• Published 29th Aug 2018
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Each Small Step - Krickis



If nothing good ever lasts, then is there even a point in trying?

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2 – Broken Things

Chapter Two

Broken Things

As if the evening before hadn’t been bad enough, the night also conspired against Aria. She gave it up as a loss early on, reasoning that the morning after would be a better time to sort things out. She kept tossing and turning, but no matter how long she lay in the dark, anything more than the occasional half hour of restless sleep here and there eluded her.

By the time morning came around, Aria told herself it was just as well. She had no idea how much sleep she’d actually managed to get, only that she’d given up and started watching videos on her phone until it died, before she’d switched to the TV.

Some guy was droning on and on about a stupid product that Aria had no interest in buying. Not that she’d be able to if she did, since she didn’t have a job anymore. Watching the infomercial was both pointless and boring, and she wondered why she didn’t just change the channel.

Better yet, she should just turn off the TV. Get an early start to the day. Maybe clean the apartment or something, prove to Sunset that she could do it if everyone would just get off her ass for five minutes. Fuck, she could at least take the clothes out of the dryer and plug her phone into a charger.

Aria didn’t do any of that. She didn’t even change the channel and just watched the stupid infomercial. ‘Just because nothing else is on this early. Hell, it might even bore me to sleep.’

The salesman droned on for another half hour, then another started selling a different product, which Aria also had no interest in.

She took a look around, taking inventory of all the things she could be doing instead of lying in bed. There were the trash bags Sunset had filled, those could be taken out. There was more trash to pick up. There was the pan Sunset had used to make dinner which could be cleaned, probably a few more things in the sink too. The plates and bowls from dinner itself still sat on her table. Miscellaneous things lay scattered about – clothes, shoes, stuff she’d bought and never got around to putting away. She might even have some cleaning chemicals to get the dirt and grime off the floors and surfaces, not that she’d ever bothered to do much of that before.

In short, there were many things Aria could be doing. Any of them would be more rewarding than lying in bed watching TV salesmen peddling their wares. All she had to do was get off her ass and do them. Just stop being such a lazy bitch who couldn’t even manage to take care of herself.

When Aria finally did get up, it was because her bladder demanded it. She shuffled to the bathroom, hoping that being out of bed would make things easier. She just wouldn’t let herself lie back down, and then she’d have no choice but to do something productive.

Her foolproof plan didn’t last long, however. While she was no longer wasting time in bed, she wound up wasting it in the bathroom instead. She had just meant to wash her hands after she was done, but she wound up watching her reflection while letting the warm water run over her hands.

She wasn’t sure how long she stood there, or why. Water did sometimes seem to melt away her stress, but if that was what she was after, she could at least take a shower. But the closest she came was eventually splashing the water on her face to try and shake off the lethargy that she’d been struggling with.

It was hard to say whether it worked or not, but at least she managed to turn off the water and leave the bathroom. Her next stop was the kitchen, where she told herself to get breakfast so she’d have some energy to do something. Instead she got herself a glass of tap water and returned to the futon.

If nothing else, at least she changed the channel. She flipped around until she found some Saturday morning cartoons. Aria liked cartoons; they were easy to jump into without needing to worry about watching the whole series, she didn’t usually have to pay close attention to what was going on to enjoy it, and the often strange and magical worlds reminded her a little of home.

Despite her decision to stay up, she collapsed onto the bed as she watched the TV. It would only be for a little bit, just until she was more awake, then she’d definitely get to work on cleaning.


Aria woke with a groan, feeling groggy and confused. How long had she been asleep? She glared at the TV for a moment, defying the noise it made, then turned to her phone.

Nothing happened as she pressed the power button. Right, the battery was dead. Aria sighed and wondered why things always had to be so difficult, then got up to plug her phone in.

She turned it on then walked away while it loaded. Since she’d left a glass of water out earlier, she took a drink from that. It was warm, but that wasn’t much of a difference between how it came out of the tap.

Aria considered the day ahead of her. She didn’t care about cleaning anymore. What was the point? No one was going to be coming over after last night. That thought brought her to something she did care about, though. What was she supposed to do about Sunset?

“Fine, if that’s how you feel then have fun destroying yourself.”

The words still stung as they replayed in her head. Why couldn’t Sunset just drop it when Aria had asked? Why did she have to push things so far?

It didn’t matter why, all that mattered was what to do next. She could text or call, but then what? Would Sunset even want to talk to her if she did reach out?

While she was debating, her text message tone went off. Apparently she wouldn’t need to plan the next move, because it seemed Sunset had already made it. Aria wanted to believe it was an offer to put everything behind them, but she didn’t. That would be something good, and good things just didn’t happen to Aria Blaze.

Even if it was only checking a text, Aria still had to steel her nerves as she went to look at it. She got up and walked over to her phone, sitting on the floor so the charger cord could reach. As she pressed the power button, it lit up to show a picture of Aria and Sunset smiling happily. She swiped her lock screen away and opened her text message app, and immediately realized how much of an idiot she’d been.

The text wasn’t from Sunset, it was from Adagio. There were two of them. The first wouldn’t have been a problem if she had seen it right away.

You still coming?

Aria didn’t even need to check how far apart the texts were sent, because the next one was much colder.

Guess not. You could at least let me know if you’re not going to show up. I tried calling you, went straight to voicemail. I’m sure you’ll have some excuse, as always.

Shit. God fucking damn it. Of all days, why the hell did Aria need to sleep in on this one? She didn’t bother replying to the text, instead just tapping the phone button to call Adagio directly.

She was afraid Adagio would let it go to voicemail, but that wasn’t the case. Adagio answered, although it was with nothing but cold detachment. “So what happened this time?”

“Dagi, I’m sorry. I was up late working on some stuff around my apartment, and I forgot to charge my phone.”

“It’s two in the afternoon.”

“I was up really late.”

Adagio sighed. She didn’t believe it, not for a moment. She’d known Aria for too long to fall for something like that, but that meant she also knew she wouldn’t get anywhere by arguing. “I’m not going to keep doing this. Next time, I’m not leaving the house until you call me and let me know you’re actually going to show up.”

“Fine. It won’t happen again.”

“Yes, it will.”

Aria winced at the certainty in Adagio’s tone.

“I already ate without you, so you can deal with being hungry. I’ll be at your apartment in fifteen minutes, so be ready.”

“Yeah, no problem! See you th–” Before Aria could finish, Adagio hung up.

That was just how Adagio was though, so she didn’t let it get to her. Besides, she didn’t have time to be upset. She scrambled to get jeans and a T-shirt on and run a brush through her hair.

Unfortunately, she had a lot of hair. She was still trying to work out the tangles by the time Adagio knocked sharply on the door.

“Just a second!” Aria called.

Adagio didn’t wait a second, opening the door and letting herself in. Aria hadn’t even realized the door was unlocked, but she ignored that.

“Hey, Dagi. I’m almost ready.”

Adagio took a look around. She didn’t seem happy with what she saw. “Up late working on the apartment, was it?”

Aria frowned. It’s not like she’d said what she was doing with the apartment. “Yeah, and? I don’t come into your house and criticize the way you live.”

“That’s because my house doesn’t look like a garbage dump. Are we ready to go? I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.”

“Fine. I’ll brush my hair on the way.”

Aria followed Adagio out of the apartment, making sure to grab her keys and lock the door this time. Adagio led the way down the stairs, where her car was waiting. Aria climbed into the passenger seat and resumed brushing.

“Buckle up,” Adagio said as she started the engine.

“Really?”

“You’re not going to be able to pay it if I get a ticket because you didn’t wear a seatbelt.”

In fairness, that was true. Aria put on her seatbelt, then finally got back to brushing her hair.

Adagio didn’t bother to make conversation while she drove. It would’ve been hard anyway, considering how loudly she played her music. In any event, it suited Aria just fine. She hadn’t wanted to meet up with Adagio to talk, after all.

After the Battle of the Bands, the sirens’ lives changed forever in every conceivable way. The three of them were inseparable for centuries before, and they’d been able to manipulate others into doing whatever they wanted.

At first, they attempted to remain together and figure out the whole living as non-magical humans thing. It only lasted until Adagio decided that without the need for their magic harmonies anymore, she’d rather strike out on her own. Somehow she managed to become more successful than Aria and Sonata were working together, and she found her way into an audio engineering career at a successful recording studio.

Maybe that was what inspired Sonata to leave next. In the end, Aria was the only one still living in the crappy apartment they used to share, and things never seemed to work out as well for her as they did for her sisters.

They did keep in touch, though. Adagio especially. Maybe she felt guilty for ditching them, because she regularly brought Aria out shopping or bought things for the apartment, even if she hadn’t been exaggerating when she said she preferred to spend as little time as possible in it.

Whatever her reason, Aria was in no position to question it. They usually went out for lunch before shopping, but even if it was just to get some groceries, it would be a day well spent.

They pulled into the parking lot of a discount grocery store. Only when they were out of the car and there was no more music did Adagio decide to make conversation.

“How are things with Sunset?”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have. “Good. She stopped by for dinner last night.”

Adagio flashed a sly grin. “Oh? I can guess the real reason why you were up so late then.”

“That wasn’t it!”

Adagio patted Aria on the head. “Oh, come on now, Aria. After all the years we’ve lived together, you can’t tell me you’re embarrassed now.”

Aria swatted Adagio’s hand away. “I’m not embarrassed about anything, that’s just not what happened.”

“If you say so.” It was clear that Adagio wouldn’t believe her, but Aria gave up on arguing about it. She didn’t have any desire to explain what really happened, after all.

Adagio got a shopping cart for them as they entered. “So what are we here for?”

Aria reached into her pocket and realized she’d left her phone on the charger. The notes app on it held the list that she and Sunset had made of things they needed to get. Asking Adagio to go back was out of the question though, so Aria would just have to remember as best she could.

It wasn’t too hard of a shopping list at least – she needed just about everything. It had been a long time since she’d actually gone shopping, so she was past due on restocking most of her food.

If anything, forgetting the list meant that there would be fewer things for Adagio to tell her to put back. Adagio was oddly generous despite not always being the most friendly person, but she did have her own budget to keep in mind. Still, she never outright complained about anything so long as Aria listened when she said not to get something.

Of course, that was only because she preferred passive aggressive comments instead. She looked over their cart and frowned. “Do you still have a job?”

Aria was tempted to lie about that too, but if she did that, then Adagio might want her to pay for some of the stuff. “No. Lost it earlier this week.”

“Hmm.” Adagio hardly seemed interested. She pulled out her phone and tapped away at it while Aria continued to shop.

It was probably best not to question it, but it was kind of unsettling to imagine Adagio not taking the chance to give Aria a hard time. “What are you doing?”

“Shush.”

Whatever. Unsettling as it was, Adagio was off her back. Aria took the chance to grab a few things she knew Adagio would consider excessive expenses while she was distracted by her phone.

They didn’t get to the point of what Adagio had been doing until they were heading towards the checkout. “I got you a new job. It’s at the studio, I’m texting the contact info to you now.”

“Really?” Although Aria wasn’t sure that working alongside Adagio would be a good idea, the idea of working with music again was appealing.

Seeing Aria’s obvious interest made Adagio smile. She always did love to crush her sister’s hopes, after all. “We need a new janitor.”

Aria stopped in her tracks. “A janitor?”

“I know, you’re pretty much the least qualified person I can imagine for the job. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for charity cases.”

“There is no way I’m cleaning up after you.”

The smile was wiped clear off of Adagio’s face. “You’re not in a position to argue, Aria.”

“There’s nothing to argue about, because I’m just not gonna do it.”

“Fine. Then I’m sure you have some sort of plan of your own?”

“I’ll figure something out.”

“Oh, right.” Adagio pushed the cart into the checkout line and started unloading it. “I keep forgetting you’ve got your life completely under control. I’m just sure that a job more fitting to your standards will come along any day now.”

It was tempting to just walk away, but Aria kept a level head and unloaded groceries. “So what if I don’t? Since when do you even care what I do?”

“Since right around when I got tired of buying all your crap. Speaking of which, you don’t need this junk food. Put it back.”

Aria took the box of cookies that Adagio had handed her and set them on top of the candy at the counter. She ignored the look the cashier gave them. “It hasn’t even been a week yet. Give me a bit, you’ll see.”

“Oh, I’ll give you all the time you need. But I won’t feed you while you slack off this time.” Adagio pulled out her debit card and swiped it through the machine. “Better make this food last until something comes along, or hope that Sunset doesn’t mind paying for you.”

“I don’t need Sunset to pay for me!”

“Good. Then you don’t need me to either.”

“Damn right, I don’t!”

Adagio took the receipt from the cashier and pushed the cart out of the store. At least this was happening at the end of the shopping trip, Aria would’ve left right when she brought up relying on Sunset otherwise.

Once again, they didn’t talk while Adagio drove. Although she hardly needed to, Adagio had made a point of turning the music up even louder than before. Aria was even more grateful for that the second time around. Who did Adagio think she was? Sure, she had been the group leader before, but those days were long gone, and they were not coming back. Aria could take care of herself, and she’d prove it.

Adagio didn’t even shut the engine off when they reached Aria’s apartment, but she did turn the music down low enough to talk. “Aria, one more thing.”

“Yeah?” Aria piled bags of groceries in her arms, determined to not need to make more than one trip.

“Don’t call Sonata for help either.”

Aria closed the door but kept talking to Adagio through the open passenger-side window. “Why do you think I’d do that?”

Adagio looked at her like she was an idiot. “I mean it. If you decide to change your mind and grow up let me know, but leave her out of it.”

“I’m not gonna call Sonata. And what does she even have to do with anything?”

For once, Adagio didn’t seem to take any joy in insulting Aria. “Stop deceiving yourself, Aria, you’re not that dumb.”

“What does that mean!?”

Adagio rolled the window up and backed out.

Even though she knew Adagio would never hear her over the noise coming out of her speakers, Aria still called after her. “Hey! Don’t drive away, I’m still talking to you! Adagio!”

Like everything else she did, it didn’t matter. If Adagio so much as looked back while she drove away, Aria had no way of knowing.

What was Adagio’s problem anyway? Whatever, if she wanted to be a stuck up bitch, that was on her. Aria had other things to think about, like getting her groceries inside.

Climbing the stairs with all the bags of food was a challenge, but she managed. Opening the door was even harder. Despite armfuls of bags, Aria tried getting to her keys without setting anything down, which she failed at.

Once the door was finally open, Aria brought what she still had in her arms to the kitchen, then set them on the floor before returning for the rest of the bags. She put those ones on the counter, then started going through bags for cold stuff. It all got haphazardly shoved into the fridge and freezer, and everything else got ignored.

At least her phone was done charging. She removed it from the charger and checked for messages.

Nothing, except for the one from Adagio. Sunset hadn’t even tried to get in touch with her at all.

So what? Sunset and Adagio could both go to hell. What did Aria need them for, anyway?

And what was all that junk about not calling Sonata? When Adagio had decided to go off on her own, Aria and Sonata had been the ones who stuck together. Adagio was the last person who should be telling Aria what to do with Sonata.

Aria scrolled to the bottom of her contacts. It was a short list, as there was hardly anyone worth calling. She frowned when she saw the number labelled ‘Work’ and deleted it. With that gone, the last name on the list read ‘Sonata’, which was the one Aria dialed.

The phone rang several times, and Aria wondered what she’d even say. It didn’t matter, because Sonata’s answering machine was all she got.

“Hey, this is Sonata Dusk! Can’t get to my phone right now, so leave me a message after the beep!”

The answering machine beeped, and Aria still didn’t really know what to say. “Hey, Sonata. It’s Aria. Give me a call when you can, okay? Later.”

She’d figure it out by the time Sonata called her back. Meanwhile, she had some groceries to put away.

But… she just got done dealing with Adagio. She could use a little break. The TV was still on, so she flopped onto the futon. Nothing good was on, so she flipped around until she found a shark documentary looked like it might be worth watching.


Aria woke up to her phone vibrating as an upbeat song played. She groaned and answered it. “Sonata?”

“Hi, Aria.” Sonata’s voice held none of its usual pep. “How much do you need?”

“What?” Aria sat up and rubbed her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“Just… let me know what you need, and I’ll send it to you.”

“Sonata, I have no idea what you’re going on about. I never said I needed anything.”

Sonata sighed. “I’m not as dumb as you think I am, I know what’s going on. You need money, and it’s fine. Just tell me how much.”

It wasn’t too hard to see what was going on. “I don’t need anything, no matter what Adagio told you.”

“Adagio didn’t tell me anything.”

“Bullshit. If she didn’t tell you I lost my job, then where do you get all this about me needing money?”

“Maybe because that’s the only reason you ever call me?”

“What? That’s not true!”

“Uh, yeah it is? Name one time you called me for something else.”

Aria frowned. “It’s not like I remember every time I’ve talked to you.”

“The last time we talked was three months ago, the last time you lost your job.”

“Well it’s good to know you’re keeping tabs on me! But for your information, I didn’t call for money or anything like that.”

“Then why did you call?”

Why did she call? There had to be more to it than just because Adagio had told her not to. “I don’t know, maybe I just wanted to hang out? You know, like we used to.”

“I’m not even close to Canterlot City.”

“Really? Where are you?”

There was a pause, and Sonata sounded a little more like her usual self when she answered. “Do you really care?”

“Sure I do! Why else would I ask?”

“Well… okay. Right now we’re in Las Pegasus.” Sonata’s tone finally changed to a positive one, as she spoke excitedly about the city. “There’s so much more to do here than we ever knew about! Trixie used to live here, so she’s been showing me around.”

It was less that they didn’t know about all the shows and events in Las Pegasus, and more that they just hadn’t ever cared. It was a testament to Sonata’s obliviousness that she couldn’t tell the difference.

Rather than say any of that, Aria decided to keep things civil. Sonata had finally bounced back to her usual self, after all. “Sounds like you’re having a blast. How long are you two out there for?”

“Only through the weekend, then we’re heading out for Manehattan.”

“Manehattan? You two on some sort of road trip or something?”

Sonata paused before answering and chuckled awkwardly. “Uhm, we’re on tour?”

Something about Sonata’s tone threw Aria off. “Oh, that’s cool. You should’ve told me, I could’ve seen you off.”

“I did,” Sonata said, her tone growing hostile. “Last time we talked. You said you’d come see our last show in Canterlot, then you never did.”

Crap. Aria remembered now. “Oh, right. Sorry about that, something came up.”

“Yeah, Sunset told me you couldn’t get the time off.” Sonata didn’t seem to take that as a good reason.

“I tried, okay? It wasn’t my fault.”

“It never is. You’ve never made it to a single one of our shows. I see your girlfriend more than I see you, because Sunset actually comes to see us perform.”

“Geez, what’s with the interrogation? No wonder I don’t come to your shows if this is how you’re gonna act.”

“So you have been avoiding it.”

“No! Don’t put words in my mouth. Why do you have to be the –”

“The worst? Why did you call, Aria? Do you just need someone to push around?”

“Like I said, I just wanted to hang out! I forgot about your stupid tour thing.”

“This isn’t stupid to me! I love being Trixie’s assistant, it makes me happy. She makes me happy. After putting up with you insulting me for years, I finally get to perform with someone who makes me feel good about it.”

“Don’t pin all that on me! It’s not like Adagio ever took us seriously either!”

“Yeah, and that’s why we split. We were all awful to each other. We were awful in general. But now I’m trying not to be. I won’t let you drag me back down to your level again.”

“Fine, just forget I called then!”

“I’m not done.”

“Well I am!”

Aria hung up the phone and screamed. Where did Sonata get off saying all that crap? Yeah, they always fought a lot, but Sonata had always given just as much as she got. She was only pinning the blame on Aria so she could go on feeling like she was so much better.

Aria’s phone vibrated with a text message. She checked the notification first and saw that it was from Sonata. She considered just swiping it away, but she opened it in the end.

i dont think u should call me again

“Well, I don’t think you should be such a stuck up bitch who cares more about her stupid fake magic show than about her own sister!”

If yelling at her phone didn’t help, throwing it only made things worse. Even as it left her hand, Aria knew it was a mistake. The phone hit the floor, then bounced into the kitchen.

Aria fell backward onto the futon. She held her head in her hands and screamed again. She didn’t even want to look at her phone. As long as she didn’t look at it, there was a chance she hadn’t broken it.

She was good at breaking things. When Aria got upset, things got broken. Sometimes those things were people. Sometimes those people were important to her. It never mattered. When Aria got upset, things got broken.

And Aria was always upset.

Calling Sonata was a mistake. Adagio had been able to see that, it was only Aria who was too stubborn and stupid to see it herself. She should have called Sunset instead. Sunset was the one person who, for whatever reason, put up with all of Aria’s shit. But for how much longer? Soon enough, Aria would break her too.

Then she’d be alone again. Adagio would give up on her eventually, just like Sonata had. It was all Aria deserved. All she did was make everyone around her as miserable as she was, just so she could pretend it wasn’t her fault when they left.

But she knew better, really. How could she not? Aria Blaze may have been a decent siren, but she was a pathetic excuse for a person. She couldn’t even clean her fucking apartment. Hell, she didn’t bother to shower until her girlfriend talked her into it.

What was even the point? Aria lived in a shitty little apartment and she couldn’t even manage to keep her shitty little job that paid for it. There were only three people she cared about, and all three of them were clearly tired of dealing with her. And she could forget about ever going home again.

So why? Why keep going? Aria hated everything. She hated her apartment, she hated other people, she hated this whole stupid world, and she hated herself more than anything. It wasn’t like she hadn’t thought of it countless times before.

Even before they’d lost their magic, she’d thought about it. Ever since they wound up in this world, Aria had wondered if it would be better to just not exist. Why keep waiting any longer? It wasn’t like she was enjoying this life, and putting an end to it would probably be the only worthwhile thing she’d ever done.

Aria rose to her feet and walked into the kitchen. She had to look through several drawers since she was so useless she didn’t even know where her own shit was, but eventually she found what she was looking for.

She wondered if the fillet knife would be sharp enough to make things quick. It didn’t really matter. Aria had dealt with pain before, that was at least one thing she was good at. She held the knife in her right hand and extended her left, palm up.

She curled her fingers into a fist and placed the point of the knife against her skin. Just one cut, straight down, and that’d be it. No more misery. No more hurting anyone.

No more Aria Blaze.

She wasn’t sure how long she stood there, staring at the knife point against her skin. Memories of the times she’d screwed up partnered with the thoughts of all the screw ups that were yet to come, and they danced through her head in pairs.

Just one cut, straight down. Just one more moment of pain to to cap off a lifetime of it. Her hand started to tremble and the knife pricked her skin.

Aria dropped the knife then fell to the floor. She really was useless. She was so pathetic that she couldn’t even kill herself, and she didn’t know why. She wasn’t afraid of the pain and she didn’t even believe in an afterlife, so there was nothing holding her back. She just didn’t have what it took to go through with it.

Perhaps the worst part was that she knew it didn’t have to be so bad. If she got off her ass and did some work around her apartment, it would be much more bearable. She could look for a job that she might actually like, but instead she always just found one she hated and stayed there until she couldn’t take it anymore. She could apologize to Sunset, Sonata, and even Adagio.

Aria could be a better person. She might even someday be able to be a happy one. But all she ever did was lie around feeling sorry for herself.

“Get up,” Aria told herself. As always, she didn’t listen.

“Get the fuck up, you stupid bitch.”

Slowly, and with more difficulty than it should have taken, Aria rose to a sitting position. She leaned her head back, misjudged how far she was from the wall, and hit her head hard against it.

At least the pain shook her into standing up, even if it was only to better kick the wall.

After a moment, her neighbor banged back on his side. “Keep it down!”

“Go choke on a crusty dick, asshole!” Aria shot back.

At least that was one thing she couldn’t blame herself for. Her neighbor was just an asshole, any way she looked at it.

Since she was in the kitchen, she finally picked up her phone. When she hit the power button, the screen still lit up and displayed properly, but there was a large crack going right through the picture of Sunset and Aria that she used as her lock screen background.

As much because she’d rather not look at Sunset as to test her phone, Aria swiped the lock screen away. The text message from Sonata replaced it, which she quickly backed out of.

Back in the list of her messages, she realized she still had another unread text. It was from Adagio, dated earlier in the day. Aria opened it and saw it was a name and phone number.

As usual, Adagio had been the one to solve one of Aria’s problems. And yet, all Aria had done was yell at her for it. She did hate the thought of being a janitor, especially one who worked in the same building as Adagio, but she did also need the money.

She dialed the number and held the phone up to her ear. Maybe she’d get lucky and no one would pick up. Even if the screen and everything worked, maybe she broke something inside that would make it no longer work as a phone. Then she couldn’t get the job, and it wouldn’t be her fault.

“Lemon Zest speaking, what can I do for you?”

No, Aria would never be that lucky. “Hi, my name’s Aria Blaze. I was told to call and talk to you about a job.”

“Oh! You’re Adagio’s sister! Yeah, she told me about you, said you might be calling.”

Had Adagio told her that even after Aria said no, or had she just never corrected herself from whatever she’d texted Lemon Zest while they were shopping? And why did either answer piss Aria off?

“Yeah, well, I’m interested if the position’s still available. Where do I apply?”

“Hey, if Adagio says you can handle it, that’s good enough for me. Can you come by the studio tomorrow morning around eight? We can go over all the details then.”

Aria hated mornings. “Yeah, sounds good. I’ll see you then.”

“Cool! See you then.”

Aria hung up the phone and wondered what she’d gotten herself into.

‘A job, idiot. You know, the thing that’ll pay your bills and keep Sunset from realizing how much of a screw up you are.’

Yeah, right. Like Sunset didn’t already know. Aria had yelled at her for helping out around the apartment the night before, and she only had to because Aria couldn’t even do basic things for herself. She couldn’t even feel good about getting a job again, not really. On top of not looking forward to the work, it was only because Adagio that it happened at all.

Perhaps the best thing she could do would be to apologize to Adagio, maybe even thank her for arranging things to be so simple that even Aria couldn’t screw it up. Perhaps, but she wouldn’t. She even wanted to, a little, especially after the fight with Sonata.

But that was the problem. It was never a matter of Aria not wanting to make things better, it was just that she didn’t do anything even when she wanted to. There was nothing she’d love more than to get her apartment in shape, put away the groceries from earlier, put away the clothes that were still sitting in the dryer, prepare for the morning meeting with Lemon Zest, and top it all off with contacting Sunset, Adagio, and, if she would talk to her, Sonata.

But as Aria looked around the apartment, identifying any number of things that she could easily work on, she knew it wasn’t going to happen. She just didn’t know why. What was wrong with her that made her unable to even get started on the most mundane of tasks?

Aria looked back down at her phone, still in her hand. She pressed the power button to light up the screen and stared at the picture of her and Sunset. They looked so happy. Sunset was the only one who ever made Aria feel happy anymore.

Not Adagio, not Sonata, not herself. Just Sunset.

Aria shoved the phone into her pocket and walked to the coffee table. The TV was still playing, but she ignored it. She grabbed her wallet and found it still had a couple dollars in it, so she put it and her keys into her pockets and ran out the door.

Even though it was her only means of getting around on her own, Aria had never really gotten used to the city bus. For a little while it was the only way she could travel, but then Adagio started driving and that put an end to that. Aria found jobs in walking distance, and lately Sunset was also able to drive her from place to place.

Today, however, she would have no other choice. And since the recording studio was further than she was willing to walk, it looked like she’d be getting used to it after all, unless Adagio was going to bring her to and from work.

It was still unpleasant. She didn’t mind crowded spaces, but she was still used to being the center of attention when she was in them. Being herded along with everyone else reminded her of how far she’d fallen. And because she had been in such a hurry to leave with Adagio earlier, she hadn’t gotten dressed in her typical punk fashion, which meant people were less inclined to avoid her.

She was the only one waiting at the bus stop at least, but once it arrived, she found herself sitting next to someone who wanted to talk, of all things.

“Good afternoon, miss.”

It was going to be a long ride…

For whatever reason, he didn’t seem to notice her obvious disinterest, so she was stuck talking to him. And of course he was going farther than her, so the conversation lasted the entire bus ride. It was almost enough to make Aria wonder if the whole thing was a mistake.

Almost, but not quite. Aria was determined to do at least this one thing right today. As she got off the bus, she felt her confidence building with each step. There was no way this wouldn’t be a horribly awkward meeting, but she still walked to it purposefully with her head held high.

Sunset also lived in an apartment complex, although it was much nicer. Maybe it wasn’t ‘nice’, exactly, but it was a regular sort of apartment building, just a little on the cheap side. The kind of place that a woman in her early twenties who hadn’t come from money but who still had her life together would live.

Aria approached Sunset’s apartment and reached in her pocket for her key, then stopped short. Usually Aria had no reason to visit anyone except her sisters, whom she’d lived with for most of her life, so she’d never really found much point in knocking. But it was something most people did, and Sunset herself always knocked when she visited Aria, no matter how many times Aria pointed out she didn’t need to.

Although it felt a little odd, Aria knocked on the door and waited. Even aside from courtesy, it was probably for the best; Sunset didn’t know Aria was coming, and she didn’t want to start the conversation by scaring her with an unexpected guest walking in while she was in the bathroom or something.

For the first time, Aria found herself wondering what she’d say while she waited for Sunset to answer. It was what she always did. Whenever she thought about something before taking action, she never wound up going through with it. Over time, she came to simply do things without thinking them through as the only way of ever doing anything at all.

The door opened to reveal a confused Sunset Shimmer. It was clear that she hadn’t planned on meeting anyone by the casual sweatpants and tank top combo she wore, but at least she managed to change out of her pajamas.

“Aria? What’s going on?”

“Uh, hi. Mind if I come in?”

“Of course not.” Sunset stepped out of the way, so Aria walked into the apartment. Sunset closed the door behind them before addressing Aria again. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything is… good.” Aria lingered near the doorway, unsure if she should greet Sunset with a hug after the night before.

Sunset seemed equally unsure. “Did you try to call or text? I didn’t get anything.”

“No, I just came over.” Without thinking about it. Like always. Why hadn’t she just called? That made way more sense.

“Well, okay… So what’s up?”

Aria hesitated as she realized she wasn’t entirely sure what to say. For some reason, ‘Hey, I just thought about killing myself and then realized you’re the only thing that makes me happy’ felt like a bit too much to lay on her all at once.

“Is this about last night?”

That was a good starting point. Aria could apologize for how she acted the night before, and then they’d be on better footing. “Yeah, I guess it kinda is.”

As it sunk in that nothing was urgently important, Sunset’s confusion started to dissipate, although something else formed in its place. “Okay, I guess I’ll go first then. Sorry I walked out on you yesterday.”

That was unexpected. Aria would’ve walked out on herself long before then if she could have, and she never would’ve come back. She shrugged to show her indifference. “Whatever. I just caught up on some sleep anyway.”

Sunset frowned and Aria realized what was replacing the confusion – Sunset was beginning to grow irritated again, probably because she didn’t want to talk about the fight. Aria changed the topic to the first thing that came to mind. “Anyway, you wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had since then. First I went out with Adagio, right? She’s being her usual self most of the day, but then she tries to get me to work as her janitor!”

That shook the irritation off of Sunset. “She did?”

“Yeah! She left like two years ago, and she’s still trying to get me to clean up after her. So I told her off, but then I called Sonata and –”

“Wait, you what?” Sunset shook her head. “Adagio offered you a freaking job, Aria!”

Aria scowled. Her girlfriend was supposed to be on her side. “Yeah, and I fucking took it, so don’t give me that. But if she thinks I’m gonna kiss her ass because of this, she’s got another thing coming.”

“No. You can’t keep being like this. Aria, you need this job, at least until you find another one. If that means dealing with Adagio, then that’s just what you’re going to have to do.”

“Hey, I said I took the damn job. Shouldn’t you be happy about that?”

“I am happy about that, but I’m worried. If this is your attitude about it, it’s only a matter of time before you lose this one too.”

Even when Aria managed to get herself ahead, it never seemed to matter. “Geez, thanks for the vote of confidence. Why is nothing ever good enough for you?”

Sunset recoiled back and let out a small laugh. “You have got to be fucking kidding me. Are you serious? Nothing’s good enough for me? How many times have I been the one to clean up your messes?”

Of course, it was just like Aria had suspected. “I’m sorry I’m such a burden. Don’t worry, you can forget about me. I won’t make you clean up my messes anymore.”

Aria turned to leave. She got as far as opening the door before Sunset grabbed her wrist.

“I love you.”

Aria stopped in her tracks. “You… you what?”

“I love you, Aria.”

Aria turned around to see Sunset was also looking elsewhere.

“And maybe that’s my fault for catching feelings or whatever, but… I love you, and you’re destroying yourself. And I’m trying to hold you together as best as I can, but I don’t know what to do…”

Sunset let go of Aria’s wrist and turned to look her in the eyes. “I can’t be the one to save you. I can help you along the way, but you have to be the one who decides if you’re willing to save yourself. So… what are you going to do?”

Aria opened her mouth to respond, but no words came out. After a moment, she closed it again. Another moment, and she ran out the open door.

She barely thought about where she was going as she ran. But she had to go, had to get away. There had been too much pain in Sunset’s eyes, and Aria didn’t know how to respond to it.

The one thing she did know was this: When she got upset, people got broken. And Aria was always upset.

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