• Published 9th Aug 2016
  • 1,075 Views, 61 Comments

The Song That Makes You Lose It - forbloodysummer



How do you keep going when you sing the line, 'Nothing can stop us now,' only to be proven wrong?

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Option 1 – Aria's Blaze Of Glory

So we’ve gone from running to revenge. Both were natural responses, and it was probably inevitable that they’d both be suggested, but Adagio wasn’t sure which was worse. Any form of withdrawal to her was instantly tied to weakness. She supposed that at that moment the three of them were weak, and might never be strong again, but the association in her own head and the disgust that came with it were too strong to overlook.

They had always stood their ground. When Starswirl – that wretched pony – had cast his spell, the howling vortex had ripped the sky open, tearing their claws from the rocks they had clung to and swallowing them up, and even then they had screamed defiance at him with every breath until the wormhole closed. At least vengeance was in keeping with their nature; it was a sentiment she could firmly get behind. And they did have the opportunity to carry it out, one they had never been afforded with that wizard. Scarswirl, that’s what ponies would have called him after we were finished.

Was Sonata right to be excited about the idea? Would it be fun? Or would it be done in seething anger, watching the flames bitterly rather than cackling about it together? She pictured it: pressed up against a wall in the shadows, peeking out from beneath her hood to look back at the red glow down the street she had come from, before steeling off to the next house on her list. And when she’d reached the last one and carried out the final act, she’d stand leaning on the picket fence between the street and the front lawn, watching the roof collapse in as the timbers were consumed, feeling the flames also devouring all her hatred and fury at being defeated. The hoodie would be long gone, with no more need for hiding, and she would stand there staring up at the roaring inferno, slack-jawed, as if hypnotised by the cleansing fire, until they came to take her away. All that would remain were embers; of their enemies, and of their own futures.

Adagio felt the twinge in the muscles behind her eyes as she refocused on things immediately in front of her after so long staring blankly at nothing. She tried to pinpoint how the vision had made her feel. It had been satisfying, almost rapturous; it had even felt right, like they’d come full circle or got closure or whatever overused phrase people described those particular feelings with. It had also felt futile.

“It’s an option,” she said, as the other two turned to her. She paused for a moment to consider the logistics. “Seven houses, three of us – we could do it.”

Surprise flickered across Aria’s features, quickly replaced with a cruel smile. Sonata grinned too and clapped her hands, more a picture of childish exuberance than of malice. I could let them do it. I really could. All Adagio had to do was keep quiet. If she said nothing, they’d go for it. They’d be off the leash, and every fiery fantasy would be fulfilled. She wouldn’t have to push them towards it, perhaps wouldn’t even need to plan and direct. Just not talk them out of it.

She had always been the driving force behind the three of them, had always had the crucial say in all the decisions. She had steered them wherever they had gone, keeping a constant, detached eye out for anything that might trip them up, or could be twisted to their advantage. Did she not deserve a break, when they were at their lowest? Wasn’t it somebody else’s turn to do the right thing, the selfless thing of putting reason over emotion, and just let her sit back and enjoy a little vengeance?

But however much harder their defeat made it to summon the energy to keep fighting (something from which the thirst for vengeance was curiously exempt), she knew that that particular immediate and total form of revenge would come at the expense of her sisters’ lives. Having lost so much in one night already, it made protecting them all the more important, including from their own natures if necessary, as it usually was. And that meant it was up to her. She couldn’t expect others to clean up her mess. She had led her sisters into battle, into their present predicament; and she knew that only she could lead them out again.

“We could pull it off,” she sighed, “but I don’t think we could get away with it.”

She looked down at the floor, but from the corner of her eye saw Aria crossing her arms, defiant but saying nothing. Sonata dropped her hands to her lap and pouted, her enthusiasm ebbing.

“How would they know it was us?” she asked.

The answer sprang to Adagio’s lips immediately, but she caught herself at the last moment, thankfully before she had started to turn towards Sonata to answer the question, at which point stopping would have been too obvious. Let Aria take this one, she has to hear it from her own mouth that it’s doomed to fail. Adagio kept her eyes down and straight ahead, wondering how long Aria would let the pause stretch for before feeling forced to respond.

After a couple of seconds, Aria threw up her arms in frustration. “Because,” she rolled her eyes, “the whole school would label us the chief suspects, with the strongest motives.”

Nodding without glancing aside, Adagio schooled her features into a thin-lipped expression of commiseration, instead of showing the quiet pride she felt in her fellow siren. Accepting that there are some problems she can’t solve with fire? That’s almost maturity! She turned to Sonata, who had that worrying look of trying to figure out a problem. Knowing how much effort such things were to her, and how many other, more solvable issues they still had to talk through that night, Adagio moved to head it off.

“We’d have no alibis, and there’d most likely be supporting evidence against us like CCTV or witnesses, so we’d be caught as soon as we were investigated.”

Sonata’s furrowed brows slowly rose again, but the rest of her face fell. Adagio made her tone less weary and more gentle, to try to balance crushing a suicidal plan with crushing Sonata’s confidence.

“That kind of thing only works if you’re not seen to be connected with the victims, and so would never come under suspicion in the first place.”

Feeling like she was giving Sonata tips and tricks for one day becoming her own diabolical mastermind, Adagio reached over and squeezed Sonata’s knee affectionately. That kind of physical contact was a calculated risk; it was very unusual for Adagio to need to do such a thing, which made it difficult to predict how it might be received. She was fairly sure that a reassuring touch would be welcomed when their circumstances were so bleak, but the very act of her doing something so unlike her might only hammer home to Sonata how far things had really sunk. Either way, the gesture didn’t seem nearly as out of place as it would have done if she’d tried it on Aria.

“Could we pay someone else to do it?” Sonata interrupted her musings, sounding shrewd.

On second thoughts, it was sweet when Sonata tried planning, but perhaps for the best that it didn’t happen too often. Adagio gave her a wan smile.

“If we could afford to place bounties on seven peoples’ heads, we’d be living in a bigger house.”

Not that their house was small, and not that it didn’t contain some expensive hardware, things she was now more glad than ever to have had the forethought to set up, back when anything she wanted was only a song away. But the house had been bought to blend in, a lair in which to spend six months researching and plotting their move, so it was far from ostentatious. She had been fine with that when she saw it as a disguise; now that that mediocre mask might become the reality, she was less sure.

“Blackmail?” Aria suggested, as if only mildly invested in the idea, knowing it was unlikely to work. That was good, that meant that most of Adagio’s job was already done, she just had to finish off.

“I think, for most people, spree killing would take more persuasion than just seducing them and then threatening to tell their wife...” On her right, Aria tsked in mock offence at the thought of others not simply doing as she commanded, while on her left Sonata ruefully shook her head.

“...Which is a shame, ‘cause that’d be really easy,” Adagio finished. Her sisters nodded glumly. At least it was good to see Aria calmer than when the subject of arson had first been raised.

“Could we fake an alibi?” Sonata asked.

Perceptive child. Adagio raised an eyebrow almost involuntarily. She puffed out her cheeks a bit and blew air out between her flattened lips, her that’s-a-tall-order expression.

“Not impossible,” she began slowly, “but not without a lot of planning. That tends to be how people do it in fiction.” Sonata leaned in, interested, so she hastily added, “Although, in fiction, they usually get caught.”

Sonata sat back, and after a moment Adagio did the same. She saw Sonata tip her head back onto the top of the sofa cushion, staring up at the ceiling. A cursory glace upwards told Adagio she wasn’t missing much, just dim lights, dull paint, and the odd bit of chewing gum. Aria was looking down at the fingernails on her outstretched right hand atop the sofa arm, picking at them with the thumb on the same hand. They sat that way for a couple of minutes, while Adagio weighed up the best way to restart conversation on a more useful subject. Before she could make any decisions, however, Sonata spoke up, not breaking her gaze at the ceiling.

“What would happen if we were caught?”

“We would go to prison for a very long time, probably the rest of our lives,” Adagio answered immediately, not unkindly but also not in a way that invited much argument. The sentence would surely be life, but with good behaviour they might someday make parole. Not that there would be too much hope of good behaviour if Aria were involved, which would inevitably affect all three of them.

Sonata rolled her head towards Adagio and met her eyes, acquiescence and acceptance passing between them. Adagio felt a tiny bit of the tension in her shoulders relax, knowing that the idea had been put to rest, and that her sisters were safe from their own destructive impulses for the time being. Sonata looked back up to the ceiling, then closed her eyes and smiled fondly to herself.

“It’s a nice thought though, isn’t it?”

Aria finally looked up from her nails and gave the others a wicked smirk. Think you might be preaching to the choir there, Sonata. Thoughts of choirs and their ethereal voices were uncomfortably close to home for Adagio, so she tried to focus instead on how safe it would be for her to agree. For all that she had been trying to talk them out of the idea, her own imaginings had not been without merit, and it was important that she not be seen as too aloof from the others’ feelings, instead sharing some common ground between the three of them. She weighed those considerations against the risk of making pyromania seem like a viable option again and decided to give it a try.

“There is something enchanting about it.” She gave Sonata a sad smile. “So little effort to wreak such devastation.”

On her right, Aria chuckled softly.

“You’ve got it all worked out, I take it?”

It was hardly the most complicated set of moves Adagio had ever had to string together. It felt beneath her in its simplicity, especially when there had been a possibility it would be the last scheme she’d ever get to put into practice.

“There isn’t much to work out,” she said, turning to Aria. “A few glass bottles, a trip to the gas station, some burning rags and seven strong throws through downstairs windows.”

Aria narrowed her eyes, but didn’t stop grinning, perhaps just enjoying the fantasising, or perhaps delighting in testing their leader’s cunning. Most likely both.

“You don’t even know where any of them live,” she pointed out, almost playfully.

Adagio glanced over her left shoulder, seizing the opportunity to involve their third member in the game and potential bonding exercise.

“Sonata?”

Unexpectedly called upon to find a solution, Sonata’s eyebrows drew down as she looked hurriedly from one knee to another, biting her lip in concentration.

“Umm,” she began, “ah... there are seven of them, and three of us, so we couldn’t just, like, beat it out of them, or even threaten to. But if we could get one of them on their own...?”

“Not bad,” Adagio smiled encouragingly, but that would rely on being able to separate them and isolate one, and might alert them to our intentions. “There’s an easier way, though. Aria?”

“Ugh. School records room.”

“But,” Sonata protested, “the school will be locked up this time of night.”

“Brick. Window.”

“But we’d get in trouble for that!”

Aria slowly lowered her face into her hand, with her fingers covering her eyes, and shook her head faintly. Preventing Aria from having to offer an irritated explanation, Adagio picked up the pieces, keeping her voice gentle.

“Sonata, dear... We’d be intending to carry out seven counts of arson. Next to that, one broken window doesn’t seem so bad.”

Sonata’s features shifted from concern to consternation, before flashing to cheerful agreement, thankfully not taking the criticism to heart. If anything, now that she was engaged in the discussion and distracted from the problem looming over them all, she looked happier than she had all evening.

“You’d still need a map, though,” Aria pointed out after a few seconds, kicking off the conversation again.

“Print one each in the school office,” Adagio shrugged. Except the computers might need passwords, and nobody is actually stupid enough to choose one we might be able to work out from looking around their desk. “Or mug three people for their smartphones, or break into three cars and steal their sat navs.”

“What about the glass bottles?”

“Recycling bins en route.”

“Rags to burn?”

“Rip the bottom few inches off the back of your skirt and tear the material into strips.”

Aria stopped, taken aback. “My skirt?” she asked, her surprise giving way to suspicion, which then morphed into indignation as she crossed her arms. “I don’t see you volunteering yours.”

Adagio shrugged again. “It was your idea, this whole firestarting thing,” After that she found herself fixed with what she guessed to be a withering look.

“Is that the new rule?” Scepticism was balanced with scorn, with hints of bafflement. “Your idea, your clothes that have to come off?”

This time it was Adagio who paused. “If you like, sure.” She tilted her head and looked at Aria quizzically. “And, speaking as the person who comes up with most of the ideas, I thought you’d never ask.”

Aria tried to do withering again, and managed much better the second time around. Hard to tell if there was a blush hiding in there behind it all. Adagio schooled her features into faintly-amused indifference, idly brushing crumbs off the front of her dress, which was obviously going to need dry cleaning anyway and might still be a write off. She reached down to the bottom of the dress, sitting halfway up her thighs, and held the hemline out in Aria’s direction.

“Sonata and I don’t have many inches of skirt to lose,” she said calmly.

Sonata giggled quietly at that, having wisely stayed silent during Aria’s more heated moments. Heated moments. When discussing burning things. Aria did offer an I-see-your-point sort of nod, after which Adagio continued.

“And I know you’d love to undress us,” – she kept her voice completely even, as if discussing an unquestionable, uncontroversial truth – “but I think that might attract attention while we’re trying to be stealthy and hit seven different targets before being stopped.”

Aria’s face was frozen a picture of mild disbelief before she shook her head and looked away, as if contemplating the things she had to put up with. Adagio savoured the moment briefly, then focused on the rebuilding role she’d decided upon for herself and made her peace offering.

“Or, failing that, you could just use your wrist warmers, they’d do just as well.”

Still not looking in her direction, Aria grunted in a way Adagio took to mean that she recognised that someone had made a valid point, but nonetheless didn’t like it. Sonata raised her hand with her index finger outstretched, as if she had a question in class.

“What about getting lighters or matches?”

Aria made no move to reply in any way, so Adagio stepped up.

“Buy some at the gas station. As long as we buy some cigarettes with them, it won’t look too suspicious.”

She received an impressed look from Sonata, who was making noises of understanding. Aria turned back towards them, radiating cynicism, apathy and boredom, with undercurrents of irritation and bitterness. It was the closest Adagio had seen yet to Aria being back to normal.

“Aside from my skirt, remind me why we aren’t doing this, again?” Aria said, in a way that suggested she’d said it more to wind Adagio up than to actually support it.

But if Adagio could deal with the question seriously, she might be able to lay it to rest for the last time. She took a slow, measured breath, deciding on what she judged to be the best place to begin.

“Is it worth it?” she asked softly. “Is it worth throwing away any hope of a life in the future, any remaining chances of world domination, even any dream of freedom or self-determination?” Adagio watched Aria’s expression, noting the bite and bile gradually draining away. “Just for an hour or two of revenge against children, who beat us out of a desire to protect themselves and their friends?”

She paused, and neither of the others seemed eager to answer. Not because it was an answer they didn’t know, but because airing it aloud might feel like something akin to admitting defeat.

“Only if your best alternative does not involve surviving beyond tonight,” she said, answering her own question, as she’d expected to need to, “because that’s the only way the consequences might be worth it.”

Perhaps more was needed to hammer that final point home. Worried she couldn’t spare Sonata a glance to see how she was taking it, Adagio pressed on.

“If we did depend on negative energy for sustenance, and would imminently starve to death anyway, then, sure; it would be fitting for a final move at short notice. Or if there was no hope of us getting by using other means, and we were looking at a future of begging for scraps on the streets, then prison might not be so bad in comparison. The inferno would only be worth sacrificing your future for if you had no future anyway.”

Aria bowed her head forwards and closed her eyes, and Adagio risked glancing left, towards Sonata, who nodded bleakly.

“I just—” Aria began and then stopped herself, a long sigh escaping her. “I just hate knowing that – right now – they’re thinking that they beat us.”

She didn’t look up after finishing, continuing to hang her head. This was going to be tricky for Adagio: she needed Aria to accept the situation and come to terms with it, without shattering her self-esteem, indeed, her very identity, in the process.

“Honey,” she said, picking a term of endearment she thought comforting, knowing she’d never used it before but that it would still sound less ridiculously out-of-character for her than the four words that followed, “they did beat us.”

In a bizarre reversal of their usual roles, Sonata said nothing and sat still, while Aria looked into Adagio’s face with wide, vulnerable eyes.

“You can argue that they got lucky,” she carried on, “or that seven on three is hardly fair, or that we’re down but not out...”

She really did not want to have to say the next part. She knew it would crush Aria. The only saving grace was that she also knew Aria was bound to realise it herself soon enough, and at least having the moment on Adagio’s terms meant that she could guarantee being there to support her sister through it. It was also the only way Adagio could be sure Aria wouldn’t sneak out of the house to enact midnight fire-starting schemes in the hope of getting even.

“...but we’re sirens, and we just lost a singing contest.”

A gasp came from her left, and while Adagio knew that thinking about their situation from that particular angle might never otherwise have occurred to Sonata, she also knew that Sonata would bounce back much more quickly from it, not one for existential hang ups. Aria didn’t move or make a sound. Adagio knew she had to finish, to turn the sentiment into something that could have a positive outcome if it at least kept Aria from self-destruction, but wished it didn’t feel so much like twisting the knife.

“Even if they died, they would die victorious.”

She remembered the purification she’d felt from the flames in her imagination, the memory of her negative feelings burning up along with the last house, and she wondered if that experience might have been enough for Aria to feel like she’d won, or at least not been defeated. She knew no good would come of ever mentioning that aloud.

“If our jewels had survived, it would be different, but without our voices, getting even in a way that actually matters isn’t any more possible here than it was with Starswirl.”

She reached out to Aria and put a consoling hand on her shoulder. Unbelievably, no move was made to throw it off. Such behaviour from her sister unnerved Adagio, as she didn’t quite know how to respond to it. Were it anyone else, Adagio would have read the body language and said without hesitation that they desperately needed a hug. But with Aria, such gestures were always met with hostility, and Adagio really didn’t want Aria withdrawing into herself and raising her emotional defences even higher than usual.

But if I don’t hug her, and right now, then Sonata probably will, and that’d be even less likely to end well. Aria was still leaning forwards in her seat with her face turned towards Adagio, who determined to waste no further time. She closed the distance between them, the hand on Aria’s shoulder dropping down to slip around her waist, while the other arm encircled her at the same height on the opposite side. Adagio gently pulled Aria’s head onto her shoulder and leaned into it, remembering just in time to divert one hand quickly to pull her mass of ginger curls out of the way on that side.

And through it all, Aria didn’t pull away, or even flinch. Adagio wasn’t quite sure what else to do, other than gently squeeze Aria and rub a hand down her back, but she soon felt Aria’s arms wrap around her own frame, contracting to hold their two bodies together tightly. She felt Aria’s lungs expanding against her own chest, drawing in a deep breath, held for a few seconds before slowly being exhaled over her shoulder, and noticed some of the tension ebbing away from Aria’s body, now softer in her arms.

Unhurriedly, Aria untangled her arms from around Adagio and withdrew back to where she had been sitting before, eyes downcast, with a shy smile.

“Thanks,” she said quietly, and blushed, “I think that helped.”

Adagio offered an encouraging smile of her own and was about to respond, when Sonata jumped forwards and seized her, pulling her backwards away from Aria.

“Watch out!” Sonata exclaimed, “She’s a changeling!”

Before she even managed to regain her balance, Adagio was snorting with laughter at the many plot holes in that suggestion. After a stunned split-second, Aria too burst out laughing.

“Yeah, that was pretty un-me, huh?” Her cheeks flushed darker still, but she sounded more boisterous. Then she paused and her voice dropped again, along with her gaze. “But as you said, Adagio, all we have now is each other.”

“That’s right,” Adagio answered warmly but softly, and while she felt the moment had passed with Aria’s hug and didn’t want to push her luck trying it again, she did reach out to Sonata to offer one to her instead, reinforcing Adagio’s point while also preventing Sonata from feeling left out.

“It might feel like we’ve lost everything,” she told Aria and Sonata, looking from one to the other, “but there’s always more to lose.”

Sonata hugged her tightly, and Aria smiled but said nothing. It felt like they had made a breakthrough, if only a tiny one. Adagio hoped that meant they’d be more likely to pull in the same direction if the grand discussion continued. With that in mind, she steered the conversation back towards what they might do next.

“So in that case, girls, let’s find a way to go forwards that doesn’t write off our own futures.”

To either side of Adagio, a siren nodded.

Author's Note:

This chapter, and the next few to follow, each discusses an option for how the sirens might go on with their lives. Given the conclusion they reach here, revenge is unlikely to be the one they choose to put into action, but it is the first to occur to them.

I say this in case the focus on darker themes in this chapter is off-putting, because this is likely to be the only time in the story that such harsh subjects are given serious consideration. Obviously there's no way for a reader to know that until the next chapter is published, with a lighter tone, so I thought I'd mention it here.

Special mention here should go to NaiadSagaIotaOar, who was kind enough to read this chapter through and give me some good advice when I worried about the reception it might meet.

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