Waving goodbye to her mother as she drove away after dropping her off at school, Fluttershy smiled peacefully. Then she turned around, took two steps, and froze. Adagio was standing in the shadows cast over the front entrance, the sun not yet high enough to fully illuminate that side of the building. Even from the school's driveway, Fluttershy could see her smiling mischievously.
Oh no, she thought, now she knows the time and place I get here!
She could always ask her mother to drop her off somewhere else, but then she'd have to explain why, which left her back at a slightly older problem. An older problem with orange, fluffy hair, looking right at her. Strangely, she didn't approach, didn't call out, didn't so much as wave at her, just turned and walked out of sight. If Fluttershy was any good at pattern recognition, that meant she had maybe a minute before her morning predator pounced at her from out of nowhere.
Thinking it was the last thing the older girl (she looked and acted a little older, but it was hard to tell) would expect her to do, she ran at full speed in exactly the direction Adagio had gone, which happened to take her to the doors to the gym. That gave her an idea. Double-checking that no one was around, she slipped in to the third door from the right, the one that was never locked for some reason. Broken lock, maybe? She tip-toed through the only-a-little-spooky, unlit halls, pretty sure Adagio wouldn't think to look for her inside right away, which should give her enough time to hide.
Sneaking into the school early was bad, but she was getting desperate. If yesterday's embarrassing incident by the statue taught her anything, it was that Adagio was incredibly sneaky.
How does she move so quietly in those boots?
Well, right now she had to be sneaky herself! Quietly making her way through the mostly-dark hallways of CHS, she made it to the library without so much as hearing a familiar, fiendish chuckle signaling her doom as it echoed eerily off the walls.
That she imagined such a thing at all probably wasn't a good sign.
Setting foot on the green-marble floor of the library, she saw that the glass dome on the ceiling made sure it was the best-lit room in the building until it formally opened, just as she'd hoped. Tip-toeing up the stairs to the second floor, she crept behind the front rows of shelves. She spent a minute to find a spot where she'd be hidden from anyone in the center of the room and very hard to see even from the skylights, (Adagio had surprised her from above before) and took a seat in a corner where a bookshelf met the wall. This gave her some time to think.
Part of her felt guilty. She knew the Dazzlings were having trouble fitting in, and running away from them like the kids at lunch probably wasn't helping. Maybe her private humiliation was just Adagio's way of reaching out to her, and somewhere in the back of her head was a voice that said if she just stuck it out, maybe the teasing would ease up and they could just be normal friends.
Or something like that. Who knew?
However, the reality was that Adagio had only been getting more vicious, pushing her a little harder every day, and Fluttershy was already near the end of her rope! So here she was, hiding, which felt kind of ridiculous.
I never went this far to stay out of Sunset's sight even on her worst days, before the Fall Formal, but here I am, waiting in the least-dark room of the school to hide from someone I actually kind of like.
She didn't exactly not want to see Adagio, she just didn't want to be startled every time. Or to have thick, muscular legs stretching in front of her face, curvy hips swaying just within reach, body language that said 'go on, just try it,' eyes that said 'I dare you,' her bulging-
Feeling as though the temperature of the library had increased by about two hundred degrees, Fluttershy slapped both hands to her face.
How is she doing this without even being in the room?!
As if on cue, Fluttershy heard a door open on the lower level, followed by the clack of heels on the polished floor. Maybe it was due to the near-silence of the library, but it almost sounded like she was stomping with every step, Fluttershy not daring to peer around a bookshelf to catch sight of Adagio. It had to be her, and from the sound of things, she might have been angry.
Did she follow me in here? Or does she come in here normally? Is she mad I wasn't outside?! WhatdoIdowhatdoIdo?!
The sound of spiky heels coming down hard rung across the library a few more times as Fluttershy looked around for a better place to hide, but she had already chosen the most secluded spot she could find, which was still out in the open if someone walked by! To Fluttershy's horror, the loud footsteps took on the rhythm of someone ascending a staircase. Silently berating herself for not thinking to hide somewhere darker, like an office or a closet, she closed her eyes and covered them with her hands, hoping Adagio just wouldn't see her.
The stomping continued for a few seconds, then stopped altogether. Trembling, Fluttershy heard footsteps at an ordinary volume that slowly got louder, the vibrations she could feel through the floor and the feeling that someone was looking at her suggesting that they were getting closer and closer at a relaxed pace. The sounds stopped directly in front of her, drawing a quiet whimper.
She felt something poke her nose, eliciting a fearful yelp as she opened her eyes to peer through her fingers.
Adagio was kneeling in front of her, no sign of anger or irritation on her face, just a mildly perplexed look. "Try to keep it down," she said quietly, "you're in a library."
"S-sorry, I, um..." She blinked several times, a little part of her brain loudly objecting to letting her next thought pass her lips. "I thought you'd be madder."
The wary, suspicious expression she got for that only looked more menacing in the dim lighting. "Madder about what, Sweetie?"
She shrunk back, trying to merge with the wall behind her. "N-nothing!"
"Ohh, no you don't," Adagio said with narrowed eyes, poking a finger just under Fluttershy's neck, "why am I expected to be angry? Out with it."
Whimpering, Fluttershy shook. "B-because I was hiding...?"
Staring at her for another few seconds, Adagio started to smile. The smile became a low chuckle, the chuckle became a laugh, the laugh became holding a hand to her face as she seemed to forget her own library advice, laughing like she'd lost her mind.
Fluttershy, for her part, was at least less afraid now, which felt odd. Being laughed at was never her idea of a good time, but Adagio had a very nice laugh.
After a minute or two, Adagio gave her what might have been an apologetic smile. "I'm not angry, I was stomping specifically so that I wouldn't catch you off-guard."
"...W..." She couldn't believe she was asking, but every part of her brain was dying to know. "W-why not?"
Eyes half-lidded, Adagio reverted to her usual relaxed grin. "So I could ask you this; how was the rest of the mint hook?"
Fluttershy blinked once. "Mint hook? Oh, the candy cane? It was good, I-EEP!" Realizing that she had just admitted to finishing the not-her-own-saliva-covered treat after all, Fluttershy clasped her hands over her mouth and turned red.
Adagio smiled a little wider. "So it was fine? No worse than before I sampled it?"
Fluttershy nodded hesitantly. "I-it's okay, I think. Um, why, uh..." Her tongue locked up, but the patient, faintly curious look on Adagio's face urged her to keep going. "W-why do you ask?"
Still smiling, Adagio shrugged. "Good to know I'm not dampening the experience, is all." Staring silently back at her, it seemed Fluttershy couldn't think of anything to say. Adagio had that effect on people. "Well," she said as she stood up, reaching out to ruffle Fluttershy's hair and drawing a quiet squeak, "that's all I wanted to know. See you around, Sweetie." And then she turned and walked away, not another move made on Fluttershy's fragile pride.
Watching her go, intently, Fluttershy wanted to ask why Adagio didn't approach her when her mom dropped her off, but couldn't find her voice. It would only have made sense if she didn't intend to sneak up on her, right?
Maybe she was going to and changed her mind? I don't understand her at all...
A little part of Fluttershy half-expected a surprise ambush at some point in the day, but most of her knew by now that, for whatever reason, Adagio only came to tease her in the mornings.
Probably because during the day, there are more students around and she has other options...
Or because Aria and Sonata were there too. Well, she guessed that was fair, and, really for the best, as she wasn't sure she could cope with witnesses to what had happened some mornings.
And that made this morning odd. There was no doubt about it, apart from the moment she thought Fluttershy had wronged her somehow, Adagio was clearly holding back, only flustering her a little bit before backing off.
Maybe she really meant what she said about being too much?
Thinking about the encounter in the library through most of the day, she reflected on lunchtime yesterday. No, she wasn't being bullied or picked on, or her 'tormentor' wouldn't have relented like that.
Maybe she's just lonely in the mornings? I've been coming alone for so long, I guess I just got used to it... Maybe, she's looking for a friend?
She had an idea.
All things considered, Fluttershy felt brave. She was sitting with the most natural posture she could manage, blinking rapidly, and shaking like a leaf, but doing so out in the open on the usual bench by the soccer field was the exact opposite of running away. Adagio was going to sneak up on her again, but if she just kept her cool, she might be able to-
She looked around very quickly to find she was completely alone. Huh. I had the strangest feeling that she'd spring on me right then. Am I getting too-
A finger brushing bare skin on the back of her leg made her jump half a meter in the air, shrieking like a little girl. She quickly looked down, face already flushed, to see Adagio lying under the bench by her feet, head propped up on one arm, and cheekily grinning at her.
Willing her heart to beat normally, Fluttershy was lost for breath, some part of her mind dreading the apocalyptic possibilities if Adagio and Pinkie Pie ever joined forces.
Adagio slid out from under the bench behind her, once more leaning over the back of it as she looked sideways at her morning prey. "Apart from the sheer, ecstatic joy that comes with my company, what's got you so rattled today? You were shaking before I even got close."
"I-I, w-well, uhm..." Talking was still hard, but Adagio just waited patiently, something about her relaxed little grin actually making Fluttershy feel a little at ease. "I've, um, I-I've been thinking, you remember the first few times we talked in the morning?"
Adagio nodded once. "Fondly."
Trying to ignore her own blush or the chuckle it drew from Adagio, Fluttershy gulped. "W-well, I was thinking that, i-if it's okay with you, maybe we could go back to that?" Now the Dazzling leader looked confused, raising one eyebrow. Fluttershy reached into her bag, pulling out two little brown cubes wrapped in clear plastic and showing them to Adagio. "I mean, I-I liked sharing with you, and, maybe, w-we could, just, do that? Without you sneaking up on me?"
There was a long, long couple of seconds in which Adagio just stared back at her, her expression neutral before curving into a confident smile as she shrugged. "Sure, why not?" She waited just long enough for Fluttershy's hopeful smile to reach its apex, and smirked. "I'm sure there are other ways I can get your heart racing."
"Eek!" The smile vanished, Fluttershy nervously glancing around as Adagio cackled with delight at the color in her face. "I, uh, I-I..." Steeling herself, she looked Adagio in the eye, grabbed one of her wrists, and placed one of the plastic-covered cubes in that hand. "D-deal!"
Adagio blinked twice, her triumphant expression utterly erased by a look of surprise for all of five seconds before she giggled a little. "'Deal'? Do I need to sign anything?"
Feeling just a little silly, Fluttershy smiled sheepishly. "Um, n-no, not really." She unwrapped the other cube in her hand. "These are caramel cubes, I think you'll like them."
Adagio looked at the little, brown, shiny square from multiple angles before raising it to her mouth...
Starting to turn red again over the next several seconds, Fluttershy gulped. "Uhm... wh-what are you doing?"
Adagio was holding her cube between two fingers, undoing the wrapper with her tongue. Fluttershy could only watch helplessly as she slowly savored peeling it away, that surprisingly long, moist tongue working carefully to liberate the piece of candy before quickly darting out to ensnare and spirit it away, trapping and gnashing it between perfect, pearly teeth. She grinned with satisfaction at Fluttershy's mortified, open-mouthed stare. "Shomet'ing wrawng, Shweetie?" Then she blinked twice, just gaining awareness of the thick, buttery substance in her mouth. "Ooh, dish ish odd..."
Feeling some measure of relief in the return of Adagio's analytical face, Fluttershy regained some degree of psychological footing, popping her own caramel cube into her mouth.
"Ish... tick! Verruh tick. An' shweet! Auh'm naw shure whah elsh ta shay abouw ih'." She chuckled a little, her cheeks tinting red. "Makesh maw voish shound shilluh!"
Fluttershy giggled too, the effect proving mutually contagious until they were both laughing like they'd gone bonkers. By the time they stopped, the caramel had mostly dissolved, leaving them able to speak normally again.
Adagio turned to look at Fluttershy with a kind of smile she couldn't remember seeing out of the fluffy girl. It wasn't a smirk, wasn't malicious, wasn't even her relaxed I-own-you-and-you-know-it grin, just a happy little smile. It only lasted a few seconds before the usual grin took its place, but the effect stole her breath. Adagio didn't seem to notice. "So, you bring something to snack on every morning?"
Mentally shaking herself awake, Fluttershy nodded. "Y-yes. Actually, um," she averted her eyes, not quite brave enough to share something personal while maintaining eye-contact. "th-the reason I bring something every morning is t-to help calm down a little, to, uh-"
"Start the day on a positive note?" She glanced up in surprise, Adagio just shrugging at her. "Sonata does something similar with sticky-notes on the refrigerator. Every morning she adds a new doodle of something that makes her smile." She giggled. "Does all of us a little good, I think." Then her face grew serious, scrutinizing the other girl closely. "Why do you need calming down? I was under the impression anything that opposed chaos magic would already be at peace."
Fidgeting where she sat, Fluttershy just focused on getting the words out. "B-because, um... W-well, you might have noticed, but, I'm, kind of, a little, uh..." She gulped. "There are a lot of p-people in school, so..."
Adagio poked an index finger through the top of her pink hair, as though pressing on 'Stop' button on a cassette player, Fluttershy going silent when she did. Her tone was unamused. "Are you telling me that someone who stood against magical beings far more powerful than herself twice and won both times is afraid of the average person? The average person is afraid of me, whom you face daily."
"B-but, it's st-still really-"
"Sweetie, I've been dropping by on and off to toy with you-" she lightly ruffled Fluttershy's hair for emphasis, "-for the better part of two weeks now, and you still show up every morning. Are you really telling me that your mother dropping you off before the doors are even open is strictly necessary?"
"W-well, um," she focused on shyly fiddling with her fingertips, "maybe not, but it's either that, bothering one of my friends to get up a little earlier every morning, or riding the b-bus."
Adagio nodded a little, looking as though she was piecing something together. "And you, mousy little thing that you are, don't want to bum a ride from someone other than your mother-"
Fluttershy smiled a little. "It's one of the ways we spend time together."
"-and are too intimidated by the thought that someone on the bus might harass you, correct?"
Fluttershy nodded, Adagio lightly flicking her forehead. "Ow!"
"You're more afraid of taking a chance of someone bothering you versus confronting someone who definitely will? Not buying it, Sweetie. You're either braver than you give yourself credit for, or an idiot, and I've seen your grades."
Her heart leapt, slowly fluttering down again like a leaf kicked up by a gust. This manifested in the form of a little smile as Fluttershy studied the grass. "Y-you're not that bad." Adagio didn't respond to this, looking out over the soccer field. Then something sunk in, Fluttershy looking at her with a hint of confusion. "Wait, when did you see my grades?"
Adagio smirked, turning to look at her with that old predatory gleam in her eyes. "Ohh, don't you worry about that, worry about whether or not it means that I know where you live, too."
Fluttershy squeaked. "D-does it?!"
Naturally, she smiled wider, averted her eyes, and gave the worst possible answer. "Who knows?" She made a watch-checking motion, not even pretending to lift her armband to look at an imaginary watch. "Well, look at the time, I should be going. I expect I'll see you here again, same time tomorrow?" Not waiting for an answer, she turned to walk away. "Good. Take care, Sweetie."
Oh, dear. Now I'll be thinking about it until the day she shows up at my door!
Would she knock first? Would she even use the door at all?! Would she just climb in through a window in the middle of the night?! And, what would she do when she got there?! Once again, all Fluttershy could do was wait.