Adagio made sure to stay ahead of Aria and Sonata as they came through the front door, if only so that they wouldn't see the relaxed smile slip off her face. Had to keep morale up, couldn't let them worry too much, but something in the silence behind her as she headed upstairs told her that they'd guessed the truth anyway.
When she closed her bedroom door and took off the outfit Fluttershy had helped her find, she sprawled out on the faintly cool bed in a moment of naked bliss. There were better reasons to flop down unclothed on a bed, but the little sense of freedom just made her feel alright, even since before the Battle. This society's standards had imbued the action with a certain illicit thrill, of course, but that was just a happy bonus. Thinking about it, she sighed.
Why does knowing I'm breaking rules of some kind make me feel more alive? Aren't I supposed to be behaving now?
Yes, which makes it even naughtier!
And all the more fun for it... Can feel my heart beating a little faster already, but that's hardly much help to me right now.
Maybe her body was working against itself. After a few years spent straining for any measure of energy she could catch, maybe part of her was opposed to losing enough that sleep becomes necessary? Or something? She wasn't sure that made any sense, but couldn't be bothered to argue with herself about it. Instead, she thought of what helped her stay awake during the day and what could be done to invert it.
'Naughty' behavior was always fun, maybe if she tried acting really prudish?
'Hmph, I have no interest at all in physical intimacy! Repression is my middle name! Hmph again!'
The thought of such an act made her smile, which wasn't a great sign for getting to sleep. She settled for just not dwelling on dirty thoughts, which was pretty easy when there was no one in the bed with her. Teasing people helped her forget her woes, and she'd already tested that school was much duller when she couldn't play to her heart's content.
Easier still; I'm all alone in here.
And then there was coffee. She could just... not drink it?
With all of that together, Adagio had everything she needed to... do exactly what she usually did when trying to get to sleep.
Uggh. Screw it, I have another idea.
Getting up, she threw on her bathrobe (as she'd agreed to stay at least relatively modest when moving about the house, as per Aria's request) and headed downstairs and into the basement. She'd been meaning to get started with this for a while now, and everything she needed to brew her own tea had just been gathering dust down here while she worked up the initiative.
Large boxes of herbs? Check.
Huge, wooden spoon? Check.
The scraps from when she'd carved the spoon would have been handy even if she hadn't meant to replenish their sawdust reserves. She didn't like her insomnia, but at least it was productive sometimes.
Big, black cauldron in which to make large quantities of tea? Check.
And the pièce de résistance; a big, pointy, wicked-witch hat Aria spitefully swiped from the theater club when they barred us from returning? Check!
She distantly wondered if Trixie ever brewed her own tea before calling Fluttershy to let her know she'd be trying relaxing herbal beverages tonight.
Lying in bed the next morning, quite awake and slightly annoyed, Adagio wondered if she shouldn't have gotten Zecora's directions in rhyme. At least the three of them had plenty to drink with dinner, with Sonata even getting the idea to throw their very first tea party! Aria agreed under the condition that she not have to wear a pretty dress, so their quick trip to the costume room ended with her dressed as a colonial British officer while Sonata and Adagio wore Southern Belle and Gypsy Dancer outfits respectively. Much fun was had, but whether it helped her 'relax' or not, Adagio didn't sleep any better than usual that night.
Wearing nothing but the colorful sash from the gypsy outfit around her waist, Adagio once again found herself spread out on her bed and staring at her painted ceiling fan. As was common for her on weekend mornings, she remained that way for about an hour after waking up, bar sitting up for a minute to answer Fluttershy's text about whether or not the tea method had worked. It was as she was weighing the merits of drawing more attention to her hips by wearing the sash all the time against offsetting the look Fluttershy had helped her put together (as well as being uncertain if the article leaned more towards 'cute' or 'sexy') that her bedroom door cracked open.
"Hey," came Aria's voice, "are you still in bed because it worked so well that you haven't gotten up yet, or it failed and you're sulking?"
Sitting up, Adagio sighed. "Second one."
"Come on in."
"That wasn't a 'yes'!"
She chuckled. "Suppose you had to stop falling for that one some time. Do you need something?"
"You pervy old-... Actually, I was thinking it was something you needed."
"Yea. Nata's out with Rarity, I think, so it's just us here for now. Wanna play some games? I've got a few lined up that might make for good stress relief."
Adagio smiled. "I'll be dressed and downstairs in a minute." It sounded like Aria was smiling too, but the effort at sounding aloof anyway still tickled her.
"Cool, I'll go set up."
"So, what's the gist of this first one, Ria?"
"Bunch'a zombies on a tropical island, we go places and kill a bunch to either fetch supplies or work machinery for NPCs that literally can't fight to save their lives. The combat is the reason I picked this one, though."
"So I see! Unfortunately, I think my oar is breaking."
"Yea, stuff falls apart quick, but there are more weapons everywhere. Plus, you can always just kick zombies away or even knock 'em down and stomp their heads flat."
"Wood and steel have a weaker constitution than a human foot?"
"Don't think about it too hard."
A fairly good time was had as the two dispatched the majority of their shambling foes by kicking them in the stomach and stomping on their heads, seldom even needing to use real weaponry.
Next, they explored the virtual aftermath of a plague of undeath simulated on a space station, with a much greater focus on dismemberment.
"You having any trouble with the monsters, Dagi? The combat's a little clunky in this one."
"Ohh, not at all. Time your swings, knock them down, stomp all their limbs off. Fun!"
"Yea, that's-... Wait, have you even used your gun yet?"
"Oh, is that what this thing is?"
"Holy crap, Dagi..."
"What? I thought it was some kind of tool. The main characters are engineers and we're supposedly here to fix the ship in the first place!"
"Well, we kinda do that too, but the various 'tools' are just excuses for different kinds of guns."
"Oh. So I should be...?"
"Unlawful use of heavy equipment."
"Well, when in space..."
Adagio still made a point of stomping the limbs off of every dead body they encountered, especially when it was completely unnecessary. That most of them dispensed items and money in the process only encouraged her.
When the gratuitous guts and gore grew grating, Adagio mentioned the game she'd played with Sonata to relieve frustration. They played with all volatile item settings at maximum of course.
"You're much more skillful in dodging the bombs than Sonata was." She didn't need to turn her head to see Aria's proud smirk.
"I did say I was way better than her at this."
"Yet you've still never beaten the Adventure Mode."
"I-It's that stupid racetrack level!!"
"Hehe! Whatever you say."
Issues of unfair rocket-car timing dropped, they learned that it was possible to run, jump, and drop off ledges to avoid the bombs long enough to let them take care of the less dexterous AI opponents, and won a few rounds without throwing a punch.
On the topic of old favorites, they eventually popped in the game in which Aria had explained telekinetic garbage-truck rampages to Rainbow 'Doomprism' Dash. After a few giggly minutes of playing catch with a double-decker bus (it blew up when Aria tried to ricochet it off of a building), they started experimenting with the game's selection of melee weapons.
"I was kinda disappointed that there wasn't a chainsaw, but if you upgrade the nail-bat all the way, you can turn everyone you hit into clouds of gore for pretty much the same effect."
"Only because you answered that one without blushing or stammering am I going to believe you, Ria."
"Uh... thanks. I guess. Havin' fun with the laser sword?"
"I know it's not as visceral as the nail-bat, but I do enjoy vaporizing things."
"Surprised you didn't go with the tentacle-bat."
"I think that says more about you than me."
"Stammer! You're a baaaad girl!"
"N-no, I, I meant, it, I was-"
Giggling gleefully, Adagio got up to hug her. "Just kidding, Ria."
Lightly squirming for a moment, Aria eventually donned a wry grin before gingerly hugging back. "Yea, yea."
"Really, I'm not judging, no matter what you're into, no matter how depraved your-"
Her eyes widening, Adagio backed away with a sheepish smile. "Right, doing it again. Sorry."
Aria chuckled. "Hope you're careful with Squeaky, or you'll break her before you two even get near a bed."
Adagio smirked, drawing a hand to her chin. "Ohh, I think she'll-" She stopped, reconsidered what she was about to say, and smiled normally. "I mean, good advice, thank you."
Aria stared in surprise, then stood up and clapped. Adagio humored her by bowing and pretending to wave to an audience. When they got back to the game, Adagio was delighted to learn of the super-powered stomp attack, which could be used to clear whole city blocks.
Next up was another zombie game, but set in a mall/casino hybrid thing.
"Oh dear, there are quite a few of them in this one!"
"Heh. Don't worry, Dagi, these are the slow, shambling kind, barely even a threat on their own."
"Then how did the outbreak start?"
"Most of them are going down in one swing, so how did they build up their numbers when they die so easily?"
"And come to think of it, if the zombies spread their infection by trying to eat things, shouldn't most of them be shredded, tattered husks of human beings, barely able to move for sheer damage to the muscles and nervous system? If they tear their victims apart, then the only ones that should be in any condition to reanimate are, in theory, those that get bitten once, escape further biting, and then turn later, right?"
"...I'm going with 'don't think too hard about it' again."
"Mm, works for me. At least dispatching them by the dozen is fun!"
"That's pretty much the name of the game. The zombies aren't a looming threat or a real enemy so much as bitey obstacles to tear through. Pretty much just gory stress-relief."
"Ooh, there's even a stomp attack!"
"Yea, but the real draw to this game is going nuts and throwing stuff. Everything you can pick up is a weapon, and items are everywhere. And if you find a workbench, you can-... Dagi?"
"Stompy, stompy, stompy," she quietly sing-songed, "stompstompstompstompstomp! Heeheehehehe! Look, you can even crush their torsos when all the limbs come off!"
"...Let it all out, Dagi. This is what we're here for."
By the end of it, Adagio really did feel a little better, tenderly hugging Aria in thanks. Her dignity not in any immediate danger, Aria hugged back. Adagio headed upstairs to see if digital gore-fests helped her sleep, but an hour later, this hope was thoroughly crushed. Not unlike many virtual enemies under her heel, actually.
Not that we didn't have legs before, albeit of very different make, but these new ones really have grown on me.
A little more-so since she started working out, in fact. With the muscle she'd gained in the last so many months, she might have really been able to reenact her favorite attack if given an acceptable target! Or just let a particular admirer caress her curves to her heart's content, either was fine.
That's provided that she isn't afraid to touch me, which may yet take a while. Am I doing something wrong? Is she afraid of me? Not like she doesn't have a reason, but I only threatened to spank her (which I kind of thought she'd take advantage of) if she apologized for giving in to her urges! I don't want to pressure her, but it's not like she's going to hold me down against my will, and I don't care if she's supposed to be a hero, there's a difference between showing restraint and being repressed!
And then she felt like stomping on something. Instead, she called Fluttershy to ask about what her friends came up with and decided on giving spa treatment a try. It was only around two in the afternoon, so they had to be open, right? Fluttershy offered to get a full time-table from Rarity, but confirmation that she wouldn't be heading out for nothing was enough.
They spent the next ten minutes talking about whether or not Adagio should show up in a bathrobe and how whether it would project confidence in the masseuses' abilities or not, she should probably wear something more substantial on the way there.
Later that day, Adagio closed her bedroom door with a sigh.
Of course a boy from CHS worked there. Of course he told the rest about me. Of course the entire staff was scared to lay a finger on the 'big, scary,' teenage girl.
That did explain why she was in the waiting room for so long, but she thought that was just part of the experience. She didn't fall asleep, but the chairs were soft (though less so than Magnet's half-couch thing, which itself was only slightly less comfortable than her own bed) and the quiet music they played there was vaguely soothing, so she tried to make the best of it until someone mustered the will to give their only remaining customer a massage. On her best behavior, Adagio stripped off her clothes, laid down, and didn't make any strange noises no matter where she was touched...
They kept telling her to relax, to loosen up and let herself 'decompress' or something, and despite what the situation reminded her of, she tried to adhere to their suggestions without comment until it was time to explain that those were appreciative noises! Honestly, how could they work in that profession and not know they were making people feel good? They eventually managed to do their jobs with much less fuss, but one would think they were expecting her to grow massive talons and tear their lungs out. Or just stomp on their heads.
Regardless, she left the spa feeling... better. She even took a cab home to ensure she wouldn't walk off the effects of the massage, decided against asking Aria or Sonata to carry her upstairs, went straight to her room, briefly reflected on her excursion, and stood there feeling like a bit of a dope for still being on her feet.
Stripping! That was the thing she was supposed to do when she got back here!
Clothes off, she laid down and got comfortable.
So veeeery comfortable.
She kept her phone within reach just so she wouldn't have to get up if someone called.
It was a little early to be going to sleep for a normal person, but what was that saying by the fat man with the kite and the tiny glasses? Inkwell seemed to like him. She thought about possible romances for her and other school staff before thinking about random students, among other things, until the sun went down, but eventually she had to face the fact that she was still lying awake. It wasn't so bad, though, because even if she had no intention of returning to that spa any time soon, at least she could lie here and be very, very comf-
She sat up, wide awake.
Wait, did I make anything for Aria and Sonata? Are they expecting me to? And, have I eaten anything recently?
She'd grown to enjoy cooking, so making dinner every night for the last few weeks was something she'd been more than happy to do, but wasn't sure if the others had just gotten take-out like the three of them used to. Getting up, she headed downstairs to investigate!
The next morning, Adagio felt a little silly. Everything was fine, Aria and Sonata had ordered pizza, which was something Adagio hadn't adequately learned to make anyway, and the three of them ate heartily. A little later, Adagio had gone back to bed, with the usual result. There wasn't much to do on a Sunday, so she opted to just work out for a while, have a shower, microwave the rest of the pizza, and watch Sonata play the sequel to that JRPG in which poor Wavus didn't make it.
Monday morning, Fluttershy sat next to a less-than-enthusiastic Adagio. "So, the sound videos didn't help either?"
Leaning back on the bench, Adagio shook her head. "I tried listening to oceanic, forest, rainforest, and just plain rain noises on my phone last night, and while I suppose they weren't unpleasant, I was still awake well into the night."
Fluttersigh. "I'm sorry, I guess it's not a matter of being able to relax, but something else." Luckily, she'd come up with a few more ideas over that weekend. "Do you have a teddy bear? Something small and cute to hold while trying to sleep?"
This drew a smirk and a raised eyebrow. "Just what are you volunteering for, Sweetie?"
"EEP!! I-I, I meant, t-t-, uhm, l-like, t-teddy bears! Stuffed animals! They've helped me s-since I was little!"
"Ah," she replied, her predatory look quickly fading, "no, I don't think we have anything along those lines at home. Can't be hard to find one, I'm sure. Any suggestions from the connoisseur?"
"Actually, I was thinking I could just give you one of mine!" Smiling, she reached into her bookbag and was startled to feel something move. "What's-?! Angel?"
The rabbit, Angelius McMillan Bunniceus, boldy hopped from his hiding place and was immediately graced with the light of not only His Queen, but that of The Great Fluff! He would not err this time, he would make his allegiance clear to the very heavens!
Adagio giggled as Angel hopped to her lap, then her shoulder to nuzzle her face. "Y-yes, yes, I remember you."
Observing this, Fluttershy was conflicted. Part of her wanted to remind Angel that she was over here, but thinking about what she might do if she were a cuddly little bunny, she could hardly begrudge him. Refusing to let herself be jealous of her fuzzy pet, she watched as he licked Adagio's cheek, rubbed his face against hers, and buried his little nose in her neck, all drawing delighted giggles and a warm blush. Thinking back to the squirrel, she dared dream of what she might do if she were tiny. She thought of the closeness, of her entire body pressed against Adagio's, safe and warm under her clothes, of delivering fully-body hugs to every inch of-
She snapped to attention, startled to see Adagio wearing a tight, purple bunny outfit with white rabbit ears! Then she blinked, seeing Adagio back in the outfit she'd been wearing to school for the past week with Angel curled up on her head. Not even able to feel her face, Fluttershy sputtered quietly until Adagio smirked, gently put a hand on her shoulder, and said "Deeeep breaths."
Fluttershy did what she was asked, though not hearing a certain word, Adagio had no qualms about poking her a little more. "So, does my company alone fog up your mind, or have you just really missed me?"
Smiling sheepishly, Fluttershy answered honestly. "A little of both."
Adagio blinked, then giggled, blushed, and turned her head away, idly twirling a lock of hair around a finger.
Fluttershy might not have been seeing the inquisitive face very much these days, but the bashful look was a very acceptable trade! She liked that expression so much that she reached out, cupped Adagio's face with both hands, and pulled her in for a kiss!
Standing atop The Great Fluff as she and The Queen inspected one another's mouths, Angel wondered if there would be nibbles soon.
The two talked for a while about the prospect of the sirens getting their own pet(s), but Adagio wasn't sure they'd want to worry about a little animal every day, or risk becoming crazy cat ladies if they decided they liked their pet (and all that unconditional love) better than trying to make human friends. That, and she didn't want to see Sonata's face the day a beloved pet proved it couldn't live as long as they did. She'd considered the merits of getting a turtle, but they probably wouldn't be much fun.
Fluttershy promised to bring a stuffed animal from her own collection tomorrow and the two shared another quick kiss before the day began.
Sitting at the lunch table, Sonata frowned. She knew what the answer was going to be, but had to ask. "So, anybody forgot about your little snooze yet?"
Adagio sighed. "The only ones treating me the same as they did before are Flash Sentry, and the people who stayed away from me anyway." Glancing around, she kept her voice very, very low. "And, well, you know."
"What about Sunset?"
"The same, but with an added layer of 'Oh, you poor little thing' in her eyes." Adagio had forced herself to remember that no matter what, Sunset's heart was in the right place with those sentiments, even if they were of no more use to her than any of the many failed methods of finding sleep.
"I hate these people," said Aria with a disdainful head-shake, "I really do. No real menace, no real threat, and they'd be calling the freakin' City Watch on anything that spooks them a little. Bunch'a jellyfish."
Sonata frowned. "Well, we did kinda almost mess up their whole world, even without the twitchy thing."
"Sunset did that too! I've heard people talk about how she used to fall asleep in class for a while!"
"And they gave her Hell for it," said Adagio, "at least until we came along to give them new hate fig-YEEEK!"
She jumped in her seat, quickly looking down and angling her head to see under the table.
"What," Aria asked in alarm, "what happened?"
Still looking around, Adagio answered somewhat sheepishly. "Uh... nothing, I guess, just... s-something touched my leg..."
Aria and Sonata took a moment to look under the table, but didn't find anything out of the ordinary. The latter shrugged.
Lying on her bed, Fluttershy held Adagio's latest picture over her head, her heart equally full of warmth and terror. On one hand, Fluttershy had found the picture behind the doggie treats at the animal shelter, which neatly demonstrated that nowhere was safe. On the other, she still hadn't stopped smiling after reading the pink cursive on the back.
I hold you close to my heart... Along with these!
The image this time was a close-up of Adagio's chest, bare for all but one arm and some strategically-placed fingers to keep it PG-13. The same could not be said for Fluttershy's imagination, but the first part of the sentiment just made her feel all fuzzy!
Speaking of fuzzy, she thought, angling her head to look at the pile of stuffed animals, which one of you would she like best...?
Pinkie's 'read boring stuff until sleepy' approach had not worked, but Adagio had plenty to say about exactly why the sky was blue, the production process of tires, and the political workings of a Colonial-era Great Britain. On the topic of history, Fluttershy brought up how Twilight had mentioned finding information on the sirens in a history book. When Adagio asked how far back it was dated, Fluttershy had to text Sunset to confirm that it was roughly a thousand years in Equestria. Adagio shrugged, noted that it wasn't like the three of them had anything to go back to anyway, and that was that.
Then they had peanut butter cups, which led to Fluttershy's second offering.
"Is this... an octopus?"
"I... see..." Adagio held the felt cephalopod in front of her, giggling a little at the cutesy, though anatomically-incorrect placement of its eyes. "Does he have a name?"
"It's up to you." She made only a tiny squee at the return of the inquisitive face, then launched into her explanation. "It's a bit of a psychological crutch. Naming something yourself helps make it feel like it's yours, which gives it a sense of attachment right away, and for cuddly closeness and warding off nightmares, that's a good thing to have in a stuffed animal."
"Mmhm... Well, in that case, I think I'd like to know what you called him." Blink. "Or her."
There was a little shrug as she brushed the back of the octopus's soft little head, letting it come to rest on her lap. "You aren't going to convince me that you're not better at being comforting than I am, Sweetie, and as this is a gift from you, there's a pretty strong connection already, isn't there?" She stole a glance to find Fluttershy wearing a demure blush and a dopey grin, which she met with a smile of her own. Reaching out, one hand delicately cupped Fluttershy's cheek as she leaned in for a kiss. It would be a very, very, very long time before she tired of the little noises Fluttershy made whenever they did this, but she still contained the contact to a few seconds.
Too few, judging by Fluttershy's reaction, which was to latch onto her and pull her in for another, much more aggressive kiss, which escalated to Adagio being pushed onto her back with a tongue halfway down her throat, Fluttershy's hand firmly on her thigh, and... something pressing between her legs! It was soft, but difficult to discern through her skirt. She was definitely blushing by the time Fluttershy stopped for air, and spoke between ragged gasps.
"S-Sweetie... are you...?"
Propping herself up with her hands pressed through Adagio's hair to the bench on both sides of the trapped siren's body, Fluttershy looked down at her with a combination of adoration and a face that said she wasn't all there at the moment, which Adagio was going to start calling her daydream stare.
"Hm?" She noticed Adagio looking downward, which Fluttershy followed. What she noticed made her feel like a monster for a short list of reasons. Her fervor rapidly fading, she backed away from Adagio to release the felt octopus she'd been accidentally crushing against Adagio's crotch by kneeing him in the face, picking him up and whispering apologies for getting him involved with something so... steamy!
Sitting up, Adagio chuckled. "I really hope you're apologizing to the stuffed animal, Sweetie, because that was..." Giggling through her blush, she wore a look blended with her usual, teasing smile and some kind of admiration. "Not bad at all. For a second there, I thought you were really going to... you know, take me, right out in the open."
Covering the octopus's non-existent ears, Fluttershy answered with only a sheepish smile as she burned like molten iron, because she wasn't exactly sure what she was going to do herself. A few quiet moments passed as the two cooled down, with Adagio being the first to find her voice again.
"So, like I was saying, what's his name?"
"Uhm..." She presented him timidly, unable to stop thinking about where he'd been only minutes before. "I call him Mr. Cups."
Adagio took Mr. Cups in both hands, smiling again as she held him in front of her. "Hello, Mr. Cups," she said with a wink, "I'll be welcoming you to my bed tonight." The soothing sounds of Fluttershy sputtering beside her drew a pleased smirk as she used her thumb and index finger to make Mr. Cups nod affirmatively. When it sounded like Fluttershy was in control of her breathing again, she turned to her with an earnest grin. "Thank you. I promise I'll take care of him, whether he helps me sleep or not."
Fluttershy smiled back. "I would appreciate that. He's a very good octopus." The two giggled together, though Fluttershy was a little surprised at how Adagio had been presented a gift with tentacles and not made a single joke on the subject. And then she was surprised to see Adagio store that same gift in her hair. "Um... Do you-"
Preempting the question, Adagio dismissively waved a hand. "I saw Pinkie Pie do it and, you know me, always trying new things, so... Yes, I'm also storing pencils, a nail-file, and some make-up supplies in there." They stared at one another in awkward silence. "...Do you need a touch-up, or-"
"Uh, n-no, but thank you."
"Any time." Adagio stood and turned to walk away. "Be seeing you, Sweetie."
Hopping to her feet, Fluttershy called out as if Adagio were already nearly out of ear-shot. "I love you!!"
Adagio stopped, looked over her shoulder, and smiled tenderly, a warm blush clear on her cheeks. "Love you too, Sweetie."
When Adagio had gone, Fluttershy again waited alone with her thoughts. The first was that if not for fear of being seen together, she'd definitely be spending every minute with Adagio in the mornings, right up until the bell rang! But, that would probably cause a lot of trouble. Her mind wandered as she thought of Mr. Cups, how she'd see him again the next time she found herself in Adagio's bedroom... for whatever reason... And, in the same vein, it was possible that someday, she'd bring Adagio to her room. The one with all those stuffed animals on the bed.
The thought brought her a new, and perhaps irrational, kind of shame.