• 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 53: Black Bottles

"Great, you made it!"

Closing the door to Canterlot High's music room, Adagio chose not to ask what Sunset thought would intercept her on the way. "Yes. You wanted to talk about something?"

"Uh-huh!"

And as this room is hardly used by pretty much anyone else anymore, we've even got privacy!

She didn't say that out loud for fear of making things awkward again, instead raising an eyebrow. "So, where are the others? You're the only one whose number I have and I sorta thought they'd be with you."

Idly inspecting her nails, Adagio shrugged. "We were on our way home when I got your text, I told them I'd relay whatever you wanted to tell us and they could go play with their respective friends." She answered Sunset's hopeful look with a very flat one, communicating that Aria and Sonata still only had the friends Sunset already knew about. Even so, Sunset kept an optimistic expression.

"So, I know things have been shaky for you guys lately, but I was thinking that if we gave it one good push, the three of you could finally break through and get past all this weird, awkward, mistrust stuff. If you're all sorry about the Battle, what if you just told everyone that? You wouldn't even have to lie about anything!"

Adagio raised an unconvinced eyebrow. "Because everyone forgave you when you said a few particular words, not continuing to shun you for months?"

"Uh..." Her grin faltered a little. "Well, maybe not, but... I mean, if you are sorry, why not say it?"

"We have our regrets, Sunset Shimmer, but I'm not sure myself if it's more because of what we were doing or because of what we lost as a result. It's at least a little of both, but would you like us to pretend it was entirely the former?"

"No, but, you don't have to pretend. I mean, you kind of owe the school an apology anyway, right?"

Adagio's eye twitched. "Do we? Please, tell me all about what anyone else lost that we should owe them anything. Was taking our voices and magic, along with the general Undesirable treatment we've received since we got here, not enough to make everyone feel nice and vindicated?" There was also the dream of being lavished and adored by magically-enthralled masses, but she could see how they were wrong to pursue that one in the first place.

Sunset hesitated. "What about doing it just to mend fences a little? Trying to get along for getting along's sake? That's the sort of thing Twilight wanted everyone here to do."

"If that's the case, then why are you talking to me and not the rest of CHS? Are we not the ones going out of our way to play nice?"

"Oh, come on," Sunset urged, her brows lightly furrowed, "you know everything would go a lot easier if you just did the right thing here."

"'The right thing'? Really?" Adagio struggled to keep the resentment out of her tone, fighting down the urge to strangle Sunset while she was at it. "Perhaps you could clarify what you meant when you told us about searching our hearts and being true to ourselves in that first talk we had, because my feelings are that it makes no sense for us to beg forgiveness when so much of your school treats us the way it does. If anyone had actually gotten hurt from the Battle, if anyone were killed, debilitated, or otherwise permanently worse off as opposed to being better than ever like they actually are, then yes, we'd have gladly swallowed our losses and apologized to everyone by now, but as it is? No. So tell me; would that little betrayal still be 'the right thing' to do if it makes everyone else happy? Ignoring that, going by your own experience, it may not even make a difference? Or does being 'true to yourself' not apply when it's more convenient to just do what everyone wants you to?"

Sunset grit her teeth. "Look, you've tried things your way and it isn't working, so you might as well just suck it up, tell everyone you're sorry, come over to our table, and let everyone know what's been going on between the nine of us. It's not like anyone will treat you any worse and someone even told us that that was exactly what everyone's waiting for!"

"And I told you; in addition to the fact that your group may lose a lot of trust itself if it comes out that three of you have been getting along with the three of us this whole time, if the rest of the school only accepts us because we're 'safe,' because we're standing next to you, then it's meaningless anyway; friends that only care who you know aren't friends at all! Furthermore? If our way isn't working, however slowly, explain Trixie."

Oh, right. Forgot about that.

The aggression slowly faded from Sunset's face. "I, I know that, but, everyone here eventually came to accept me even though I tortured them for much longer. I've been trying hard to give you three what I have, so if you just cleaned up your acts a little more, you could-"

Unfortunately, Adagio's clenched fists and teeth said she had only gotten angrier.

"Just 'clean up our acts'? That's all it would take? That's all that keeps us below desirable status? You make me sick." Raising her voice, she moved closer, Sunset stepping back as Adagio stabbed an index finger just under her neck. "Do you not remember why they grew to accept the likes of you? Does flowery friendship play havoc on your memory, or was forgetting just more convenient to your little message?" Pressing harder with her finger, Adagio slowly pushed Sunset backward as she advanced. "It wasn't that they saw you as a good, caring person, it wasn't about your behavior, it was because of us!"

Sunset's back hit a wall, pressure tightening in her throat as Adagio's hateful gaze bore into her. "I-"

"Did you forget your song, too? The one you crippled us with?!" Her face twisting with scorn and a long-held fury, Adagio's impression was fractured as her voice began to crack. "'Not singing just for pop-u-larity!' Funny how it got you just that, isn't it?! You're the same liar you always were, Sunset Shimmer!" Ignoring the tears in Sunset's eyes, Adagio used the palm of her hand to push her harder against the wall the second her mouth opened. "Save it! I know you're going to say it wasn't like that, that you really only wanted to stop us, and maybe you even believe it, but that's not how it turned out, is it?! You remembered what happened when it was your turn, that everyone hated you no matter what you did after that! Then we showed up, gave you a chance to turn it around and be the hero!"

Her eyes still full of sheer loathing, Adagio managed a faux-sweet smile. "And you've been living it up ever since, haven't you?! Must be nice; having things work out in your favor so easily, getting everything you wanted with just one song, having all the power you could ever need right there when you needed it, not having to work to build up that kind of strength, all you want and more at the drop of a hat," the fake grin died away as Adagio's fingers sank harder into Sunset's skin through her shirt, "but the rest of us aren't so lucky! I'm so sick of you; acting so nice in the way only a condescending, know-it-all 'hero' could, even when the only reason you're free to do so is at our expense, your perfect comeback at a cost solely to us, free to befriend and frolic as you like, even though if we had never shown up, this school would still be treating you the same as it did before!"

With Sunset's tearful whimpering, the intensity of Adagio's glare died down as she slowly transitioned from yelling at someone to just describing something that happened without much more than quiet contempt. "These people, these 'good' people we've bent over backwards to appease? They're just as bad as you are. They're fine with you now not because you changed, not because you haven't hurt anyone they cared about lately, not because they give a damn about you, but because you saved their worthless hides from a bigger threat, just like Twilight Sparkle did with you. And you know it, don't you?"

As Adagio let her go, Sunset slid down to the floor, hid her face in her knees, and shook with quiet sobs.

Staring down at her, Adagio loosed a quiet sigh, debating with herself whether or not to say anything more. After about a minute, she turned and walked away.

---

[Um, hey, Dr. Seuss? I think something bad happened. Sunset texted Dagi to talk to her in the music room, and when she got home, she was sending bad-mood vibes all over the place, went to her room, slammed the door, and isn't coming out. I'm kinda worried, but she isn't talking to us right now, and she's crazy about you, so like... help? please?

-Nata

PS, Ria's trying to act all cool and indifferent, but I'm pretty sure she's really worried too, because she said if I'm so worried, I should just call you like four times! It's not her fault, she's just sorta awkward with this stuff.]

---

Stopping at the black door to the Dazzlings' house, Fluttershy took a deep breath. She had rushed back to the school to check on Sunset first, and got the full story from her once she'd calmed her down. Wanting a little time alone, Sunset said she would stay in the music room until everyone's feelings were worked out, or at least until the school staff made her leave.

Fluttershy didn't like to use puppy-dog stares to get her way, but a quick stop by Luna's office had felt necessary. It wasn't like Sunset sticking around for a while would hurt anyone.

She knocked a little more quietly than she'd intended, but the door startled her by flinging open anyway, Sonata grabbing her by the wrist and pulling her inside.

"Great, you're here! No costumes this time, you just head up-" she switched to Aria's wrist, pulling her along with no resistance as the two moved for the front door, "-and we'll head out."

"W-wait," Fluttershy pleaded, "where are you going?"

Aria shrugged. "Well, given that all she's willing to tell us is that she blew up at Sunset, apparently thinks she's wrecked any chance of us making friends with the rest of the school -which I would worry more about, but she's kinda told us that one before- after spelling out how much she hates one of their heroes, we've kinda eavesdropped on her too much already, and keeping people emotionally balanced is sorta your shtick? Figured we'd leave you two alone for a few hours, or at least until we got a text that the smoke had cleared." She slapped a lightning-fast hand over Sonata's mouth. "And that's all we're doing."

Sonata murmured in disappointment before nodding her head.

The two left, but unfortunately, Fluttershy pieced together herself what Sonata was probably about to say. She was alone in the house with Adagio. Who was probably waiting for her in her bedroom. In any other circumstances, it would have been a beautiful thought, but she had to remind herself that her girlfriend was almost definitely in an extreme emotional state right now (either from sadness or rage, she'd find out in a minute) and proceeded up the stairs to meet her.

Once again, she gently rapped her knuckles on the door. "Adagio...?"

No response.

Increasingly anxious, but not wanting to force Adagio to do anything she didn't want to (again), she kept her voice as soft as possible. "I know you're upset, but, I was hoping we could talk. Please? I won't ask you to talk about it if you don't want to, b-but, just like before, if you do want to talk, if you need me for anything, I'm-"

The door opened to reveal Adagio still wearing the outfit she'd been wearing to school lately, offering a weak smile. "Hello, Sweetie."

With her make-up wiped away for the day, the dark bags still lingering under Adagio's eyes (it looked like they were getting better, at least) were plainly visible, but despite her worries about Adagio's sleep schedule, Fluttershy smiled back. "H-hello. Um-"

Without a word, Adagio stepped back into her room to let Fluttershy in, crossing her arms when she turned to face her. "So?"

She got right to it. "I think you might have been a little hard on Sunset."

Adagio raised a doubting eyebrow. "Is that all?"

"Well, sh-she was just trying to help."

"Help?" It was clear to Fluttershy that she was still leaning towards anger. "Telling us to forsake all our efforts up to now, efforts that she fully outlined and encouraged, 'suck it up,' and submit to her having complete control over our social lives, is help?! Like the 'Magic of Friendship' couldn't happen without her say-so?!"

"It wasn't like that!"

"I wonder!" Adagio started pacing the floor as she talked, making a few frustrated hand-gestures along with it. "She invited us back with the anticipation that we would inevitably just give up and come to her, implying that she had little faith in Twilight's idiot minions, her own idiot minions now, and fully expected them to reject us from the start, exactly the way damn near all of them did! She even told me just today that everyone -which I know is false if people like Trixie exist- is actually waiting until we give in! Call me crazy for suspecting that maybe she's been up to something all this time!"

Knowing that it was mostly anger talking, Fluttershy didn't let the aspersions on Canterlot High as a whole get to her. "Do you really feel that way?"

Glaring, Adagio turned to her in a snap. "Tell me why I shouldn't!!"

Fluttershy could feel her knees shaking, but thinking about how far Sunset had come since the Fall Formal, she steeled herself. "Because, s-she, she talks to us all the time about how she hopes the three of you can make friends here. I think she's been looking forward to it for as long as you have, because even before she knew about what any of us had been doing together, she was always excited to hear any remotely good news about the three of you getting along, with the school and each other."

Remembering the earnest smiles Sunset had always greeted her with in fourth period, the clumsy attempts at small-talk, the hopeful comments relating to the sirens finding lasting friends, Adagio couldn't fully convince herself of her new theory. She let out a long breath through her nose. "I suppose it's only recently that she's grown tired of waiting for us to manage on our own?"

"I don't think that was it, exactly, just... she wants to see everyone getting along, to see you three be welcomed and accepted like she was."

Adagio snorted in derision and contempt. "You want to point out a magical evil we can help vanquish?! Be my goddamn guest!!"

Fluttershy flinched, but didn't let herself take even the tiniest baby-step backward. "Even if she had her own struggles, Sunset has been fortunate, in having friends and enemies when she needed them, in the form of your group and mine when Twilight first came. Thinking about it like that, I know it doesn't feel fair to you that your circumstances have been so different, but that isn't Sunset's fault."

"And it's not what I'm angry at her about! I've had it with her; acting as though she has everything figured out when all she does is pour salt in our wounds, wounds she helped to make! I know you would never see it from her, but the insufferable air she carries when 'reaching out' to us is always so obliviously condescending, so full of good-natured conceit, that it's like she thinks we couldn't possibly get along with anyone without-" she briefly used a mocking tone, "-her grace and benevolence, acting like it's us that aren't trying hard enough!"

Though her eyes were full of fury, there was a faint glimmer of tears as Adagio pointed at her. "And you're here to do the same thing, aren't you?! To say that since your perfect little school mostly rejects us, it must be a fault on our end, because saying otherwise would imply that Twilight's little message meant nothing to your 'unified' community and admit that for all that talk of how important friendship is to all of you, it doesn't actually matter to anyone but those who directly draw tangible power from it!"

Fluttershy didn't speak, so Adagio stepped closer, an unsteady, lopsided smirk on her face. "Go on, say it; say I was wrong about everything and Sunset was right! Well?!"

Holding her arms close to her chest, it took considerable effort to meet Adagio's eyes. "...Do you feel like you've done something wrong?"

Anger giving way to uncertainty, Adagio struggled with the question for a moment. She carefully scanned Fluttershy's face to glean an idea of which direction she was expected to lean toward, but there was no judgement or challenge in her expression to suggest that she was waiting for an apology, nor the sense of a shared complaint, like she, Aria, and Sonata had worn many times while discussing these matters. Fluttershy wasn't conflicting or agreeing with her, she was earnestly asking.

Have I done anything wrong today? I feel like going off on her has been a long time coming, but I'm not exactly thrilled that she was crying. Definitely not in the happy way, either.

She certainly didn't feel like anything she'd said was false, but she'd felt the same thing in thinking that no one could recognize or appreciate anything but that which hurt them back when she was sick, herself included. The key factor to changing her mind back then, of course, had been Fluttershy.

"I feel like something is out of place," she admitted with a passive, though faintly irritable expression, "but I wouldn't say I was out of line in my response. Is there a reason I should?"

"Well, not 'out of line,'" Fluttershy started, "but, maybe up to a line that was set too far?" Now was a bad time to appreciate Adagio's perplexed stare. "I mean, yes, you got really angry with Sunset and hurt her feelings, but the way she explained it to me, she realized that she kind of pushed you first. I hope you can forgive her, because even if she hadn't thought things through, her heart was in the right place." The sad, tender look on Adagio's face said she knew that, but had forgotten it for a little while. Sunset herself had moments like that, but now probably wasn't the time. "And, if she can be forgiven for pushing too hard in trying to help with the wrong methods, I think you can be forgiven for losing your patience." She smiled a little. "It, has to work both ways to work at all, right?"

Even if she hadn't forgotten the seriousness of the subject, Adagio was having one of those smiling-against-her-will moments, eased by averting her eyes. "It does."

It wasn't as though Adagio had shouted at the object of her scorn until she'd said everything she'd ever wanted to say, she'd walked away when Sunset clearly couldn't take any more. That was how she determined what had been wrong; for all the time she spent hating her, she was still grateful for what Sunset had tried to do for her, Aria, and Sonata, and in spite of that, ended up hurting someone that, however distantly, she did care about in a fit of rage. Even if it was Sunset herself that repeatedly kicked that particular hornets' nest this time, it hadn't felt good to yell at her. She wouldn't just suddenly take her advice and give up everything they'd worked toward up to now, but half the reason for staying away from Sunset in the first place was that she didn't want to hurt her anymore.

"...Do you know where Sunset might be around now?"

---

Still sitting exactly where Adagio had left her slumped against the wall, Sunset idly looked over her reflection on the screen of her phone, and the lack of messy smears on her face made her glad she never wore make-up. That wasn't what she'd told Adagio the few times she tried to talk to her about it in fourth period, but she'd learned that little, white lies were fine if it was for friendship-building purposes. She'd only said she'd thought about trying something herself, anyway, not going completely Rarity with it, but Adagio never took the bait. At least now she knew why.

Anyway, the just-cried-my-eyes-out look was fading, so she wouldn't have to worry too much about anyone getting all guilt-inducingly worried about her on the way h-

"Sunset?"

Nearly jumping out of her skin, Sunset looked up to see Adagio wearing a slightly confused face. Standing up, she cleared her throat. "Uh... hi?"

While she remembered Applejack's advice, Adagio had approached quietly in an effort to be sensitive. She'd keep working on it. "Can we talk?"

"Yea, sure. Um-"

"You probably didn't mean for things to turn out like they did, and even if I still think the contrast between what your group overall tends to say and what actually happens is odd, what I said earli-"

"Wait, stop," Sunset said while shaking her head, palms upraised, "please don't apologize. I did pretty much the same thing to my own friends on several occasions, and a few times, they even did it back at me, so I'd like to think I've learned enough about emotional breaking points to not begrudge you. Besides, I was the one that lost my temper first, so if anyone is to blame for things getting heated, it's me. It was like, 'who the Hell is she to lecture me about this stuff?! I've been doing this for months longer than her!' But, it doesn't really work that way, huh?"

Folding her arms, the subtle shift in Adagio's face almost showed annoyance. "In our first talk, you said-"

Sunset frowned. "I know, I know, it's kinda scummy of me to go back on all that integrity stuff we talked about just for the sake of resolving things faster, especially considering that there'd be a lot of underlying resentment and bitter feelings bubbling under the surface for years that way, but I just-"

"You said," Adagio interrupted with an arched eyebrow, "that shouty arguments tend to lead to apologies, so I was trying to follow through."

Sunset's mouth hung open for a second. "Oh," she said with a sheepish smile, arms bashfully folded behind her back as her cheeks colored, "right."

"You dolt," Adagio sighed, no venom in her tone as Sunset kept making that endearingly awkward little grin. Fluttershy had mentioned that Sunset might not be willing to be forgiven right away, as was something of a regular occurrence in their first weeks together, so she didn't press it. Several months ago, Adagio had decided she didn't want to be friends with this girl for a short list of reasons, but she wondered now what might have been had she given Sunset a chance.

Well, things being what they are, it wouldn't have worked out anyway.

"So," Sunset asked with a hopeful smile, "now that you've gotten all that out of your system, how are you feeling?"

"...Different. I don't know if it's better or worse, but, different."

Sunset chuckled. "Lighter, maybe? A little less tense?"

"You have experience here."

"Yup! I think it was Rarity that first explained it to me as venting, or airing grievances, that getting angry even at people you care about isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as you work through those feelings together. Like I said, I did it a lot after the Fall Formal, especially once I figured out how just bottling it all up is bad for you and having a friend who-" She stopped, her pupils shrinking to pinpricks. "...I'm doing the 'condescending, know-it-all hero' thing again, aren't I?"

Smiling a little, Adagio shook her head. "Even if you are, I know that you're only trying to help. I'm not annoyed this time, and I'd like to hear what you have to say."

Sunset softly smiled back. "Right, so... Having someone to talk to about your feelings is good, even the painful ones." Adagio waited for more, but Sunset offered a sheepish shrug. "That's kinda the end of that one."

Adagio snorted in amusement. "Of course it is." Then her humor fell away. "And, I'm sorry if it sounds at all like I'm rubbing it in, but... about what I said earlier, the reason everyone forgave you...?"

"Uh..." Sunset frowned. "Well, I mean, you're not wrong. I've kinda known for a while that it was weird how no one cared what I did until I got my own 'hero' moment, but no one was apparently hurt by the results and it looked like everything was fine, so I didn't think about it much. And, I only ever hang out with the friends I have anyway, because even before you guys came along, I picked up that it can be hard spending time with everyone on a regular basis, that having too many friends is just as bad as being lonely." She shrugged. "Maybe some people can pull that off without any problems, but for someone that pretty much used to live in the royal library (I had my own little pillow fort in one of the long-forgotten back rooms), I'm just happy not to be scorned by the whole school anymore."

"I can respect that," more-so that you didn't make excuses for your fellow students, or flat-out deny it. "I just wanted to make sure my little rant earlier won't leave any bad blood between you and anyone else."

Smiling, Sunset shook her head. "Nah. I might not have gotten most of the town to like me through the best means, but the friends I have are as real as it gets." The smile quickly became forced. "And, hey, at least my problem could be resolved, right?" Adagio wasn't grinning back even a little bit, so Sunset dropped hers and said it before Adagio even opened her mouth to reply. "It was me. You three losing your voices was all my fault."

And then something weird happened. In Sunset's experience, a confession like that directly led to some kind of emotional outpour, but Adagio just passively stared back at her, and when she finally responded, she sounded almost skeptical!

"Really, now? Please, do tell."

"I'm serious!!"

Adagio studied the nails of one hand. "Perhaps you are, but I'm afraid Fluttershy already pulled this one."

"Did she corrupt Twilight's spell at the Battle?!"

That got Adagio to look up again, noting the tears in Sunset's eyes.

"Do you know why I've been trying so hard to help you three make friends and be happy? It isn't just that I was given another chance myself and I'd feel like a total hypocrite if I didn't at least try to share that with you, though that's p-part of it, but because, back then, the spell, b-before that, I..." Not wanting to say or do something stupid again, she forced herself to breathe and collect her thoughts. "When we got out from under the stage, by the time Twilight called out to me for help, I hated you guys. Deep down, after everything you'd put me, my friends, and my school through, I wanted you to be hurt, I wanted you to suffer like I did when the Element of Magic betrayed me. And, thinking that some amount of aggression needed to be there, that you needed at least a little malice to fire off the kind of spell Twilight used on me, I let my anger at you into my spirit for the song."

Letting out a hollow chuckle, she shook her head ruefully as she lowered her eyes to the floor. "I never asked if that was actually how Twilight and the others stopped me, but never felt like I needed to, and it was so satisfying to see you three taken down after what you'd done to me, but it was only later that I realized it wasn't a will to harm an enemy, but a wish that they'd stop harming others. I alone corrupted Twilight's magic, and you three losing your gems, your magic, and your singing voices is all my fault!"

In the ensuing quiet, Sunset realized how hard she was breathing. She hadn't meant to shout, but felt distantly relieved to know that the music room was sound-proofed. Eventually, she managed to look directly at Adagio, but despite the clenched fists and tears in her eyes, Adagio was stony calm, even if she wasn't saying anything yet. To Sunset, the anticipation was murderous.

"As... I said... Fluttershy tried to pull this too. You may have more legitimacy than she did and I'd love to pour all my hatred on one target, but you must know that I could easily have paid all of you back by now single-handedly. Did getting your revenge make you happy?"

"It wasn't for reve-..." She felt the tears slide down her face. "I've felt horrible ever since our first talk, when I learned exactly what all of you lost, and the guilt has been eating away at me ever since. I won't ask you to forgive me, but I'm truly sorry, and I'd do anything to make the three of you happy again."

More silence. Even if she couldn't see that Sunset was already hurting for what she did to them (which she hadn't, until a moment ago), she knew that 'getting even' didn't bring Sunset any lasting joy, and it was clearer than ever now that it wouldn't really do anything for her, Aria, and Sonata, either. One more reason not to bother. And yet, knowing that her primary hate figure would most likely suffer this guilt for the rest of her life, she found it harder to begrudge her. It wasn't the same as when she forgave Trixie, but the seething resentment had definitely lost a lot of its fire, even though she was just a little annoyed about drawing no satisfaction in knowing that she and the others weren't suffering alone.

"Well," she said with a shrug, "thank you for telling me, but I'm afraid it doesn't change anything for us; we're still mostly songless no matter who's responsible."

Sunset had heard about the lullaby thing from Fluttershy, but it didn't make her feel any better. "I can't fix your voices," she admitted sullenly, "but whatever you do, please don't give up hope, or it really is over."

"Hmph. I assume you mean hope of finding more friends? Because if there's nothing we can do about it, abandoning our voices is the only sensible choice." Sunset was looking at her like she just said she was dying. That was odd, considering... "Do you not remember? You were the one that suggested we find something else to do in the first place, and making some friends was your first recommendation."

"You're..." Her brain shook as she processed what she was hearing. "You're, only here, only trying to make friends, to distract yourselves from your loss?"

"As opposed to spending the rest of our lives sulking," Adagio deadpanned, "like we talked about? Those were your exact words, and how you got Aria and Sonata to listen to you in the first place." Sunset's confused face made her raise an eyebrow. "You hadn't even suspected? I had thought that part was painfully obvious."

"Didn't you tell Fluttershy you were here to kill time?"

"Yes. Kill time. Do you not recall how we did that before?"

"Well, no, I mean yea, I get that, but..."

But what? Try as she might, Sunset couldn't grasp how the three of them trying to make friends was a bad thing, even if it wasn't for the purest reason. Friendship as a coping mechanism. As a means of moving on. Had she been any different? Something about it just didn't sit right with her, but what was the alternative? To tell them to stop trying? Maybe it was the fact that they hadn't really gotten over what they'd lost yet, but damned if they weren't trying. She shook her head, sighing.

"N-nothing, I guess."

Adagio nodded, turning toward the door. "If that's all, both of us should probably head home; if the school hasn't closed yet, it will soon, and I left Fluttershy with Aria and Sonata."

Sunset managed a little smile. "See you in Math?" To her quiet glee, Adagio actually glanced over her shoulder to offer a tiny smile back.

"See you in Math."

---

This time, Adagio's quiet approach was deliberate, but only because she hoped to catch a glimpse of the 'screaming ball of crazy' the others had told her Fluttershy became when they played together. When she crept to the living room, however, it seemed like everything was normal.

"Quick, use the warrior dress-sphere, Ria!"

"I'm trying, Nata, but the turns in this game are all wonky!"

From the back of the couch, Adagio could see Fluttershy tilt her cute little head. "It was turn-based in the last game, right? Why would they change it here?"

"They changed a lot of stuff, Squeaky, but at least we've only got three party members to worry about this time."

Sonata shrugged. "Could've just skipped the ones we never used all that much."

"And what happens when the three you rely on constantly get taken out?"

Fluttershy raised her hand. "You'd be forced to fight with weak characters against something that already incapacitated your strongest?" She squeaked as slender, yellow arms seized her from behind.

"Right! You're a trap-layer extraordinaire and an adequate tactician, Sweetie."

Not really minding either way what being an 'adequate' tactician might have meant, Fluttershy turned her head toward Adagio and smiled. "How did it go?"

"I'll still refrain from talking with her more than necessary in school, but for now? I think we're good."

Fluttershy smiled wider, and not just because Aria and Sonata looked happy to hear that too. "Okay, I should probably get home, but I'll see you tomorrow!"

Cheek-kisses were exchanged before Fluttershy left. The three of them huddled on the couch together, small-talk was made regarding what Aria and Sonata did while they were waiting for her to come back, how they'd started the sequel to that JRPG with the sad ending so Fluttershy could see the happier one, to the details of Adagio's most recent talk with Sunset. As per something else Sunset urged them to do, she kept no secrets from them, explaining what Sunset had told her about her influence on Twilight's spell, making it perfectly clear how Sunset now felt about the whole thing. When it was done, Aria was the first to say anything.

"...Yea, and?"

Adagio shrugged. "That's what she told me, and this distinctly felt like a 'when were you going to tell us' kind of thing." She hadn't expected Aria to hug her for that, but she offered no resistance as Sonata swiftly followed. When they separated, she regarded the two of them with a raised eyebrow. "So, no comment at all?"

Sonata scratched her head. "Well, like, 'it's all Sunset's fault' was sorta our default anyway, right? Wasn't that why we kept away from the Rainbooms as a group?"

"And the fake-friends thing," Aria said while reaching over to give Sonata a little nudge, "but, yea. I mean, would either of you two actually care if those girls were the only ones we ever got along with? 'Cuz I know I don't."

"But," Adagio said leadingly.

"But, even if it was a little shaky at first, we probably couldn't do it if Sunset was around or we'd be biting our tongues the whole time, and that's if things didn't turn sour anyway. Even if the other Rainbooms somehow picked us over her..." She let Sonata finish, which she did with a frown.

"Sunset would be pretty much alone, and that's way too mean to her after all she's done and tried to do for us, even now."

Adagio nodded. "Especially given that the rest of the school seem to be acquaintances with her at best and we haven't seen a hair of Twilight since the Battle. I suppose Sunset could just follow Twilight back to Equestria, but that wouldn't make it any less cruel to her, to say nothing of the fact that if she wanted to go back, she probably would have by now."

"And like," Aria said with a hint of exasperation, "it's not even like Sunset is a bitch or anything, she's great, but at the end of the day, living with what we got out of the Battle while she gets off easy; her having been unpopular for a few months while we lose our voices forever on top of that? Sucks!"

"Indeed." Adagio briefly made a show of scrutinizing the others. "Neither of you have breathed a word of this to your respective Rainboom buddies, I hope?"

Aria waved a dismissive hand. "They don't need that kinda drama in their group. Besides, it's not really their problem that we still haven't found anything to help get over what they took from us. It's easy to hate Twilight if she's not around to feel it from us, but Sunset's the one that dragged us out of our dark spot, sooo...?"

"So we stick with the plan;" Adagio nodded, arms crossed, "make some friends outside their group, get all the feelings they enjoy together, and finally forget about everything we lost when the gems were destroyed. Who knows? Maybe some day, we can completely let go of this, play along with Sunset just like she hoped."

Sonata leaned over, resting her head on Adagio's shoulder. "That might be cool."

"Mhm," Aria concurred, leaning on Adagio's opposite side.

They stayed together like that for a little while, quietly joining hands before starting a soft, slow tune.

Author's Note:

If it feels like the last scene there ends the chapter kind of abruptly, it might be because I had to re-write the original last scene a few times to avoid spoiling the next chapter, then figured it was probably better to just leave it out entirely until then.

...I guess every chapter that doesn't end the story is kind of a cliffhanger, when you think about it, but hopefully this one didn't build too much worry/suspense and make it painful to wait for the next one.

Also, in one of the many Sundagio stories I've got on hold, I need to have Adagio be Tsundere for Sunset. For reasons.

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