• Published 19th May 2018
  • 967 Views, 39 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 4

“Holy—it is you, Fizzle! Wow, I haven’t seen you in months.”

“Oh, hello, Indigo. I guess it has been a while.”

“No kidding. I’m… uh, sorry to hear about your mom. How’re you holding up? You ever coming back to Crystal Prep?”

“I’m fine, but there’s not much money left.”

“That sucks.”

“...”

“Hey, Fizzle… what’re you hiding behind your back?”

Luckily for Tempest, she managed to escape from Mrs. Harshwhinny’s class with only a stern warning and a brief lecture on work ethics. A few quiet nods and an insincere ‘it’ll never happen again,’ and she was on her way to the next class, which just so happened to be gym.

On that day, the class was being held outdoors, assembled on the edge of the track field where a variety of track and field equipment had already been set up in advance for them. Twilight, having had to stay behind to stay close to Tempest, was among the last to arrive, now adorned in a simple tee and shorts for what would likely be a vigorous class.

“Hey, Twi, over here!” Sunset called over to her friend, waving one hand high in the air. Alongside her was Rainbow Dash, who was arguably the most excited person in the class, as anything involving sports was infinitely preferable to textbooks and lectures.

“Sorry I’m a little late,” Twilight apologized as she hurried over.

“Don’t worry about it: Coach is still grabbing some things from storage, so we’ve got a few minutes,” Dash waved off the concern. “I heard you’ve brought along a new friend.”

“You have?”

“I was just telling her about Tempest,” Sunset explained. Before she could continue on, she noticed a conspicuous absence. “Say, where is she anyways? I thought you said she had all the same classes as you?”

“She’s just taking a little longer to get changed, that’s all. It seemed like she wanted to wait until everyone else had left before she got started.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes as a playful smirk crossed her features. “Geeze, given what I heard from Sunset, I wouldn’t have pictured her to be the shy type.”

“I-I’m sure she’s just taking her time,” Twilight answered. Despite her best efforts to put on a calm and reassuring front, the nervousness underlying her tone betrayed her true thoughts. One skeptical glare from her friends was enough to crack her resolve. “Just… just try not to stare when she arrives, okay?”

Her confusion didn’t have to wait for long, as the aforementioned teenager arrived at the track field just a moment later. Were it anyone else, Tempest’s faded and discoloured t-shirt and shorts might’ve looked out of place amongst the well-kept and laundered wardrobes of her peers, but her classmates’ eyes were instead drawn to the parts of her arms and legs that weren’t covered.

Across both of her legs and arms, a myriad of creases and discolourations scarred her skin: some were wide and jagged, furrowing into her flesh like tiny canyons; while others were straight, clean, and precise—the tell-tale signs of surgical work. They wormed their way up and down the lengths of her legs, around the knees, along the thighs, and eventually disappearing beneath the hem of her shorts, leaving the onlookers only guessing as to how far they truly went.

“Hey, my eyes are up here!” Tempest snapped.

“Sorry!” chimed Dash, Sunset, and Twilight in unison.

“Like you’ve never seen a person with a scar before.”

“Well, not like that,” Dash remarked. “What the heck happened? Did you play hopscotch through a minefield?”

The remark was met with a sharp elbow to the side from Sunset, followed by, “Dash!”

“It’s what happens when you get into a car accident and your knees become a crumple zone,” Tempest answered, undaunted by the other girl’s lack of tact. “I take it you’re another one of Twilight’s friends?”

“The name’s Rainbow Dash!” she introduced herself with a burst of renewed exuberance. “Captain of the soccer team, lead guitarist of the Rainbooms, and the most awesomest person at Canterlot High. Nice to meet’cha!”

Dash then offered out a handshake, though it went unreciprocated. She stood with her arm outstretched for a moment, wondering why she was getting such a cold shoulder, until Sunset once again nudged an elbow into her side.

“Your hand,” Sunset whispered.

“What do you mean my—” Dash’s confusion came to an abrupt and screeching halt when she looked down and realized the glaring error: she had her right hand out, which made it very difficult for any left-handed person to accept the gesture.

“Oh shi—! Sorry! I didn’t mean to—”

“Just don’t do it again,” Tempest interrupted.

Not wanting to linger on her mistake, Dash carried on as if nothing had happened. “Sunset tells me you’re an ex-Crystal Prep student,” she said as she took another long look at the newcomer, this time keeping her eyes above the neckline. “You look a little familiar. Did you play any sports with them?”

“Softball.”

“That’s it! Now I remember,” Dash exclaimed, pounding a fist into her palm in her excitement. “I saw you playing in an exhibition match against us back when I was in my freshman year. You threw seven hitless innings in a row.”

“Oh, right. That game.” In a rare moment of honesty, Tempest flashed a modest smile. Those days felt like an old dream that stuck to her mind, but hearing it from the mouth of another felt like confirmation that it wasn’t something that existed solely in her mind. “Probably the best game I pitched that year.”

“Only because I wasn’t there.”

“Come again?”

“What?” Dash replied as she feigned a harmless shrug. “I’m just saying, if I were playing that match, I totally would’ve knocked one right out of the park.”

Tempest let out a quick chortle, as if watching a kitten trying to sound fierce. Maybe Dash was right, maybe it was all bluster, but it was all academic in her current state. “Shame that my pitching days are behind me: I would’ve loved to have made you eat your words.”

“If you’re interested, we could find another way to test your mettle.”

Though Twilight was wary of Dash’s offer, she held her tongue for the time being. If nothing else, it looked as though Tempest might actually have found something positive at Canterlot High, if the confident grin on the teen’s face was anything to go by. She had a good feeling that the former athletic star of Crystal Prep would hit it off with Canterlot High’s own champion Wondercolt.

After a few warm-up stretches, some jumping jacks, and a brisk jog around the track to get the blood flowing, the class was divided up into smaller groups and dispersed amongst the various track and field events set up about the field. Under the warm glow of the midday sun, Twilight and her friends gathered at one end of a long stretch of track in preparation for one hundred meter dashes.

“I hope you’re hungry, Tempest,” Dash said while stooping down low to stretch out her quads, “because you’re about to eat my dust.”

The other teen just smirked as she took position near the starting line. “And you’re about to eat your words.”

“Um, I think we’re supposed to be doing individual timed runs,” a confused Twilight pointed out. She was confident in her answer, too, since she had been given a stopwatch by the coach for that express purpose.

Her friends, however, appeared unconcerned by such notions, as they both just rolled their eyes and scoffed in unison.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Tempest remarked in jest.

“Yeah, Twi, where’s your competitive spirit?”

Knowing better than to stand between Rainbow Dash and a contest, or, better yet, Tempest and the potential foundations of a new lifelong friendship, Twilight moved to the side and watched her friends prepare for their race. The other students in their group also gathered in the wings; they were all eager to see how the new girl measured up against Canterlot’s best athlete.

Sunset stood to the side of the starting line and raised her hand up high. “On your mark! Get set—”

“Ready to lose, Tempest?”

“I’m more than fast enough to deal with the likes of you.”

“—Go!”

The two girls launched into a frenzied sprint, flying down the track to the cheers and hollars of their classmates. To everyone’s surprise, Tempest was able to keep pace with Dash, remaining neck-and-neck with her for most of the sprint.

For a few, brief seconds, Tempest wasn’t at Canterlot High: she was back at the baseball diamond behind Crystal Prep Academy. High above, a midsummer's sun burned bright with a sweltering, unrelenting heat, but she didn’t care. Even as beads of sweat cascaded down her face, the only thing that mattered to her was the home plate just up ahead. The crowds were cheering; her teammates were shouting at her to run harder, run faster; the opposing team’s catcher stood up ahead, her eyes bouncing between the oncoming Tempest and the ball sailing towards home. All the work, blood, and sweat Tempest and her team had poured into the game would be decided with one last burst of speed, of grit, of determination.

Then reality came crashing back as a sharp pain rocketed up her leg. It wasn’t severe, but it was just enough to throw her gait off-balance, and her once fluid motions became lopsided and sluggish. In the last few strides of the race, Rainbow Dash was able to pull ahead of Tempest and win.

All the cheers suddenly felt very distant to Tempest, who meandered for a short distance past the finish line before collapsing to her knees. Through heavy, laboured breaths, she could already hear the other students congratulating Dash. It seemed like everybody was reveling in the spectacle—everybody except Tempest.

“That was a pretty sweet race.”

The voice directed at her made Tempest lift her gaze back up to see Rainbow Dash standing over her with a hand outstretched.

With a heavy breath, Tempest pushed herself back onto her feet, snubbing the offer of help. “I… I want a rematch,” she said.

“Well, if you want to lose again that badly,” Dash replied, unwilling to pass up the opportunity for another competition.

The second race went even worse for Tempest: no sense of euphoria, no exhilaration from classmates cheering her on, or even anything resembling a chance at victory. All she found instead was that same burst of agony stabbing her leg with every step, and the disheartening sight of Rainbow Dash pulling further and further ahead of her with absolute ease. By the time she managed to cross, it felt less like a race and more like an exercise in futility.

Still wrapped up in the exuberance of her victory, Dash did a little sprint past Tempest with an ear-to-ear triumphant grin. “I guess you’re not as fast as you thought you were,” she teased.

Tempest said nothing in response, save for a quiet growl under her breath. She would’ve remained where she was, sneering and glaring daggers at her adversary, had she not felt a hand fall upon her shoulder.

“It’s okay, Tempest; it’s just a race,” Twilight said, now at her friend’s side.

“Right… just a race.”

After whispering that mantra over to herself a few more times, Tempest accompanied her friend to watch their classmates take their turns on the track. There would be other activities that day, so there would be other opportunities to make up for these losses. Maybe she wasn’t as fast as she used to be, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t find somewhere else to excel in.

Unfortunately, fate appeared to be determined to ensure that the rest of the gym class went as poorly for Tempest as her second race had.

During the the high jump, while Tempest could match what most of her classmates could, her attempts to go any higher ended in her colliding with the bar over and over again. Dash, on the other hand, won by a comfortable margin, despite everyone’s insistence that it wasn’t a competition.

At the shot put, Tempest had the strength to get good distance, but she struggled with her accuracy. One throw went so far off-course, it made a few students reconsider where they stood while spectating.

Long jump concluded with equally mixed results. On most of her attempts, she managed a decent distance, but she had trouble sticking the landings and repeatedly found herself face-first in the sand.

As the end of class drew closer, the frustration and tension coming from Tempest was almost palpable. She expected better from herself; she wanted better from herself, but all the wishful thinking in the world wasn’t making it so.

The last event of the class was the baton relay, and although it was another running event, it at least gave Tempest one last chance for a rematch with Rainbow Dash. The two students squared off at the last leg of race, trying to size one another up while also watching their teammates as they rounded the track.

“Hope you don’t think I’ll go easy on you just because Twilight’s on your team,” Dash remarked, one leg tucked behind her back as she limbered up.

“Just don’t let that inflated ego slow you down,” Tempest snapped back. As much as she would’ve enjoyed trading verbal barbs with her opponent, her teammate was closing in. To her surprise, Twilight was able to keep pace with Dash’s teammate. “Not bad for a bookworm…”

Even though there were four teams on the track, once the batons were passed over, the race boiled down to just Dash and Tempest with all eyes fixed on them. They were neck-and-neck and shoulder-to-shoulder, neither one showing any sign of letting up. For Tempest Shadow, she poured everything she had into this final race. Even though her legs screamed in protest, she refused to give in. She could do this.

She had to do this.

But just as she and Dash were entering the final stretch, disaster struck. Tempest felt her foot hit something mid-stride. It knocked her completely off-balance and for a brief moment, a surge of panic shot through her as it felt like she was about to fall into a tumble and ruin her chance at victory. Somehow, though, she managed to catch her balance with her hand at just the last second, though her palm hitting the ground at an awkward angle felt like it was about to wrench her shoulder from its socket.

Still, it was enough to keep Tempest on her feet, and she was able to get back into her stride soon after. When she tried to look to her opponent to see how far she had fallen behind, she was shocked to find Dash several feet behind her, sprawled across the track in a daze. She must have fallen as well!

It might not have been quite the victory that she had envisioned, but Tempest wasn’t about to let good fortune go unexploited. With no other threats to her race, she was even able to slow her pace and take it easy when she crossed the finish line, arms raised in celebration.

However, it only took her a moment to realize that she appeared to be the only one celebrating. She had hoped for maybe a few cheers, or at least a meagre congratulations from Twilight. Instead, the first thing she heard from her friend was drastically different.

“Oh my goodness! Dash, are you okay?”

“Right… her,” Tempest mentally sighed.

In retrospect, the concern shouldn’t have surprised her: Dash and Twilight were friends, after all, so it was only natural for her to be worried. It did somewhat dampen the exhilaration of triumph, but Tempest was reminded of the old adage involving beggars and choosers. After watching Twilight and several other students rush to their fallen classmate’s side, she figured it would be best to at least put on a show of concern.

She wandered over just as Sunset Shimmer was helping Dash back to her feet, granting the injured runner a shoulder to lean upon.

“Tough break there; hope it was only your ego that got bruised,” Tempest remarked.

Not the most graceful way to bask in one’s victory, but she figured after spending the entire class watching Dash outperform her at every turn, she was owed this.

“Tough break?” Dash snapped back. “Are you kidding me? You tripped me back there!”

Tempest’s face contorted in a snarl the second those words hit her ears. “Like hell I did!” she barked.

“I wouldn’t just fall on my own! I know what I felt: your foot! You couldn’t stand losing to me again so you tripped me!”

It took every ounce of willpower left in her to keep Tempest from knocking Dash’s lights out. She was not going to let this be taken from her: not like this, and most certainly not from the likes of Dash. That girl had already taken top spot in practically event they did that day. Was one victory so much to ask for?

“You lost, Rainbow Dash, just accept it!”

“Because you cheated!”

Tempest took a step towards Dash, fist clenched in ever-growing rage, and she was just about ready to lunge when Twilight stepped in between the two.

“Please, you two, that’s enough,” Twilight pleaded. Though her words were directed to both girls, her gaze was focused on Tempest in a second, silent appeal to her friend. “I-I’m sure it was just an accident. Tempest wouldn’t do something like that.”

“She did admit to cheating in chemistry class,” Sunset pointed out.

“Ah-ha!” Dash exclaimed, feeling more vindicated in her claim. “Jay-cues!”

Tempest’s anger was forced inwards as she buried her face into her palm. “That’s… not how it’s pronounced.”

Somehow, though, that brief instant of disbelief was enough to derail her fury and allow her better judgement to assume control. Though her anger was still bubbling hot and she looked ready to explode at the drop of a hat, she eventually forced herself to turn about face.

“Oh, to hell with the lot of you,” she growled as she stormed off.

Watching her friend leave, Twilight felt compelled to chase after her, but she was held in place by apprehension. She didn’t want to believe the accusations, but a compelling case had been made. Even if she did chase after her, what would she say? She had never dealt with someone who clearly held so much anger in their heart. But she had to do something…


Twilight waited outside the changing rooms after gym class with the hopes that some time might temper her friend’s frustration, as well to speak her with some modicum of privacy. Just as with the start of class, Tempest clearly took her time changing as every other student in the class filed out of the locker room with no sign of her. Among the last to leave was Sunset Shimmer, who had been delayed due to taking Dash to the nurse’s office.

“Is she still in there?” Twilight asked upon seeing her friend.

Sunset nodded, though her avoidant gaze betrayed her own sentiments. “Twilight, listen, I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but… are you sure about Tempest?”

“What do you mean?” a confused, but worried, Twilight asked.

“Cheating in class, tripping someone in a race: that doesn’t seem like somebody who wants to be here. I’m worried about you, that’s all; I don’t want to see you getting hurt.”

“Were you any different before the Fall Formal?”

“No, but back then I was up to something.” Sunset knew her past made her the last person that should be criticizing others attempting to reform, but at the same time it did give her insight into what a person trying to reform looked like. “Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I’m just too reminded of how I used to be. It’s like she’s just barely tolerating everyone around her; like she’d rather be anywhere else.”

“I’ll admit she’s having trouble adjusting to school life again, but I don’t think that’s because she doesn’t want to be here,” Twilight insisted. “I think you’re wrong about her, and I’m not giving up.”

Sunset sighed, but managed a weak and hopeful smile to her friend. If anybody could make this work, it’d be Twilight, and that girl’s tenacity was not something to be underestimated. “I hope I’m wrong, too,” she replied. “I’ll save you and Tempest a seat at the lunch table, okay?”

The two friends waved good-bye as they went their separate ways with Twilight heading to go back into the locker room. The nervousness she felt earlier had faded from her mind, and had been replaced with a newfounded resolve thanks to her brief conversation with Sunset.

“Tempest? Are you in here?” Twilight called out as she opened the door.

When she didn’t hear a reply, she stepped inside, and found her friend sitting at the far side of the room. Something was wrong, though: Tempest normally carried herself with a tall and confident posture, but instead she sat slouched forward on the bench with elbows upon her knees, staring forlorn at the discoloured tiles beneath her feet. She hadn’t even changed out of her gym clothes. If Twilight didn’t know any better, she would’ve said her friend looked defeated.

“Are… are you okay, Tempest?”

“I used to be fast, Twilight,” her friend’s somber voice replied. “Used to be able to run like the wind: one hundred meter, two hundred, four hundred, a thousand. It didn’t matter. But I can’t anymore.”

“You were still pretty good out there. Maybe with some practise you could—”

“It’s not about training!” Tempest snapped, though her frustration sounded more like a desperate flailing than directed ire. “I haven’t pushed myself this hard in years, but I can tell.” She took a few deep breaths to calm herself, though her expression continued to sink. “You know, when you’re young, you just think of injuries as little inconveniences. Sprain your ankle? Some tape and a few weeks, and you’re good as new. Broken wrist? A cast and a few months. But this—” Tempest fell silent as she ran her fingertips over the scarred contours of her knee. “—this is forever. I’m never going to be ‘good as new’ again. It’s there when I wake up in the morning; it’s there when I go to sleep… and it’ll only ever get worse. And I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“Twilight, they had to put my legs back together like a goddamn jigsaw puzzle. I have pins and rods and plates and screws running all the way up and down the lower half of me,” Tempest answered. Her tone, however, was at least returning to some measure of its usual sense of resolve and control. “I lost those races today for the same reason I’m still sitting here, even after everyone’s left.”

It took Twilight a moment to finally realize what her friend was referring to, once she shook off her preconceptions. Back in the alley when she was being held at knifepoint, Tempest seemed like an invincible fortress. It was hard to reconcile those memories of strength and dominance with the person she now saw before her.

“How bad is the pain?”

“Bad enough to make me think twice about standing…”

The air of self-assurance that always seemed to permeate from her friend was absent, replaced with a look of withered hope at the prospect of a future trapped in a body that was just barely holding together. That was something Twilight expected from people in their eighties, not when they were eighteen. She wished that Sunset and Dash could’ve been here, and seen for themselves that behind the aggression and stand-off attitude, was someone just trying to hold on to what dignity they could.

Twilight sat down, giving her friend a warm and hopefully reassuring smile. Seeing her in a more sympathetic light, another realization came to mind. “Back in chemistry class, you didn’t copy my answers, did you?” she remarked rhetorically. “You just didn’t want to write on the board in front of everyone: because you used to be right-handed.”

“When people look at me, they just see some feeble, broken, one-handed girl. Then when they see my chicken scrawl writing, they think there’s something wrong with my head, too.” She stared for a moment in silence at her arms, one hand shaking from fatigue and injury, and the other absent altogether. “I’d rather they think I’m a cheat than a weakling. Not that it matters, nobody ever bothers to try and see the real me.”

“Well, I see you,” Twilight reassured her before she edged a little closer on the bench. “Just the fact that you’re here, refusing to give up despite everything, shows that you’re stronger and braver than anyone I’ve met.” She reached over and gently laid her hand upon Tempest’s forearm, feeling the scars on the stump for herself. “Asking for help when you need it doesn’t take anything away from that. I want you to know that whatever happens, I’ll always be your friend.”

Tempest finally pried her eyes off the floor and looked over to her friend, flashing a weak and awkward smile.

“Could you help me with my shoes?”

“Your shoes?” Twilight repeated.

“Yeah. I’m feeling really stiff, so could you help me with them? Or are gym shoes where you draw the line?”


Tempest grumbled under her breath as she stood outside her apartment door, hand in her coat pocket as she fumbled for her keys. It would’ve been easier had she not been balancing her backpack over one shoulder and holding another container of lasagna with her other arm. In retrospect, it might’ve been wiser to let Twilight carry the food back to the apartment rather than insist she could carry everything home from school on her own. The struggle was almost over, however, and soon the prize would make her juggling act worth the effort.

“Well, well, well, if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes, I’d’ve never believed it,” King’s voice popped up from behind Tempest.

For her part, Tempest neither flinched nor bothered to look over her shoulder, as she was far more focused getting her keys into the door. “Can we do this another time? I’ve got a lot of homework to finish up tonight.”

“Homework? Oh, my goodness, just listen to you!” King exclaimed with almost childish jubilation. He leaned up against the wall next to Tempest, and reached over to give her cheek a pinch and a tug. “Look at you, with your homework and your little backpack. Oh, aren’t you just precious? You kids grow up so fast these days.”

When Tempest took a swipe at him to shoo him away, she dropped her keys, and before she could even react, they had already been scooped up by King. “Tempest, darling, you’re breaking my heart here,” he lamented as he held the keys out to her. “I thought we had something special going on. What are you doing giving up all of this just to hang out with a bunch of whiny teenagers?”

Tempest just frowned before she snatched her belongings back. “That’s none of your goddamn business, King; my reasons are my own.”

“Everything that happens here is my business,” King insisted before he leaned in closer with an obviously insincere smile, like a sketchy used cars salesman. “I’m just worried about you, that’s all. You’re one of my best little helpers, after all, and I’d hate for something to happen to you.”

“I’ll be fine,” Tempest replied, a faint flicker of uncertainty punctuating her defiance. “If this is about my work, I’ll just run some extra jobs for you on the weekends. I can make up the extra money there.”

King let out a quiet, knowing chuckle as he leaned back. “Don’t you worry about the money part: I’ve already got that covered.” Reaching into his coat, he pulled out a small ziplock bag that contained a plethora of little white tablets.

“The hell are those?” Tempest asked as she leaned in for a closer look, though her confusion quickly turned to anger. “You want me to push drugs on my classmates? Are you insane? I’m trying to graduate! Haven’t you ever heard of the saying ‘don’t shit where you eat’?”

Despite the hostility, King appeared undaunted, even perhaps a little amused. “Tempest, Tempest, Tempest, no need to get angry,” he insisted with feigned innocence. “I’m just doing what any businessman would do: turning crisis into opportunity. Or have you forgotten the saying, ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’?”

In an instant, Tempest’s expression subsided, replaced with one of a more docile nature. Uncertain eyes continued to flick between King and the drugs as she found herself unable to say anything.

“Think of it like a public service,” King continued. Seeing Tempest disarmed, he pulled her in and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “These are just a little… study aid. It’ll help those little, upper-middle-class suburban kids pass their exams and finish those essays so they can live up to Mom and Dad’s unrealistic expectations.”

“But… these people are my friends…”

“Are they really?” King asked as his voice dropped lower. “Try to remember they’re the ones that turned their backs on you. You’re not like them: they are weak and helpless little sheep. And you… you’re the wolf.”

Slowly, he pushed the bag into Tempest’s palm, and her fingers instinctively closed around it. Once he knew her grip was firm, he released her and stepped away, leaving the girl in a silent torpor.

“Remember who took you in when everybody else had abandoned you,” King continued, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder. “I’m the one who helped to make you who you are today, and you are better than them—stronger than them. If you want to waste your time trying to relive your glory days, go ahead… but don’t forget who you really are.”

Tempest closed her eyes and let out a faint, wistful sigh before she nodded in silence.

“Thadda girl,” King said with a few hardy pats on the shoulder. “Now you be sure to study hard and get some rest: it’s a school night, after all.”

“This is… who I am…”