• Published 21st Apr 2017
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Cross Reference - Eyeswirl the Weirded



Following the events of the Friendship Games, various parties adapt to their new lives.

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Chapter 14: Setbacks (Part 3)

The next morning, Adagio kept an eye out for Twilight on the way to school, noting the direction she came from as she waited for her at the crosswalk. As was often the case, she was greeted with a smile.

"Good morning, Adagio!"

"Good morning. Are you usually busy after school?"

"Huh? Uh... well, I'm not in any clubs or anything, so I'm normally either spending time with the others or working on things at home." Her memory caught up with her mouth, which shifted into a nervous grin. "Er, nothing dangerous, I promise!"

"Right. Were you aware that Aria and Sonata are attending Crystal Prep now?"

"I had heard something about that, yes. Why?" She watched in increasingly perplexed silence as Adagio's face shifted with discomfort, as though she were being forced to confess to a crime she hadn't committed.

"Well... they don't exactly have the best grip on the material at the moment and I was hoping you could alleviate that a little. Do you think you could stop by our place for a tutoring session some time?"

Taking into consideration that she could soon be sharing her knowledge with willing listeners and that such an offer indicated that she was deemed trustworthy enough to visit the cheerleaders' house despite multiple incidents of accidental sexual harassment, Twilight beamed. "I'd love to!! Do they just need a few details elaborated or would a full outline be necessary? Oh, I could probably put together my own lectures if-"

"I'm not sure," Adagio interrupted with an upraised hand and a slightly worried look on her face, "you'd have to ask them. Would some time this week work for you? I'd like to see this started as soon as possible."

"Tonight works for me! I anticipated the possibility of being asked to help study at some point, so I already have the necessary supplies! Of course, I was doing so in preparation for CHS's material, but luckily, I still have all forty-six notebooks, twelve textbooks, thirty-eight powerpoint presentations, and seventeen projects from my time in Crystal Prep!" Remembering a few details, she smiled apologetically. "Or, I 'have' some of those in the sense that they're in the city, not necessarily that they're in my sole possession."

"Just your person should be enough, thank you," she said while drawing her phone from her hair, "but by all means feel free to bring what you need. Do you already have my number?"

"Um, no, I don't think s-" She was startled by her ringtone, immediately checking her phone to see a message from an unknown number.

[See you tonight.]

She knew the context of this message. She knew it was about studying. She knew there was no deeper meaning to it than that. She knew that reading it that way would not help her relationship (of the purely chaste and academic kind!!) with Adagio at all. Still, Twilight felt her face burn when she read those words. Doing her best to stuff those wayward thoughts into a class-five compression chamber in her brain allowed saner thoughts to emerge.

"Um, how exactly did you get my num-"

Adagio was gone. She looked around to see her standing on the other side of the crosswalk leading to CHS, a hand on one hip and her head tilted.

"Will you be joining us at school today, Twilight?"

"Er, y-yes," she mumbled while starting across, "I just-"

She jumped as a vehicle sped past, unconsciously taking a step backward as she checked to find that the light had turned red again. Across the street, Adagio chuckled, sparing her a fleeting wave before turning to walk away. Waiting for the next green light, Twilight sighed.

Note to self: DO NOT allow your mind to wander when in the sirens' house.

...Post-script to self: How exactly do you plan to prevent that when it's just you in a room with those three girls?

She was going to need a plan.

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Today, Adagio had been thankful that her daily school life was so uneventful, because it gave her time to plan for tonight. By the time she got home, she knew exactly what she wanted to do, rearranging the living room to suit a schoolwork meeting rather than just lounging about and possibly watching television. She unpacked and unfolded a simple, rectangular table and placed it in the middle of the seating arrangement, unpacked and assembled another soft chair, then dragged it in (both to serve as another seat and to replace Sonata's lounging spot on the carpet), poured some chips into a big bowl, and set it in the center of the table. When it came to the drinks, she had second thoughts.

"Do I arrange them around the bowl now and risk them getting warm before they're wanted, or wait until they're asked for and interrupt the studies to bring them fresh...?"

This was when she heard the front door open, a split second of anxiety gripping her heart before Aria's voice signaled that she had a little more time to figure this out for when their guests arrived.

"We're home!"

"Living room."

The two walked in, Sonata letting out a short, surprised gasp. "You opened some boxes!"

"Yes. Twilight should be here soon and we didn't have enough furniture ready for study purposes. Do either of you know how long it takes for cold drinks to get warm?"

"Er, no," Aria answered with a hint of confusion, "pretty sure Crystal Prep doesn't teach Thermodynamics."

"Hm. How were things for you two since...?"

With an exasperated groan, Aria flopped down on the couch. "Awful! We were getting some funny looks before, but now damn near everyone looks at us like we've got brain damage!"

Sonata scratched her head as she searched her memory. "I sorta thought it'd be worse. Like, we got some ha-ha-you're-dumb comments, but nobody shoving us around or spray-painting stuff on our lockers or anything."

Aria shrugged. "Not that they didn't want to, I bet, it's just that that place has higher standards and they'd get way worse consequences than at a public school." It wasn't like they were being bullied so much as subject to elitist dirtbags being... well, elitist dirtbags, all too happy to have a safe target for stomping down and assuring themselves that they're better than someone. "The thing that throws me is that Glitz and Glitter haven't swung by to rub it in. Haven't even seen either of 'em since that moment in the cafeteria."

"It may be an attempt to cover their tracks," Adagio mused, "but if they made a point of coming around to harass you on a regular basis, the sudden absence, now of all times, seems like a mark against them."

"Maybe, but something tells me that won't be enough to nail 'em both. Still," she said with a hopeful smile, "if we take those two down, we'd probably be getting rid of the boldest girls in Crystal Prep, and if everyone else knows, but can't prove that we did, I bet nobody would have the guts to mess with us after that."

Adagio smiled with a hint of pride. "So you have a plan outlined?"

"Yup! But first we gotta do-" she motioned to the table, "-this. Where's Twilight, anyway? If you got here before we did, I figured she'd be-"

The doorbell rang, drawing a chuckle from Adagio. "Hopefully that's her now." Host duties in mind, she moved to answer the door as Sonata helped herself to some chips. Some kind of nostalgia rippled through her as she opened the door to find Twilight and Sunset.

"Hi!"

"Hello." Not directly asking, she looked to a slightly nervous Twilight for explanation.

"I-I was, I mean, I ran into her on the way here and figured, 'why not?', right?"

"Totally," Sunset concurred, though her bright smile shifted to a confused frown. "Can you believe people don't ask me for help in schoolwork all that often? Not even the rest of the Rainbooms ask me to tutor them."

Similarly perplexed, Adagio raised an eyebrow. "Don't you have some of the best grades in the school?"

"I do!"

"Hm. Well, at any rate," she said while turning back toward the living room, "we're setting up in here. Close the door, would you?"

The pair did as she asked, following to find Aria on the couch and Sonata on one of the chairs, both having spread their textbooks and notebooks on the table. They turned and spoke in unison.

"Hey, Sunset!"

Both blinked, seeming to realize something was amiss before Sonata added the correction. "And, Twilight!"

The pair smiled back.

"What's up?"
"Um, hi."

The drink decision having been made for her now (which was fine, because in hindsight, this method allowed her guests to pick what they liked), Adagio continued things. "Take a seat, there are chips on the table and we have at least four kinds of beverage if you get thirsty."

"Thanks," answered Sunset as she sat next to Aria on the couch.

Twilight's first instinct was to take the seat a little further from the siren that seemed to like her the least (unless Sonata's warm, smiling exterior is a facade to mask a cruel, vicious mind beneath and she secretly wants to hurt me in a variety of ways. Something similar may be true of Adagio, come to think of it, for at least as long as I'm useful to her, so I really don't know which one hates me the most!), but something told her the recliner was Adagio's designated seat, and occupying that position herself could send a very unwelcome message. That in mind, she took off her backpack, sat at Aria's opposite side on the couch, and readied herself for study.

"So... What subject would you like to cover first?"

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Things were coming along nicely. Aria and Sonata were by no means mastering the material, but within an hour, even Sonata easily soared passed novice level! The basics out of the way, things started to slow down a little more, leading Sunset's mind to wander as she puzzled out a particularly difficult example problem Aria couldn't make heads or tails of.

"Y'know, I didn't notice the last time I was here, but your house is kinda barren, isn't it?"

There was no artwork or decoration of any kind on the walls, no pictures or mementos sitting on the few tables and shelves around the living room, almost nothing but what they were immediately using and a decent-sized television. If Sunset hadn't known better, she'd have said they must have just moved in within the last week or so.

Taking a quick look around the room, Sonata frowned. "We've got more stuff, but most of it's all boxed up."

Eyes still on the paper in front of her, Aria shrugged. "We lived a really long time as wanderers with pretty much nothing to our names, so when we got to this world, sleeping in the same place every night was kinda new. Home ownership was fun for a while, but when the novelty wore off and we settled in a little, we had a bunch of stuff we didn't need and didn't feel like taking out and putting somewhere."

Glancing around, Adagio finished for her. "We agreed that, should we get tired of this town or need to leave for some reason, it'd be convenient to have just about everything packed up and ready to go."

After a short, contemplative silence, Sunset smiled. "Do you think you'll be sticking around for a while?"

Smiling back, the trio nodded in unison, Aria answering verbally. "Even if it's easier, moving still kinda sounds like a huge pain. We don't really have anywhere to go except closer to Crystal Prep anyway, but the cost of living over there's way higher."

"Can confirm," Twilight added with a hesitant smile, "I lived in the city when I was younger. There were other reasons my family moved, but saving on the house was a welcome bonus."

There was a quiet moment, which Sunset was just about to fill by asking how exactly the sirens made their living these days when Aria pointed to a problem in her workbook, asking how she was to differentiate between the most recently proposed method of finding a solution versus the one in the previous section. Sunset was again beaten to the punch when Twilight answered almost automatically and their studies resumed.

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Things continued, there were speedbumps, some banter followed, and a combination of Aria's taunts that she and Sonata were learning higher-level stuff and Sunset's gentle urging led Adagio to attempt a problem or two herself. Sunset had thought it was obvious that, Adagio having been here as they went over the material, she'd figure it out just fine, but she found herself the only one not surprised when Adagio correctly answered three problems in a row. Then again, she knew a few things the others didn't.

"So," Adagio cooed at Aria with a smug smirk as she worked out the solution to a fourth, "what was that you were saying about me being 'the dumb one' before long?"

Face flushed, arms crossed, and teeth clenched, Aria grumbled under her breath. "Whatever, ya damn freak."

Adagio playfully made flexing motions as the other three giggled, Sonata in particular.

Ohh, Ria, picking fights you're not ready for is why you'll never be leader for long.

When the next problem was done, Adagio set down her pencil, waiting for Twilight's verdict.

"That one iiiiis... correct!"

Smiling, Adagio looked up at the ceiling. After a moment's pause, her smile slipped away as a century-old nostalgia came and went. Getting up, she sighed. "I'll get more chips."

Taking the bowl, she headed for the kitchen, leaving Twilight to find herself as the only one who didn't seem to understand what just happened.

"Um... why did she look up?"

Getting back to work, Aria rolled her eyes. "Because that was how they used to feed her."

"Huh?"

Thinking about her current problem as she lightly thumped a pencil against her chin, Sonata answered for her. "Dagi's a test-tube baby, lab-grown to be like, the best kelpie ever, and a big, magic thingy on the roof was like her hamster bottle."

"Lab-grown?!"

At that moment, Adagio called from the kitchen. "We're getting low on the standard variety, does anyone have a problem with ones dusted with cheese?"

Glancing around and not seeing any objections, Sunset called back. "I think we're okay, thanks!" Twilight still looked like she just heard that the school lunches were soylent green, so she tried to clarify with an apologetic smile. "It's kind of a long story, but yea, Adagio wasn't born like a normal member of her species, which is part of where her strength and smarts come from."

Aria raised an eyebrow. "How'd you know about that?"

Memories of that day in the music room and the important promise she'd made slammed into each other in Sunset's head, but luckily, there was a simple, trust-keeping answer. "We talked, she told me a few things."

Aria nodded as Adagio came back with a bowl full of cheesy, triangular chips and five sets of disposable chopsticks (liberated from a Chinese place on the far side of town). This time, Sunset and Twilight were confused.

"The cheesiness gets all over your hands," Sonata explained with a smile while taking a pair, "so we use these if we wanna eat and do other stuff at the same time." She demonstrated with surprisingly skillful form, the other two neatly doing the same. Twilight smiled.

"That's clever! Does it work with powdered donuts?"

"Yea," Aria answered after swallowing a mouthful, "but it's easier to just stab through a few and eat 'em like it's a shish kabab."

"Neat!" She turned to ask Sunset if she had any similar study-dining tips, but found her struggling with the chopsticks. When the attention was on her, she blushed.

"Uhh... getting used to human hands was hard for me as it was, so-" She was startled by yellow hands very gently seizing her own.

"Like this," Adagio breathed, moving Sunset's fingers around the chopsticks as though tuning delicate machinery, "focus on moving the top stick without clenching too hard. Got it?"

"Yep," Sunset quickly replied as the heat crawled up her neck, "thanks!"

It still took her a moment, but no one else said anything as she slowy, but successfully gripped a cheesy chip and brought it to her lips. The size of the chip and angle at which she did so left a big corner poking out of the side of her mouth, which she hastily chomped down on like a piece of long, crunchy hay, which drew light chuckles from the rest of the study group.

"You'll get the hang of it," Twilight told her with friendly smile, "it just takes a little practice."

Still lightly flushed, she managed a grin. "Heh-ha, thanks. Sooo," she asked the others, "any questions on this section?"

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

It was difficult to say how much progress was made that evening, but the results of Aria and Sonata's schoolwork would tell them in due time. Until then, Sonata walked their guests to the door as Adagio tidied up the living room.

"I'd say 'seeya soon' or something, but we don't go to the same school."

"That's okay," giggled Sunset, "we can come around to do this regularly. Or, even just hang out if you guys are down." She turned to Twilight. "Are you good with either?"

"Ehm," she automatically stalled for a few extra seconds to think before her mouth answered for her, "sure, I'd love to!"

This was probably going to backfire on her, but the same would be true of refusing. The first, most likely, and most horrible scenario that came to mind was Sunset either having other plans or not being able to make it one night, which would leave her alone. With three very pretty, easily-angered girls, who already had abundant reason to be short with her. It was as she was trying to work out an excuse of her own should such an evening come to be that she realized she was missing conversation between Sonata and Sunset.

"-prised she wears the new collar at home."

Sonata blinked, confused. "Collar?"

"Yea, the spiky one she's been wearing every day since our mall outing? You didn't notice?"

Slowly, a far-away look came over Sonata's widening eyes. One would think she had just been told there was a huge fire and everyone she knew was in the building. "...Where did she get that?"

"Uh... I gave it to her? I kinda had to, because it was the only way we could get her to take off the thing Rarity dressed her in when they were clothes-shopping together."

"Rarity... dressed... Adagio...?"

A concerned frown on her face, Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Are you okay, Sonata? You sound sorta-"

"Yep," she quickly answered, showing most of her teeth in a tightly-clenched smile, "peeeeachy. See you guys around!"

And she quickly closed the door.

Twilight waited until they were on the sidewalk before voicing her thoughts.

"S-so, ordinarily, I would have extreme reservations about saying a thing like this, having been an out-of-control maniac myself at least once, but, um-"

"I'm sure she's fine," Sunset preemptively answered with a placating smile, "it's like... everyone's got their quirks, y'know? I think I know what's going on, and this might actually be a good thing. Rarity told us that Adagio told her that picking out their outfits is normally Sonata's thing, so she might be jealous that someone else did it for her when she wasn't around. This means Sonata'll realize that being at Crystal Prep means she isn't around one of her oldest friends as much, she'll wanna get closer, and they'll all have a day out or something, their friendship getting stronger than ever."

"You really think so?"

"Trust me!"

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Meanwhile, just inside the sirens' house, Sonata hadn't moved. Taking out her phone, she thumbed over to that group pic they took when they were fixing the statue thing together, pointedly staring at the one with shiny, purple curls.

Rarity? I don't know how. I don't know when. But as soon as I'm not busy with all this taking-over-the-better-school stuff? I will end you.

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Twilight lived relatively close to the sirens, so it wasn't long before their paths split. This left Sunset alone with her thoughts as she walked the remaining distance home.

It's crazy how long a habit can stick with us. Or at least, something we're conditioned to do. Adagio was taught to look up at... some kind of magic device on the ceiling of her cell when she performed well, and a hundred years, a different dimension, and a different body later, she still does it.

The thought of what they did to her in The Hadal Zone still made Sunset angry, but now it made her angry and sad. Adagio had scars that, if they were still visible today, were probably just never going to heal on their own, which meant she was going to need more than just a soul-beary friend-therapy session. There had to be something she could do, some kind of reward she could offer Adagio to completely replace negative energy in her mind, but what?

Not like I can feed her ordinary magic, and the Friendship type comes from just doing normal friend stuff together. Candy? She's not a little kid. Or Pinkie Pie. Fancy candy?

...Am I seriously just going down the list of stuff my oldest friends might like? Think harder, Sunset.

Well, given Adagio's own idea of how to do something nice for someone (granted, that was meant as an apology), maybe whenever she did well, all Sunset had to do was remove an article of clothing?

She slapped herself, startling two passing teenagers (that she dearly hoped didn't go to CHS) on the sidewalk. Blood rushing to her face for two reasons now, she quickened her pace.

Whatever, I'll think of something. How hard can it be to replace being shot with 80,000 volts of pure pain, anyway?

Author's Note:

My first instinct when describing the sirens' house in a human civilization is to pack it with weird stuff and a sense of decoration befitting a pack-rat Discord if he were bound by the laws of physics, but as I've already done that once or twice, I was drawing a blank this time. So that's what I went with, which turned into what it is now; nomads whose house feels like they don't quite live in it! :pinkiehappy:

Comments ( 3 )

I still have all forty-six notebooks, twelve textbooks, thirty-eight powerpoint presentations, and seventeen projects from my time in Crystal Prep!"

I am somehow unsurprised.

she said while drawing her phone from her hair

Must have learned from Pinkie Pie.

"Er, no," Aria answered with a hint of confusion, "pretty sure Crystal Prep doesn't teach Thermodynamics."

You can look it up though.

"The thing that throws me is that Glitz and Glitter haven't swung by to rub it in. Haven't even seen either of 'em since that moment in the cafeteria."

Because they're smart. If they rubbed it in, it would prove to you two that it IS her.

Smiling back, the trio nodded in unison, Aria answering verbally. "Even if it's easier, moving still kinda sounds like a huge pain. We don't really have anywhere to go except closer to Crystal Prep anyway, but the cost of living over there's way higher."

Sounds about right.

Getting back to work, Aria rolled her eyes. "Because that was how they used to feed her."

Huh?

Thinking about her current problem as she lightly thumped a pencil against her chin, Sonata answered for her. "Dagi's a test-tube baby, lab-grown to be like, the best kelpie ever, and a big, magic thingy on the roof was like her hamster bottle."

I, see?

"You'll get the hang of it," Twilight told her with friendly smile, "it just takes a little practice."

You get used to it though.

"-prised she wears the new collar at home."

Wait what?

"Yep," she quickly answered, showing most of her teeth in a tightly-clenched smile, "peeeeachy. See you guys around!"

OK then...

Rarity? I don't know how. I don't know when. But as soon as I'm not busy with all this taking-over-the-better-school stuff? I will end you.

Oh.

How hard can it be to replace being shot with 80,000 volts of pure pain, anyway?

Odds are? Harder than you think

JMP

Well the tutoring seems to be going well. Twilight needs to get over her nerves at some point, though.

Oh yeah, Adagio is a test tube experiment. I almost forgot about that part :fluttershysad:

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