• Published 3rd Mar 2015
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Sucker for a Cute Face - Eyeswirl the Weirded



Adagio finds Fluttershy alone one morning, and many to follow.

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Chapter 39: Fun and Name-Games

Following an extended group-hug (VERY huggy, and tearful, and embarrassing, Fluttershy supervised), control of their emotions gradually drifted back in. Aria and Sonata somewhat sheepishly moved back to their chairs as Adagio gently held Fluttershy on her lap, almost as though she were afraid someone would try to take her away. Self-conscious though it might have made her feel, especially in front of witnesses, Fluttershy did not protest.

"Wow," muttered Sonata while steadying her breath, "that was like... cleansing, or something! Is that gonna be a regular thing when we have more friends?"

It took Fluttershy a second to realize that she was the senior... friendship... person... in the room, so she answered as best she could. "W-well, it's not exactly an everyday part of life, o-or every week, or even every month, but uhm..." She shrugged a little. "It does kinda happen, when it needs to."

Her arms crossed, Aria shrunk down in her seat a little, a hint apprehension in her face. "Does it have to be in front of, y'know, other people? This might come as a shock, but I'm not exactly... good with people."

Tilting her head a little, Fluttershy frowned. "What do you mean?" She could guess, of course, but she wouldn't have bet on any of the sirens, who had no trouble shaking their hips in public, having the same problems she did.

Aria shuffled a little, unable to sink down or cross her arms any further. "L-like, I mean..." She looked to her two oldest friends, almost hoping they'd make fun of her somehow so she wouldn't have to say it herself. Each of them just gave her warm, patient, judgement-free looks.

Dammit.

She sighed, looking Fluttershy in the eye. "Look, up to now, I've been keeping to myself to stay out of trouble, but like, that's not the only reason, y'know?" The look on Fluttershy's face said 'No, I don't know, please embarrass yourself by telling me.' Not in those words, maybe, but Aria knew there was no point in stalling now. "You might not hear a lot of people talk about it, but I actually did try making friends by myself when we came back, and it was always a disaster." She blushed. "Even when people weren't scared of me, I'd get all self-conscious and babble like an idiot. I even asked Photo Finish if she worked at the racetracks!"

Fluttershy blinked twice. Aria vaguely gestured with her hands in response. "Y'know, because, it's the racetracks, the horses go really fast and sometimes it's a little hard to tell who's in first, so like, they get a camera for, uh, photo-finishing... it?" The following silence was almost painful, but Adagio stepped in to save her. Kind of.

"Was that an adequate demonstration, Sweetie?" The answer came with a smile and one of those endearing little giggles.

"I-I think so, yes." Experienced with friendship and awkwardness, Fluttershy offered her best advice to her fellow babbler. "It might be a little scary at first, but when you get to know someone a little better, talking to them gets a lot easier." Realizing how that might sound condescending, she raised her hands defensively. "Oh, b-but, uh, y-you might have already known that, because you already know Adagio and Sonata, and you talk to them all the t-err, I mean, I would think you do, b-because, and, uhm-" She was cut off by Sonata's sudden gigglefits.

"Man, good thing you nabbed her first, huh Dagi?"

Chuckling, Adagio gently brushed a hand along Fluttershy's back. "Indeed." Adagio kissed her on the cheek before she could ask, Fluttershy's thoughts reduced to fidgety, happy-embarrassed muttering.

"So, anyway," Aria picked up with an almost apologetic little grin, "Doom came to me that one time at school, but other than that? I kinda hung back and hoped those two-" she indicated Sonata and Adagio "-would figure out the whole 'friendship' thing for me. Mission accomplished?"

Sonata blushed, averting her eyes while absent-mindedly scratching the underside of her jawline. "Well, Dagi and I might'a figured out something else first..."

Fluttershy squeaked, drawing a giggle from Adagio. "Ohh, don't be silly, Nata," she smirked while delicately brushing her fingertips along Fluttershy's spine, "we already knew all about that!" The shivers from the blushing girl on her lap just made her all warm inside! Aria turning rosy too was a delightful bonus.

"Yeesh, get a room!"

"I look forward to the day you hit puberty, Ria."

"Wha-?! I'm, I already-" Her friends giggling at her drew an angry pout, but it quickly transitioned to a wry little grin. When the laughter died down, she picked up a controller again. "So, Squeaky, I know I asked already, but you sure you don't wanna play with us? We do have some stuff that's actually less violent than the Vietnam war."

Almost without thinking about it, Fluttershy turned to look at Adagio as if seeking confirmation or approval, and got a little nod back. She looked back and forth at Aria and Sonata, both of whom were making faces a bit like Rainbow when she asked if she would come cheer for her at a sporting event, or Rarity when she was hoping Fluttershy would try on a design she made. It always tickled her a little when someone wanted her to be part of something important to them, drawing a slightly self-conscious grin.

"O-okay!"

She was startled by a sudden, relatively loud "Hurray!" from Sonata as she leapt out of her seat to switch discs in the right machine. As the loading screens ticked by, Aria handed Fluttershy a controller of her own.

"We'll have to get you a screen-name first, what do you wanna be called?"

"Uhm... F-Fluttershy?"

Adagio snorted, quietly giggling as she patted Fluttershy's head. "An online alias, Sweetie."

"Oh, right!" She hadn't really understood what Rainbow meant when she asked her to come up with a screen-name all those years ago, and if she'd known at the time that it would be seen by potentially thousands of people, she'd have probably put more thought into it than 'DoomPrism.' Awareness that it was practically a secret identity helped cushion the blow, but she still wasn't sure what to call herself now. "D-do, um, do you have any suggestions?"

Sonata rapidly shook her head. "You've gotta pick your own name, Dr. Seu-... Um..." She smiled very, very sheepishly. "Haha, n-nevermind... Do you mind if I keep calling you Dr. Seuss?"

She smiled. "Not at all." It kind of fit because she was at least reasonably talented in writing rhymes for the songs she wrote. Like the one that destroyed the Dazzlings' voices. The one that left them broken and miserable until Sunset found them. The one that-

"-eetie? Are you alright?"

Fluttershy snapped to attention, seeing Adagio's slightly worried face inches from her own. This was far too happy a day to dwell on something like that, so she banished the thought to the dark woods in the back of her mind. "S-sorry, I was just thinking of, um-" Idea! "w-what do you guys use for screen-names?"

"I go with 'RuleBook,'" answered Aria, "Nata is FriendlyFire, and Dagi switches her name all the time."

"Oh?" She looked at Adagio to see a mischievous grin. Her fluffy, trickster goddess started to giggle as Aria listed off names.

"Yea. I think it went Touch_Me, PillowTalk, -she made a lotta suggestive comments during that deathmatch- Harder_Please!, Alpha_Q, -don't say it fast-" Sonata was giggling too now, "If_U_Seek_Amy, -don't say it slow- The_Safe_Word_Is_Thank_You, and, w-well..." Aria turned pink. "Let's just say the first part of it was 'Mike' and leave it at that."

Adagio cackled as Fluttershy tried to decide whether she wanted to work out what half of those names meant right this minute. "Don't worry, Sweetie, I don't always go with something naughty."

"Yea," Sonata concurred, "just like 98% of the time!" She smiled wider when Adagio playfully stuck her tongue out at her. "Real-talk, though, the one you've got now is pretty innocent. Why would you pick 'MagnificentPeach' for a name, anyway?"

This one worked itself out in Fluttershy's head almost instantly, bringing up memories of Thursday's Art class. Certain now that Adagio had heard every word about her painting that day, in addition to the awareness that thousands of people might see that name, Fluttershy flushed painfully hot as her jaw fell open and Adagio again cackled in triumph.

Snickering, Aria shook her head. "So it was delayed dirtiness. You always played the long game, Dagi."

The fluffy mastermind wore a proud smirk. "I try." Granted, she didn't know Fluttershy would ever see it, but sometimes things worked out quite nicely on their own.

When Fluttershy had cooled down and Aria was configuring the game settings for a first-timer, Sonata smiled. "So, what're you gonna be, Dr. Seuss?"

"Yea," added Aria, "what'll it be, Squeaky?"

She again looked at Adagio, but this time there was just an encouraging little smile. "Anything you like, Sweetie." She sealed the statement with a quick kiss to Fluttershy's forehead.

That peck must have gone straight to her brain, because Fluttershy instantly knew what she wanted to call herself. She'd be lying if she said there was no bias in which of her three Dazzling-bestowed nicknames was her favorite, but if this was the name she was going to use when playing with them, she knew just the right one. She smiled.

"Can you make me 'Dr_SweetSqueak'?"

A trio of giggles delivered through warm, sincere grins faintly reminded her of the first time she saw Adagio genuinely smile.

---

Adagio didn't join the game, deciding that she was quite content to hold Fluttershy instead of a controller at the time. The first game was about teams of cartoon worms blowing each other up with bouncy grenades, haphazardly-aimed bazookas, and a bunch of other exploding stuff. It was violent, certainly, but just cartoon violence, the kind Fluttershy had come to grips with a long time ago.

Seventh grade was plenty long ago, thank you very much!

More importantly, it was all imaginary anyway, so she didn't even let the exploding sheepies (the very cute exploding sheepies that even went 'Baaa!' before detonation) bother her. Not a lot, anyway. That she was sitting on Adagio's lap may have helped.

"You getting the controls yet, Squeaky?"

"I think so, yes. These little worms are so cute!"

"Where are you going with that one? The other team is on the other side of the map."

"Oh, I know, I just like watching these characters inch across the landscape."

"Better still, going that far from the central battlefield means they have to either pull off some very difficult shots, or run down the timer to follow you."

"Huh?"

"Ooh, she's right! Ria, get to high ground with me on your turn!"

"Nah, I'll shoot 'em in the back while they're following her, only one of us needs to survive for our team to win the match."

"What's going on?"

"Don't worry about it, just see if you can nab some of those crates over there."

"Ooh, even the boxes are all cute and bouncy!"

"Hehe. Yes, Sweetie, just focus on the bouncy boxes."

"Wait, why is the water level rising?"

Fluttershy's love of watching cartoony worms make their way over the destructible terrain led her worm and most of the enemy team to a watery grave when the sudden-death timer ran out and the map began to flood. Sonata's carelessness with a grenade quickly cost her the high ground, but Aria's bazooka-sniping perch left her as the last one standing. Any sense of the death toll was lost on Fluttershy when she beheld the animations of a cartoon-worm victory dance.

---

When Fluttershy was warmed up to the mechanics of the game, they decided to play an online match, where Aria and Sonata spoke with their 'disguise' accents, despite Adagio's subtle pleas not to. They stayed in-character while explaining it to Fluttershy.

"Eet iz very sim-pull, Dahktah Sooz," Sonata said while possibly offending Photo Finish's ancestry, "we speek in dis way to hide ourselves fwom de worlt!"

"Why?"

Aria shrugged. "It begahn when Ah first stahted playeeng with Rainbow Dahsh, ami, Ah used zis voice in cahs one of her friends happahned to ovahheer me ahn ze microphone. Zen Nata 'erd an' joined in, an' ze two of us got Dagee to do it as well."

Just as Adagio feared, Fluttershy turned to her with wide, curious eyes. "Really?"

"Er, w-well..." She felt herself blush, glancing at Aria and Sonata in the vain hope that they might get her out of embarrassing herself in front of Fluttershy. As anticpated, they wore only amused grins, with Sonata showing particular enthusiasm.

"Do eet, Da-Jee, we arr not kom-pleet wit-out you!"

"Oui, show 'er your impres-shahn!"

Fluttershy didn't say anything one way or the other, but her eyes might as well have beamed the 'Pleeeeeeeease?' straight into Adagio's fluffy head. She sighed in defeat. "Alright, alright..." It tickled her a little how Fluttershy perked up when she cleared her throat.

"Vell," she asked in her Imitation Russian voice, "vaht do you vant to hear? I von't be joinink in zis match, so eet makes leettle difference how I speek." It was with a hint of anxiety that she watched the girl on her lap go wide-eyed and cover her mouth with both hands, though Adagio could tell by the position of her cheeks that she was smiling. "Sveetie? Everythink alright?"

Fluttershy moved her hands to cover most of her face, though that which was visible flushed red as she giggled. She loved Adagio's voice as it was, but a Russian (or was it 'Slavic'? Somewhere in Eastern Europe, she was sure) accent just felt right for her somehow.

Will she use that voice on the bench tomorrow? Would she tease me with it? Would I have to ask?

...Do I want to?

Peeking through her fingers let her see a smirk that said this uncertain wish was about to come true.

"Sveetie? Somethink you vant to tell us?" Adagio gently seized her prey by both arms, fingertips delicately brushing over her skin. Fluttershy shivered, but quickly shook her head in denial. Adagio's grin only grew more vicious. "No matter, I have vays ov making you talk..."

For the next minute, Adagio rapidly alternated between light (though chaste) caresses and aggressive tickles, her trapped victim going back and forth between shudders and loud, uncontrollable laughter. Sonata giggled merrily at the sight, trying to decide whether or not recording it on her phone would be going too far. While part of Aria was annoyed that Adagio apparently just got over one of the few things they could fluster her with (something about fake accents making her feel silly, which Aria determined to be plain crazy-talk), the rest of her was just glad not to be the one getting tormented this time.

The tickle target gasped for breath. "St-st-sto-hah-heeheehee! Ple-hee-eese, sto-ho-hop!!"

Snickering, Comrade Adagio relented, even if she didn't quite hear a 'squirrel' in there. "To be conteenued."

When Fluttershy had caught her breath, Fraulein Sonata smiled. "So, 'ow uhbout yoo, Dahktah Sooz?"

"H-huh?"

Offering Fluttershy a headset of her own, Mademoiselle Aria chuckled. "Ah zink she wahnts you to peek one of your own, ami, a voice to play weeth?"

"Oh!" Feeling just a little put on the spot, her mind stumbled for a moment. Then she remembered Rarity, and smiled. "Well," she said in her best impression of a posh, British accent, "I do believe I could emulate a vernacular from across the pond, if it pleases you. Would that be permissible, do you think?"

There was a loud second of silence, then all three sirens burst into gigglefits, Sonata's easily the loudest even without her fervent clapping. It made her a little self-concious to perform like that, but Fluttershy still smiled, doubly so when Adagio leaned in to whisper in her ear.

"Velcome aboard, Sveetie."

While Adagio's breath on her ear sent a tingly blush creeping up her neck, keeping her mouth shut kept her from making it worse. There'd be time later to work out exactly what she meant by 'Velcome aboard,' but for now, Fluttershy basked in the warm feeling of inclusion.

And then they shot cartoony rockets at stuff.

---

After a few online victories earned through strategic use of the sudden-death flash-flood, the four of them moved on to an eastern RPG. The sirens were most of the way through this one already, so Fluttershy asked them to explain the plot. To her surprise, Aria was having more trouble than she was.

"But if he's from the future, how did the space-whale attack in the first place?"

"He wasn't from the future, the ruined city in this world is the desolate remains of that very attack a thousand years ago!"

"Ahh, memories."

"Heeheehee!"
"Haha, yea."

"Wait, if the city was actually in the past, why is almost everything so low-tech during the events of the story?"

"Back in Equestria, they didn't have most of the technology you have here. Here in this world, they didn't have periodic attacks by powerful forces of evil until Sunset Shimmer arrived. Getting your world ravaged by big monsters on a regular basis slows R&D down a little bit, Sweetie."

"I guess so."

"Plus, y'know, the church telling everybody that techno-crud is what makes the space whale mad. That they still have those machines, like in the basement of the biggest temple, proves that it all existed already, that they've been using it ever since that city was destroyed!"

"I thought it was the punk-rock lookin' heretic guys that built it all?"

"It was the church guys that told us that, Ria, and they're the bad guys in this game!"

"Okay, okay, just answer me this; if this guy Wavus is just a 'Dream of the Optymysm,' why can everyone touch him?"

"He's a dream in the same sense that the summoned monsters are."

"The ones made of dead people?"

"Their spirit energy, perhaps."

"The same ones that turn into monsters out in the wild?"

"The difference is a sacrificial ritual, they explained this earlier."

"And, what we're trying to do to kill the space whale, that's gonna get rid of all of them too?"

"Pretty much! It's the only way to make sure the whale doesn't come back when we kill it."

"But, w-wait, if everything the Optymysm summon will go away once the space whale is gone for good, and Wavus is 'summoned' too, d-doesn't that mean...?"

"And that's why he hasn't told the girl yet."

"Oh... oh, this game is so sad..."

"Eh, I hear the sequel has a happier ending."

---

Fluttershy got to watch the spectacular final boss-fight and ensuing bittersweet ending. She kind of wanted to ask if she could come over again just to see that happier ending in the next game, but the thought of regularly coming over to the sirens' house made her mind wander. It came back to her when the main menu to a cartoonier, more cheerful game appeared onscreen. The sirens had apparently noticed her expression from moments before, explaining that a light-hearted game about defending your house from zombies with a magic garden would probably take her mind off of the tragic parting in the RPG.

It worked swimmingly.

"Eeee! All of these plants are adorable! Even the zombies are kind of cute!"

"My favorite's the walnuts!"

"The ones that die slow and painful when you use them as shields?"

"Aria!"

"What? It's how the game goes."

"War is full of sacrifices, and if not for those willing to give their lives, the rest might not see another day."

"..."
"..."

"...You took that better than I'd have anticipated, Sweetie."

"Heh, t-thanks. I mean, I guess it's k-kind of like-"

"Like when Wavus died in the other game?"

"SONATA!"
"Oh, poor Wavus!!"
"Aaand there it is."

It had worked swimmingly.

---

After a few rounds of defending the homestead with sunshine and vegetables, Aria suggested a game with a similar concept; defending a portal from waves and waves of goblins, but with medieval traps instead of a magical green thumb. As the sirens knew that this was a much more violent game, Aria signaled Adagio to distract Fluttershy so she could go into the options menu and disable the gore. Adagio obliged with glee.

"Hm... Sweetie, I just thought of a way we can play as a team."

"Huh?"

"I'll use you as my controller."

"What d-EEK!"

"Weird place for a start button..."

"I-I don't think that-Ooh-hoo-hoo!"

"Shoulder-triggers, good..."

"Pl-please st-Yipe!!"

"Ooh, I think found the analog sticks!"

"ADAGIO!!"

"Heeheehee! Sorry, Sweetie, suppose I'll need to... refine the technique before we can use it."

She took Fluttershy glowing red to mean the distraction was successful. That or Fluttershy's battery was running low. Cordless controllers were kind of a pain like that. Either way, she glanced at Aria, whose smile said they were ready to go, and Sonata, who set down the notepad she'd been writing on to begin the game.

"Remember, Squeaky," Aria said with a hint of a smirk, "on the other side of that portal are all the flowers and bunnies and innocent, rosy-cheeked orphans in the idyllic little village. You know what happens if too many goblins get through?"

"R-right..."

---

"Wow... New high score. I don't think anything even got near the portal!"

"No kidding, I barely got to shoot anything. What'd you do, Squeaky?"

"Huh?"

"We let you handle the traps while we defended the gateway with brute force. Just what did you set up?"

"Oh, um, w-well, it was nothing much, I just-"

"We've got some time until the next round, let's just go out and... Wow, that's a lot of springy-pads!"

"They didn't cost much to build, so when I got more points at the end of each round, I-"

"There's a network of these things!"

"I'm following it."

"Oh, it just leads to the water over by the eastern ledge. I felt bad for the poor goblins, and if the scarecrows I put up didn't convince them to leave, I thought the bouncy-boards would eventually take them to the harmless water."

"Does she know those 'scarecrows' are bombs? Or that goblins can't swim?"

"Shh."

"But, traps need a minute to reset after they're triggered. What, did you put all your extra points into speeding up the reset times?"

"...Is... i-is that bad?"

"Hehehe. Not at all, well done, Sweetie."

"Yea, yea, it was fine for Easy Mode, but I still wanna rack up a bodycount too. Let's crank it up to Normal."

---

"Phew, that was a little hectic. Happy now, psycho?"

"It was still kinda weak... What'd you do this time, Squeaky?"

"Um... Th-things were fine until the hobgoblins showed up, and they were kind of mean, so-"

"Ria. Come see this."

"I-I just wanted to protect the flowers and bunnies and-"

"Wow. You've got a real decathlon of death goin' here. Why'd you put freeze-cannons way up there?"

"Oh, well, the bat-creatures (they aren't very nice either) only come once in a while, and with the cannons' long recharge time, I figured it would be okay to let them freeze the bats solid so they would shatter on their own when they hit the ground. The sharp, slippery chunks of ice over that spot are good for slowing the rest of the horde down, too, so the swinging guillotine trap at the end of that walkway is more likely to catch more of them at once. The scurrying little rat-men compensate with speed over the ice, but their small health-bars mean they don't survive the burning coals before the guillotine, so it's only the bulk of the tougher enemies that survived everything else who get their heads chopped off. Is that okay?"

"..."

"Scary."

"I'm sorry!"

"Huehuehuehuehue~!"

"Uhm... Ad-dagio?"

"Don't worry about a thing, Sweetie, you did wonderfully. In fact, I'm curious."

"C-curious?"

"Oooh, she's givin' her the smirk of death!"
"Shh!"

"Mhm. Your traps were set so deviously, I can hardly wait to see what you have in mind for me."

"Wh-what?!"

"You know, something you've always wanted to do to me, something you'd have to be sneaky to pull off."

"N-noth, there's nothing I want to do like that!"

"Ohh, come now, there must be something you've thought ab-"

"No, I mean, if there was something I wanted, I'd never be sneaky about it, I would just ask you!"

"..."

"Oooh, Dagi's blushing too!"
"This girl is a miracle-worker..."

"I, I mean, I'd want to be sure it was okay with you first, a-and I'm not as good at being sneaky anyway, s-so... Is it okay if I just ask?"

There was a genuine smile. "That's okay with me, Sweetie." And then a smirk. "So, now that we're on the subject-"

"Jeez, Dagi, didn't you say you'd be making dinner?"

"Oh, right! Are you two still interested in fried onion curls?"

"Heck yea!"

"Hehe, alright then. Sorry, Sweetie, but...?"

"Ah, uh, o-okay!" She didn't exactly scramble to get off of Adagio's lap, but she knew cooking would be tricky if she didn't move. "D-do you need any help, or-"

"I'll be fine. Stay and play a while, would you? These two get ludicrously competitive if it's just the two of them."

"Do not!"

"Yea, 'cuz I totally wipe the floor with her."

"Oh, yea? Because that's not how I remember that last round in Better Bash Brothers going!"

"Y-you got lucky!"

"Lucky I'm so much better than you!"

"You little-"

"Girls, please, we have a guest."

Fluttershy giggled as the two bickering sirens tinted pink.

"Anyway, I'll be back in a bit. Play nice now!"

Calmer now, Aria cleared her throat. "So, Squeaky, how are you with puzzles?"

"I-I'm sorry?"

"Woah, apologizing already? That's not encouraging!"

"What?"

"I probably should'a brought it up earlier, but we've got at least one game with no combat, no fighting, not even any blood in the co-op mode."

"What was that last part?"

"Nothin'. So, you interested? I already played through with Dagi and it's no fun if you already know the solutions, so Nata here hasn't had anyone to play it with."

"I never even got through the single-player part, but I'm sure we'll nail it together, Doc!"

"Okay!"

---

Fluttershy found herself controlling one of two cute robots in a high-tech testing facility, Sonata controlling the other as they worked together to solve environmental puzzles with movable blocks, obstacles, switches that did things, and rift-launching mechanisms of some sort. Aria was there to offer tips when the two got stuck.

"Okay, remember that hover-walkway thing from a few rooms ago?"

"Yes?"

"The power source is wired up in this chamber, so you can use that to charge the next walkway."

"Oh, I see! So I just..."

A rerouting of energy revealed the way forward.

"Hurray!"

"Yay~!"

Sonata started across the hover-bridge.

"Squeaky, you see those levers by the start of the bridge?"

"Yes?"

"Hit middle one."

"But isn't that the-"

"No time, just hit it!"

"O-okay!"

The three of them watched as the hover-bridge disappeared, dropping Sonata into a pit of boiling acid.

"HEY!!"
"I-I'm sorry!!"
"Nyehehehehehehehehehe!"

"That, th-that was just mean!"

"I know, didn't think you had it in you."

"WHAT?!"

"You knew the switch would retract the bridge, right? Why'd you hit it anyway? Do you just like making poor Nata suffer?"

"B-but, I, y-you, I, but-"

"Muahahahaha!"

"Heeheehee. I think I see why Dagi likes messing with her so much, that face is pretty funny!"

"Haha, yea. Sorry, Squeaky, you okay there?"

"I, I'm, y-you're, you are such a-...!"

"...?"

"...Meanie!"

"...Ow. My fragile pride."

"Gasp! I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I was j-just so frustrated, I-"

"PFFFTHahahahahahahahaha!!"
"Ogawd, it hur-hur-hurtshahahahahahahaha!!"

Fluttershy sat still, slowly going red under the dual assault of laughter until the two looked at her with wide, genuine smiles as they tried to reign themselves in.

"You're a riot, y'know that, Flutters?"

"Y-yea! I'm literally cry-hi-hing!"

Blushing for slightly different reasons now, Fluttershy smiled back. "Hehe. Thanks."

---

Dinner wasn't quite ready by the time they were finished solving sciencey puzzles, so Aria brought out one more game to entertain Fluttershy while they waited. It was right up her alley, too; a game about cutesy, singing animals!

Well, animal mascots.

In a run-down pizza joint.

Did she mention it was a horror game? No, no, where would the fun in that be? It had gotten dark outside, too, so shutting off the lights and leaving the television screen as the only source of illumination in the room in the name of 'ambiance' was icing on the cake.

Even better? Sonata had never played it either, so the two of them had no idea what to expect.

Aria just wished she had popcorn.

"What was that phone call about?"

"I-I'm not sure, I was kind of seeing what all the buttons did. This one moves the doors, this one switches through the little TV screens. Hello there, Mr. Bunny, how are you?"

"He looks kinda rusty."

"That's not very nice."

"Well he does! ...Hey, where'd he go?"

"You might have hurt his feelings. Mr. Bunny? It's okay, Mr. Bunny, I'm sure she didn't mean it."

"Totally did."

"Shh! Mr. Bunny? Mr. B-oh, there he is. And there's Mr. Bear in the dining roo-"

They were nearly launched out of their seats by the mechanical rabbit jumping at the camera while emitting an ear-splitting shriek. Fluttershy and Sonata had immediately responded in kind, though more out of terror than... whatever Mr. Bunny's reason had been.

"Ahahahahahahahahahaha!!"

"YOU SUCK!!"

"Heh heh heh! Ohh, that was great."

"Y'know what? I agree with Dr. Seuss: You're mean!"

"Yup. That's pretty much it for this game, but I knew it'd be worth a-... Squeaky? What're you doing?"

"Hm? Oh, I'm trying it again. I think I know why Mr. Bunny attacked us the first time and I want to let him and the others know that we're all friends here."

Aria and Sonata shared a cautious look.

"Um... The rust comment?"

"Hehe. No, I know they can't really hear us. It's okay, Mr. Bunny," she said to the game anyway, "I won't close the door and make you feel unwelcome this time."

"Uh, a-actually, you're supposed to-"

SCREEEEEEEEE!!
"EEEEEEEEEEEEK!!"

"..."
"..."

"O-okay, uhm... m-maybe if I try this..."

---

"I get it now, Mr. Bunny knows this is a security office, and he doesn't like it when the doors are left carelessly open! I'll just leave them closed and we can be friends through the screens!"

"Well, you're, uh, kind of getting the right idea, it's more like-"

"Oh, the lights just went out for some reason."

"Limited power supply."

"Oh, it's okay, Mr. Bear brought a light for-"

SCREEEEEEEEE!!
"OHMYGOODNESS!!"

"...Yea."

---

"This time, this time I know what to do; Mr. Bunny, Ms. Chicken, and Mr. Bear don't like the door open, but none of them like it when it gets dark, so I just have to-"

SCREEEEEEEEE!!
"AAAAAAA!!"

"Let me guess; that one's name is Mr. Fox."

"I like to call him 'Pirate Dave.'"

---

"Left hall clear, one in the kitchen, dining area clear, right hall is-DOOR! ...Clear. Mr. Dave is still behind the curtain, just have to-"

SCREEEEEEEEE!!
"EEEEEEK!!"

"Um... Look, Squeaky, are you sure you don't wanna do something el-"

"I'm fine!"

"Really? 'Cuz, you're starting to look a little twitchy and-"

"I'm fine! I'll work out their system, and then we'll all be friends! Heeheehee, yes, we'll all be friends, little critters, and by the end of the night, you're going to love me..."

"...I'm scared!"

"Shh!"

---

"We'll have a great time, a great time together, just stay where you are, s-staaaay there, and we'll be fine, everything will be absolutely fine, la-de-de-de-deet-de-da, hahaha! Ohh, where did you go, Mr. Bunny, where did Mr. Bunny gooo? Gosh, I wish I knew where Mr. Bunny went because it's not good when they go places, nonononono, it's not good at all, it's not good at all, why did you go somewhere, Mr. Bunny? Why did you go? Where did you go? Why and where did you go, why did you go to where? Don't you want to have a great time together? We could have a great time together, but not if you- oh, goodie, Mr. Bear is gone too, hahahahaha! That's fine, that's fiiiine, what was that noise? I don't like that noise, I don't like that noise at all, mn-nhn, because that noise means one of them moved again, but I don't see anyone on the cameras, I don't see-"

SCREEEEEEEEE!!
"AAAAAISEETHEMNOW!!"

"This is almost as bad as the time Dagi dressed like a clown!"

"Arguably worse."

"...Sonata, when did you move to Aria's chair?"

"Uhm-"

"Heeheehee, it's okay, you wouldn't be the only one moving around when I wasn't looking, ISN'T THAT RIGHT, MR. DAVE?!"

"...Ria?"

"...Yea?"

"...Hold me."

"...Okay."

---

"Y'know what, y'knowwhat?! Fine, finefinefinefinefinefinefinefine!! You guys wanna be like this, you, you just, BE LIKE THIS! Go be like this all over the floor, or in a closet, or a dark basement, or an I-don't-care! I'm just gonna sit here, in my little room, with my door buttons, and my screens, and my- you not in here with me! Because you don't want to be friends, nonononono, you just want to pop up and scare me, well fine! You want me to keep the door shut, I'll shut it right in your stupid face!! I tried to be nice, I tried to be understanding, I know that this isn't a good habitat for the four of you and I tried to let you into mine, but no, it's all shrieking and scaring, and not understanding that I don't like that very much! Could we just find a little common ground? A little meeting halfway? No, because all of you are nasty critters and you know what? You ARE rusty! So you can just-"

The screen faded to black with the chiming of a bell, signifying that the player had made it through the night.

"Gasp, it, it's over? I won? HA! Yes, I did it! The night is over and I won, suck on that, pop-up critters, SUCK! ON! THAT!!"

Her adrenaline returning to normal levels, Fluttershy let out a contented sigh and smiled peacefully. "That was a fun game."

Aria and Sonata, still clinging to each other for dear life, shared a quick, worried glance before deciding not to say anything. Unfortunately, this left them in silence with the screaming ball of Crazy that had again donned its mask of normalcy, the inscrutable facade again raised to lure unwitting victims into a false sense of security, just waiting for the right moment to-

"Dinner's ready!"

"EEEEEEEK!!"
"AAAAAAAHH!!"

"...What's got you two so spooked?"

"Uggh. Should've checked the camera for the kitchen..."

Author's Note:

So here we are again. It's always such a pleasure.
I've been thinking about Portal lately.

Anyway, usual thing; I think "Oh, just a chapter or so!" and get a full-fledged story arc (still don't know if that's the proper term) out of it. Long AN's are getting to be a thing too. Wharhargarbl.

Awkward Aria. Awkwaria. Aquaria, pirate princess of the high seas! She'd need an eyepatch, but then people might wink at her. Awkward.

My apologies to all nationalities everywhere. For what it's worth, typing those accents is a bit of a chore. If requested, I will write plain translations under all of the accented bits, like

"Oui, show 'er your impres-shahn!"
<"Yes, show her your impression!">

This chapter contains a shout-out from the future. :pinkiehappy:

Does highlighting the colored text make it easier to read at all? :rainbowhuh:

It occurred to me while writing this chapter that a lot of this story could be considered 'filler,' but I kind of feel that some amount of filler is necessary. Very little might be happening to visibly advance the plot, but I feel the fun moments help space out the big, important happenings, as well as provide most of the normal, life-y scenes, if that makes sense.

I can understand wanting things to steadily move along, but with no simple interaction scenes at all, the characters involved feel lifeless and robotic, even if there's plenty of banter and chatter during the important scenes. Like, if we never get to see them just interacting like ordinary people, just living their lives when things aren't tense and serious, it can be hard seeing them as people with thoughts and feelings instead of a list of roles to be rigidly acted out so the big climax can happen.

I actually kind of like slice-of-life-y filler scenes, is what I think I mean to say here.

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