• Published 25th Mar 2015
  • 5,081 Views, 451 Comments

We Are What We Are - Theigi


What does it take to transform three innocent youths into the most fearsome enchantresses two worlds would ever know? Redemption be damned. Sometimes one's past is too painful to leave behind. A dark, novelesque & musical Sirens origin story

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An End to Grace Notes

Stepping off of the bus at her stop near the edge of town filled Adagio with a sense of relief. Thankfully, Sunset Shimmer would usually get off six stops before hers; so, she didn't have to worry about any more snooping than the usual that could be expected from the girl. Finally, her responsibilities for the day were over with, at least if one were to accept the notion that Aria and Sonata could take care of themselves. Thinking over all of the shocking events of her day, she realized that perhaps she had been taking on too much, putting too much pressure on herself. Rubbing the burning spot under her sweater, she then grimaced. If that rotten little Crystalline hadn't walked into that piano room at exactly the wrong moment, Adagio would not be having to deal with this nuisance of a pain, now. After all, she would never have actually done that to herself on purpose... would she?

Turning up the walkway toward the old, looming house before her, she was relieved to see that no lights were on inside. At least she would have the place to herself for a little while longer. Quickly unlocking the door and stepping inside, Adagio then braced her back against the other side of the entrance, and slid exhaustedly to the floor. After sitting there with her head in her hands for a few minutes, she kicked the shoes off of her feet, stood up, and marched straightaway up the stairs.

Barging into the bathroom, she wrenched open the shower curtain, and turned on the tap water to fill up the tub. She then began to bustle about the house, putting away all of the evidence that the day had ever even happened. A thought then struck her, and she headed toward the kitchen. When she entered, she immediately began searching through the cupboards.

Usually, she wasn't one to get drunk just for the hell of it, but if she were to acknowledge that today had been one of those kind of days, then she would also have to acknowledge that alcohol was a quick and effective balm for those who experienced them. However, as she found each subsequent cupboard bare of any wine—her particular poison of choice—she began to get more and more desperate, wondering if she had ever actually instructed Sonata to purchase some for her. Ending her frantic search at the fridge, Adagio snatched the door open, and peered inside for anything that might do the trick. The only drinkable items she found therein were a full pack of juice boxes sitting right next to a half-finished pack of beer, both of them distinct reflections of their purchasers. Adagio frowned at the sight of these, and then sighed. Grabbing two of each, she then headed back up the stairs, and into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

The ritual was second nature. A few candles were lit, and the bathroom light was turned off. Incense was burned, and gradually, a warm, pleasant-smelling haze filled the glowing room. Popping open a bottle of pink bath oil, Adagio smiled at its fragrant scent of rose before she poured it into the tub. Wondering if there was anything more to be done, a strange feeling of anxiety befell her when she realized there wasn't.

She hadn't really had a chance to think clearly about what had happened to her at the Crescendos' house that day, even right after it had occurred. Her state of panic and desire to leave had won out over any in depth brooding that could have taken place over the incident. Now, however, everything was quiet and calm. There was nothing expected of her. She had been left to her own devices. She laughed in disbelief when she found herself wondering whether or not she would be having a nicer experience if one of the other girls was home making some type of irritating noise that was sure to distract her, even just a little, from her own troubled thoughts. "Now you're losing it, Adagio," she muttered to herself as she moved to stand in front of the bathroom mirror. She began to undress.

Everything else besides her blouse came off first. It was almost as if she didn't want to confront the sight again. Haunting questions began to pervade her mind. Would it be uglier now that she had time to inspect it more clearly? Would it leave a permanent scar? What about getting it wet? Would it sting? How long is something like this supposed to hurt? Shaking her head free of what she deemed cowardly thoughts that were unbefitting of her, she closed her eyes, and quickly unbuttoned the pink-stained blouse. After this, she then undid her bra. She reached toward her chest, and ran her fingers over the column of band-aids that sat there. Taking another deep breath, she then slowly began to peel each of them off, one by one. When they were all gone, she stood there for a moment, working up the courage to open her eyes. When she finally did, and took in the long, dark gouge that sat upon her once pristine skin, she felt a painful pang in her heart.

Try as she might, it was just not a sight she figured she could get used to. Oh, why did she even bother to pick up that stupid letter opener in the first place? Now, she would have to spend her eternity making sure the other girls never found out about it. She felt herself welling up with self-pity, and moved her hand to graze against the cut. It stung, badly.

As her fingers attempted to gently follow the terrible trail, she was startled by the sudden sound of the front door opening, and slamming shut. Brushing against the wound too harshly, she hissed in pain, crouched, and held her breath, waiting for the sensation to pass.

"Adagio! I'm ho—" came a bubbly voice from downstairs.

Hearing Sonata abruptly cut her sentence short, Adagio wondered, in her daze, if something had happened. With a sigh, she then resigned herself to simply worrying about that which concerned her for the time being. As she ambled over toward the tub, and gingerly stepped inside, she heard the voice call once again.

"Adagio?" Sonata shouted, sounding much more nervous this time.

Settling herself into the tub, and wincing at the initial sting of the water upon her chest, Adagio exhaled, and leaned back. Ignoring the other girl for a second time, she eyed the clutter of drinks that she had placed next to the tub, and quickly snatched up one of the beers. Cracking it open, she stared at it for a moment in disdain before holding her nose, and chugging it down. "Ugh, revolting!" she sputtered a few times before repeating the action, as if forcing down a disgusting tonic. She figured the faster she drank, the sooner its effect would kick in.

Finishing the first can, she crushed the empty thing in her hand, and tossed it toward the nearby waste bin. Wiping her mouth, she gingerly reached toward the second one, and cracked it open. Holding her nose, once again, she momentarily stared at the can in utter disgust, and then moved to place it against her lips, almost looking as if she were about to kiss a frog.

An abrasive knock resounded against the bathroom door. Adagio's eyes shot open, and she stared at the entryway in disbelief. "You've gotta be kidding me," she muttered to herself.

"D... Dagi? Are you okay in there?" came Sonata's voice, ever so cautiously.

"You've gotta be kidding me, Sonata!" she yelled again, this time out loud. "What have I told you a million times?"

"I know! I'm sorry. I just needed to check if... I'm going now!" the blue girl blurted behind the door. No sooner had she said this could the sound of her hurried footsteps be heard scampering back downstairs.

Rolling her eyes, Adagio settled back into her bath, and moaned when she remembered the unfinished beer in her hand. Sighing heavily, she clamped her nostrils closed one more time, placed the beer to her lips, and tilted her head back, swallowing mouthful after mouthful. When the can was empty, she crushed and tossed it, yet again, and giggled when she found herself swaying to and fro ever so slightly.

Mission accomplished.

Closing her eyes as she slid deeper into the warm, enveloping water, she then reached for one of the juice boxes, popped in its garish, neon green straw, and set to work trying to wash the horrible taste of cheap beer off of her tongue.

__

Sonata bustled about the kitchen, pulling out pots, pans, and cooking ingredients to prepare for dinner. Anyone who glanced at her at that particular moment would have been able to see that something was troubling her. As she worked in silence, rinsing off a large head of broccoli, and then beginning to chop it up upon the cutting board, her mind wandered back to when she had first entered the house.

She had been feeling great, if not slightly wary for fear that one of the girls would have arrived home before her. She hoped that no one would be around to somehow spot the extra "fluff" in her jacket pockets that day; so, when she peeked her head in through the door, it was to her relief that she found no one downstairs. Moving quickly, she pulled the money from her pockets, rolled it up into a wad, and slid it down the front of her shirt. Taking her sweater off, and slamming the door, she then called upstairs after noticing the presence of Adagio's sweater and shoes. "Adagio! I'm ho—" she had begun to call. Her words were unexpectedly cut short by a sudden, painful pang in the center of her chest. She flinched, and caught herself against the wall, touching the once painful spot, wondering what it might be. Slowly, a sudden sense of anxiety befell her. Very confused, Sonata dropped her sweater onto the floor. She took a few more steps toward the stairs as her intuition began to speak to her.

"Adagio?" she had called again, slowly made her way up the stairs. By the time she stood opposite the locked bathroom door, intuition had turned into raw instinct. She knew now what it was that she had felt, and the thought frightened her. She had known that she wasn't supposed to knock, but in that circumstance, she had also known that it was necessary.

Now, as she stood absentmindedly throwing floret after floret of broccoli into a pot to steam, Sonata's brow remained furrowed as her internal conflict raged on, fueled by memory and experience. The chest pain followed by that familiar sense of foreboding had been of a sort that was startling, but not new to her in the slightest. Quite often, back when they had their powers, and when either she or one of her sisters had been injured in a way that might have diminished their drive or ability to sing, the other two would be able to feel the drop in the others' energy as well as what had caused it. Like most of their abilities, it wasn't something that any of them had ever been able to explain; however, after a time, they had come to the shared conclusion that their powers, though wielded independently and often in very different ways, still came from the same, mysterious source. Thus, a danger or detriment to that shared power, via its earthly avatars, was something that all three of its spawn would, undoubtedly, be made aware of.

It had been a while since Sonata had felt one of her sisters call to her through their pain like that, at least in the mortal sense—almost half a century. She remembered the instance when Aria, who expectedly was the most injury prone of the three, had gotten into a nasty motorcycle accident while riding home in the rain. It had been right after they moved to this town, and both she and Adagio had felt it the instant it had happened, nearly keeling over where they sat on their then brand new couch. Wasting no time, they went outside, charmed a car away from the nearest driver they could find, and sped off in the direction from which Aria's spirit had called. When they finally found her after about half an hour of driving up and down various wooded highways, she had been lying up against a tree on the side of a lonely road, bleeding, unconscious, and suffering from broken bones. Sonata remembered the terrified look on Adagio's face as she scrambled out of the driver's seat toward the girl who was sitting limp as an unmanned puppet in the grass. She remembered her elder's panicked breath, even though she had kept calling Aria an idiot, and wondering out loud when and why she had obtained the motorcycle. They both secretly knew that it had been for the same reason the girls had obtained a television for their new home, as well as fancy new furniture, and new sets of clothing. It was to represent a celebration of yet another new start in a new place, perhaps one that might prove fruitful one day, unlike all the rest.

Sonata had watched the curly-haired girl discreetly wipe her cheek, probably hoping that it would look as if she were wiping away rain. She carefully laid Aria flat upon the ground, then brought her forehead down to touch hers, and held either side of the girl's face in her hands. Sonata, who at the time was stunned, and trying her best not to cry, moved to Aria's other side, and bent down low next to her sister. A silence had ensued during which only the heavy patter of rain could be heard. As the two sirens meditated, listened, and dug deep within themselves for the words that were buried there, their gemstones had begun to glow. Slowly, a melodic hum grew in their throats right along with it. It was Adagio's lips that had parted first, but soon Sonata's voice joined in the call, harmonizing in kind.

May you hear us,
Our sister of the sea.
Like water may healing flow,
From our beings into thee.
We bid your eyes be open,
That we may then rejoice,
The reuniting of three,
Rekindling of one voice.

It had taken a few terrible moments of waiting, and singing, waiting, and then singing again before anything had happened. After a while of no response, Adagio had, hysterically, begun to scream the incantation at Aria. She had even slapped her face a few times before the girl had finally sputtered back to life, to both her sisters' relief. Her bones and bruises had even begun to heal with a few more repetitions of the incantation, and soon they were all heading back home—very slowly albeit—in the stolen car.

Of course, half a century, to a siren, wasn't much; so, the memory of all this still lived fresh within Sonata's mind. However, the now obvious question still hung in the air, heavy and pregnant with possibility. If their powers had been completely destroyed, then how could their bond by magic still remain? Perhaps she had just been imagining things, but what else could have possibly spurred on such an old, familiar, nagging sense of pain and foreboding when her evening had been going so well?

Sonata covered the pot of steaming broccoli over, and then got started on tearing apart a few slices of bread to set aside for meatloaf. In the meantime, her mind reeled. As far as she was concerned, there was only one person who would be able to clarify what happened for her. It took another hour or so for Adagio to come sauntering down the stairs, wrapped snugly in a berry red bathrobe. The look on her face was rather pleasant, and Sonata smiled at her as the other girl took a seat at the dinner table. "Meatloaf and mashed potatoes tonight," she said as she stirred a steaming pot, and covered it over.

Adagio seemed less than thrilled. "Fantastic," the elder siren said sarcastically. "No need to wait for Aria. She'll almost certainly be getting home later from now on."

"Really?" Sonata replied as she quickly began to fix two plates. After she had finished, she brought them over to the table, and placed one before Adagio.

The yellow girl stared down at the plate Sonata had set before her as she swayed, ever so slightly, from side to side. "Splendid," she muttered, then looking up, half lidded eyes directed toward the blue girl. "Sonata, next time you go shopping, buy me a bottle of red wine, will you?"

Sonata giggled, and nodded, digging right into her food. "Okey doke! Which kind?" she asked.

"The strong kind," Adagio sighed, picking up her fork.

While her sister appeared to be trying to decide which mound of undecipherable food substance she should taste first, Sonata continued to stare at her through the edges of her fringe. The youngest Siren ate quickly as if nothing was bothering her until she could contain herself no longer. Casually, she cleared her throat, forcing yet another bright smile onto her face. "Say, Dagi, nothing weird happened to you today or anything, did it?" she asked as if trying to make conversation.

Adagio, being the brilliant woman that she was, immediately became suspicious. "What do you mean, weird?" she asked.

Her glare made Sonata slightly uncomfortable, and the girl giggled, shaking her head."Oh, nothing, just making conversation. Weird stuff happens all the time in this town, right?" she asked, covering her tracks rather poorly. After mentally regrouping, she decided to try a different tactic. "Something weird happened to me," she murmured.

Adagio continued to eat, unbothered. "And what was that?" the elder siren asked, assuming that perhaps the girl had caught sight of a rabbit or a deer at the side of the road that day, or something else equally as boring.

"Well, I came home today while you were upstairs, and out of nowhere, I got this really bad pain. Right here!" Sonata immediately pointed to a spot in the center of her chest as she held her gaze expectantly on Adagio's face. Just as she had hoped, she caught the curly-haired girl's beer glazed eyes flicker, and then begin to glance anywhere except toward her.

Adagio coughed a few times, and dropped her fork. "You did?" she almost yelled, as she got to her feet, and leaned over the table.

Sonata held back a small smile, knowing that Adagio also recognized the implications of such a thing. "Yea, I did! Do you know what it might be?" Sonata continued in her attempt to lead the conversation.

A look of realization crossed Adagio's face, and her brow then furrowed. Perhaps it was the beer, but she had let herself slip once again. What Sonata had told her was extremely important news; however, in order to verify exactly what they both thought this phenomenon had been, Adagio would first have to come clean about what had happened to her earlier that day, and that was simply out of the question. Her head began to shake before words ever escaped her mouth. "No," she replied bluntly. "I can take a wild guess, though. You've probably been eating too much of that junk down at Sammy's, again. I've told you to stop doing that."

Sonata looked hurt as she watched Adagio pick up her plate of half-eaten dinner, and turn to head toward the stairs. As she began to ascend them, the youngest Siren shot out of her seat and ran toward her, grabbing hold of her free hand. "No, Adagio, wait!" she yelped.

Adagio, surprised at Sonata's brashness, spun her head around, and peered back at the girl from over her shoulder. It was clear the elder Siren was trying her best not to show the rush of thoughts and emotions now clouding her mind. As usual, searching for the right words, Sonata's lips opened and closed like a fish.

"Spit it out," Adagio barely managed to mumble, her voice shaking. She couldn't bare the look of concern in the younger Siren's eyes, nor the feeling of her hand squeezing tightly around her own.

"You... You'd tell me if something was wrong, right?" Sonata asked, barely above a whisper. It appeared that the two girls' eyes were having the conversation that their mouths could not bear to, because as she watched her, Adagio's eyes then clenched shut.

The elder Siren inhaled sharply, and turned away. "Sonata," she began quietly, "You know that I don't like being manipulated by anyone."

"Adagio, please. I'm not trying to manipulate you. I just need to know if—" Sonata whimpered before Adagio wrenched her hand out of the girl's grip. Without taking another glance at her, she hurried upstairs to her room.

Sonata winced at the sound of her sister's door slamming. She stared at the empty stairwell for a long time before turning to head back toward the kitchen. It hurt, and she resented the fact that Adagio would accuse her of false sincerity in regards to her concern for her well being. She cared about both of her sisters very much, though they did tend to treat her harshly at times. Thus, she resigned herself to ensuring her elder's well being, even if it meant that Adagio would lose face in front of her subordinates. Setting about to emptying and washing dishes, after she was done, Sonata then planted herself upon the couch to impatiently await Aria's return.
___

"Fucking beautiful," Aria said to herself sitting up straight, and pulling the face mask off of her nose and mouth. After removing her goggles, and placing her soldering iron back into its holster, she glanced down to inspect her handiwork. Finally, after all of her efforts over the past couple of days, the repair job on the boutique electric guitar she had been working on was complete. Poor thing. Some old, stoner jackass had brought it in last week with its insides worn to hell. It clearly hadn't had a gut-out in at least two decades. Aria was surprised the thing still even worked, and then immediately felt pissed to acknowledge that such a beautiful model could belong to someone who she was sure didn't have the wits to play it properly. However, that evening, here lay the instrument—which she had nicknamed 'Beauty'—restored to its former splendor, thanks to her. The soldering on the once worn pots and output jack was now firmly reinforced, and both of those components freshly replaced. The neck had been straightened, and the wood buffed to a shine. She had even sneaked into Cookie's office while she was out, and dug into the drawer where she knew the woman kept the expensive guitar strings. This wasn't for the sake of the customer, of course, but just so that, even for one second, Aria could stare in awe at the craftsmanship of something made to play the most beautiful of music.

Taking no heed to caution, since it was now evening, Wheeler was long gone, and Cookie was still out for her "hour long" lunch, Aria snatched the lovely, cream-colored thing up, walked over to one of the test amps that Cookie kept toward the back wall, and plugged it in. Strapping the guitar over her shoulder, she picked up a bag of picks that sat atop the amp, and pulled out her favorite one, a small and narrow pick with a mother of pearl pattern. Flipping it a few times between her index finger and thumb, she slowly turned up the gain on the amp with her free hand, and brought the pick down toward the string. Her eyes were wide as she licked her lips, eager to hear what kind of sound the instrument would make. "Be gentle with me," she joked to herself without even a hint of a smile. Quickly, she hit a C power chord in a downstroke, and laughed as the guitar sang, its cry echoing off of the walls.

"Holy shit!" she exclaimed as she skipped around in place a little, and set her fingers to really getting down to business. She then let loose a fast-paced, silky solo. Her nimble fingers moved swiftly, jumping up and down the fretboard, bending and tapping the strings as if the girl had been born with the instrument in her hands. Honestly, she had learned how to play the guitar about three hundred years ago, simply because she was bored, wanted an excuse to not have to talk to her sisters, and liked the ease at which it could be transported. Naturally, being the musical prodigy that it was fated she should be, she picked up the skill for it rather quickly. When her guitar sang, she had listened to it; however, she conceded that it wasn't until the electric guitar had been invented almost two hundred years later that she had ever actually heard what the instrument had been trying to tell her. From then on, it had been a love affair, and Aria's fondness for the instrument would span across any, if not all, genres and eras. One of her fondest belongings was her record collection, stowed away in the attic along with the rest of her sisters' old crap. Every now and then, she would venture up to the dusty old room, break out her archaic record player, and simply sit and listen to them for hours. Old blues, big band, jazz, hard rock, punk, funk, metal, hip hop, bass, rhythm, lead, it didn't matter. If that oh so enticing and unpredictable twang so much as showed itself in a way she had yet to hear, she had to know it, she had to learn it, she had to have it all for herself.

Her eyes closed as she lost herself in the music. A familiar itch grew in her chest, which stunned her until she realized it had just been a cough trying to escape her still sore throat. Lost in what she was doing, she never even heard the jingle of the storefront bell, nor the door to the workroom opening up behind her.

"Weeell, welly, well, well, well!" Cookie exclaimed as she stood behind the startled girl. Aria spun around to glare at her. The look on the brown woman's face was ecstatically mischievous, to say the least.

"Cookie!" Aria gasped, tearing the guitar off from around her shoulders. "I didn't even hear you come back!"

"Yea, I know, I can tell! You and that thing seem to be in a rather committed relationship. I hope I'm not intruding."

"N-no!" the pigtailed girl stammered defensively as she then watched Cookie slowly begin to approach her, that giddy smile still plastered upon her face. "I finished fixing it, and was just testing it out is all."

"Uh huh. Mind if I wreck this happy home up a little bit then?" she muttered, edging up close to Aria, and hooking a finger beneath the guitar strap. Pulling it out of Aria's grip, she quickly placed the strap over her own shoulders, grabbed a pick out of her back pocket, and began to play a swift solo of her own.

The expression on Aria's face gradually changed from one of astonishment, to interest, and then to almost disappointed amusement. Cookie was good, but only in that endearing way that mortals with very limited time are. Something about her fingers were clumsy, not as precise as they could have been, not as careful, not as intimate. The shopkeep had only been in the presence of music, what, less than thirty years? She'd probably only been an avid conversationalist with it for a decade and a half, two decades, tops.

And yet, this had been the first time Aria had heard the other woman play in such length, something that she had always wished to hear ever since she had gotten to know her. The Siren leaned up against the wall, crossed her arms, and listened politely.

When Cookie finished, she turned around, and smiled at the rosey girl. "How do you like them apples?" she asked.

Aria, who had rarely ever lied to save someone else's feelings, smirked and mimicked a tiny applause. "You're good," she muttered, inspecting her fingers with a wry smile.

"Just 'good'?" Cookie asked, noting the inflection in the other woman's voice. "Them's fightin' words." She pulled the guitar off, and handed it back to Aria. Turning to walk toward a wall where about five more were hung, she pulled down a pretty, lime green instrument, strapped it on, plugged it in to another nearby amp, and performed a practice lick. "You know any Jimmy?" Cookie asked her.

"Which one?" Aria retorted, strapping the guitar back on.

Cookie shot the girl a wry smile. "Cute," she retorted, running through a minute straight of speedy soloing.

Aria picked up the place where she left off almost as if predicting where the other woman would stop playing. The pigtailed girl went on for three minutes straight. She could have gone on for longer, but didn't want to raise the woman's suspicions. She smiled when she saw a flicker of green begin to halo the woman's head. Was she making Cookie Dough nervous?

Looking determined, Cookie pulled the solo away from Aria one more time, even though she had still been playing. She sped up her own fretting significantly, her fervent mortal fingers flying. Aria could barely contain her amusement at the sight of Cookie straining to show off. She waited a moment before continuing her own solo; however, this time, just for a second, she lost herself in her own ability, and began to play fast, very fast, just slightly too fast than what should have been possible. Cookie's own playing slowed to a halt, her pick dropping to the floor as she gawked at the younger woman.

Aria's eyes shot upward when she heard Cookie's playing stop, and suddenly, realized what she had done. Thinking quickly, she deliberately began to miss strings, forcing a groan. "I can only keep that up for a second. Nice trick, huh?" she lied, quickly turning off the amp, and pulling the plug from the guitar. Usually, she was more mindful about showing mortals more than they should know, unless she was purposely just trying to freak them out. This, however, had caught her off guard. She gripped her arm self consciously, unable to meet Cookie's gaze. Her eyes shot open when she heard Cookie begin to laugh.

"You're amazing!" Cookie exclaimed. "How come you've never told me you... Do you know how much I... Wow!"

"Eh, it's really nothing. Really," Aria muttered, the smile fading from her face as she found this amount of doting a bit nauseating.

"You're joking right?" Cookie asked, cocking an eyebrow. When the pink girl shrugged, and continued to stare at her unmoved, the poofy-haired woman placed her hands on her hips. Aria could not tell if this was a show of defiance, defeat, or maybe a little of both.

"Alright, Aria Blaze. Ya clearly beat me at guitar," Cookie sighed."But that poker game down at Bubbles has my name written all over it."

"What poker game?" Aria asked, befuddled.

"The one I'm challenging you to, of course!" the white-haired woman exclaimed, grabbing her jacket off of the rack once again. "And once I win, you and me are gonna have us a little chat."

___

"Go," Aria groaned with a roll of her eyes.

"I'm going to!" Cookie replied glancing down at her cards, and then back toward the glum girl's unamused face.

"When? Next year?"

"No, now!"

"Okay, then go."

"I am!"

"... Listen, I gotta take a piss."

"Aria Blaze, you sit your ass right in that seat until this game is over, or else!"

Aria snickered at Cookie's frustration as she stared at the green fumes encircling the woman's head. She took another sip from her mug of beer, placed her cards face down upon the table for the time being, and leaned back in her seat. Bubbles, the bar down the street from Cookie's music shop, was pretty packed that evening. It was Friday night, after all, and everyone around them was clearly pre-gaming for the night. For the freer crowd, the popular bar—leaking with cheap ale—was only stop one on a long night filled with poor decisions. Aria and Cookie sat by the side wall of the establishment so as not to be disturbed unless absolutely necessary. Cookie's card deck was sprawled out onto the wooden table. Aria had bought her the first pint, just as she had promised, but by Cookie's second loss at five card draw, she was tipsy and desperate enough to offer to buy the following two as a bribe. She needed Aria to stick around so that she might win back her lost cash.

It was kind of sad, really. Aria new quite well that the more inebriated a mortal got, regardless of how, the easier it was to read their energies. Thus, whilst Cookie did her best to hide her emotions from Aria's penetrating, purple gaze, the former siren simply had to look around her boss in order to decipher whether or not the woman's current hand of cards was a good one. Aria, having long ago chosen to stay with her current hand, had simply been waiting on Cookie to finish trading in her cards so that she might put her out of her misery, yet again.

Cookie's eyes brightened at her fresh hand. "I'm raising you ten," she exclaimed victoriously.

Aria squinted, eyeing her energy. "You sure about that?" she asked the poofy-haired woman.

"Oh, don't give me that, you... you..." Cookie muttered. "I know you're shaking in those worn out boots of yours. Gonna win all of my cash back."

"Whatever you say, Cookie. I'll see your ten," Aria sighed, again, cocking an eyebrow.

The dour girl's almost disturbing composure frustrated Cookie to her wit's end. She had seen some poker faces in her day, but this woman's was, by far, the most unreadable. "Okay, so show 'em to me," she stated.

"No, you first!" Aria retorted.

"You stayed like a million years ago!"

"Yea, well you raised last!" Aria blurted. Things went quiet between the two. Cookie was now trapped by the technicalities of official dictate. "Them's the rules, Cookie."

"You think I don't have anything, don't you?" Cookie hissed.

Aria smiled smugly to herself. "I didn't say that."

"But you're thinking it. You're probably thinking I'm gonna fold or something. Oh, no. Oh, I've got something for you, believe me. I've got something big."

Aria muffled a chuckle at these words, and took one more sip of her beer. She cocked her eyebrow. "Yea? Well, whip it out!" she joked.

One more string of silence ensued before Cookie—allowing her carefully guarded awareness of her own impending doom to show all over her face—plopped her horrible hand of cards down upon the table.

Aria snorted, and began to laugh loudly, throwing her head back. "A pair of fours? Holy shit, Cookie! I knew you were bluffing, but—"

"Shut up," Cookie whined, finishing off her mug before pouring herself another. "You know, I don't get you, Aria. How do you win like that every time?"

Aria shrugged, and smiled mysteriously. "You've got a bad poker face," she lied.

"How is that possible? You can't even see my eyes!" Cookie yelled, lifting the front of her hair up to peer at the amused, pigtailed girl.

Aria shrugged, bidding the woman to simply forgive and forget, even though she had just lost fifty dollars. "Now that that's out of the way," the former siren sighed, "finish that thing you were telling me last week. That thing about the one time you got lost in that cornfield for five days."

"Eh, I don't feel like it," Cookie sighed, clearly drunk at this point.

Aria looked at her, slightly perturbed. "Didn't you say you wanted to chat?" she inquired.

"That's not what I meant, Pigtails," Cookie sighed. Somewhere underneath all of that hair, she rolled her eyes, then sat up. "How about you tell me where you learned to play cards, and I'll think about it."

"I already told you, I'm not telling," Aria replied, crossing her arms.

"Ok, then tell me where you learned to play guitar like that," Cookie retorted.

Aria thought for a moment. If she were to be honest, she would have to talk about the time she and the girls lived in Spain all those centuries ago, and yada, yada. It didn't matter, did it? Cookie would just believe whatever she told her, right?

"Hey! I saw that look!" Cookie exclaimed, pointing toward Aria's face.

"What look?" Aria asked, looking as if she had been caught stealing something scandalous.

"The look that you make when you're going to just make something up," Cookie replied. "Hey, I don't do that with you, Aria. So, don't do it with me. Just tell me the truth. It's just guitar. Nothing crazy."

Aria's shoulders began to fidget about nervously, now that she knew she was being studied. "Eh, just, around," she replied before occupying her mouth with the edge of her glass.

"Okay," Cookie murmured suspiciously. "Where is 'around'? How many places have you lived? I can't believe I've never asked you all this before. This is what I wanted to chat about. How do you manage to draw all the talking out of me? Me of all people, when I barely know a damn thing about you?"

"Practice," Aria muttered, hoping the honesty of the reply would be well hidden behind a veneer of sarcasm.

"Hey, don't joke around," Cookie chided. "Answer the questions. Where is 'around'? How many places have you lived?"

Aria's eyes shifted instinctively to the side again, as she tried to think.

"You did it again!" Cookie exclaimed.

"Cookie, you're imagining things," Aria said. Her skin was beginning to itch. Vigorously, she scratched at them.

"How old are you? Like, exact number, Aria. Where were you born?" Cookie asked with an air of finality.

Aria forced herself to meet Cookie's gaze even though she felt as if she wanted to run away screaming. She gulped down the lump in her throat, and closed her eyes for a moment to regain her composure. When they opened again, a stern look had replaced the previous expression. Her lips slowly parted. "The truth is, Cookie, I can't tell you any of that," she sighed, now very serious.

Another silence passed between them as Cookie blinked at her in drunken confusion.

"Trust me. If you knew all of those things, then things... would be different between us, and..." Aria stammered, scratching the top of her head. This was already more tender emoting than she had done in the past two months combined. "I just don't want things to change between us, you know? I really like your stories, and... I sound like a total nutjob." She shook her head, and wearily placed her face in her hands.

Cookie simply continued to stare, even when the Siren's eyes met hers.

The pigtailed girl resolved herself to picking up her mug of beer, taking one more sip, and motioning to stand. "I'm gonna go have a piss and a cigarette," she muttered.

The poofy-haired woman sat up in her seat, then stood, choosing to slide her chair right next to Aria's to prevent the younger woman from getting up. She sat down again, leaned in, and leered directly into the former Siren's eyes.

Aria, not used to such close contact in such public spaces, shied away. Her eyes went wide. "Cookie, what are you doing?" she croaked, forcing a nervous smile.

Cookie snatched up Aria's arm and held it tightly. Bringing the appendage up to her face, she stretched open the cuff of Aria's jacket, and peered inside. When she could see nothing, she shoved her own hand into the sleeve, grasping frantically at Aria's arm. "Go to the bathroom. Right, I'm so sure, Aria," Cookie muttered. "I'm gonna at least find these cards you've been cheating with. I can bet you that."

The Siren, expectedly, began to struggle in her grasp. "Hey! Let go! I... I don't like to be—AH!" she squealed as Cookie's hand brushed a particularly tender place beneath her arm. The Siren was lost somewhere between humor and agony before she took a single opportunity to wrench the offended appendage away, nearly falling out of her seat. "Don't fucking touch me, Cookie! I don't like to be touched like that!" she yelled, grasping her arm defensively. Her expression went dark and furious in a way the other woman had never seen.

Cookie, caught off guard, along with most of the bar patrons that surrounded their table, stared at her wide-eyed, mouth agape. Aria's gaze darted about at all of the gawking eyes. She shrank into her seat as an ancient, though familiar feeling of shame enveloped her. "I... I mean..." she began to stammer when, suddenly, she doubled over, and clutched her chest with a painful gasp. A strange ache and a sudden sense of foreboding befell her, one that felt very familiar. It was all too much—the touching, the staring, the yelling, the chest pain, the implication of it all. Her face went hot. The room began to spin. Standing up quickly, she glanced at Cookie one last time. "I've gotta go," she said before dizzily stumbling out of the door.

Aria felt mortified, vulnerable, and afraid, things that she wasn't used to feeling all at the same time anymore. As she ran all the way home, the sound of mocking laughter and spiteful whispering began to reverberate in her mind.

Author's Note:

Here is the link to the healing incantation that Adagio and Sonata sing this chapter:
'Healing Incantation'