• Published 13th Aug 2016
  • 6,347 Views, 161 Comments

The Sun Shines No More - CGPH



After getting attacked on the street Sunset’s life begins to spiral out of control. As her mental and physical condition worsens, she soon finds that her salvation may lie with an unlikely trio.

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Chapter Ten: One Week Later

It was December and Canterlot was deep into the Christmas spirit. The streets were busy with people in thick coats, scarves and hats, all trying to squeeze in as much shopping as they could before the rush hour. A white blanket covered the roads and rooftops, almost indistinguishable from the blank void that had swallowed the sky. Though the snow had ceased momentarily, it had been coming down in a blizzard over the past week.

It couldn’t have paused at a better time, the deep chime of the clock striking three echoing through the snowy streets as the doors to Canterlot High flew open. A stampede of students came bounding out, half diving to the ground and making snowballs, the other half running and taking shelter. Two girls quickly ran through the parking lot, ducking to try to shield themselves from the inevitable war of snowballs being waged around them. Their giddy laughter drew to a close as they reached the car door.

“Rarity, are you sure about this?”

It was over two weeks since Sunset’s attack, and she was finally back in a stable place. She’d started school again, her face had fully healed over, and apart from the bandage she still wore on her chest, physically she was feeling top notch again.

Of course though, that didn’t stop her friends from worrying about her.

Of cooouurrsseeee, darling,” Rarity said, taking her seat in the driver’s chair. “What kind of friend would I be letting you walk home in such awful weather?”

Sunset couldn’t find it in her to argue and instead fastened her seatbelt. As Rarity put the car into drive, a large snowball collided with the windshield, startling both girls.

Ugh! What kind of immature ruffian snowballs a car that’s trying to drive!? Honestly…” Rarity fumed.

“I, uhh, think that was Rainbow Dash,” Sunset laughed.

Rarity looked back through the windshield, squinting.

Ah.”

She slammed her hand down on the horn, startling anyone in the nearby area. When she saw the distant outline of their attacker leap to the ground, she chuckled quietly to herself and pulled the car out of the parking lot.

“Now, what were we saying?” Rarity smiled.

Sunset laughed, shaking her head.

“I said you don’t need to keep driving me home.”

“Oh pssffttt,” Rarity waved her off, “Sunset, I insist. And anyway, it’s nice to catch up without the rest of the girls.”

Sunset shrugged, “I suppose that’s true…”

Rarity silently nodded to herself and kept driving.

“As much as I love the girls, there’s only so many times you can take Pinkie Pie or Rainbow Dash’s interruptions without it spoiling the mood. Besides… there was something I had wanted to talk to you about.”

This perked Sunset’s attention. She couldn’t help but notice Rarity’s drop in enthusiasm on the last part of that sentence.

“Sure, what’s up?” Sunset asked cautiously.

Rarity laughed nervously.

“Ahh yes… now, the question is, how to delicately steer the conversation into dark territory without it being noticeable and awkward?” she laughed aloud.

Her words began a welling of anxiety and unrest in Sunset’s stomach. She didn’t like where this was going. She eyed her friend suspiciously.

“Everything okay, Rares?” she asked.

Rarity let out another awkward chuckle.

“Everything’s fine, Sunset! Don’t worry about it, nothing’s wrong, just a… eh, sensitive subject is all.”

Sunset couldn’t ignore she was avoiding eye contact and talking through a teethy smile. She could also spy a single bead of sweat making its way down her friend’s temple. She wondered if it was perhaps too icy outside to perform the jump, tuck and roll technique before it was too late.

“What is?” she asked cautiously.

Rarity’s smile began to flatten.

“You, er…” she coughed, “may recall a moment last week… I told you, albeit briefly, that you weren’t the only one who had to deal with some rough things in life….”

Sunset nodded. “Oh yeah, I remember that… Didn’t really know what you meant, but the message got through.”

“Yes well…” Rarity let out a heavy sigh, “this was, ahhhh, a-hem, a lot easier in my head.”

“Look, Rarity… you don’t have to tell me anything you’re uncomfortable with,” Sunset interrupted.

“No, no, no, I was being intentionally vague when I brought that up,” she stressed. “There was no reason for me to be so extra! I do owe you an explanation, making a statement like that with no intention of following it up could seem… unnecessarily mysterious. You know I'm not really the edgy type.”

Sunset shook her head.

“Rarity, really, if you don’t want to tell me, I can live with not knowing.”

“I’d really like to be able to tell you, Sunset. I won’t lie, being able to share this with somebody is also partly for my own benefit.”

Her words struck a chord with Sunset.

After everything Rarity had done for her recently it would be unfair if she wasn’t there to listen to her. More than unfair, actually. It wasn’t like Sunset owed Rarity for her kindness, when Rarity had done whatever a normal friend would have in her situation. Which made it Sunset’s turn to be that normal friend.

She nodded, growing silent.

“Then… of course. What’s on your mind?”

Sunset’s words were the much-needed go-ahead Rarity had been waiting for. She took a deep breath and slowly told her tale.

“With our parents always away, for the longest time Sweetie Belle and I were forced to walk anywhere we wanted to go...”

She paused, as if mulling over what she’d just said.

“Probably why I got a car for my 18th, come to think of it… Now, it wasn’t terribly inconvenient as we never did venture anywhere too outlandish anyway, but… well…” Rarity sighed. Sunset noticed the car slowing and was thankful that they weren’t in a crowded area.

“Canterlot is a very safe area, you see. Aside from what happened to you, I can’t think of a single case of physical violence happening here in the last ten years. And being raised in a place with those statistics can make a girl, shall we say… unusually sheltered, from the outside world. A young girl walking alone in Canterlot is a very different thing to a young girl walking alone anywhere else…. if you catch my drift.”

Sunset didn’t catch her drift, not immediately.

It took her a few moments to catch on, before her eyelids opened wide.

“Oh my god, Rarity…”

Rarity continued, unfazed. “It was in the city… not a few blocks away from Crystal Prep actually, if memory serves. Going out at night was a stupid idea, I blame myself entirely.”

Sunset butted in immediately, “Rarity, that’s not your fault. No one is ever to blame in that situation.”

Rarity gave her friend a dry smile, her eyes still focused on the road… “I appreciate your goodwill, but it’s not what you think… Alas, this was entirely my fault… I’d have given anything for it to have happened to me instead.”

Sunset frowned.

'Happened to me?

So what happened didn’t..?

Then how does that…

Oh.

Oh.'

“You don’t mean?”

Rarity nodded solemnly.

“Sweetie Belle, yes.”

Those words seemed to echo in Sunset’s brain a few times. She suddenly felt very out of her depth being told this. She opened her mouth to say something – anything – to her friend, but was cut off too early.

“It happened four years ago, during her first year at CHS.” Rarity gave a small smile, “around the same time I was competing with you for Princess of the Spring Fling, actually. I’d run out of the fabrics I was using to make my dress… Sassy Saddles had more at her Carousel and offered to keep some behind the counter for me but… well, I was too busy with the campaign to go myself and Sweetie Belle volunteered, so…”

Any discrepancies Sunset had been feeling between her friend's tale and her own situation began diluting into guilt. She stayed silent, listening.

I sent her out there. It was entirely my fault. Not only did I have to deal with the guilt of that, I also had to help her through a lot of what you’ve just been through. Of course I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable back then as I am now... Things weren’t easy, but I helped her through the worst of it. That’s what I was referring to when I said I had learned to deal with people in your situation.”

As Rarity drew her story to a close, Sunset found herself at a loss for words. The long-gone guilt and anxiety she’d feel when thinking about her old actions made a comeback. She felt like she was walking down the familiar neighborhood she had as a child, but it wasn’t a pleasant sensation. It was a toxic nostalgia.

Sunset forced her words out, not wanting her silence to make Rarity uncomfortable.

“Rarity… I’m so sorry, that’s terrible. I had no idea. And I bet all the horrible stuff I did to you during the Spring Fling made everything worse…”

Sunset hung her head. She could feel the tear ducts behind her eyes beginning to open.

“Oh darling, that’s all water under the bridge now!” Rarity casually waved her off, almost startling Sunset with her unusually cheerful mood. “Even Sweetie Belle’s gotten over it. Mostly, anyway. She still wakes herself up occasionally… has to crawl into bed with me, poor thing. And the way she acts around strangers now, gives the feeling I shan’t be becoming an aunty at any point. I would appreciate your full discretion if you don’t mind, the only one of our friends to know is Applejack, who found out through Applebloom.”

Sunset gave a sharp nod. “I won’t tell a soul. Thank you for trusting me with this.”

Rarity thought for a moment before chuckling.

“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, Sunset. You taught me that a problem shared is a problem halved. I’ve been doing everything I can to cover my tracks with what happened, I’ve wanted to tell you girls about it but had no idea how to bring it up. Not that I’m expecting weekly council meetings or anything,” Rarity laughed, “I just… it feels nice to tell somebody about it, you know?”

Sunset nodded.

“I know.”

“Well, on a lighter note,” Rarity said in a notably more upbeat voice, “it’s nearly Christmas break! Have you got anything planned?”

Sunset’s eyes shot over in her friend’s direction, frowning. She didn’t understand, how could Rarity share something so deep and personal with her and then want to immediately move on to something more cheery? Surely the mood was set now?

Although, she thought, maybe she needed to take into consideration that Rarity was human too. There were no written rules with these kinds of things, or there definitely wasn’t with what Sunset went through. Doing what felt right was the only way she could move forward, maybe Rarity just needed to get it out of her system.

Her friend had proved she knew what she was doing, so Sunset had full confidence in her to make the right choices. If Rarity needed her, she would be there.

Giving herself a mental nod of confirmation, Sunset forced a smile.

“Just the party with you girls…. Twilight did invite me to come spend Christmas with her friends as well but I’m not sure.”

“With the girls from Crystal Prep?” Rarity pouted. “Why ever not? They seemed nice enough to me?”

It took Rarity a second to hear her own words.

“…outside from the whole… peerpressuringTwilightintobecomingaragingshe-demonandnearlytearingapartthefabricofrealityasweknowit, that is,” she continued.

Sunset gave a short laugh, shaking her head.

“The other Twilight, actually.”

“Oh. Oh. Oh. You mean?”

Sunset gave an unenthusiastic nod.

“Back to Equestria, yeah.”

“I see…” Rarity paused. “Well, why aren’t you going?”

Sunset shrugged. She hadn’t planned on getting into this right now, but figured she might as well while they were having their heart to heart.

“With everything that’s been going on recently I just want some time to relax. Just for these holidays. I can’t go back to Equestria without dragging a bunch of drama with me… and even if I did, there’s no guarantee I’d actually be allowed back. I did… er, technically commit treason… twice. There’s a chance I’ll get thrown in a dungeon the second I step foot– er, hoof, through the portal.”

“I thought a while ago you were considering going back?”

Sunset shook her head. “That was then… I didn’t feel safe in my own home. I’ve got better since then, I’m not in that mentality anymore. I don’t know, I think going back to Equestria now would do me more bad than good.”

Rarity seemed to deflate a little, obviously disappointed in Sunset’s decision.

“Well I suppose that’s your decision to make. Still, ‘tis a shame not getting to see your family for Christmas.”

Sunset gave a casual shrug. “I’ve managed just fine the past couple of years.”

“Oh, Sunset, I didn’t mean to imply–” Rarity panicked.

“No, no, it’s fine, you’re right,” Sunset held her hand up, silencing her. “Last time I saw any of them it wasn’t on the best terms. And yes, before you say it, I recognize that finding excuses to stay in this world is a way of avoiding confrontation… Trust me, anything you can say on the subject has already gone through my mind.”

Rarity smirked.

“You sound well-rehearsed.”

“I guess everything you said a while ago stuck with me. And… it’s been a conversation I’ve been having with myself a lot recently. Ever since what happened.”

Rarity gave a knowing nod.

“Overthinking something only ever extends the suffering. If you feel any anxiety about going back, you should talk to Twilight about it. I’m sure she’d be more than happy to help you figure stuff out.”

Sunset shook her head. She appreciated Rarity’s generosity, but it wasn’t a topic she was ready to debate on.

“I’ve decided on it, it’s not what I need right now. One day, just not right now.”

Rarity nodded.

The tension in the car hung thick. Sunset could feel what was coming, but that didn’t help to soften the blow when it did.

“Didn’t do well at lightening the mood, did we?” Rarity asked.

The two girls gave a shared laugh.

As it died down, Rarity continued with, “So, er… how are you doing?”

Like water down a drain pipe, the mood dampened even more.

Any other time she’d be mad, since Rarity knew this was sensitive subject with her, but she figured it was only fair, as it appeared to be the time for cleaning out their closets. Since they’d all gone to speak to The Dazzlings a week ago, Sunset’s situation had gone all but entirely unmentioned between them. It wasn’t a forced absence, but it was an absence nonetheless. Rarity was allowed to be curious, Sunset figured.

“Better. A lot better, actually,” she nodded. “I really got what I needed.”

Rarity smiled warmly, briefly glancing over to Sunset.

“That’s good… I am ever so glad you’re feeling better. You haven’t heard from them at all, I suppose?” she asked.

Sunset shook her head, and turned her attention to the snowflakes hitting the windshield.

She hadn’t heard a thing from them. She didn’t know whether or not to be glad. She was in a good place now, she was finally happy with her life again. But, thinking back about them, she was filled with… what, sympathy? Regret?

Disappointment. Although she didn’t want to admit it, a small part of her had been hoping they’d take her up on her offer. She’d exposed her heart to them that day and gone at them with everything she had. She really thought she’d got through to them. But as their absence indicated… she hadn’t.

She should be glad, she knew. She’d offered them help and the fact they turned her down probably meant they were in a better place than she’d thought. She had done her part, and if they chose not to take her up on her offer then that was their decision.

Yet still, the sting of rejection hit hard with Sunset.

“Not a thing,” she shook her head. “Kinda saw that coming, I mean… but after all the effort we went through, you think we’d at least get a thank you.”

Rarity sighed and nodded.

“Can’t say I’m massively surprised. But you offered them help and they turned you down, you did your bit,” Rarity confirmed Sunset’s feelings.

Sunset nodded, answering. Rarity picked up on her silence.

“Oh, I’m sure they’re fine. I know Adagio is proud but I’m pretty sure even she’d recognize when she can’t do something by herself. That basket was probably all the help they needed.”

Rarity was right, Sunset did have all the evidence she needed that they were getting on fine. So why wasn’t she satisfied?

“I just… I don’t know. Part of me really thought we’d hear back from them.”

“You’re disappointed we didn’t?”

The question hung in Sunset’s mind. It was a question she knew the answer to, but airing it aloud would make it more real.

“Yes.”

Suddenly, an alarm bell went off in the back of Sunset’s head.

Rarity had just taken a different turning from their usual route. She frowned, confused.

“Where are you going?”

“Kaos Building, Room Twelve, right?”

Sunset felt the color begin to drain from her face.

“Rarity… what are you…?”

“You said it yourself! You did more than your part to help them and didn’t even get a thank you. After all they did to you, you still found the goodness in your heart to help them, and they couldn’t even show basic gratitude? That goes beyond being rude Sunset, that’s just plain unacceptable. If you want your closure, you’re going to get it.”

Sunset gulped.

Yep, she definitely should have jumped, tucked and rolled.


Once again Sunset found herself creeping slowly through the halls of the Kaos building, with Rarity following closely in tow. For whatever reason the security guard that had been on the desk the last time two times they’d come to visit was now absent, likely because of the earlier time of day they were there. It was the first time they had come to see the sirens during the daylight, but that didn’t do much to settle Sunset’s nerves.

Aside from the floorboards creaking underfoot, the atmosphere was suspiciously quiet. The eerie silence made Sunset think back to when she’d read ghost stories online. Apparently in the presence of a spirit, the silence would be deafening, each noise would be as loud as a bullhorn and the air would be hauntingly still. And in this place, more than ever, she was able to imagine what a haunted house would feel like. Walking those halls felt like she was at the scene of a crime committed long ago.

The past two times she’d been she’d let her anxieties had get the better of her, but this time she had her new-found sense of security. She allowed her mind to wander. Although the place wasn’t half as scary as it was by night, it still was somewhere Sunset would never want to find herself alone. One particularly grim thought was what the other residents of the apartment block might be like. If the peeling wallpaper and glass on the floor was anything to go by, she’d hazard a guess that the rest of rooms were similar in states to the Dazzlings. She didn’t know what had made the other residents lives so bad that they’d resorted to living there, but she prayed the decisions she’d face in her life would be more merciful.

Thinking of the kind of scum and villainy that inhabited the place made her watch each door a little more carefully as she walked past.

“Rarity…” Sunset began, her familiar anxieties making themselves known once again, “maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”

Rarity scoffed from behind her.

“Sunset, if you back out now you’ll only regret it later.”

What she was saying was true, and Sunset couldn’t help but notice the sternness in her friend’s voice. She didn’t know what she had done in the car to trigger her friend’s sudden act of tough love, but the further she got down the corridor the more she began regretting it.

As quickly as the door came into sight Sunset soon found herself stood frozen in front of it. She didn’t have to look back to feel Rarity’s strong presence behind her.

Looking at the door, she was instantly reminded of her last time there. She could still mentally see Adagio peeking out from behind it. The butterflies in her stomach began swirling, twisting until she could feel her old problems draining into the hall like gushing water. She gritted her teeth against it -she was over her past anxieties, but the memory of them was enough to churn her stomach and dampen her mood.

Pushing down hard on the breath in her lungs, Sunset raised her fist and gently knocked.

The longest seconds of her life ticked over before, much to her astonishment, an answer came.

“Who is it?” a quiet voice asked.

Sunset and Rarity shared a shocked glance over the response. That was the first time actual contact had been established between Sunset and the sirens ever since her beating. Sunset stumbled over her next words, unsure how to approach this development.

After a few heavy seconds, she answered, “I-It’s Sunset Shimmer and Rarity.”

There was a long pause before the voice returned, and in that time Sunset felt her heartbeat grow ever faster. When the voice did respond, it was noticeably weaker than before.

“Go away.”

There was something different about that voice. It wasn’t the authoritative tone Adagio usually spoke with. It wasn’t demanding they leave; it was asking. It was softer, sounding almost like a child’s. Sunset figured she was most likely talking to one of the other two sirens.

Her Fluttershy instincts kicking in, she replied with her kindest, “we just want to talk, can you let us in?”

No response came. Sunset waited for one, but when it became apparent she definitely wasn’t getting one, she spoke up again.

“We aren’t here to start trouble, I promise. We just want to talk, er, properly this time.”

“You’re not supposed to be here,” the response was quick but equally as weak as the last.

Sunset frowned. That really sounded like a child’s voice. Did one of the sirens have a kid they didn’t know about? If so, Sunset felt infinitely guiltier for them ending up in a place like this. Deciding her options were cut short, Sunset continued under the presumption she was talking to a child.

“Please let us in, after we talk we’ll go away. We won't tell anyone we were here,” she asked gently.

Another drawn out pause. Sunset could practically hear the gears grinding the person’s head.

“P-promise you’ll go away?” the quiet voice replied.

Sunset nodded, “I promise.”

She stood back, waiting for the door to open and for the child to step out. But nobody came, and the door never opened. She frowned, shooting a confused glance in Rarity’s direction. Her friend wore the same expression, but gestured towards the door regardless, and it was then Sunset remembered that the last few times she’d been there it hadn’t been locked.

Stepping forward, she placed her hand on the wooden surface and pushed, discovering immediately her suspicions were right. The door loosely swung open a few inches, creaking along the way.

Cautiously pushing the door open, the two girls stepped inside. The previous times she’d been there had been either at afternoon or night time; the room looked different during the day. Not any better, but different. Sunlight shone in through the holes in the curtains, illuminating the floating dust particles in a way that would have been gorgeous anywhere else. But the added light exposed the true extent of how puke yellow the once-white walls had become, and revealed much more of a mess that she’d seen previously. Sunset almost wished they’d decided to come when it was dark to save their eyes the agony.

The first major thing to grab her attention was a familiar shape off to the left: her gift basket. Or what remained of her gift basket. It looked like it had been torn to shreds in some areas, as though it had been thrown to a rabid dog and then torn away again. A few surviving food items lay on the table beside it, looking like they’d been salvaged from the wreck. A rescue that had gone pretty unsuccessfully by the looks of it, as barely a third remained of what once had been present.

A sniveling noise from the opposite corner caught Sunset’s attention. She turned, expecting to finally see the mysterious child she’d been talking to through the door. What she saw instead caused her to take a step back in confusion.

The blue Dazzling stood backed up in the furthest corner, watching them like a frightened animal, tears welling in her eyes and hands placed tightly over her mouth. She squirmed as their duel gaze landed on her. Sunset didn’t have to look back to tell Rarity was just as confused by this revelation as she was.

Sunset took a step towards the weeping girl, noting that her sobs became more intense the closer she got.

“H-hello?” she asked cautiously

Pulling the hands from her mouth, the girl quickly spat out, “I let you in, now go! You said you’d go, you said that!”

Sunset’s mouth hung ajar, with confusion being an understatement. This was the girl they’d talked to through the door? This was one of the sirens that attacked her and CHS? Physically it was definitely the same girl, but Sunset hadn’t seen a siren act like anything less than a queen, much less a crying baby.

Sunset looked back at Rarity, who too was staring at the girl in shock and confusion. As the seconds ticked along and neither Sunset nor Rarity made to move, the girl began to shake.

“Ahh…” escaped Sunset’s mouth, “–your name is Sonata, right?”

An inaudible mumble came from beneath the girl’s hands.

Sunset shook her head.

“I’m sorry, I… what?”

Pulling her hands away from her mouth again, the girl mumbled, “Y-yeah.”

Sunset offered an awkward nod.

“W-Well, erm, Sonata. It’s nice to meet you, er... again. Properly, this time, I mean,” she extended out her hand.

The hand went unshaken, which she was hardly surprised by. She could feel both Sonata and Rarity staring at her with “really…?” expressions.

“So… Sonata… Are you here on your own?”

Sonata looked around anxiously, as if she was unsure herself. She gave another nod.

“Where are your…” Sunset began.

Friends?

Sisters?

... Parents?

Sunset had no idea what relationship the three shared.

“…the… other two?” she asked.

Sonata had completely broken eye contact and was watching Sunset’s feet. She gave her answer between quick gasps of breath. “They… they aren’t here. P-please j-just go… before they c-come back…”

“Well, we, er…” words failed Sunset as she found herself unable to finish the sentence. She had no idea where she was going with it; she felt completely alienated. Her mind had drawn a total blank. She’d expected a lot of things as they were making their way to the apartment: resistance, hostility, violence, she even hoped maybe forgiveness, but… never did the scenario before her cross her mind.

The way Sonata watched her, Sunset could see the fear in her eyes. From the second she’d revealed her identity, the girl had been absolutely terrified of her. Why? Even if Sunset had come seeking revenge, she wasn’t exactly intimidating or tough. She’d never displayed any hostility to the Dazzlings, so why would she be getting that reaction? Is that what all the sirens were doing last time she and her friends had turned up? Were they all scared of her? She was one girl against three, and they’d already proven they could easily beat her in a fight. So what had she done to make Sonata so scared of her?

“…Are you… okay?”

Sonata’s crying continued as she shuffled around uncomfortably. Her eyes had started flicking between Sunset’s shoes and the door.

“P-please just go. You can’t be here.”

Sunset took another, smaller step towards the girl. She offered out her open palm, much like one would to a stray cat they hoped to pet. It did nothing to ease Sonata’s panic.

“Why can’t I be here?” Sunset asked gently. “What’s wrong?”

Sonata just aggressively shook her head, screwing her eyes up tight and covering her mouth again.

“You really have nerve, you know,” an aggressive voice spat.

The hairs on Sunset’s neck stood on end.

She leaped round, expecting to see the two other sirens coming for her. She dreaded to think what they’d see, walking in on a scene like this. They’d think Sunset was attacking their friend, and that would give them an all new motive to hate her. And it would be even worse than the last time, as she was trapped in their apartment with no escape. Rarity wasn’t much of a fighter; she doubted even the two of them working together would be much of a match for the three girls all at once.

But Sunset didn’t see the other two. A cold wave of relief washed over her, a relief that was then dampened when she where the voice had come from.

Rarity stood with her hands on her hips and her ‘Rainbow Dash has misbehaved’ glare directed right at Sonata.

“I can’t believe it, after all you’ve done, after enslaving our entire school, after nearly killing Sunset, she stands in front of you offering her kindness and you want her to leave?!” she snapped.

Sunset opened her mouth to retort but Rarity simply shouted louder.

“Do you have any idea how lucky you are!? Any other person, any. other. person. would have left you to rot here! Anyone else would have called the police after you brutally attacked them! Anybody else, and you wouldn’t have gotten away with what you did!”

She pointed an aggressive finger at the girl. “But not only did you get away with it, you were lucky enough to pick on the one person in the entire world who is kind and sweet enough that she actually cares about her attackers! She wants to help you! Anybody else would want you in jail! She wants to help you, and not only do you spit in her face by destroying her peace offering, now you won’t even SPEAK to her!?”

Sonata had openly begun shaking, her breaths coming in wretched sobs as she tried to cover her face with her hands. Rarity did not seemed phased.

“You should be on your knees, begging her for forgiveness. Do you have any idea what you did to her!? I’m telling you right now, I’m apparently the most generous one out of all of us and I wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire,” she spat the last word out like a bullet.

“Rarity!” Sunset jumped in. “You don’t nee-“

“I’M SORRY!” Sonata’s words came so loud they caused Sunset to physically flinch. “I- I- I- I TRIED TO MAKE THEM S-STOP SOONER! I TRIED BUTTHEYWOULDN’TLISTEN AND I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO YOU I PROMISE, I TRIED TO MAKE THEM STOP. I- I- I- I- DIDN’T T-T-T-THINK THEY WOULD HURT YOU SO MUCH. WHEN I SAW WHAT THEY WERE DOINGITRIEDTOSTOPTHEM.”

Sonata clenched her fists tightly by her sides, allowing the built up tears to come streaming down her face. Sunset took a step back, alarmed by her sudden outburst.

“W-what?”

“A-ADAGIO AND A-ARIA! I TRIED TO MAKE THEM STOP HURTING YOU S-SOONER BUT THEY DIDN’T LISTEN! A-AND I DIDN’T LAY A FINGER ON YOU – I NEVER EVER WOULD! I KN-know I’m evil a-a we make people feel bad b-but… but… I’m not like that! I’m n-not like that and I tried to make them stop, I really did! I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” her voice croaked through the tears.

“T-then why are you so scared of us?” Sunset’s confusion was not masked in her voice.

“Because y-you’re the bad guys!” Sonata pointed an accusing hand at them. “You took our magic away! We lost everything! We hate you and if they see me talking to you they’ll h-h-hate me as well!”

“We are not the bad guys,” Rarity retorted.

Sunset snapped back around, holding up a hand to silence her friend.

“Rarity, I’ve got this, thank you,” she tried in least patronizing voice.

She turned back to Sonata. As Sunset recalled, it had only been two people laying into her on that night. And it was the introduction of a third that had finally caused the first two to cease attacking her. She had made them stop… did that mean she was in the clear?

One by one, conflicting feelings began to cloud Sunset’s head.

Sonata still did her part in taking over the school, even if Adagio was the one calling the shots.

But if she was just taking orders, that made Sonata less of a villain than even Sunset had been... She'd been allowed her reformation, surely Sonata deserved her own?

No, taking orders wasn’t an excuse, she still had the chance to stop, to make the others realize they were wrong. She even admitted she was evil; just because she could cry didn't mean she couldn’t still be the bad guy.

But if that were true, why did Sunset feel like the bad guy at that moment?

Settling her thoughts on the last thing Sonata said, Sunset finally found her words.

“Do you hate me?”

After her outburst, Sonata’s jagged breaths had begun to slow. Her fists were still clenched but her panic had dampened down into a tired weep. She aggressively brushed away at her soaking cheeks with the sleeve of her over-sized hoodie, looking up at Sunset once more.

“What?” the confusion was obvious in her voice.

“You just said you all hate me, because I took your powers away. If you all hate me, why did you stop them attacking me?”

Sonata began slowly swaying from side to side, as if hoping to spot the answer somewhere else in the room. She watched the floor.

“I… I don’t know…” she gave a pause, “you didn’t deserve that… I just, I hate… I hate… what’s happened. And you caused it.”

Sunset could feel she was getting somewhere and decided to tug at the thread.

“What has happened?” Sunset gestured to the room around her. “How did you girls end up like this?”

Sonata continued fiddling with the ends of her sleeves as she watched the floor.

“W-we ran out of money, the only place we could find food was in the trash, and that’s crappy because the food’s gone all cold and gooey… I-I’m so hungry, all the time. And it gets cold. Really, really cold. We steal from people’s pockets when they aren’t looking so Adagio can pay rent, b-but we can never get enough to afford heating or electricity s-so we have to huddle together really close at night to stay warm,” Sonata seemed to mull what she said over in her head before continuing with, ”which is usually okay… but… Aria hasn’t showered in a long time so it’s really difficult to get to sleep with the smell.”

Sunset suppressed a smirk and nodded, listening. Having got the chance to open up (albeit forcefully, thanks to Rarity) Sonata seemed to have started to calm down.

“And Adagio has this really bad rash on her neck and she keeps scratching and that makes it worse and we’ve told her to stop but… she won’t. She and Aria are both just really upset all the time now and…” she fought to hold back more tears, “I’ve tried making them feel better but I can’t and now… now I don’t even want to make them feel better anymore I just… I just want this all to stop a-and… and…”

Sonata slowly ran out of words. Sunset could definitely see why she’d mistaken her for a child earlier. Everything from the way she spoke to the way she held herself was not natural for somebody of her age. She’d stopped crying now, having run herself dry, and instead had taken to lightly drawing circles on the floor with the tip of her shoe. Sunset couldn’t tell if Sonata was doing that to ignore them or if she’d just got distracted.

Sunset did the only thing she knew would console a child. She stepped forward, grabbing the girl by the sleeve and pulling her tightly into a hug. Sonata seized up instantly, but after a few moments she relaxed, sensing she was in no danger and allowing her head to drop onto Sunset’s shoulder. So many times Sunset had imagined what it would be like to see the sirens again. Each time she’d wonder, her heart would be filled with fear, with anxieties, which would drive her to the point of panic. But she didn’t feel panic. She didn’t feel anxiety or fear. As she held her crying attacker in her arms, Sunset felt hope.

Although she’d stopped crying, Sunset could still feel Sonata’s heavy panting against her chest.

“It’s okay. We can help you,” she said gently.

Sonata swallowed.

“H-how?”

Sunset looked over to the window, admiring the sunlight again as it shone through the holes in the curtains.

“Do you still have my number?”

Sunset felt Sonata shake her head.

“Okay… I’ll write it down for you,” Sunset rubbed her back. “When you’re ready, talk to me. Nobody deserves to live this kind of life… especially not around Christmas. I promise, I can help. I can help all of you.”

Sunset pulled back from Sonata and looked back at Rarity. There her friend stood, arms crossed and smugly grinning, as if that had been her plan all along.

Something clicked in Sunset’s head. A wave of déjà vu washed over her.

She turned back to Sonata.

“We’ll leave you alone… if that’s what you really want. But you’ll have my number, and I promise you, Sonata, you can come back from this. All three of you can.”

Sonata blinked, wiping away more tears from her eyes.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked quietly.

Sunset offered her a smile.

“Because…” she swallowed. “No matter how hard it gets, you can always come back from it. So long as you have hope. Your past is not today."