• Published 25th Aug 2018
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Sunset Shimmer Hunts the Undead - Rune Soldier Dan

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"A true, true friend," etc.

Faint smoke rose from Wallflower’s hair, and a line across Applejack’s side was red and peeling from an energy blast’s near-miss. Sunset’s shaking hand unlocked their dorm room. The five rookie hunters piled in, meandering dumbly for a moment before Twilight thought to turn on the lights. They blinked owlishly in sudden phosphorescence before their adjusting gazes found each others’ eyes.

Sunset was the first to grin – a broad, shining expression that jumped like lightning to her friends. “We beat the Nazis.”

No other comment or clarification was needed. The group cheered, heedless of the late hour. What the heck, it was Saturday. Applejack fetched a rare bottle of apple champagne from her room, the rest stormed a convenience mart for chips and salsa, and the impromptu party launched in full force. Nothing they hadn’t shared before – chatting, laughing, and video games – but the atmosphere made it a time of unbridled glee. They howled as over half the champagne bubbled to the floor upon opening, and wasted no time making the difference with other drinks. Wallflower unleashed her latest purchase for the Gamestation: Super Pillar Party, a shockingly aerobic game that sent them tipsily jumping and waving in a contest for stars and coins.

The first bit of come-down hit when Wallflower’s frantic maneuvers brought her elbow into Applejack’s side, drawing a rare “Fuck!”

She jerked and hissed, though waved away concern. “Ain’t nothing that’ll kill me. Just my little friend.”

She pulled up her shirt, revealing beefy abs that immediate sent Sunset into a blush. More to the point was the burn Wallflower had elbowed. The girl wore a guilty look, and Applejack smiled gently. “Don’t fret, you just zinged me a little. It’ll be fine in a jiffy.”

“Let’s make it half a jiffy,” Adagio purred. She leaned in towards the wound, tongue long and low for a lick Applejack averted with a warding hand.

“Whoa now, honey-bun!” Applejack laughed. “Y’all have to buy me dinner, first.”

A joke, at least to Applejack. Adagio formed a thin smile and traded a glance with Sunset.

“Is that all I need?” Adagio asked sweetly.

Just Adagio being Adagio… somehow, it didn’t seem funny this time. Strange anger burst in Sunset’s gut, but she firmly kept it from her voice. “Lay off.”

Applejack’s eyes had already returned to the game. “Relax, Sunny. She’s just funnin’ around.”

The siren gave a wince, unnoticed by all but Sunset. The pair swapped another even look before Adagio airily shook her curls. “Applejack doesn’t need you to be her bodyguard. Not with these big, strong muscles...”

She stroked both hands around Applejack’s biceps, which proved a more acceptable touch. Applejack’s only reaction was a goofy grin as she twirled the controller with her other hand… making the on-screen Star Swirl cook a steak. Pillar Party was weird.

A particularly light stroke drew a giggle from Applejack, and shake of the head. “Daj?”

“Yes?” came the honeyed response.

“Actually, all y’all.” With the steak-cooking ended, Applejack settled back on the couch. Her gaze turned to the side, and a twisting half-smile fought down the grin. “You guys… heck, this is weird. I hear y’all talking about how strong ‘n dependable I am, and I want to thank you for… making me that way.”

She gave a tilting little laugh. “Fact of the matter is, I’m not strong like you guys think I am. I get days and nights, you know? Hard to get out of bed. Hard to eat, or… care. Hard to sleep, thinking of how I gotta change so I can get pretty like real girls.”

“Holy shit, Applejack...” Sunset reached for a shoulder, and Adagio’s fingers ceased their caress for a warm squeeze.

“No pity party!” Applejack said sharply, though she did accept Sunset’s hand. “I’m going somewhere with this, I swear. I take meds when it gets bad, alright? And let me be honest, I only joined this monster shindig to keep y’all out of trouble. But ever since we started, it ain’t never gotten bad again. Maybe it’s because I know I’m protecting you all, maybe there’s something to that ‘big damn hero’ bit Miss Readheart rambled about. But I feel good being here, with all y’all.”

“Especially you, Daj!” The words drew a bright smile before the kicker brought it closed. “Well, especially all y’all, but you, Adagio, are the happy surprise. We have a mighty unneighborly history between us, and I’m glad to leave it in the past. You’re a good friend.”

Adagio took a second to respond, smiling with one side of her face. “Thank you.”

“We’re always here for you,” Sunset promised, and the others nodded.

“Quite.” Adagio stood, and slipped away from the sofa. Her eyes lingered coolly on Sunset. “I’m going for snacks. Feel free to take my seat, next to her.”

The others persisted with their encouragement, and after about three more reassurances from Applejack, they resumed their play. Time passed and they completed the game, with Adagio still not returned to the gathering. The gamers looked to find her emerging from her bedroom with a small case and enigmatic smirk.

“Because we’re all feeling sappy today...” She hiccuped, and carefully produced a violin from the case. “And rightfully self-congratulatory. And to be honest, a little drunk because I’d never do this sober… let me show you what I composed for my music class. It will get me an ‘A,’ and nothing else because no one cares about violin music these days. But it’s beautiful, and I want to play it for an audience more than once.”

Classic violin was far outside their interests, but none were crass enough to refuse. They watched as Adagio’s bow touched the strings without a single printed note to guide her. She sawed it gently across, back and forth…

They knew enough about violins to know she was good. Of course she was good, she was a siren. The normally high hum of a violin came low and melancholic from her hands. Long, uneven strokes somehow produced both melody and harmony, weaving disparate tones into a majestic whole.

Good, even great, if not perfect. A stray squeak or mistimed stroke came now and then, each one sending a flash of frustration to Adagio’s face. Her brow furrowed, then relaxed into a strange expression of solemn joy as the song went on.

Not perfect. But a thing of beauty, regardless of individual taste. Sunset fancied herself afloat amidst the peaceful music. She smiled sleepily, letting her heart rise up and down with the turning of the bow. Idle imagination bid her see the sound itself in the air, and she followed its spiraling waves to wherever they might lead.

Perhaps inevitably, they brought her to Applejack. Strong despite her weaknesses… no, stronger than her weakness. Always so caring, so loving. The crystal green eyes watched Adagio above their contented smile. And those ruddy cheeks and freckles…

The word ‘kissable’ came to mind, and Sunset didn’t run away. Her eyes traced the thick outlines beneath the sleeves and shirt, fancying how warm and heavy the arms would feel around her shoulders, how safe she would feel encompassed by their grip.

She was attracted. This wasn’t a passing whim at all, and Sunset felt vaguely proud. She could do right by Applejack. She could–

The green gaze moved to Sunset, and Sunset snapped hers away.

Later. She could broach it later.

The music ended. The tiny audience clapped with enthusiasm and broad grins. Twilight even had tears in her eyes.

Adagio bowed, but it was a halfhearted one beneath her wistful frown.

“You should have heard me in my prime,” she said, cutting down the applause. “More than anything, we sirens are creatures of music. It was our lives, our beings. Our magic itself would write the songs and our voices would follow, inspiring whole cultures to take up drum and flute. Proud kings would weep, and cold queens would love. It was Mother Hydra who wrote the first song, from which all else flow. We sirens were to keep the inspiration forever alive, lest music fall to rot and decadence.”

Adagio turned away. The violin slid quietly from her shoulder. “Perfect beauty and perfect music. We forgot these things were only given to us so that we might inspire. Instead we decided all others were ugly, their songs tin, their brains stupid. What better for us to do than play with them, master them, break them?”

A long, shuddering sigh. Sunset was already getting to her feet. “It doesn’t really matter, but Mother… she wouldn’t much care for me now.”

Yellow arms embraced her from behind. Sunset had no words, but she was there. Strong, peach-colored arms fell over them, then from each side came skinny sets of green and purple.

“We love you, Daj.” The words from Applejack brought only a frowning twist to Adagio’s face.

Adagio grumbled, slowing rising to her norm. “I killed the party.”

“Not yet, I think there’s still something we can do,” Sunset offered. “In Equestria, when ponies want to spend time together but aren’t feeling happy, they sometimes find a couch or bed and just cuddle for a while. Platonically, of course. Just lie down and be there for each other.”

She reddened as the others looked to her. “There’s nuzzling, but I think we can skip that for our first time.”

“Sounds nice.” Twilight fidgeted and giggled. “Touch is an important part of companionship. Modern society has just forgotten.”

The rest agreed, albeit with a stern warning from Applejack. “I have a big, sturdy bed for it. But no getting handsy, you hear?”

“Yeah, Wallflower: no getting handsy.” Adagio gave an innocent pout. All trace of sadness was gone, leaving her with bright eyes and silken voice as she followed them to the bedroom. “Me? I shall be such a model as to bring blush to Chastity herself.”

Author's Note:

The cuddle-pile broke up five minutes later when Adagio got handsy, but that reclaimed the mood enough for them to keep playing video games and partying until they passed out on the couch, ironically forming a similar cuddle-pile.

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