminded Sunset of the garden where Twilight reunited her with Celestia. “I know it does.”

“Ugh. Then why are you so insistent about it every time?” Twilight hunched her shoulders and yawned. “You never just let me go back to sleep.”

“Because you usually don’t go back to sleep for hours.” Sunset sighed again. “And because it messes you up inside, Twi.”

Twilight didn’t answer. The silence stretched between them while the faint lapping of waves in the castle lake slipped in through the balcony windows. Twilight nestled deeper into her pillow, her ears back.

Between Twilight’s warmth and the sound of her heartbeat, Sunset found herself barely able to keep her eyes open.

Then Twilight pulled herself away from Sunset. The move left her instantly cold, despite the blanket.

Sunset frowned and shifted the other way to give Twilight a little space.

A few seconds later, Twilight turned over to stare at her. Twilight’s muzzle twisted into a grimace as she worked her jaw. Tears glittered in the moonlight streaming through a crack in the curtains.

Sunset contained her wince and tried to catch Twilight’s eye with an encouraging smile, but Twilight refused to meet her gaze.

“I…” Twilight licked her lips. “It was one of hers again. Slipping away. Darkness. Me… but not me.”

Sunset closed her eyes and swore under her breath. It wasn’t fair. She had been the one who gave Twilight the Empathy Gem for that stupid experiment. It had been months since the feedback threw both Twilights against the wall, mixing up their magic… and a tiny part of their memories.

Since then, while the other Twilight had managed to get a handle on the nightmares—most of the time—her Twilight hadn’t. Because they weren’t really her Twilight’s nightmares.

“Twi, you know—”

“I know it wasn’t real,” Twilight snapped. “You tell me that every time. That doesn’t help, Sunset.”

Sunset winced. “I know. I just… wish I knew what I could do to help.”

Twilight’s eyes unfocused as she looked into that dark place where dream and memory mingled. “She was still in there. The entire time. Beating at the walls. Trying to get out. Trying to stop.”

“I know,” Sunset whispered. “I was there. I saw what she became.”

Burning aqua eyes, surrounded by some horrific parody of glasses. Dark avian wings, like some savage bird-of-prey. A twisted horn, pulsing with dark magic. A mad cackle, devoid of any compassion.

Sunset swallowed and shoved away the memory.

“What I could become…” Twilight murmured.

Sunset grabbed Twilight into a hug so tight the alicorn squeaked in surprise. “No!” Sunset said. “I’ve told you a dozen times, Twilight! You can’t become that. The other one didn’t have friends. She didn’t understand. You understand magic better than anypony in Equestria. You understand it so well, you teach it to others.”

“That’s not good enough!” Twilight shoved her back and sat up. Sunset shivered at the sudden chill as the covers fell to the floor. “It doesn’t change how I feel, Sunset!”

Sunset sat up too. She leaned back against the headrest and watched Twilight in the light of the moon.

“I can’t stop it. It’s like… it just won’t go away. Why won’t it go away?” Tears finally fell from Twilight’s tired eyes. “Luna can’t be everywhere at once. She can only do so much. She said it was up to me! Why can’t I stop it? Am I just… not strong enough?”

Sunset slipped a foreleg around Twilight and pulled her back. The movement let Twilight settle her head on Sunset’s chest. Twilight didn’t fight it.

“You are the strongest pony I know,” Sunset said. “Not because of your wings or your magic.” Sunset tapped Twilight’s chest. “It’s because of your heart.”

Twilight looked up at her and smiled weakly. “I know what you’re going to say next…”

Sunset smirked a little. “Yeah, sue me, I was going to bring out the whole pulling-me-from-the-crater thing again.”

“You’d think you’d have better stuff by now.”

“Still the best example I’ve got,” Sunset admitted. “Twilight… I’ve never seen you stop fighting. Ever. Yeah, you’ve told me about a couple times when Discord first showed up. Or before you got your wings. Maybe dealing with the Sirens. But those don’t count.”

“And why don’t they count?” Twilight murmured, staring at a large framed picture on the far wall.

Sunset could just barely make out a few shapes in it, but her mind filled in the gaps. The glittering Senior Prom banner. Twilight in her spectacular cobalt blue gown, grinning like an idiot. Sunset in her firecracker cocktail dress, grinning like an even bigger idiot. Their friends all laughing and smiling around them.

And at the edge of the group stood the other Twilight...

“Because you always got back up,” Sunset replied as she squeezed Twilight close. “Or your friends helped you get back up. But you always chose to keep fighting. Tirek had taken over all of Equestria and you fought him to a standstill!”

“I did have the power of four alicorns at the time,” Twilight pointed out.

“Yeah?” Sunset poked her in the ribs and got a little giggle and a squirm out of it. “And tell me, how afraid were you?”

“I was terrified out of my wits,” Twilight said without hesitation.

“You did it anyway,” Sunset said. “Some wise pony we both know once said ‘Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but accepting there are more important things than fear’.”

“Maybe.” Twilight snorted. “Being furious at what he did to my home helped a bit.”

“Trust me. Anger can sometimes be good short-term motivation. But it’s bad news long-term. I know.”

Twilight snuggled a little closer and sighed. “You’re never going to stop, are you?”

“Stop what?” Sunset teased. “Encouraging you? Lifting you up? Being there for you? Loving you?”

Twilight giggled. “Yeah, all that.”

“Nope,” Sunset wrapped her hooves even tighter around her. “Never going to happen.”

For a time, no further words were needed. A still silence descended on them, broken only by the sound of their hearts and their breathing.

“I don’t want to go back to sleep,” Twilight mumbled into Sunset’s chest, tickling her coat. “It’s waiting for me there. Those… those thoughts. Those feelings. The memory… that isn’t even mine. The sense of… just… just coming apart. Being torn apart from the inside out…” She was crying again. “I can’t do this anymore, Sunset. I haven’t had a good night's sleep in weeks. I… I can’t live like this.”

Sunset swallowed. For the hundredth time, her eyes wandered to the Empathy Gem on its pedestal on the far side of the room, glittering crimson in the moonlight. For the hundredth time, the Gem tempted her, promising insight into what Twilight endured every night. For the hundredth time, she yanked her eyes away from it.

She wouldn’t violate Twilight’s privacy like that. Twilight deserved better. Anyway, it’s not like it would help. The Gem granted insight and understanding… not healing.

“I don’t know how to make them go away,” Sunset said, feeling Twilight’s tears soak into her coat. “I’m not Luna.”

“Luna can’t spend every night saving me.” Twilight sniffled. “I’m a princess. I should be able to handle bad dreams.”

“This isn’t just bad dreams, Twi,” Sunset insisted. “This is fear. This… this is terror.”

Twilight tensed and shuddered. That was response enough.

“I know you had trouble figuring out who you were after you became a princess,” Sunset continued. “And you’ve questioned it all with Starlight, wondering if you actually mattered anymore with her doing so well.”

“I’m proud of her.” Twilight stiffened, a hint of stubbornness in her voice.

“You can be proud of somepony and jealous of them at the same time.”

“I never said I was jealous.”

Sunset raised an eyebrow. “You never needed to.”

Twilight didn’t respond.

“But…” Sunset sighed. “It’s beyond any of that, isn’t it?”


“It’s just the fear.”


Sunset took a deep breath, finding a bit of pleasure in Twilight’s weight on her chest, even if her chest was soaked from her tears.

“I can tell you I understand. You’re not alone. When I stole the Element of Magic… I get it. I know the cost.” It was Sunset’s turn to shiver. “Twilight, look at me.”

She didn’t move.

“Twilight, please?”

She shook her head, like a terrified filly. Sunset had to push her off. And even then, she still had to lift Twilight’s chin. In the dim moonlight, Sunset saw her own concerned face reflected in Twilight’s reddened eyes.

“That wasn’t you.”


“That wasn’t you,” Sunset insisted.

“It could have been!”

“That. Wasn’t. You.” Sunset emphasized every word, trying to bore through Twilight’s shields of fear and denial. “For you, it’s not real.”

“It was real for her!” Twilight wailed.

“But it’s not real for you,” Sunset said. She felt sick inside. She had no idea if her words could get through. But she had to try. “She’s faced her demons. The reason you can’t face this demon is because it isn’t yours. There’s no demon to face. There’s only your fear.”

“And… how am I supposed to control that?” Twilight snapped, her eyes hardening. “I can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist!”

“You don’t,” Sunset said. “I… after what happened to me, I tried to hide it. Because it hurt so badly. But in the weeks afterward… the girls pulled it out of me. I fought them so hard. Not because I didn’t trust them. Well, I didn’t trust them at that point, but that’s not why I didn’t do it.”

“You didn’t want to do it because it hurt.” Twilight’s gaze softened and she rubbed a hoof against her muzzle. Her ears flicked back and forth a few times before going flat. And Sunset knew her well enough to know Twilight had never been angry at her.

Sunset nodded. “I had to keep talking about it. I had to let others share the burden.”

“I don’t want to burden you with this! Or anypony else!”

“And I don’t want you to carry this on your own,” Sunset replied. “I love you, Twilight. And part of that means helping you. And since you love me, that means you need to let me help you. Let everypony else help you. Didn’t you once tell me that was one of the first lessons you ever learned in Ponyville? How to accept help?”

“No fair,” Twilight muttered, a hint of a pout on her lips. “No using my friendship reports against me.”

Sunset smiled and brushed Twilight’s cheek, wiping away the last trace of her tears.

“If it counts for friends, then how much more does it count for lovers?”

Just like every other time, Twilight blushed when Sunset said the word. It was an accurate description, but it brought ideas to mind. Sunset smiled for a heartbeat.

“You’ve tried keeping this to yourself,” Sunset said. “Ever since the human Twilight came through to see Equestria. Ever since I let you do that dumb experiment and triggered the Gem so you could both get a glimpse of one another’s lives. You’ve repressed the result… but you can’t put it back. You have to let it out.”

“It hurts…” Twilight said as a tear ran down her cheek and onto Sunset’s hoof. “I don’t want it to hurt.”

“I can’t make it stop hurting.” Sunset hated the words, but she needed to hear them as much as Twilight. “But I can be here to hold you when it does. To remind you that you aren’t alone. So can everypony else. You only have to let us in. And you know that they’d want to be there just as much as I do.”

Twilight lay quiet for a long time, staring into Sunset’s eyes. Sunset smiled back. For a pony who held the title of the Princess of Friendship… Twilight still had a lot of room to grow. Not nearly as much as Sunset, of course. But that was part of being in love, right? It was part of having friends. Learning together.

Learning that you weren’t alone.

Finally, Twilight nodded. “I’ll tell them tomorrow, okay?”

Sunset smiled, but the effect was somewhat ruined by a yawn.

Twilight mirrored her yawn and glanced at the clock on her nightstand.

“I’m sorr—”

Sunset booped her on the nose. “No apologizing.”

Twilight scrunched her muzzle. “You know I hate it when you boop me in the middle of talking.”

“Yes, I do.”

“You still do it.”

“Yes, I do.”

Twilight sighed and a genuine smile flickered onto her face. She leaned over to give Sunset a gentle peck on the lips. It was little more than a thank you, yet a whole lot more.

After a few moments, Twilight pulled away with a delicate smile. A smile that conjured a little ball of warmth in Sunset’s chest. Twilight slowly slid back to her side of the bed and settled down.

Sunset snuggled up behind Twilight and wrapped her in a hug. Through her gentle grip, she felt Twilight’s steady heartbeat. But it wasn’t entirely calm, either. The fear wasn’t gone. A single night couldn’t break down an entire wall of fear.

But, there was a good-sized chink in it now. Twilight settled into Sunset’s hooves and let out an enormous sigh.

“Love you, Sunny,” she mumbled.

“Love you too, Twi.”

It wasn’t long until Twilight’s breathing fell into a slow and regular rhythm. Still, Sunset didn’t let go. She held tight, hoping that the touch would span the immeasurable gap between dream and reality.

And maybe, just maybe, when Twilight had to endure those horrible memories of Midnight Sparkle again, she would feel Sunset’s hooves around her and know she wasn’t alone.

Sunset laid there for hours, cherishing every second. She cherished the scent of the Twilight’s mane. She cherished the warmth of her body and the softness of her coat. But more than anything… she cherished her quiet breathing.

In the slow and steady rise and fall of Twilight’s chest, Sunset found a happiness she couldn’t find anywhere else. Not in the laughter of her friends. Not in her renewed studies with Celestia. Not in her long walks through the Canterlot Gardens.

She didn’t fully understand why, but she accepted it anyway.

At one point, Twilight’s breathing quickened and her body tensed. It was enough to shake Sunset awake.

Sunset didn’t say a word. She just held Twilight a little tighter.

This time, Twilight didn’t whimper.

Slowly, Twilight relaxed and nestled herself deeper into Sunset’s hug.

Sunset lifted her head enough to see Twilight’s muzzle… and there was a tiny smile on her lips. She gave her a kiss on the cheek and settled back down.

Then, an identical smile on her face, Sunset drifted off to Twilight's calm breathing.

Author's Notes:

Sometimes, it's a wonderful thing to have someone there to hold you when the nightmares won't stop. Especially when the nightmares aren't yours. Believe it or not, that's very possible. It happens with an overactive imagination when you empathize with a character so much, you have trouble separating your emotions from theirs. Only the best writers can get me to go that far.

There's a reason I outright refuse to read horror and tragedy, folks.

Special thanks to Ebon Quill for the prompt:

How about a short piece, no longer than 3K, about Twilight waking up from a nightmare, and Sunset talking that through it?
Not the nightmare itself.
But her waking up from one, and Sunny talking her down.
Just a simple, quiet story about bad dreams and how love can heal it.

I'd love to go into depth about why I had to write this story and how realistic Twilight's panic attacks are, but there's another chapter of Prerogative going up with this story and I don't have the time right now. Oh well, maybe I'll do a Retrospective on this a bit later. Might be fun.

Another special thanks to Corejo as the main editor for this piece. He pushed me in new directions (namely expanding my environment and interaction descriptions) and I'm fairly happy with how it turned out. He's got a good head for this sort of thing. As usual, Beltorn, Cursori, Little Tinker, Ebon and Painted Heart were all instrumental.

A bit of tender SunLight romance to brighten up this dark and spooky month! Or something. Imagine I said something clever. See? Look how clever I am!

I think I'll stop here before the lack of sleep really gets to me. Until next time folks, have fun out there!

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