Barging in through the front door, Aria braced herself upon her knees in order to catch her breath.
The sound of the door slamming made Sonata jump to her feet from where she sat on the couch. The blue girl's eyes were weary, but determined. She was rubbing anxiously at a space on her chest. "Aria!" she shouted. "D... Did you feel it too?"
"What the hell was that, Sonata?" Aria pressed, standing up straight and marching toward her. "How am I feeling this, and why? Is someone hurt?"
Sonata shook her head frantically, trying to get Aria to calm down, and stop trying to push her hand out of the way to search for injuries. "No, no, Ari! It's not me!" Sonata hissed, holding a finger up to her lips, bidding her fellow Siren to lower her voice. "I think it's Adagio. Aria, I think something's wrong." She approached Aria, and reached out cautiously, grabbing hold of the cloth of her sleeve. "She won't say anything to me. Maybe she'll talk to you."
Aria eyes narrowed, her lips pursed together. "What the hell makes you think she'll talk to me?" she hissed, glancing sporadically up the dark stairwell. "What is this, anyway? How is this even possible? We don't have our powers anymore."
"Just, make her talk, Aria! Just do it!" Sonata replied, her eyes going wide and glassy. There was a desperate concern in her voice, one that Aria knew would not be satiated until she did as she was asked. "Please, Aria. We... we can talk about why it's happening later. Right now, I just need to know that she's alright."
It took a moment, but after a while, Aria nodded, yanked her sleeve out of Sonata's grasp, and turned to head up the stairs.
Adagio lay flat on her back in bed, eyes closed, brow furrowed, utterly regretting ever having touched Aria's vile beer. Even though she was now dressed in her pajamas, and warm beneath her blanket, she was still in pain. About half an hour prior, she had worked up the courage to douse her horrid scratch in rubbing alcohol in order to clean it. She had nearly passed out, but somehow, managed to cleanse and re-bandage the wound. Now, lying there, she tried her best to ignore the dull ache so she could either think more clearly about what had happened between Sonata and her downstairs, or get some sleep. What she didn't expect, however, was the sudden knock on her door. "What now?" she groaned, opening one eye. Her frown grew even deeper when the door swung open to reveal Aria leaning cooly against the frame.
"Hey," Aria muttered.
"Hi," Adagio replied, feigning politeness. She was quick to drop the act. "Get out."
"Because I need to borrow something," Aria sighed unfazed, daring to step into the eldest Siren's domain.
"Like you needed to borrow my glasses?" Adagio spat. "Yes, I know you took them, and I want them back."
Aria, not expecting the topic to come up, winced at the memory of having left the item back at work. "Uh, right, but no. Something else."
"Well, whatever it is, the answer is no," Adagio said flatly, far too achey to rage.
"Relax. It's just a pen," Aria said, pulling a random slip of crumpled paper out of her pocket to use as a prop. "I need to draw out a diagram for work, and I lost all of mine. So, just let me borrow one, okay?"
Adagio glowered at her before she sighed, rolled her eyes, and sat up, gingerly. She winced as she reached toward her bedside stand for a pen, and then tossed the thing over to Aria.
The pigtailed girl caught it with one hand, though her eyes were completely trained on her sister. She looked the elder girl over. "You okay, there?" she asked ever so cautiously.
"What do you care?" Adagio replied.
"Idunno. Maybe I don't want to catch any infectious diseases if you've got 'em," Aria scoffed as she turned the paper over, and pretended to write something.
Adagio's remained completely unamused. "Hilarious. Hurry up and get out," she ordered, now rubbing her temples.
"Fine, fine! Here!" Aria stated, holding the pen out as if to toss it. When she did, she very deliberately threw it short, making it land upon the bed near Adagio's feet.
Adagio, way beyond the point of exhaustion, rolled her eyes, and leaned over, wincing the entire time. As she managed to reach the pen, Aria caught a quick glimpse down the front of her pajama top to the white, bandage padding that sat beneath it.
The pigtailed girl's eyes went wide. "What the fuck is that?" she gasped, moving closer to Adagio's bed.
"What are you talking about?" Adagio asked, not yet having caught on. She edged away from the advancing Siren.
Aria, suddenly infuriated, shoved Adagio back onto the bed by her shoulder, and reached for her collar in an attempt to pull it down. "I'm talking about that fucking huge bandage on your fucking chest! What's under it? How'd you get it?" she screamed.
Adagio barely managed to roll out of her bed, and stand menacingly upon her feet. "Get the hell out of my room," she hissed, trying to catch her breath. Her eyes bored into Aria as she pointed toward the door.
"No. I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on. Sonata and I both felt that... that thing, whatever it is on your chest! Did you know we could still do that? Why are you hiding this from us when you knew we could still do that? Are you trying to cover up the fact that we still have powers or something?" Aria yelled, her hands balling up into fists.
Adagio's patience, at this point, was completely spent. The ache on her chest worsened, and a headache was beginning to set in. Not thinking clearly, she lunged forward to grab at Aria's shirt, but missed as the younger woman easily dodged out of the way. The curly-haired Siren stood tall, and calmly crossed her arms. "What, exactly, should I tell you, Aria? And what for?" she said, her voice still composed and refined; yet, somehow filled with resentment. "I don't owe you anything. You're just being a sour faced, whining, little ingrate, as usual. I've dragged you and Toothpaste Hair around forever, and you two are always glad to have me doing all the brain work. So, the way I see it, I don't have to start telling you anything about what I'm thinking or what I do. Now get out!" She moved to shove Aria toward the door.
The pigtailed girl squared her shoulders, and planted her feet firmly upon the floor, staving her sister off. Sonata, hearing the commotion, had long since rushed upstairs, and now stood in the doorway looking terrified.
Aria laughed, attempting to contain her own fury. "You're a real piece of work, you know that Adagio? A real piece of work. You carried us? You act so damn high and mighty, so indestructible all of the time, and everyone around you knows you're not. You're so fucking obsessed with saving face, and you'll fight for it even if everyone else around you has to pay the price! You're a selfish bitch, and you're a liar! It was you who led us to this end! Just like it's you who's hurting us now, and you don't even care. And yet, somehow we're the ones who're supposed to be grateful for having you?" Aria inched closer toward the seething siren leader. Her voice, though shaking, became dangerously low. "Here's some more fucking truth for you, Adagio, and it's high time you heard it. You used us. You forced us to follow you for almost two thousand years. You forced us to submit, and now you complain that we weren't independent enough? That we relied on you too much? After all these years of shooting us down in every way? Are you completely nuts? Wait a minute, don't answer that. You are."
Aria reached into her pocket, perhaps out of nervous habit, pulled a cigarette from the opened pack therein, and popped the unlit thing between her lips. Rolling her eyes she then looked at Adagio, now feeling renewed confidence. "Who's the one who even found you on that beach in the first place, huh, Adagio? Do you remember that?"
It was clear that Aria had crossed a line that should not have been crossed by the way Adagio's eyes went wide and red.
"Do you remember who finally gave you your awareness? Me. And what the fuck had you ever even done for yourself before that day except be a spoiled, rich, brat, and kill your grease stain of a duke husband because he was boring, huh? If it weren't for me, you'd probably still be out there, crying like a fucking newborn foal, on Equestrian sand, an unrealized, worthless outcast."
Sonata, predicting what was coming next, had already run to place herself in between the two girls just as Adagio lunged for Aria's throat. "You ungrateful little—!" the eldest siren screamed, hot tears streaking her cheeks.
Sonata pushed backward against Aria who was trying to move her out of the way. "Please, you two! Please stop!" the youngest girl pleaded with them.
They were both deafened to her supplication.
"Oh, she's had this beating coming for a long time," Aria hissed out of the corner of her mouth. "Let me go!"
"Aria, Adagio, you've got to stop! We're supposed to be past this, remember? Adagio, I'm the one that sent Aria up here. I'm sorry. I was just worried!"
"Because you're hiding that thing on your chest!" Aria hissed. "So, what is it, Adagio? And why can we sense it?"
It was at that moment that something occurred to the curly-haired woman, namely that she was far too tired for all of this. Also, being no fool, she had to relinquish the fact that Aria, having been raised and hardened amidst gobs of physical turmoil and pain, would surely have beat her to a pulp if given the chance. She stopped struggling. By and by, Aria and Sonata did the same, knowing by Adagio's current expression, that she was about to say something of importance.
Cocking a proud eyebrow, and fighting back the fresh tears that threatened to escape from the corners of her eyes, the eldest girl struggle with their words. She knew herself. She knew she could and would hurt Aria right now if she allowed herself to. She knew about Aria's sensitivities, and all the secret worrying she had done over the younger Siren's well-being. For a moment, sentimentality flashed across her face, only to be bested by an expression of defeat, as if she had lost a great battle within herself. Adagio Dazzle knew herself, indeed, and she knew that she could never allow herself to be bested in any way, especially in one so personal. Finding just enough resolve, she opened her mouth as if it pained her. "You think you're so much better than me, Aria? That you would have been so much better off without me. Like if you had the option of leaving me out there? You just hate to admit the fact that you needed me even more than I needed you, and that it's always been that way," Adagio croaked, taking a step backward, and lifting a finger to point accusingly at the other girl. "How quickly you forget what state I found you in on that beach. Yes, I did horrible things with my life before we found each other, but let's not pretend that your hooves weren't soiled either, Aria!" The self-gratifying smile she now wore suited her quite well.
"Don't you dare, Adagio," Aria cautioned her, shaking her head. Her fists drew up tight and pale.
The curly-haired girl covered her mouth to hide a spiteful laugh. "Aw, the big, bad Aria can dish it out, but can't take it, huh?" She placed her hands upon her hips. "Yet again, why am I not surprised? Let's talk about how you were out there on that beach, babbling to yourself..."
"Adagio..." Sonata pleaded as she pulled anxiously at her own fingers. She stared at Aria as the girl turned a horrible shade of raspberry red.
"...bruised and beaten out of your mind because of some lustful, washed up soldier. Let's talk about how you were so far gone, that you had started doing it to yourself!"
Hot tears began to streak down Aria's face as Adagio continued on. The eldest Siren walked straight up to her. Her voice came slowly and elegantly in that beguiling, black widowish way that only Adagio could manage.
"And you know what I think, Aria? I think, by that point, you liked it. You needed it. You didn't feel alive unless someone was making you bleed. I think you still feel that way, to be quite honest. I think that's why you stuck around. We both know you're not a stupid girl. I think you just needed me to treat you the way I do," Adagio murmured with a cocky grin upon her face. "Why don't you just admit it, Aria, and stop lying to yourself? You get off on pain and misery, and you're ashamed because you do. We all know it, don't we Sonata?"
Aria, her mind now lost in fury, lunged for Adagio whilst Sonata grabbed her torso, forcing her back. The pigtailed girl and her younger sister fell to the floor slightly short of their elder.
Adagio took a step backward, and stared down at the two struggling, screaming girls in disgust. "Pig," she spat before reaching up toward her pajama top, and undoing the button to reveal the neat, rectangle bandage that sat beneath it. "I've spent so much time explaining, thinking that you two would understand why I had to do the things that I did. Why I still do have to. Let's just face it. We're all selfish, and we're all monsters. That's just what we were bred to be." Gingerly, she peeled the edge of the bandage off, revealing the deep gouge that lay beneath it. "Do you think back when we were soaring across Equestria, when we were roaming across Europe, or even when we were singing for scraps down at Sammy's that this is what I wanted? For any of us? Do you really think that?"
At the sight of Adagio's wound, the two struggling girls on the floor went numb. Sonata sat up first, covering her mouth as she stared in disbelief. Aria popped back up to her feet, her eyes wide and wet, not sure what to say or do. The now broken cigarette still hung from her lips as she struggled with herself to decide whether she should grab Adagio and chant a healing incantation over her, or take the opportunity to scratch the hideous thing even deeper into her flesh.
"We were all hurt, but it seemed that only I could ignore retaliation in light of a bigger picture. One of justice, where we would get what we deserve. Our reward for all this bullshit we've been put through!" Adagio glanced down at the floor, taking a moment to compose herself. "None of what happened was any of my fault," she mumbled to herself, almost as if, for a split second, she had forgotten where she was. She then shivered where she stood before managing to meet the unreadable gazes of her peers. "Fine, so this one thing," she said, pointing to her chest, "This was my fault. I did this to myself, but I didn't mean to. I don't know what happened, I...," her voice trailed off. She cleared her throat. "And I don't know why you can still sense it. That is a surprise to me, as well, and I would like to know just as much as you do. But for now, all that I do know is... is what happened to me, and that I didn't imend for it to..."
The air was silent and very heavy between them all for a moment, until Aria, her face now streaked with fresh tears, took a step forward. She slowly reached her arm up and out. It appeared for a second that she wanted to gently touch Adagio's wound. Her arm shook as it then stretched backward then jettisoned forward, her hand coming back across Adagio's face hard. The strike left a red mark in its wake.
The pigtailed girl struggled for the correct words as Adagio turned her head to glare at her. The eldest siren's expression remained unmoved, totally unfazed.
"Adagio Dazzle," Aria barely managed to breathe, shakING her head from side to side. "You selfish bitch. Who's lying to themselves, now?"
There was a beat, a pause between them both before Adagio quickly swung her arm forward, and returned Aria's blow in kind. The eldest Siren's gaze never wavered. Indeed, she appeared as still as stone, her expression equally as cold. "Does that remind you of Swift, Aria? Does it remind you of those good old days, pegasus?" she hissed mercilessly, her red raspberry eyes sharp as daggers.
Aria's mettle finally imploded upon itself. Her entire being wilted like a blossom caught in the unrelenting brilliance of desert sun. Her lungs instinctively released a loud, defeated puff of air, and with it, the long destroyed cigarette fell from her lips to the ground. Something in her eyes went dead, and as she slowly turned to amble toward the door, her entire body began to shake. Disappearing around the corner and into the hallway, it took almost a minute before her bedroom door could be heard shutting.
Sonata stood her ground even though her eyes leaked tears for the pain her sisters had caused each other. She sniffed back a few, rubbed her arm self consciously, and gazed in defeat toward a far corner of the room.
Adagio, whose eyes had been trained on the empty doorway from which Aria had departed, then shifted her gaze toward the blue girl. Her expression still cold, she scrutinized the distraught underling. "And I suppose you resent me, too, " she muttered, her voice flat and emotionless. Sonata winced as the words stabbed into her like a blade. She cringed away her pain, and after a time, managed to muster up just enough energy to form a reply. "Adagio, we've always been right here beside you. If only you could see us," she said before stepping forward, and reaching out to squeeze her elder's hand, never once looking into her eyes. In one quick motion, she then leaned down to the level of Adagio's gash, and perhaps by habit, kissed and whispered an old, short, healing incantation against it. Plucking up the opened side of the bandage, Sonata gently adhered it back into place, then turned to take her leave. Slowly, she closed the door behind her without looking back, leaving Adagio Dazzle standing tired and shaking in the middle of her disheveled room.
The eldest Siren's gaze fell toward the floor, her mind reeling, jumping between knowledge of the pain she had just caused Aria and the single piece of mind blowing information that had been revealed over the course of the evening. After a moment, her brain decided to settle on the latter, the far more pliable of the two. Their magical bond—it was still intact. What could such a revelation possibly imply? Was this residual, like their immortality or their ability to perceive negative energy? Was this a symptom of two thousand years of enchanted biology simply taking its time to pass away? Or, did this mean that their powers, on some plane, in some way, still endured?
She couldn't help herself. She was a girl as driven and focused as the bullet of a sniper's rifle. Thus, her sisters very quickly faded to the background of her mind as she turned to face her desk, her thoughts now captivated by that one, single notion. Breath now coming quickly, she walked toward the workspace, slid open its bottom drawer, dug deep beneath the piles of papers and folders contained therein, and pulled out a small, ominously carved, antique, wooden box. Reaching into the hairband that she was always prone to wear, she pulled from it a tiny, golden key. With this item, she unlocked the box, and held her breath as the lid opened. There, lying on a worn, velvet bed, sat those ancient, ruby red shards of old, the evidence of her tragic downfall, the remnants of her shattered pendant.