• Published 28th Apr 2017
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Neighbors - Tethered-Angel



A familiar face moves into the sirens' apartment building.

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Chapter 4- Coffee and Tea

Adagio waited in her corner of the darkened café, absently stirring artificial sweetener into a cup of cheap coffee. Taking a sip of the piping hot beverage, she anxiously glanced through filthy windows toward the street outside. Seeing nothing, she checked her watch. Five minutes late. She had not expected Sunset to be the type to keep people waiting.

A splash of red hair caught Adagio’s attention, and she perked up. There she was, making her way to the entrance. A moment later the bell jingled and Sunset Shimmer walked inside, glancing around hurriedly. Adagio raised a hand, drawing the girl’s attention. With a smile, Sunset nodded and rushed over.

“Hey, thanks for meeting me,” Sunset said as she slid into the booth. She cringed as her sleeve stuck to the surface of the table and pulled herself free with a disgusted look. “Sorry I’m late.”

Adagio smirked. “I would have thought a former student of the princess would be more punctual.” She chuckled, waving away Sunset’s protests. “I’m joking, Shimmer. Though I have to ask, why would you want to come to this dive of all places? Our apartments are perfectly serviceable. Not to mention cleaner.”

Sunset shrugged. “I thought a change of scenery would be nice, and this place was close. I didn’t know it was so… yuck.” She shuddered. “Anyway, I thought you’d jump at the chance to get away from your sisters for a while. Isn’t that how families usually are?”

“Perhaps so,” Adagio chuckled, “I admit they can be a bit of a handful at times.” She trailed off, then fixed Sunset with a saucy look, leaning forward with her chin in her hands. “So, what was it you wanted to get me all alone for? Finally making your move?”

“I didn’t mean it like that!” Sunset gasped, waving her hands in front of her to ward off the accusation. “I just thought it would be nice to chat for a while, one on one.”

Adagio was about to reply when she was interrupted by the waitress. “What you want?” She asked Sunset impatiently, chewing loudly on a large wad of bubblegum.

“Tea, please,” Sunset said politely.

“Sweet or unsweet?” The waitress asked with impatience.

“Uh, chai?” Sunset asked.

The waitress rolled her eyes. “Of course, you’re one of those types.” She snapped a bubble as she jotted down the order, then turned to Adagio with a frown. “And you?” Irritated, Adagio motioned pointedly toward her still-steaming coffee. “Whatever,” The waitress shrugged and sauntered off.

“Classy place they got here,” Adagio scoffed. “Excellent service.”

Sunset shrugged, “It’s not like there’s much choice. We aren’t exactly in the better part of Canterlot here.”

Adagio rolled her eyes. “Yes, I suppose it does keep the rent down though.” She glared after the waitress. “Anyway,” She said, returning her attention to her companion, “What was it you wanted to talk to me about, now that we’re all alone?”

“I wanted to see if you and your sisters were interested in a foursome.”

W-What!?” Adagio spluttered, nearly spilling her coffee. She glared at Sunset to see her grinning cheekily. “Not funny,” Adagio muttered.

“Two can play that game, Adagio. I was a bad girl once too, remember?” Sunset smirked. Then she laughed. “Really, I just want to talk. Get to know the real you better.”

“Hmm,” Adagio hummed, still a bit shaken. She took a sip of her coffee to give herself a chance to realign her thoughts. “Is this about the amulet?”

Sunset shrugged. “It doesn’t have to be. I am pretty curious why you gave it to me so readily, but we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

Adagio sighed in relief. “Thanks.”

“No problem, it’s what friends do,” Sunset said with a gentle smile. “So, is there anything you would like to talk about?”

“We aren’t friends yet, Shimmer,” Adagio said testily. Then her expression softened. “I… don’t really have anything to talk about. It’s been a long time since I’ve just sat down and talked with someone, barring my sisters of course. I may be a bit out of practice.”

Sunset smirked. “This from the girl that basically brainwashed the entire school.”

Adagio rolled her eyes, waving off the comment with a scoff. “Hardly the same thing, thralls aren’t exactly known for their conversational skills.”

“What about Rarity?” Sunset asked with a more genuine smile. “You seem to be getting along pretty well with her.”

Adagio blinked. “Well, yes I suppose I did. She is rather pleasant to talk to. I could certainly relate to her passion, and her creative drive is incredible. And those hips…” She chuckled, “She’s pretty cute when she gets flustered, too.”

Sunset laughed. “You made Rarity blush!? I can’t believe it! You must be good.”

“Oh, it was just a bit of teasing,” Adagio said modestly. “I gather she is a bit of a romantic?”

“Oh yeah!” Sunset laughed, “You should see some of the books she has hidden under her bed. I think we’ve all been subjected to one of her ‘romance lessons’ at one point or another.”

“Hmm, it’s a shame she has no practical experience. She’d almost be able to match wits with me.” Adagio said with a smirk. “Oh, the things I could teach that girl.”

Sunset chuckled. “Hey, no spoiling my friends!” She pointed an accusing finger at the siren. She laughed again. “It sounds like you get along really well though. Are you sure you wouldn’t consider her a friend, just a tiny bit?” She said the last part with a teasing tone, blinking her eyelashes exaggeratedly.

Adagio rolled her eyes, taking another sip of her coffee. “Oh, so that’s your game, is it? Send the pretty one to seduce me and induct me into your friendship cult. Are you sure you aren’t still evil?”

Sunset laughed. “Yes, wa-ha-ha, you’ve figured out my evil plan!” She said in a villainous-sounding accent. “Actually, it’s even better. I didn’t have to lift a finger, you did it all for yourself!”

“I’m not entirely sure that’s comforting.” Adagio muttered.

“Here,” The waitress said curtly, dropping sunset’s hot tea onto the table.

“Thanks,” Sunset said, “Sugar?” The waitress huffed, pointing impatiently to the little basket of sweeteners. “Right,” Sunset cringed. The waitress left without a word. Sunset sighed and reached for one of the gaudy pink packets.

Adagio chuckled. “Used to the palatial selection, are you?”

“Hey, there’s a standard,” Sunset shot back, “Even the worst dives in Equestria would be ashamed to serve this.” Adagio snorted, but Sunset brushed it off. “So, what about your sisters? Sonata seemed to be getting along with Pinkie and Fluttershy.”

“Yes, Pinkie was hardly a surprise, she and Sonata are birds of a feather.” The siren sighed. “I can only imagine the mischief those two could get into together. Though maybe Fluttershy will balance them out, she seems pretty level-headed. I’m surprised someone like her can get along with the likes of Pinkie and Sonata.”

Sunset smiled. “She can be pretty shy around new people, but she is an amazing person once she comes out of her shell. I probably hurt her more than anyone else, and she was still one of the first to forgive me. You could never hope to meet a kinder girl.”

“Heh,” Adagio scoffed, “You’re starting to sound pretty sappy there, Shimmer.”

Sunset shrugged. “One of the hazards of friendship, I guess.”

“Another thing I will have to get used to, I suppose,” Adagio said. Then she sighed. “I just wish Aria was adjusting as well as Sonata.”

“I know she has had issues with some of the girls. Especially Rainbow.” Sunset shook her head. “She really is sorry for what she did.”

Adagio snorted. “As much as I want to jump to my sister’s defense, I know what Aria can be like. I have no doubt that she was provoking whatever came to her. Still though, your friend was out of line.”

Sunset frowned. “Forgiveness is an important part of friendship, Adagio. Maybe the most important.” She sighed. “I’m not saying what Rainbow did was okay, but we all make mistakes. I don’t want to know where I would be without my friend’s forgiveness, and I’d like to think you girls are better off for it too.”

“Perhaps,” Adagio sighed. “I suppose after what we did it would be rather hypocritical to deny Rainbow the same. But that’s between her and my sister, I won’t force the issue.” She swirled her coffee. “Although that does raise the question. Are we forgiven?”

Sunset blinked, and looked down into her tea as if the answer lie somewhere within the murky beverage. “Huh, did none of us ever say it?” She looked up, locking her gaze with Adagio’s. “I guess maybe we didn’t. Well then, yes, Adagio, I do forgive you. For everything.”

Adagio smiled, hiding the expression behind another sip of coffee. “You know, I’m surprised to say it, but it actually feels really good to hear that. Thanks.”

“Nothing feels better than forgiveness,” Sunset said, returning the smile.

“Please stop!” Adagio moaned, “You sound like a damn greeting card.”

“Sorry,” Sunset chuckled, “Just another one of those friendship traps.” She took a small sip of her tea, and immediately spat it back into the cup. “This is absolutely terrible.”

Adagio smirked. “Ready to get out of here?”

“Please.”

==O==

They managed to escape the dive with their pride intact, if not their dignity. “Never again,” Sunset muttered as they made their way to a small, out-of-the-way park near their apartment building. “Never trusting anyone else to brew my tea ever again.” Adagio laughed. They wound their way through the overgrown shrubs until they found an old bench well out of the way of the street.

“So,” Adagio began, lounging against the rough wood, “Tell me about those necklaces.”

Sunset took a seat next to her, sighing softly. “Well, they came to us, in a way. A woman named Gloriosa discovered them in this world’s version of the Everfree forest. The magic… transformed her, kind of like what happened to me when I stole the element of harmony.” She shuddered. “Since the magic wasn’t meant for her, she lost control, and we had to stand against her to save her and ourselves. Even though she had the crystals in her possession, we were able to tap into their power and pony up. When they came to us, they transformed into to look like they do now.”

Adagio was silent for a long time after her story, lost in thought. Then she laughed drily. “You know, until you came along, my sisters and I never encountered another magic user in this world. Not one, in over a thousand years.” She pinched the bridge of her nose to stave off a headache. “So these gems, they gave you your unicorn powers back?”

Sunset shook her head, overriding Adagio’s theory. “No, they don’t work like that, not exactly. Magic here is much more chaotic, unpredictable. The gems affect each of us differently. Twilight, the one you met at the party, she has some telekinetic powers, but we don’t know the extent of them yet. Hers is the most like unicorn magic. Applejack has incredible strength, similar to an earth pony, and Rainbow Dash can fly like a pegasus. The others get weird, though. Fluttershy can apparently talk to animals, and Pinkie… well, I really prefer not to think about what Pinkie can do.”

Adagio hummed, deep in thought. “So what does yours do?”

Sunset blushed and looked down at her feet. “It’s a little embarrassing, but I can feel things. Impressions, emotions. Unguarded thoughts. Memories even, if there is strong emotion connected to them or they happen to be on someone’s mind.”

Adagio whistled. “That is an enviable skill. A girl could do a lot with that kind of power. Almost as much as my siren powers, once upon a time.” She sighed wistfully.

“It’s not always that great,” Sunset said. “It can be hard to turn off sometimes, and I end up seeing things I shouldn’t. And since it mostly works through touch, places like school can get very loud, especially when the hallways get crowded. But it only works if I’m wearing it, so if it’s a little overwhelming I can just keep it in my backpack.”

“If it’s that bad, why do you keep it on at all?” Adagio asked.

“I don’t know,” Sunset said with sincerity, “Being apart from it just feels, wrong somehow.”

“I can’t imagine,” Adagio rolled her eyes. “Being separated from your magic must be horrible.”

Sunset cringed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean-”

Adagio waved her off. “Don’t apologize. It’s unbecoming. You did what you had to do, just like we did.” She sighed. Silence fell for several minutes, the rumble and bustle of nearby traffic the only thing to disturb the fragile calm. Finally, Adagio broke the silence. “Sunset, can I trust you with something?”

“Sure, I can keep a secret.”

“It’s not a secret, it’s a memory.”

“Oh!” Sunset blinked. “Are you sure?”

Adagio nodded. “I will warn you though, it is a painful one.”

Sunset grimaced, but nodded. She held out her hand, and Adagio took it. A blinding flash of light made her blink, and when she opened her eyes, she was in another place, and another time.

==O==

The stage lights flashed, blinding her for a moment. The sounds of hundreds of bickering students crashed into her, making her flinch. Then she smirked. Her power was even greater than she had imagined. Sunset inhaled deeply as the music began to play, silencing the student body. The melody seemed to flow out of her, effortlessly, seamlessly, in perfect harmony with her sisters beside her.

“Welcome to the shoooow,
We’re here to let you knoooow,
Our time is noooow,
Your time is running oooout.”

Her head throbbed as the song drained her magic. A deep hunger clawed at her stomach, filling her with a desperate need for sustenance. A familiar but lost power filled her voice, turning her will to action. The Equestrian magic was just an appetizer; the real meal was about to begin.

“Feel the wave of sound,
As it crashes down!
You can’t turn away,
We’ll make you want to sta-a-ay!”

Green mist began to flood the stage, the pure emotional energy her song forced from her thralls. She breathed it in greedily, and felt her gem pulse against her neck as it filled with energy. The feeling was both familiar and strange. It felt differently from her time with the element of harmony. Then, her magic had been painful, burning her skin and tearing at her mind, the stolen power not meant for her. Here, it was natural. This power was her birthright, a siren’s treasure. She was born to have it, and it was the only thing that soothed the gnawing pain in her stomach. She needed it.

“We will be adored,
Tell us that you want us,
We won’t be ignored,
It’s time for our reward.”

Power crackled over her skin, wrapping her in a blinding glow and lifting her off the ground. Her body began to morph, twisting under the power of the dark magic. Again, it was different from before. Her body was not being reshaped to fit the magic’s needs. Instead, it was like she was finally in the body she belonged in, her muscles finally able to relax after being forced into an unnatural position, just like when she ponied up. Ears sprang from the top of her head, her hair extended into a long pony tail, and ethereal wings sprang from her back, reminiscent of her once magnificent fins. But the transformation was incomplete, she still needed more power.

“Now you need us,
Come and heed us,
Nothing can stop us nooooow!”

Out of nowhere, another melody crashed into her own, disrupting her magic. Sunset opened her eyes in rage, finally spotting the hated Rainbooms standing atop the hill behind the amphitheater. They had somehow escaped and regained their instruments, and massive amplifiers blasted their music over the crowd.

“Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh,
I’ve got the music in me,
Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh!”

“Don’t need to hear a crowd,
Cheering out my name,
I didn’t come here seeking
Infamy or fame.”

Sunset snarled as the song continued, every word a personal attack against her sisters and herself. Their magic infused them as well, transforming them into their pony forms. Several of them sprouted wings of their own. Sunset smirked. Despite all that, their song was not enough to overpower her own. “So, the Rainbooms want to turn this into a real battle of the bands?” She challenged. “Then let’s battle.”

“What we have in store,
All we want and more,
We will break on through,
Now it’s time to finish you!”

With the final line, Sunset’s world went red. She released her crackling power, transforming it into a projection of her true form. Her sisters followed suit, and the trio of powerful constructs charged their enemies. They circled the girls, but the band managed to beat them back with an amplified volley. The sky became filled with the chaotic clash of siren and pony magic.

Filled with rage, Sunset poured all her breath into a powerful attack, beating back the Equestrian magic. Her sisters rallied behind her, pouring their own magic into the attack. Their coordinated assault tore through the Rainbooms’ defenses, throwing them to the ground, their instruments scattered.

Before they could press their advantage, a new player joined the field. Sunset was filled with Adagio’s rage and her own surprise when she saw herself take up a microphone and stand alone among her fallen friends. She snarled, knowing what was about to happen, but powerless to stop it as her other self parted her lips and began to sing.

“You’re never gonna bring me down,
You’re never gonna break this part of me,
My friends are here to bring me ‘round,
Not singing just for popularity.”

The others began to stand, retrieving their instruments and rallying around the singer. Sunset looked to her sisters in panic, urging them to press the attack before it was too late. Coming together, they charged, intending to bowl over the entire group in one fell swoop. But the magic had other ideas.

“Got the music in our hearts,
We’re here to blow this thing apart,
And together, we will never,
Be afraid of the dark!”

Their magic sprang to life, shielding them from the sirens’ attacks. With a wave of a hand, they went on the offensive, their magic driving into the constructs and knocking Sunset and her sisters to their knees. Her spell broken, Sunset could do little else but look up in awe and terror as the combined magic of the Rainbooms formed a construct of their own. The massive Alicorn out-massed the sirens’ forms by an order of magnitude, and it had the power to match.

Sunset tried to protect herself, ordering her construct to shield her, but it was too little, too late. The attack was too powerful, and the construct was shattered. For the second time in her life, Sunset was awash with the magic of Harmony, but unlike before the experience was nothing short of horrific. When she had become a demon, the magic had been soothing, washing away the corruption in her heart and the twisted magic of her stolen element. Now, it was violent, painful, diametrically opposed to what she was at the very core. It reached into her, tearing away and burning everything that made her a siren. Her history, her sense of self, all of it was under attack, and it hurt. Sunset collapsed to the stage, and her vision went black.

==O==

“AAAAAH!” Sunset screamed as she was hurled back into reality. She fell back against the bench, breathing heavily, unseeing eyes staring straight ahead.

“Sunset?” A muffled voice said. “Sunset!” she snapped back into focus, turning her head to see Adagio’s concerned expression. “Are you alright?” The siren asked worriedly.

“O-oh, Celestia!” Sunset cried, grabbing Adagio and pulling her into a crushing embrace. “I- I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t know… I didn’t know…” She pulled the siren tighter, rocking her back and forth as tears streamed down her face.

“W-what?” Adagio gasped, struggling to breathe, “What are you talking about!?” Sunset did not answer. The only response Adagio got from the girl was a fresh round of sobs. Tears fell onto Adagio’s jacket, and the siren looked around helplessly. “What did I do?”

“I’m sorry,” Sunset said quietly. “We hurt you so much… took away so much…”

“H-hey, don’t be like that.” Adagio said, attempting to comfort her companion by patting her shoulder. “It’s not like you didn’t go through the exact same thing, right?”

“But I didn’t!” Sunset protested. “W-when the elements hit me, if felt good! Like I was being cleansed of some nasty corruption that had been clinging to me. It only hurt when I was struck with the full realization of all the horrible things I had done. And now I’ve hurt you too.”

Adagio blinked. “I don’t think I understand.”

Sunset finally pulled away, taking a couple of deep breathes before wiping her face with her sleeve. “My magic was stolen. I was never meant to use the element’s magic and I was punished for it. When Twilight’s spell hit me, it cleansed me of that. It felt natural, inviting, like a warm bath. Like coming home. But you, you were never corrupted. Your magic was a part of what you are, it was your nature. When our magic tore that away, it destroyed a part of you, didn’t it?”

Nodding slowly, Adagio sighed. “I guess we really did have different experiences after all. Our magic was a part of us in a way not even a unicorn could understand. It was our connection to the world. How we fed, how we interacted with the land and the people around us. Without it, we aren’t sirens.” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “But… that wasn’t what I was trying to show you. Do you remember what you felt, before the battle?”

Sunset paused for a moment, wracking her borrowed memory. “Hunger,” She said finally, “I was hungry.”

“Not just hungry,” Adagio corrected, “Starving. As long as we’ve been in this world, there had never been enough magic to sustain us. We may have had our powers, but they were worth little to us when we were in constant pain from malnourishment. After a few years we learned to live with it, but it never went away.” She raised a finger, then pointed it toward Sunset. “Until you came along. We knew Equestrian magic would be our salvation, we just didn’t understand how.”

“S-still, the pain I caused…”

Adagio raised a hand to forestall her apology. “It was no different from pulling a rotted tooth. It hurt, and for a long time I begrudged you for that. For the loss of my magic, too.” She sighed. “Sonata moved on easily enough. She’s always been able to bounce back like that. It’s harder to tell with Aria, but I think she’s content, if not happy. But me…” She shrugged, “I guess I’m grateful. I miss my magic dearly. It’s part of my heritage, of who I am. But I had to be rid of it, if I were ever to find peace here.”

“That’s why you gave me your gem,” Sunset sighed.

Adagio nodded. “Yes. If I kept it, I’m afraid I might obsess over it. But It’s a part of me. For the longest time, it was my entire identity. I can’t keep it close anymore, but I can’t get rid of it either. It’s too important.”

Sunset smiled sadly. “I understand. I promise, I’ll take good care of it.”

“Thanks, Shimmer.”

The two sat together in silence, merely enjoying their newfound understanding.

“Adagio,” Sunset said, breaking the silence.

Adagio glanced at her. “What is it Shimmer?”

Sunset bit her lip, unsure how to word what she wanted to say. “I know… you said you don’t want to be friends. But, you also don’t want to be enemies. You gave me something precious, the last remnants of your old life, and I know that had to be hard. So why? Why would you trust me with that, if you don’t want to be friends?”

Adagio did not answer for a while, lost in thought. She had been so sure of herself the night before, when she had done the deed, but now she was second-guessing herself. She had told herself that she did not want or need friends, but that was wrong. She could feel it was wrong. So why?

“I think,” Adagio began slowly, “I think, maybe I was wrong. My sisters and I, we’re still sore from the Battle of the Bands, still licking our wounds. Losing that power, it may have been good for us, but it still hurt, and it’s hard to look a person in the face after they’ve hurt you and see anything else. It’s that way for me and Aria, at least. I do think Sonata is honestly happy though. She always did bounce back.” She sighed. “I guess what I’m saying is that… Aria and I… friendship doesn’t come naturally to people like us. We are so used to seeing people as prey, as marks, that it’s hard to remember that not everyone sees us the same way. Trust isn’t easy, it has to be built, and even then it is a fragile thing.”

She paused for a moment, looking into Sunset’s eyes. “You showed me that when you gave me the key to your apartment. I know you couldn’t possibly trust me. From your perspective, I have every reason to want to hurt you. And yet you still gave me access to your home, believing I would not. You took a calculated risk. You may have put yourself in danger, but as long as you live across the hall we could have gotten to you sooner or later if we wanted to. And having that key doesn’t give me access to any of your friends either. All you did was make an already sketchy situation slightly more so, isn’t that right?”

Sunset gazed at the ground, looking ashamed. A slight blush painted her cheeks. “That was pretty close to my thought process, yeah. I thought that if I could show you that I had faith in you to do the right thing you might open up, even if there wasn’t really much risk to it. But it wasn’t just that. I want you to know that you can come to me if you need help, any of us really. Well, maybe not everyone, yet, but they’ll come around. I don’t want to force you into friendship, but I want you to know that it’s available.” She laughed. “Besides, I know you love your sisters, but anyone could tell that you get on each other’s nerves sometimes. I wasn’t entirely joking earlier when I said I thought you might like to get away sometimes. If you ever need some space, you can use my place. That’s why I gave it to you specifically.”

Adagio smirked. “Well, aren’t you a smooth Casanova. I knew you wanted to get me alone.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Sunset smirked back, “It’s not too late for me to change the locks.”

Chuckling, Adagio leaned back against the bench. “You know,” She said, “Maybe I can give this whole friendship thing a shot.”