• Published 19th May 2018
  • 1,286 Views, 40 Comments

When We Break - CommissarAJ

Tempest vowed she would never again be left to the mercies of a cold, uncaring world. And then she met Twilight Sparkle...

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Chapter 3

“Good morning, Miss Berrytwist, how are you feeling?”


“How’s your pain today?”


“Another bad day?”

“Feels like they’re all bad days.”

It felt like it had been a whole lifetime ago since Tempest Shadow had attended high school. It was hard just to wrap her mind around how much she had changed in the few short years since the accident. The mere idea of homework, cliques, and gossiping about cute boys seemed so completely foreign to her that it may as well have all been written in another language.

And as Twilight led her through the hallways of Canterlot High, while names and locations from her impromptu tour guide washed over her like a cold shower, Tempest Shadow couldn’t shake the feeling that everything about this was wrong. A place like this would’ve been perfect hunting grounds for her: full of wide-eyed, naive teeangers with overinflated egos. Usually the shock alone when they realized they were not invulnerable heroes of their own life stories gave her enough time to strip them of their valuables and make a getaway without even a modicum of resistance. Now she was expected to mingle amongst them and pretend she wasn’t interested in fleecing them for all they were worth.

At the very least it was still early in the day, so there weren’t many students around to bother them. Twilight had suggested coming in early so that they could speak with Principal Celestia before the day’s classes began. It still sounded like a lousy idea to her, but at least it wasn’t as bad as other options. Tempest half-expected Celestia to take one look at her and promptly have her tossed back onto the street before she could even get a word in. Of course, her only experience with high school administrators was Principal Cinch, who was as warm and welcoming as being bludgeoned to death with a frozen steak.

Despite all of her misgivings, of which there were many, she nonetheless went along with Twilight’s wishes. She had made a deal, after all, and Tempest Shadow kept her word. In her world, one’s reputation was arguably the only thing a person could control, and it was worth its weight in gold. To that end, she had to make an effort to at least try and make this work, which meant making herself more presentable for a change. Her wardrobe options were limited, however, so she was forced to go with whatever had the fewest holes and blood stains. The old jeans she picked out weren’t too bad, but even they had a few tears around the knees and cuffs, which oddly enough some people would pay good money to have when brand new.

Would it be enough, though? Could she really make people believe she was normal like them?

“And lastly, this is Principal Celestia’s office,” Twilight announced, capping off their tour and snapping Tempest from her wandering thoughts. Her friend’s distant gaze didn’t escape her notice. “Is… everything okay, Tempest?”

“I’m fine,” she insisted with an impatient scoff. “Just… realizing now that I’m going to be waking up real goddamn early for the foreseeable future.”

Though her words were resolute, the manner in which she fidgeted with her coat and her old bookbag, which was worn and had only one strap left, betrayed her unease. Inside were what few school supplies she could scrounge together: some old notebooks, a few pens and pencils, and a calculator that you needed to hold directly under a light for the cracked solar cell to get enough power. They were meager holdings, but Tempest didn’t expect her tenure at Canterlot High to be long enough to warrant the added expense.

“There’s nothing wrong with early mornings,” Twilight said with an unfathomable amount of pep for half-past seven. “As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm!”

“And the second mouse gets the cheese.”

“That’s… um, a little morbid.” Unsure of how to appropriately respond, she just forced out a nervous chuckle and hurried to move the conversation along. “A-anyways, I messaged Principal Celestia about my request yesterday, so hopefully this shouldn’t take long. Just… uh, remember to be polite.”

“What are you talking about? I’m the nicest girl there is,” Tempest said as a faint smirk flashed across her lips.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, Twilight knocked on the door. “Principal Celestia?” she called out. “It’s Twilight Sparkle.”

“Come in,” the principal's voice sounded from the other side.

The pair of teenagers entered, one with far more enthusiasm than the other. To Tempest, the office was quite the departure from the cold, award-strewn chamber that Principal Cinch inhabited. Not that there weren’t accolades and pictures of school history scattered on the walls, but she noticed most had little to do with achievements and just captured moments in time: big school events and festivals, or students being handed awards. There was a palpable warmth to the environment, and one that made the cynic in Tempest all the more wary. It just seemed too good to be true.

Principal Celestia sat at her desk and gestured for the two girls to have a seat in the pair of chairs before them. Across her workplace were a spread of open file folders and scattered papers, several of which Tempest noticed bore the crest of Crystal Prep Academy.

“Good morning, Miss Sparkle, and Miss… Shadow, was it?” the principal greeted in a cordial manner.

“That’s right,” Tempest answered with a nod. “How much exactly did Twilight explain to you?”

“Just the basics: that you were a schoolmate of hers from Crystal Prep, and that circumstances have prevented you from finishing high school,” Celestia explained before sliding a few sheets over to the prospective student. “I’ll admit that this is an unorthodox request, but when it comes to students with unique circumstances, your case is,” she paused for a brief instant and cast a knowing look over to Twilight, “far from the most unusual I’ve accepted.”

Tempest picked up the paper in front of her and gave it a quick read. It was just an application form asking for the usual basic details: personal information, address, contact numbers, and so on.

“Now your records at Crystal Prep stop part-way through your second year. Did you complete any further schooling between now and then?”

“I completed some homeschooling and private tutoring, but those didn’t last too long.” Tempest set her backpack onto her lap, and pulled from it an old file folder, which she handed over to the principal. “This is all I could find of my records from that time.”

Principal Celestia perused the folder’s contents, her eyes sweeping across each page in a diligent manner that betrayed no hint of what thoughts were going through her mind at the moment. The only person in the room whose thoughts were broadcasted on an open frequency was Twilight, whose gaze bounced back and forth between principal and pupil in a desperate attempt to gauge how things were progressing.

“Everything appears to be in order,” Celestia finally remarked before setting the papers down. “Have you given any thought towards which classes you would be taking?”

“I think I’ll just follow Twilight around,” Tempest answered as she thumbed towards the girl beside her.

“It’s probably best if she has a familiar face nearby,” Twilight added. In truth, she was worried about what Tempest might say or do if she wasn’t around to keep an eye on her. The older teen was, after all, not the warmest of people.

“Are you certain?” Celestia asked, betraying the first hint of concern of the meeting. “Your course schedule is a bit more advanced than most.”

“I can handle it just fine,” Tempest insisted.

“If you’re okay with it, then I won’t stop you. If you change your mind, though, you can always speak with Vice Principal Luna for course changes.”

With the conversation winding down, Tempest picked up the paperwork she had been handed and put it away in her bag. “Would it be okay if I fill this out later?” she inquired.

“You may, but please try to have it ready before the end of the day. I should have a locker ready for you by then,” Celestia answered. She then turned her attention to Twilight. “Miss Sparkle, could you give us a moment to speak in private?”

Despite her curiosity, Twilight dutifully obeyed and stepped out of the office. Once she was gone, the principal’s expression took on a somber air as she regarded her newest pupil. It didn’t escape said student’s notice either, which made Tempest a little wary of where this conversation was about to go.

“Are you okay?” Celestia finally asked.

“Excuse me?”

“When Twilight told me of you, I knew the name sounded familiar, and seeing your file from Crystal Prep confirmed it. Cadence has been a colleague and acquaintance of mine for a few years now,” Celestia explained herself. “I remember when she first told me about the accident. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it’s been for you since then, but I just want you to know that the school has resources available if you need them: counselors, private tutors—”

“I don’t need any help!” Tempest interrupted in a tone far firmer than most people would consider taking with their principal, especially on the first day. “Just because I lost my hand doesn’t make me invalid. I’ve made it this far without anybody’s help, and I damn well don’t need any more charity than I’m already having to tolerate from Twilight.” She rose from her seat and threw her bag over her shoulder, making it clear what her sentiments were towards this conversation. “If there’s nothing else, I’d like to attend my classes and be done with this farce.”

Normally using such language in front of her would’ve prompted a harsh scolding from Principal Celestia, but she was willing to give the obviously troubled teen some latitude for now. Still, her disappointment was written across her face. “Is that what you really consider high school? Just a farce?” she remarked. “If you don’t want to be here, you’re old enough to make that decision. What are you looking for?”

Tempest turned for the door to leave, but stopped just shy of opening it. “I’m not sure,” she answered, “but maybe I’ll recognize it when I see it.”

“Huh, never thought I’d see the day where Twilight Sparkle would sit at the back of the classroom of her own free will,” Sunset said with a chuckle under her breath. As much of a surprise as it was to see her friend parked at the furthest reaches of their first period classroom, she was able to deduce the reasons behind it with little effort. Sitting beside her friend was Canterlot High’s newest student, whom Sunset recognized from the photo she saw back when Twilight was conducting her initial investigations.

It was a stark contrast to look at the pair: Twilight sat up straight with all of her books and supplies neatly arranged across her desk, fully prepared for whatever today’s lessons entailed; whereas Tempest slouched back in her seat while her fingertips tapped a bored, rhythmic pattern. She barely even acknowledged Sunset’s presence beyond a brief glance in her direction.

“I thought it would be a good idea to let her choose where to sit,” Twilight said as she gestured over to her new friend and classmate. “Tempest, I’d like you to meet my friend, Sunset Shimmer; Sunset, this is Tempest Shadow.”

“Hi, it’s nice to finally meet you,” Sunset greeted as she offered out a hand.

All she got in response, however, was a cold and silent stare, which prompted Twilight to lean over and nudge the broody teen.

“Tempest, please,” she whispered.

With a heavy, disparaged sigh, and a roll of her eyes, Tempest acquiesced. She managed to force out a convincingly sincere little cordial smile. “Hello.”

Sunset wasn’t fully convinced, and her expression reflected that, but she decided to let the issue slide. It was self-evident that Tempest Shadow was not the sort of person who warmed up quickly to people. At least Pinkie Pie wasn’t here; she had a feeling Tempest wouldn’t respond well to a bubbly, hyperactive persona.

Wanting to remain as welcoming as possible, Sunset decided to take the empty seat on the opposite side of Twilight. “So what do you think of Canterlot High so far? Twilight told me that you used to go to Crystal Prep,” she asked in order to break the ice some more.

“Well, it’s pretty obvious your budget is a lot smaller,” Tempest answered with an indifferent shrug. “But I suppose it also lacks that air of pretentiousness, which makes it… tolerable.”

“I… think that’s pretty high praise, don’t you?” Twilight said with a feigned laugh to mask any unease. As more students poured into the classroom and filled the remainder of the empty desks, she turned to Tempest again. “Are you sure you’re okay with chemistry? Do you need me to go over anything before the class begins?”

“No, but if you want to help, you can fill this all out for me,” Tempest replied. She reached into her bag and handed over the registration form that the principal had given her.

Twilight stared at the blank form and then back to her friend. Normally she’d jump at the idea of filling out forms, but this felt out of place. “Shouldn’t you be filling it out? It’s supposed to be your information, isn’t it?”

“Oh, like anybody needs to know my exact address or when my birthday is.” Tempest donned a roguish grin as she slid the paper across Twilight’s desk so it sat beneath her face. “Come on, you want me to stick around, don’t you? What’s a little paperwork between friends?”

Overhearing all of this, Sunset felt compelled to interject. “Um, Twilight, I don’t think you should be—”

“It’s okay,” Twilight interrupted. “She… um, she has a point: it’s just a little paperwork. I don’t mind.”

“See? Everybody’s happy, so chill out, Sunset. We’re all friends here.”

Seeing Tempest lounge in her desk with a smug look of self-congratulation rubbed Sunset the wrong way. It reminded her a lot of her own old habits back when she was the most feared person at Canterlot High, but Twilight appeared to be committed to helping out Tempest, so she held her tongue for now. Sunset did, however, make a note to keep an eye on them.

It didn’t go entirely in Tempest’s favour either, as Twilight still insisted on getting verbal answers to most of the questions. She filled out the forms with all due diligence and care she felt was required for official administrative documents. Stopping just short of notarizing it, she handed it back to Tempest just as Mrs. Harshwhinny arrived.

Their tired-faced, but professionally-dressed, teacher stood at the head of the class, taking a moment to scan the collection of teenagers before her before starting her day. “Okay class, quiet down,” she called out, silencing her murmuring students. “Now, before we begin today, I have a quick announcement to make: we have a new student joining us today. Ms. Tempest Shadow, if you’d like to say a word before we begin class, you may do so now.”

“No thanks, I’m good,” Tempest replied without even a moment of thought.

More than happy to begin to lesson, Mrs. Harshwhinny turned to the chalkboard behind her and got to work. “Class, if you’ll open your textbooks to page one hundred and fifty-two, we shall continue where we left off yesterday…”

On any other day, Twilight would be giving her full attention to her teacher as the lecture began, but instead she inched her desk closer to Tempest and nudged her with her foot.

“Psst, Tempest.”

“What?” the other teen replied in a low growl.

“You probably should’ve said a bit more when you had a chance to introduce yourself,” Twilight whispered. “You don’t want to make a bad first impression with your new classmates.”

“Oh, of course. How silly of me,” Tempest answered in a mocking and condescending voice. “I should’ve told them about how I used to live on the streets and make my living being a petty criminal, and regale them with a story about how I held you up at knife-point.”

Twilight voiced her displeasure with a frown before giving a scolding, “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“Let’s not kid ourselves, Twilight; I’ve got nothing in common with these people. There’s not much point in me trying to pretend otherwise.”

Unfortunately, with Mrs. Harshwhinny leading the class, there wasn’t any time for Twilight to try reasoning with her friend. All she could do was make a mental note to talk to Tempest some more about her behaviour while she focused her efforts on listening to the day’s lesson and taking notes. Throughout the class, she kept looking over to her friend just to check for any signs of trouble.

Tempest was hunched over her desk, scrawling in her notebook with a look of focus and frustration as her gaze darted between the chalkboard and her paper. It was like a person struggling in vain with a math question a few years above their grade level, and there were a few occasions where Tempest just stopped abruptly and glared at her notebook. Each time, Twilight could swear that the other girl was one step away from breaking or throwing something in a fit. Thankfully, though, that never came to pass.

“Twilight, I need your notes from the last section,” Tempest whispered over, just loud enough to break the other girl from her focus.

“Oh? Is something wrong?”

“Teacher’s just… moving a bit quick for me, that’s all.”

Seeing as Twilight saw this as a step in the right direction, that Tempest was making an effort to keep up with the lectures and treat these lessons as something serious rather than transient, she surrendered over her notes without another thought. The papers were snatched away, and Tempest soon hoarded it along with the rest of her notes like some kind of dragon guarding their treasure.

“Do you… need me to explain anything?” Twilight asked.

“It’s just plugging numbers into the right formulas,” Tempest answered. “It’s pretty straight-forward, really.”

Sensing no deception in her friend’s reassurance, Twilight felt a tinge of relief. She had spent a good portion of the morning worrying that dropping Tempest into a senior year semester would be too difficult to handle, but those fears appeared to be misplaced. After a few more weeks, she had no doubt that nobody would even be able to guess that Tempest had been lagging behind at any point.

After a short time, Mrs. Harshwhinny went around the class to hand out an assignment before retiring to her desk to give the students time to work on it. Unsurprisingly, most of them took it as an opportunity to also chat with their friends, including Sunset, who was curious to learn a bit more about her reclusive new classmate.

“So Tempest,” Sunset began, “are you thinking about joining any clubs?”

Still stooped over her papers like a monastic scribe, Tempest didn’t even bat an eye away from her toilings when she replied, “I don’t have that kind of time to waste.”

“Oh, come on, clubs aren’t a waste. It’s a great way to meet new people, and they’re usually very flexible with their schedules.”

Tempest’s brow furrowed, a look of growing annoyance and impatience crossing her features. “Some of us need to work,” she snapped back.

“What Tempest means to say,” Twilight hastily interrupted, “is that her… um, job is important. B-because she lives on her own and needs the money.”

“I live alone and work, too, Twilight,” Sunset replied with a roll of her eyes. “I can still find time for extracurriculars. It’s not that difficult if you know how to budget your finances and time.”

Before Twilight could say anything else, the two were interrupted by a loud thump as Tempest pounded her stumped arm against her desk. “Some of us don’t get that kind of luxury, okay?” she snapped at the two. “Some people need to work every day otherwise they don’t fucking eat!”

Then it become Tempest’s turn to be interrupted, except this time by the teacher, who cleared her throat in a very loud and deliberate manner to snap her attention back to the front of the classroom.

“Ms. Shadow, as it is your first day, I’m willing to grant you some latitude, but I would ask you refrain from disrupting the class and to mind your language. Is that understood?”

After taking a slow, calming breath, Tempest was able to suppress enough residual feelings of annoyance and animosity to respond with, “Understood.”

The classroom fell back into a calm sea of murmurings and hushed chatter while Tempest Shadow simmered in silence. Though Sunset wanted to offer up some sort of apology or rebuttal, she decided against trying to reach out to her classmate, at least not until things cooled down. Twilight offered her an apologetic smile, but said nothing else, likewise out of fear of provoking any further outbursts.

As the period drew closer to its end, Mrs. Harshwhinny called for the class’ attention once more. “Okay, now before I end the class, we’ll quickly go over the answers for the assignment. Now who would care to start with the answer to question one?” She paused for a brief moment as she scanned the class for a volunteer, and while she saw Twilight Sparkle at the back with her arm raised high, her gaze instead fixated on the less-enthusiastic student just to the right. “Ms. Shadow, would you care to start us off?”

Caught off-guard by the sudden attention, Tempest hastily shuffled her papers about until she managed to find the one she’d need. “It’s… um, seven-point-five-eight kilojoules.”

“That is correct,” the teacher replied. “Now would you please come up to the board and show your work?”

“Show my work?”

“Yes; in order to help your classmates understand how you reached the correct answer,” Mrs. Harshwhinny explained. She then grabbed a piece of a chalk and held it out as an invitation. “Now, if you’ll please.”

“Oh. Uhh… right,” Tempest mumbled, mostly to herself, as she shuffled her papers.

She proceeded to the front of the class and took the chalk from her teacher. As she pressed chalk to slate, it looked as though she was about to get started, but then she just remained motionless. Most of the students were too far away to notice the subtle tremor that had overtaken her hand, though a few of the students in the front row could hear the faint tappings as the chalk rattled against the board.

“Something’s wrong,” Twilight muttered under her breath. Were she sitting at the front of the class like she usually did, she might’ve been able to see what the problem was; all she could do from the back row was hope for the best.

Eventually, Tempest’s arm just fell to her side, with a simple remark of, “I can’t.”

“‘Can’t’ what?” Mrs. Harshwhinny asked.

“I can’t show you my work: I just copied the answer from Twilight when she wasn’t looking.”

Harshwhinny let out a brief, exasperated sigh. “Very well then,” she said as she gestured back to the rear of the class. “At least you were honest about it. Would someone else care to come up and show their work?”

As the class carried on, Twilight remained silent in her seat, staring at the front with a look of bewilderment upon her. She couldn’t believe that her friend had cheated. Literally. As far as she could recall, Tempest had been hunched over her desk, hard at work, the entire time. There hadn’t been any opportunity for her friend to cheat, and she had been keeping watch over Tempest so she knew that for a fact.

“Why would she lie about cheating?”