"So," began Rarity when everyone was seated, "latest update on the increasingly bizarre siren situation; you all remember the incident with Trixie not too long ago?" There were some affirmative nods. "Right, well, the word going around recently is that some measure of her 'relationship' with Adagio Dazzle must have been real, that their break-up is the reason behind her odd behavior."
Fluttershy kept any expression from her face as best she could. Changing little more than the name, Rarity was millimeters from the truth! Guilt that she was still keeping it from her friends wasn't doing the real culprit any favors, either.
"Then," guessed Sunset, "you're thinking that she's more or less lost her taste for screwing with people since what happened with Trixie? That that's why she hasn't really messed with anyone in... what, a week?"
"So goes the rumor," Rarity answered, "the general speculation is that her reaction to, err, Trixie's preferences-" this drew a few giggles, causing Rarity to tint pink herself, "-wasn't just over-dramatization as initially assumed, but at least partly an actual outcry of heartbreak."
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Yer really tryin' to sell us on Adagio singin' the blues 'cuz Trixie left her for her underwear?"
Pinkie almost laughed out loud at the sheer silliness of the statement, but awareness that none of the sirens would be singing anything any time soon made that line kind of a downer. Blue, even.
Rarity shrugged. "That's the way the story goes, Darling, and frankly, I don't have any better theories." She touched a fingertip to her chin as a thought occurred to her. "Do you think, perhaps, that something similar is the reason Aria Blaze seems so well-behaved? That she experienced a romantic loss of her own before their return and now can't bring herself to behave as brashly as we initially anticipated?"
Rainbow glanced over at the Dazzlings' table. "That... might actually explain a thing or two. Y'think all three of them have-" her eyes widened for a split second before shrugging and looking away. "-aaaactually, I'd rather not get wrapped up in talking about, y'know, gushy crud." There were a few chuckles around the table, but they moved on from the Dazzlings' prospective love lives.
Fluttershy, for her part, was grateful not to have been asked any questions, because she wasn't sure how much she could say on the matter without revealing something she shouldn't have.
The sirens, meanwhile, discussed the progress of their latest plan to make some friends of their own.
"Alright," Adagio said with a hopeful smile, "what do you have for me?"
Sonata raised a hand, which she usually forgot to do in class. "I tried doing that flirty, arms-folded-in-front-of-you pose and batting my eyes, but Flash just looked weirded out at me."
Adagio shrugged. "More than I usually get out of him. What about you, Ria?"
"Ermm..." Aria glanced away with an uneasy look on her face. "I, kinda, haven't really... tried anything yet...?" Her friends shared a look before turning to her with wide smiles. She gulped.
"Really," asked Adagio, an eyebrow raised in amusement, "even with everything you have at your disposal? I believe we've already discussed the merits of the Pouty Face."
Sonata was all too happy to cut her off. "If you can't use that, maybe you could shake your head like a puppy. Your hair would flap around like a doggie's ears!"
Crossing her arms at the mental image, Aria grumbled her reply. "I'm not a dog."
Remembering her deal with Fluttershy, Adagio mustered her willpower to resist the urge to make Aria's situation much, much worse. Even if she had kind of earned it by doing nothing to help with the plan. "You don't need to do much, maybe just wear a ribbon, like me?"
"Ooh," Sonata interjected with a big smile, "you should wear a short, ruffly skirt, too! Those are cute all by themselves!"
Aria sputtered. "Sk-skirts?! Look, I told you guys, what I wore at the Battle was a one-time thing, and even then I had-"
Sonata gasped, happily clasping her hands together. "Stockings!! Does that you mean you'll wear the lingerie too?!"
Adagio tried to help. "We agreed that you'd have to wear something showing a little more leg if you ever put on a full suit of lingerie, so-"
Aria unconsciously made the Angry Pout, to the delight of her two friends. "I'm not wearing a damn skirt!"
Eyes sparkling, Sonata held both hands to her cheeks. "So you're going in nothing but the lingerie?!" Smirking as she gave Aria a sultry look, Sonata mockingly fanned herself with one hand. "So daring! We only need to do something cute, y'know."
Groaning as she rested her beet-red head on the table, Aria gave her giggling friends a tired look. "Alright, alright, I get it, I'll do something before the day is out."
Adagio smiled beneficently, making a mental note to hug Sonata later. "That's all I'm asking." Does this still count as teasing? If only in a murder-by-inaction kind of way?
Letting out a little sigh as she righted her posture, Aria shook her head. "Why're we doing this, anyway? Isn't doing 'cute' little tricks the same as pretending to be somebody we're not?"
"Not exactly," Adagio explained, "putting on a consistent act is what we want to avoid, but there's no harm in expanding our repertoire a bit. Think of it as swapping out batting your eyelashes for quick, coy winks, exchanging slow, tantalizing finger-wiggling for energetic waving, or whatever you're comfortable with. Like I said this morning, it's essentially just another form of seduction, but with fewer sexual connotations-"
Grinning, Sonata finished for her. "-and thus more plausible deniability, which helps us look a little more innocent!"
"Hahahahaha, yes!" Adagio remembered that her laugh seemed to do exactly the opposite about a quarter of a second later, but kept it to herself.
Scratching her head, Aria nodded. "Guess that works. Hell, with our reputation, it might be worth it for that last part alone. Speakin' of, what'd you do today, Dagi?"
"I tried giving people sweet, friendly little smiles while holding doors open. I didn't exactly have a stop-watch going, but I think they might have actually walked a little faster!"
"Because they thought it was welcoming, or because they wanted to get away from you?"
Adagio's smile didn't change. "I have no idea."
All three giggled, Sonata in particular. "At least doing cute stuff is WAY easier than wearing high heels." Judging by the looks she'd been getting, nobody around here thought bruises were a turn-on.
"I'm sure you'd have gotten it eventually, Nata," Adagio said in a soft, encouraging voice.
Aria was a bit more practical-minded. "Maybe, but her tripping and falling all over the place probably wasn't doing us any favors." Sonata frowned, spurring Aria to try to fix it herself this time with a slightly sheepish smile. "But, I mean, it couldn't have been that bad, because everyone already knows you do the weirdest crap, right?"
Most people might have taken issue with the sentiment, but most people weren't Sonata Dusk. Managing a tiny smile, she sighed. "I guess, but I kinda just wanted to be sexy too, y'know? I'm the only one that didn't pop into this world with boots that were made for walkin'!" Walkin' with a little more of a hip-swing, anyway.
Holding a hand to her chin in thought, Adagio studied the ceiling. "I'd make a few suggestions, but I'm told they have standards here." Arbitrary standards. Honestly, her bathrobe was more modest than her dance outfit!
Sonata made an angry little pout of her own while muttering under her breath at her lunch tray. "I'd wear nothing but the lingerie, but she'd eat me alive for it."
Aria raised an eyebrow. "Y'mean Luna?"
Her head snapping upward, Sonata smiled. "Yea, her!"
Hm, thought Adagio, suppose that's a relatively bright side to controlling myself in school; much fewer visits to Luna's office. None, in fact. I wonder if she misses me?
Looking up from her sandwich as she sat in the teacher's lounge, Principal Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Luna? Are you alright?"
The vice principal shivered in her seat, just a faint tinge of red to her cheeks. "I... I-I do not know, Sister. I felt... a disturbance."
"...You've been drinking Zecora's special brews again, haven't you?"
Luna's brows furrowed in challenge. "They are healthy and delicious!"
Celestia rolled her eyes, continuing her lunch.
Following fifth period, Adagio once again found herself wandering the halls in something of a daze. Auto-pilot, maybe. She still had that peaceful, walk-in-the-park feeling going, but her reason for walking around a bit before sixth period had essentially been to find somebody to play with for a few minutes. That was off the table now, but the thought of going straight to her next class and sitting in silence didn't exactly draw her in. Still, she could meander about, passively observe her surroundings, overhear snippets of conversation, and just generally people-watch. It was becoming some kind of guilty pleasure, witnessing little scenes of peoples' lives playing out in front of her, making a few guesses as to the circumstances and context of what she heard, and speculating on the kind of lives those people lived outside CHS.
That making note of patterns could help her narrow down what exactly constituted 'normal' behavior was just a benefit on the side, really.
Adagio didn't keep an ear out for any particular voices when she did this, but she couldn't help hearing it when one spoke a little louder than the rest. Unsurprisingly, this time it was Trixie, whom might not have known Adagio was a ways behind her when she irritably shared her thoughts with one of her former(?) bandmates, the purple-skinned blonde. As usual, this included liberal use of arm motions.
"Can you believe the nonsense they're spewing? As if Trixie would ever have anything to do with that, that, walking suffocation hazard!"
Cloud Kicker giggled, trying half-heartedly to hide a little smirk behind one hand. "Dunno, I think you could do worse. Scariness aside, Adagio is pretty hot."
Trixie crossed her arms. From the sound of her voice, she was doing that darling little this-annoys-me pout. "That's neither here nor there! The notion that Adagio Dazzle lost her touch because she got her heart broken from a relationship with The Great and Powerful Trixie is absurd! Ludicrous! Baffling! Because it implies that Trixie was ever interested in her to begin with!"
"That's not what you were saying just before the Batt-"
Trixie immediately covered Cloud Kicker's mouth with both hands. "Youshutyourmouth!!"
While that little display went on, Adagio kept her usual grin as she strolled away. 'Lost my touch,' have I? Thank you for the free alibi, Trixie.
What was the saying? That the devil's greatest trick was convincing the world that he didn't exist? She'd suspected people would notice if she stopped teasing others altogether, and as she hadn't actually taken advantage of Fluttershy's offer to torment her in public yet (give or take her reactions to the pictures), she could see why outsiders might think she'd simply changed since her soul-crushing break-up with the young magician. The situation couldn't have been more perfect! With this, her group would be deemed less threatening, people would be willing to approach them, and they'd finally have their own piece of that Magic of Friendship pie!
Besides the little bit that I alone get to enjoy with Fluttershy in private, that is. Aria has her online buddy in the virtual worlds they explore and shoot up together, Sonata has her seventy-six thousand subscribers on that scare-prank channel she started running in her spare time (Sonata did not share her niggling sense of remorse in what they did with that webcam), and I have Fluttershy for just under an hour on weekday mornings.
She tried to tell herself not to worry about it, that it was fair that they found their own respective friend-types in various places, but when weighing what Aria had with DoomPrism, or what Sonata had with her commenters, against what she had with Fluttershy, Adagio felt like she was cheating them. It was like she alone had found the deep, meaningful connection they'd come in search of with rare, cautious optimism, and was keeping it all to herself. Weren't they not supposed to hide things from each other anymore? Sonata might have been doing it first, but-
Turning, Adagio was just faintly confused not to see anyone until she glanced downward to catch sight of two freshman girls. One was grey with a silvery braid and glasses, though Adagio wasn't sure what it meant that the nervous look on her little face was leaning toward the 'torment target' kind of cute as opposed to the 'administer head-pats' kind. Was there any difference between the two, or was it a matter of situational context? Before she could decide, the dull-pink girl, whom the first was vaguely hiding behind, spoke up, her tone matching the irritated look on her face.
"Why did you stop being cool?"
Perplexed, the siren let her raised eyebrow speak for her.
The grey one tugged on her friend's arm, looking at Adagio as though afraid she'd be pounced on if she broke eye-contact. "L-let's just go, Di!"
Diamond Tiara didn't so much as look backward, dismissively waving a hand. "Inna minute." She focused on the formerly-cool upperclassman. "You haven't done anything that pissed off Luna lately, or any of that gooey-eyes talk, like-" she turned to face her friend with half-lidded eyes, gently tracing her fingertips along the skin just above her necklace of little, blue pearls, "Ohh, Silver, I could just chew on your ears all night..."
Silver Spoon responded by turning bright red and starting to sweat, her gaping mouth emitting only a quiet squeak as she shuddered, lost balance, and fell on her little rear, Diamond looking back at Adagio in perfectly calm, casual fashion. "Like that."
Noting that someone was probably going to be getting The Talk soon, Adagio focused on the question, answering with another. "Is there a reason I should?"
Diamond scowled a little. "Well, yea! You used to go around doing whatever you wanted, any time you wanted, that's what made you cool! What gives?"
Adagio chuckled, giving a little grin. "And what makes you think I'm not doing what I want?" Both girls were giving her confused stares now. The smile grew. "I toyed with those people because I felt like it, and now I don't." Technically not true. "Well, I suppose it's more like..." There was faint color to her cheeks as she giggled. "There's something else I want now, and doing what I did before would make it harder to keep. Do you understand?"
"No, what the heck are you talking about?"
Adagio was still smiling patiently. "Priorities, Little Miss. To get what you want; decide what it is you want most, then go for it with everything you have. If you want it badly enough, you might find yourself willing to part with something else to get it."
This, Diamond understood very well, smacking a fist into the open palm of her other hand. "Like a purchase! You give up money for a new snow-cone machine or whatever!" That her favorite upperclassman was giving Diamond a nod and a proud grin made her feel like she was trying on her mother's tall, pointy shoes again!
"I think you've got it." And with that, she walked off, having influenced the next generation. A bit. Kind of. Or not, time would probably tell.
"Eep!" Whipping her head to the side, Fluttershy did her best to switch her startled expression to a small smile. "Y-yes?"
"Ah know paintin' ain'tcher favorite thing in Art, but yer lookin' a little more nervous than usual. Everything okay?"
"Oh, uh, y-yes, just, y-you know... worried?"
Applejack gave her a little smile. "Aw, don't worry, Mr. Magnet knows you do yer best every time, even when it don't come out like you had in mind. Just relax and have a little fun with it, okay?"
Fluttershy smiled a little wider. "Okay."
Of course, she couldn't very well tell Applejack the actual reason she was nervous; the one that walked into the Art room just seconds before things got started.
"Aaaaaaaalright, class!" began Magnet with a flourish while Adagio took her seat, "today you're free to paint whatever your bursting little heart desires, to go wherever your muse takes you! Well, I won't delay the magic, begin!"
It was with a note of apprehension that Fluttershy saw Adagio sitting a row in front of her again, wide, plump curves resting on the stool in front of the easel she'd be painting on. Even if those jeans looked a little tighter than usual, she tried to focus on her own painting.
Adagio, meanwhile, did much the same, albeit with a side of experimentation as class went on. She knew that some people, for whatever reason, found clumsiness cute, thought making little mistakes was endearing, but where Sonata usually went overboard with it, Adagio would try something subtler. Namely, dropping things in such a manner that it wouldn't leave a troublesome mess (clean brushes, lids to paint containers, etc.), quietly saying 'Oopsie,' or 'oh, silly me,' then bending down to pick it up again with just a faint little wiggle of her behind.
It was difficult to gauge the reactions without looking at anyone, which would likely give her away, but she was sure at least one member of the audience enjoyed the show. Hiking her pants up an inch or two before class definitely made a difference!
When class was drawing to a close, Adagio wasn't feeling too confident about her double-helix eel. The conjoined areas of the body came out fine and she even got the teeth to look nice and sharp, but the little green spots along its external sides didn't seem like the right shade to convey bioluminescence. Magnet would say it was great, of course, as he was the sort to praise pretty much everything if his students did more than spit on the page. Without turning her head, she listened as he went around, paying particular attention when he got to Fluttershy's painting.
"Oh, what a magnificent peach you've got there!"
"Th-thank you," whispered Fluttershy, "it, i-it, uhm-"
"The attention to detail is outstanding! You're finally getting a feel for focusing on the individual strokes! Just look at those long, smooth curves, that nicely-rounded globe, and that shading!"
Adagio bit her lip to keep from giggling, but it kept going.
"It's n-nothing really, I j-just-"
"Ohh, look at you, flushing with modesty! Well, I won't keep you, but be sure to cherish the warm, tender feelings you felt when this image sprang to your mind!"
There was a tiny squeak that sounded vaguely like 'thank you.' Adagio was pretending to have a coughing fit.
Magnet moved on, not a hint of irony in his tone. "Oh, very good, Lyra, your dog has four legs this time! Wonderful job!"
Adagio might have called that Game for the day, but dear, honest Applejack had a few words of praise for her friend.
"It really does look good, Fluttershy. Why, it's so big an' juicy-lookin', Ah could just sink mah teeth into it! ...Why're ya hidin' in yer hair? It's a compliment!"
While she might have counted herself blessed for getting two teasing assists like that in one day, Adagio couldn't stop herself from releasing a short, but loud series of cackles just as Magnet was getting to her. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow before glancing back and forth between her and her helictical eel (h-eel-ictical?) in perplexed silence.
Letting out what she hoped was a sufficiently cute giggle, Adagio smiled sheepishly. "It, er, reminds me of home?"
Magnet beamed. "Splendid!!"