• 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 42: Dark Stains

It was rare for Adagio to find her mind blank for long, but she strode home in relative silence.

That realization was what broke it, of course, and the point at which she became aware of the swarm of worries all screaming and crawling over each other in a desperate feeding frenzy for her attention. The first to surface comprehensibly was that Aria and Sonata were going to want to know why she went home by herself.

Not like I could have hoped to keep what happened a secret.

Slamming the door to her room did less than she'd hoped to stop the flood of worries, but symbolic acts had a way of being infuriatingly useless at times like these. Without bothering to disrobe, she flopped down on her bed as the cluster of consternations overtook her.

Everyone at school was going to know about today.

What do they really have from that? That I was tired? That even I get nightmares sometimes?

The timing on that one really couldn't have been worse. This wasn't going to do her reputation any favors.

Everyone hates us anyway.

That wasn't true. In addition to her two oldest friends, there were at least six girls that were going to worry about her now. She would have to explain this to them.

I once bluffed the Spirit of Chaos that our gems were infused with primordial energies as old as he was, magic with the power to undo him. He never bothered us again. I can fix this.

How? By lying to everyone again? By lying to Fluttershy? The thought plucked at something in her chest.

Sweetie will understand. She always does.

Telling her wouldn't be any easier for it, but at least Fluttershy of all people would give her a chance to explain herself. Explain why she'd collapsed in class. Explain why she'd resisted just taking a nap in Art. Explain why she really could have used that nap. Explain why she fell asleep so easily just that morning.

Explain why I'm still wearing this stupid make-up.

It didn't make her look 'mature' or 'lady-like,' she'd figured that out ages ago, it just made her look like she was on the fence about going goth. She really did like putting on make-up, though. There was something inherently enjoyable about delicately painting her face, especially to bring out her beauty a little further. What she had been wearing the last few weeks had no such purpose.

Pity that clown idea didn't work out. What happened to the costume I put together, anyway?

At least Sonata's reaction was cute. She and Aria probably weren't going to be laughing when they got home, however. That would be soon.

I told them we'd already dealt with this. I told them it was under control.

Sonata even braved Rarity's little shop months ago to find her a good set of pajamas. It apparently turned out much better than they'd have anticipated, but learning the opposite about how much that had helped Adagio was probably going to upset them. It was definitely doing the same for her as she felt her eyeliner being spread across her face in black streaks, but she didn't have time to think about wiping it off for the day before her phone rang. She didn't know if she picked up so quickly for the chance that it might take her mind off of this or because it was Fluttershy, but she answered with what she hoped was an even voice.

"H-hello?"

Oh, sea spray, not even close!!

"Adagio? Pinkie told me what happened. Are you okay?"

The fuzzy heart-vice squeezed with particular fervor, but she hadn't been at this Friendship thing long enough to understand why. "I'm... What have you heard?"

"Just that you had a bit of an, um... episode, in your sleep. In the middle of class... I won't ask you to talk about it if you don't want to, but if you do want to talk, if you need me for anything, I'm here. Is that okay with you?"

Snorting, Adagio smiled. "That's okay, Sweetie. I'll be fine, don't worry too much, I'll... I'll tell you everything tomorrow, okay?"

It sounded like Fluttershy was smiling as well. "Okay. I love you."

Another violent motion by the heart-vice destroyed what little composure Adagio had managed to hold onto. "L... L-love you too, S-Sweetie."

She held the phone to her ear in silence for a moment, at a loss for what to say after something like that. Luckily, Fluttershy knew more about these things.

"I'll see you tomorrow, o-or, I would be happy to visit, if you wanted."

Even with tears and ruined make-up on her face, Adagio managed a tiny smirk, though she couldn't quite get the seductive tone back to 100%. "That eager to be in my bedroom again, Sweetie? Bad girl." The noise from the other line made her smile wider.

"Gtchblt! I, uh, haha, I-I'll talk to you soon, s-stay safe!"

Beep!

Giggling even as she continued to lay where she'd landed, Adagio felt a little better already. Then she heard the front door open and was swallowed in the wave of worries again. She couldn't decide whether she wanted them to leave her alone or just come and get it over with, but the sounds of two sets of feet on the stairs gave her a clue about which one was coming first. At the sound of her bedroom door slowly swinging open, she did her best to to sink down further into the covers of her bed, as if hoping to disappear in them. Just the thought of telling them she'd ruined the plan and wasted all their efforts up to now had her muffling a sob as she felt two weights settle at her sides.

"So, uh," Sonata began delicately, "we only caught a little bit of what happened eighth period, but is this part of the plan?" Whimpering into the bedsheets sounded like a 'no,' so she did the gentle back-rubbing thing she remembered from their time with Sunset, smiling as Aria did it too. The two of them administered feel-better rubs and hummed gentle melodies for a little while, and they must have worked, because Adagio eventually sat up. This was how Sonata learned that their sulky leader's face was a horrifying mess of badly-smeared blackness, drudging up memories of The Clown Day and drawing a high-pitched shriek as Sonata took her turn to bury her face in the covers.

Despite herself, Adagio giggled, which drew a little smile from Aria as she got up to fetch something for wiping off the make-up. She settled on a mostly-blackened shirt on the floor, which she guessed Adagio had been using for this very purpose. Picking it up and turning around, she pressed it into Adagio's face without ceremony, ignoring what she assumed were muffled complaints. "Man," she remarked with a chuckle, "never thought one of us would be doing this for you, but it kinda sounds like you had a rough day." When she pulled the cloth away, she immediately dropped it, her eyes widening. "Woah."

Her traumatic memories already fading, Sonata sat up. "What? Woah what?" Leaning over to get a better look at Adagio's face, she got her answer. "D... D-Dagi," she asked with a pleading frown, "what's with these bags? I thought you said...?" She frowned a little more when Adagio's eyes welled up again, but at least there wouldn't be any more scary smears this time, right?

"I'm sorry."

Aria glanced back and forth between the two of them as she connected the dots in her head. "So, what, those PJ's Nata got you didn't do anything? You're still lying awake half the night?"

"W-well, they helped me stay warm when I got sick, but other than that?" She turned to Sonata with a regretful look. "Sorry."

Sonata just gave her an understanding smile. "Don't worry about it. Heck, I totally get the going-to-bed-nude thing now."

Crossing her arms, Aria raised an eyebrow. "When were you gonna tell us about this?"

"I wasn't," Adagio muttered at the carpet, "I was going to let it take care of itself, to hope it would just go away by the time we had our own circle of friends."

"And if it didn't?"

Chuckling humorlessly, Adagio managed to meet her eyes. "Then, at least I'd have plenty of friends to help me through it, right?" Her tiny smile vanished when Aria threw both hands up with an offended look on her face.

"What about us?!"

"What about us, Ria?" Two heads snapped toward Sonata to find her wearing an uncharacteristically severe expression. "I mean, she told us every time it happened when it started, and we all tried everything we could think of together. Meds didn't work right, that trick with the swinging watch didn't do squat, laying totally still didn't work, work-outs right before bed just made her lay awake MORE tired, warm milk didn't do anything, and the bedtime stories were fun, but totally useless." Her shoulders slumped. "Just like us."

As much as Adagio wanted to offer a counter-point, her brain was working against her again.

Her lower lip quivering, Aria sputtered. "B-buh, but, w-we, we could've, we, but-..." She glanced back and forth at her dejected friends, tears stinging in her eyes before she clenched them shut and divebomb-hugged Adagio, weeping quiet sorries into her shoulder. Latching onto Adagio's other arm, Sonata wasn't doing much better, leaving the girl in the middle to scramble for any way of making them feel better.

"You two should be angry at me," she insisted, getting softer and squeakier as she went, "CHS will never get used to us now, we'll never make any new friends here, everything we've worked toward was-"

"Hey, w-wait a sec," urged Sonata, "it's not that bad!" She didn't get more than a frown from this, but she was sure she saw an 'Is Too' kind of look in there. "I mean, i-it's like...!"

Aria and Adagio were staring at her in silence. Okay, things looked bad, but she didn't want to let the sad things win! What was that thing Rarity told her? When life was a lemonade stand and you didn't have any sugar or-no, you've fallen down the stairs and-no, something like... pickles? It would have been so much easier to remember if she hadn't been bent over and howling at the time. Whatever, she'd wing it. Wiping away her tears, she made the smiliest smile she could!

"We still made a buddy each even way before we started the cutesy stuff! That's something, right?" She got two blinks at this, so she thought of some other stuff! "And like, people forgave us for-well, okay, maybe not forgave us for the stuff at the Battle, but they let us into the school, right? How bad is a little sleep-twitching next to that? You and me have totally done worse than that before, Dagi, and you still got tons of smiles when that cute picture of you first went up! "

"Hey, yea," mumbled Aria, slowly lifting her head from Adagio's shoulder as a thought dawned on her, "because, they might not forget what we do, but they don't constantly harp on us for it like they did with Sunset, before we showed up." She looked directly at Adagio now. "You're probably gonna get some weird looks for a while, but I think we can ride this out."

Sonata beamed. "There's hope!" The sight of Aria and Adagio finding their smiles again, however hesitantly, made her feel higher than the time Rarity let her use the paddle!

"I... Yes," Adagio said with a little nod, "I suppose there is... We just have to keep moving forward, shake this off and proceed as before. In fact," she said with a shadow of her confident smirk, "this doesn't change anything, really, we'll just endure a few more odd looks than average, let them forget about it, and wait until the stigma completely wears off. Hell, we may even get people approaching us to ask if everything is alright! Whether their sentiments are hollow or not, such encounters may give us an opening-" if only out of habit, she raised one hand in front of her as it clenched into a fist, "-to form our first non-Rainboom connections!"

"And then we do all that friend-y stuff," said Aria with a borderline malevolent smirk of her own, "chat on the phone for like an hour, invite people over, get invited to places, talk about random crap and eat tons of pizza, all that crud!"

"Everything we do with each other," cheered Sonata, "but like, more of it! More the merrier!"

And with that, the three of them thought as they cackled together, maybe they could finally move on. After a long moment of huggy, laughy closeness, Adagio glanced back and forth at her friends.

"By the way, have you girls seen my clown outfit?" Sonata seizing up was a pretty good hint.

"Uh... Nnnnoooo...?"

Adagio gave her a patient smile. "Nata, where is-"

Sonata leapt to her feet, her smile even bigger and faker than the red one Adagio had painted on her own face that day. "GreatthatwehadthischatIshouldcallRaritytoletherknoweverything'sokayokaybye!!"

And she bolted from the room. A moment passed in silence before Adagio turned to Aria. "Where did she put the clown outfit?"

"Um... Well, y'know how half the sawdust went missing around that time?"

"Oh, dear."

"Yea. She burned it in a circle of salt while reading aloud -that is, screaming at the top of her lungs- from the party catering section of a phonebook."

"..."

"...So," Aria whispered with an evil grin, "clowns for her next birthday party?"

Adagio returned it. "I love the way you think, Ria."

The two chuckled fiendishly together. Who knew? Maybe when that day came, they'd even be able to invite friends.

---

"So, all this time, you've been having trouble sleeping almost every night?"

Adagio had spent most of her explanation hunched over with her head down, looking squarely at the grass at the foot of the bench. "I'm sorry I lied to you, Sweetie." She was still wearing the new outfit, even if yesterday's spectacle had greatly diminished its effect.

Sitting close beside her, Fluttershy frowned. It hurt that Adagio had lied to her, hurt that she didn't trust her enough to talk about her sleep difficulties sooner, but much worse was knowing that Adagio had been struggling with this alone since before they even met (on the bench, that is). "And, when it got worse, you tried to cover it up with that eyeliner." The eyeliner she had on even now.

"I thought about wearing one of those super-hero masks for an air of mystique, but that would be taken off much too easily. At least if something happened, I could play off the dark spots as my make-up being smudged."

"I guess that makes sense. What about when you knew it was making you scarier to everyone?"

At this, Adagio's eyebrows knitted. "I also knew I'd rather be feared than pitied, Sweetie."

Fluttershy nodded. "I see... Do you know why it happens?"

The immediate response was a short, hollow, bitter laugh. "If I knew that, maybe I could have done something about it by now."

"Hm... Well, how do you feel when it's happening?" This got Adagio to look up, confused. "While you're lying awake, what do you feel?"

Adagio actually struggled with the question for a moment. "I... Annoyed. Frustrated. So tired. Weak." Her head sank again. "Helpless."

Fluttershy gently rubbed a hand along her back, fervently reminding herself that she was doing so for chaste, supportive reasons. "Is there anything that makes you feel that way during the day?"

"Oh, I don't know," she said bitingly, "being trapped in another dimension by a lazy coward that blindsided us with a vacuum portal? Being blamed for all the problems of our homeland before that? Having months of work and, if I may say so, an amazing job of playing this school like a fiddle rendered moot by someone else's dumb luck? That that incident cost us any hope of everything we'd ever wanted and left us scrounging for scraps in the den of hypocrisy and lies you call a community?"

She looked directly at Fluttershy now, and while the wounded frown might ordinarily have given her pause, she couldn't have stopped now if she wanted to. "I could do it again without magic, you know; get this whole school, maybe this whole town, tearing into itself with what I know now. Even if no one else talks to me, I've overheard enough to know that we're not the only ones with secrets, Sweetie, and that's not accounting for whatever Aria and Sonata may have picked up. You thought Sunset Shimmer was bad? I made a living in starting fights, and these-" her voice took on a tone of faux sweetness for a moment, "-'good, normal' people are always eager for the next conflict, whether they can admit it or not. I alone could destroy whatever fractal unity these people have with all the little details I've gathered in my time here, but...!"

Swallowing to banish the growing lump in her throat, Adagio hadn't even realized she'd been clenching both fists, but the increasing pain in her knuckles helped snap her out of it. Faintly surprised that Fluttershy wasn't crying or covering her face or even trembling in fear, she sighed. "...But, none of it would do us any good. There have to be dozens of ways we could have taken our revenge by now, but then we'd really have nothing left." Chuckling half-heartedly, she shrugged. "Wanting is better than having, I suppose... If you're thinking that all of that is why I can't sleep well, then I have a question: Why aren't Aria and Sonata having this problem?"

"I'm... I-I'm not sure. Sorry." Fluttershy didn't see Canterlot High that way herself, but with how things had gone since the sirens returned, she could at least see where Adagio was coming from. "Have you three talked about this? About how much it bothers you?"

"At length. Those two are every bit as annoyed about the situation as I am."

"Is there anything going on that's upsetting for you and you alone?"

Adagio's mouth popped open, then slowly drew shut as she thought it over. She was still thinking when Fluttershy, frowning, proposed her own answer.

"...Is it because of me? Because I asked you not to-"

"I've been having this problem since long before we made any sort of deal, remember?"

She felt relief and embarrassment at the same time. "Oh... Right."

"For the same reason, I'm sure it isn't the matter of our relationship either. Or at least, if that's part of it now, that wasn't the trigger. Sonata, as ever, has had no trouble whatsoever getting to sleep despite her own secret affiliation, so it may not even be a factor."

"Hm... Okay, what would you say is bothering you the most?"

"Our voices, no contest." Looking at Fluttershy out of the corner of her eye, she smiled a little. "Don't get me wrong, what you showed us Sunday has been great for all three of us, we even spent an hour trading our favorite lullabies just last night, but-"

Fluttershy wasn't smiling. "But it isn't the same, and being limited to singing quietly just reminds you of what you've lost?" She was partly surprised to get a particularly soft hug for this as Adagio answered in gentle tones.

"We are grateful, Sweetie, really. But, yes, being denied the full spectrum of what we used to be hurts a little."

Pressure flowed up from Fluttershy's heart and lodged in her throat, but she willed herself to keep it together. "W-would you say it hurts you even more?"

"I don't see how, it's not like they're any less affected than I am." She shrugged lightly. "Maybe it's just that they didn't write the songs?" Fluttershy pulled back to look at her in surprise, which urged her to elaborate. "I was our composer, it was part of how I earned the gems in the first place. Back in Coltlantis, I chose the two of them because out of all possible candidates for the job, their voices harmonized best with mine and, well, I won't go into detail, but writing our songs has been up to me ever since. I was never exactly big on singing people to sleep, they'd never adore me afterward, so lullabies aren't exactly my-oof!"

Adagio had mixed feelings on the very forceful Flutterhug she was getting, and maybe it wasn't just the strain on her ribcage. Indeed, the sounds of Fluttershy sniffling as she let out a stream of high-pitched sorries into Adagio's chest (the heart-vice was equally emphatic in its complaints) made things distinctly less cuddly than usual, but somehow? Every bit as tender and strangely comforting. When Fluttershy pulled back enough to look her in the eye, there was conviction in her tear-streaked face, the likes of which she'd have never pictured from the girl she first caught 'smoking' a lollipop.

"I'll help you with this. I don't know how yet, but even if I can't fix any of your other problems, there must be something to help you get to sleep."

Having heard exactly that sentiment from Aria and Sonata months ago, Adagio wasn't exactly optimistic, but the last thing she wanted to do (well, it was low on the list) was to discourage Her Sweetie. Knowing that Fluttershy wanted to do this for her sake made smiling much easier. "Alright. Let me know what you come up with, I'll try just about anything at this point." There were a number of ways she could have twisted that sentence for another ticket to Fluttershy Theater, but instead settled for closing the statement with a peck on the cheek, which still drew the red curtains.

"I-I'll ask my friends for advice," she said with a shy smile, "do you mind if I tell them about this?" Her grin faded when Adagio made an uncertain, uncomfortable expression.

"Well..." Crossing her arms, she sighed. "I don't want anyone looking down on me, but keeping it hidden hasn't exactly helped, has it? Tell them if you have to, but I'd prefer the entire school not know about this." More than they knew already, of course.

And the smile was back, more enthusiastic than before! "I'll make sure it stays between us, don't worry about a thing!"

Chuckling, Adagio stood up. "Thank you. See you around, Sweetie."

Watching her go, Fluttershy's face grew steadily warmer as she pondered the merits of hip-swinging to combat insomnia.

No, Miss Pervert, she said she already tried exercise, remember?

What if I shook my hips for her before bed?

WHAT?!

Just swinging back and forth like she did for Under Our Spell, hip-nosis!"

First of all, that pun was atrocious.

Sorry.

It's okay. Second; no! Even if we could keep it together long enough to lull her to sleep, she already tried hypnosis too!

Shoot. I guess it would have been hard to tell mom why I was going out just before bedtime every night anyway. "Hey Mom, do mind if I head over to my girlfriend's house at night so I can shake my behind until she falls asleep?" What if she offered to drive us there?

EEEK!!

Mortified at the very thought of her mother calling out something devastating where any or all of the Dazzlings might hear it, Fluttershy shook and curled into a ball on the bench until she could remind herself that no such thing had to happen. She was still worried about the prospect of Adagio meeting her mother, but that was a worry for another day.

Author's Note:

She wiped away another streak of eyeliner with a fingertip, this time in a line smearing down toward her cheek, and was reminded why she wore the stuff at all.

Y'know, I really thought that line would have given it away back in Chapter 18, but the sleep deprivation bit was apparently covered up juuust well enough to keep it ambiguous. For those of you who re-read this story sometimes, see how many hints you can find throughout the tale now that you know the secret. :pinkiehappy:

Ordinarily, I'd feel the need to explain how it is that Adagio is wearing the same outfit for days in a row without needing to wash it daily. (though I guess it's not impossible that she'd be doing that.) However, as everyone wears the same thing every day in most cartoon universes, I feel that this is right up there with the amazing technicolor hair and skin on the list of things that aren't worth worrying about.

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