• Published 15th Sep 2019
  • 574 Views, 31 Comments

Arrhythmia - Posh

When Flash Sentry got into Fillydelphia State, nobody was more surprised than him. He never counted on having a future. Now that it's in front of him, he can't wait to see what it looks like. If only he can figure out how to break the news to Sunset.

  • ...

Step Into the Music

Flash Sentry nods his head to the beat of the music. The clock behind him read 10:28 the last time he checked. It's a late shift for him, the kind he usually dreads; nobody ever visits the diner after nine. The kitchen closes at 9:30, and the other staff usually knock off before ten.

Tonight's different, though. Tonight, the Rainbooms are throwing a private afterparty, celebrating another successful performance, and they've chosen the diner as their venue. Sunset Shimmer's pulled Twilight Sparkle into an impromptu production of "Dance Magic," flawlessly hitting every step in the choreography, as the other five girls surround them, singing along to the song thunking from the jukebox.

Flash appreciates the party as a gesture. Sunset wanted to include him, let him know that he wasn't forgotten, but he has too much on his mind for a night of partying, and had wanted to use his lonely shift to think some stuff over.

But this is still good, even if he's just watching from the periphery. And it's not like he's alone – he has Timber Spruce keeping him company, seated in a barside stool in front of the register. He's knocking back a bottle of sangria, a specialty soft drink he bought from the diner's fridge.

Flash could take or leave Timber, but at least he's paying for his drinks.

"Y'know, you've been stuck back there all night," Timber says, after finishing a swig. "Why not join in, bust a move?"

"I'm still on the clock, but nothing's stopping you." Please, let nothing stop you.

"Would if I could. Curse my creaky old joints." Timber crooks his back and raises his voice to a high, exaggerated whine. "Young man, be a dear, hand me my acetaminophen."

Flash raises an eyebrow.

"...It's a painkiller. For arthritis." Timber waits for Flash's laugh, which doesn’t come. "For real, I don't know the choreography."

"Well, neither do I. Which means I have two excuses, and you just have one. That makes me... some kind of winner. I think," Flash says.

He leans forward on his counter to watch the show. His eyes are on Sunset; he loses himself in her motions. She's twirling, lining herself up with Twilight as the chorus kicks in again.

Her eyes meet his. She beams at him, a private smile just for him, at once brilliant and gentle.

The one Flash sends her is just as loving – but not nearly so easy.

He hopes she doesn't notice.

"Hiya, barkeep!"

Instantly, Flash's vision is filled with Pinkie Pie, her face pressed close to his. Flash recoils, yelping. Timber laughs.

"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," Pinkie says. "Just wanted to check in and, you know, grab a refill, long as I was over here. How's the job treating you? Does Mr. Stonewall miss me yet?"

Flash shakes his head, his heart gradually settling. "If he does, he isn't telling me. He's always ranting about you two-timing him with Sugarcube Corner."

"Poo. Well, we'll get there." Pinkie leans on the countertop. "Now, about that drink?"

"Another rumless rum-and-coke?"

"Nah. Mix me up a ginless gin-and-tonic, instead."

Rolling his eyes, Flash steps behind the bar and retrieves a half-empty bottle of tonic water. He fills a glass and slides it to Pinkie, who somehow expels a dollar and change from her hair onto the register.

"We are so frickin' square," she snortles. Then she vanishes, reappears beside the jukebox, and bangs on it; immediately, it lurches from "Dance Magic" to a different tune. Pinkie leans against the jukebox and sips her drink as the girls gradually adjust to the change.

Flash scoops up the money and turns his attention toward Sunset – she's trying to help the now-confused Twilight pick up the rhythm. She takes Twilight's hand, and draws her into a jerky, improvised dance routine. It's awkward, stumbling, and lacks the smoothness of "Dance Magic" – neither girl can dance well without choreography – but they're both laughing and smiling.

Timber clears his throat. "So, Pinkie Pie... she's never, like. Killed anyone before. Has she?"

Startled, Flash looks at Timber. "What makes you say that?"

"You ever see American Psycho?"

Timber motions toward the jukebox; "Hip To Be Square" is playing. Flash shrugs – he knows the song, but not the movie.

Timber sighs and finishes off his sangria. "Man, I am zero for two right now..."

"That's what you get for hanging around teenagers, gramps."

"The arthritis thing was supposed to be a joke." Muttering, Timber adds, "Twilight would've gotten it."

Flash realizes he hasn't rung up Pinkie's drink yet. He does so, and says, "How much older than her did you say you were, again?"

"Ah... shoot, you know what? We should probably cool it on the soda; wouldn't want the manager to think we were stealing 'em." Timber sets his bottle down and hops off his stool. "I'm gonna make a snack run. Anyone want anything?"

Most of the girls shake their heads, or fail to hear him, but Twilight disengages from Sunset and bounds to Timber's side, seizing his arm and grinning. They bolt from the diner, waving hastily, and the party continues without them.

Sunset, short a partner, shimmies toward the register and extends her hand to Flash. Flash is tempted to take her hand, let her pull him onto the dance floor...

...Flash points at the register, smiles apologetically, shakes his head.

He isn't feeling the music tonight.

Before Sunset can respond, Pinkie drags her onto the now-crowded floor, joining the other girls. They move in time with the music, all smiles, proudly and gladly adding their voices to the chorus.

Sunset doesn't forget Flash, though. She blows him a kiss; he catches it, pockets it, and sighs.

This is far from the best night the two of them have had; he prefers not having to share her attention when the two of them are together.

But he never gets tired of watching the girl he loves sing and sway, carefree and content. It's a reminder of how lucky he is to love her, and be loved by her.

That, at least, makes it a good night.

Flash wonders how many more they have left.

"I'm not saying it’s pedophilia." Flash grips the steering wheel a little tighter with the hand at ten, while the hand at two lightly taps the hard rubber for emphasis. "I'm only saying—"

"You said it was creepy." The bag of chips in Sunset's hands rustles. "Your words."

"No, I said it was weird. That's not the same as creepy." They pull up to a stoplight, and Flash lets the car idle.

The Rainbooms' afterparty was such a hasty affair that nobody thought to make any carpooling arrangements until after. Applejack and Rarity took their own cars to and from the concert. Fluttershy's parents were good enough to ferry Rainbow and Pinkie home, and Timber drove Twilight. Sunset, whose bike was in the shop, had Flash.

He wonders if she'd planned it that way.

"Twilight has been so different since they got together, though." Sunset counts off points on her fingers as the light flips from red to green. "She's more confident, outgoing, assertive—"

"You're ignoring my point."

"He's good for her, Flash," Sunset says, drawing out her words emphatically. "You think I'd let my girl date some scrub?"

"Alright, lemme ask you this: do you know how much older he is than her? Because he ran off when I asked."

"Not... that much older."

"Very specific. So, you don't know either?"

The car passes underneath a street lamp; by the harsh orange light, Flash can see mischief in Sunset's eyes. "This state has a Romeo and Juliet law on the books, Flash."

"That's reassuring."

"Didn't you tell me that you liked Timber?"

"I do. Okay? I just... liked him more when he and Twilight weren't an item." He sees Sunset's knowing look, and bristles. "And no, it's not a remedial Princess Twilight thing."

Sunset pats his arm. "'Residual,' lover."

"I'm just saying," Flash sighs. "It makes me a little uncomfortable that he and Twilight are hooking up—"

"Oh, they haven't gone anywhere, trust me."

"That they're dating, then, considering how they met, and where, and the age difference..." Flash chews his lip and shoots a quick look at Sunset. "You're her best friend; you seriously find nothing weird about it?"

Sunset's jacket gives a leathery squeak as she shrugs. "Some people like older women."

They come to a stop sign. Flash slows to a halt, and looks askance at Sunset. Her lips are pursed, her face drawn.

"...Older men. And women. Some people like both. Maybe Twilight does, I dunno." Sunset tosses a chip into her mouth and crunches it. "You wanna talk about dating above your age range, Flash, and this ride's gonna get awkward in a hurry."

The question of precisely how old Sunset is rises to Flash's mind. He pushes it away with a shudder.

"Anyway," says Sunset, "I don't know how much it matters. Twilight might not be in town for too much longer."

Flash swings the car left, turning onto Sunset's street. Her apartment's still quite a ways away; there's plenty of time to talk. And we need to talk. "She's not going overseas, is she?"

"No, she changed her mind about Cambridle." Sunset's voice softens. "But... she's going out of state. MIT."

Flash whistles, awed, though unsurprised. Twilight's grades and reputation guarantee her a full ride anywhere in the country. Schools like MIT must be tripping over one another to woo her.

"Yeah," Sunset chuckles ruefully. "That was about my reaction, too. Good for her, right?"

Flash takes his right hand off the wheel and reaches for Sunset's, finding it without looking and lacing their fingers together. He squeezes. "Are you okay?"

Sunset gives another squeaky shrug. "I'm proud of her, don't get me wrong. MIT doesn't just hand out full ride scholarships. And I know she can't pursue her dreams here in Canterville – none of the girls can, really. They all had their own plans long before we all came together. But all the same, it's..."

The leather seats are suddenly chafing Flash. "Is anyone else going out of state, besides Twilight?"

"Rarity. She'll be close to Twilight. Fluttershy and Pinkie are going upstate. Applejack's staying with the farm for now, and Rainbow's staying local until she gets her two-year, but their long-term plans are... murky." Sunset sighs. "Am I selfish for wishing they'd all stay? I don't expect them to just drop their aspirations on account of me, but thinking about a life without them..."

Flash fidgets in his seat. He squeezes Sunset's hand compulsively, and counts the blocks between them and her apartment.

"Don't be so quick to reassure me." Sunset says. She pulls her hand from Flash's grip. "Is there something on your mind?"

Flash looks at her – she's folded her arms, her eyes narrowed at him. Sighing, he tries to phrase it as gently as he can.

"I know how much this must suck for you, Sunset. And I can relate, because I've got people I gotta say goodbye to, too. It's just—"

"If you're gonna say what I think you're gonna say—"

"—Maybe you should have applied to more than one school. So you wouldn't feel like you're getting left behind."

"Didn't even need to read your mind," Sunset huffs. "Sure, let's have this argument again."

"I wasn't gonna say anything, remember?" Flash clenches the wheel with sweaty hands. The smart thing to do would be to shut up now. "It just would have been a good idea to have a back-up if Canterville State didn't take you. Maybe you wouldn't have to say goodbye to Twilight."

"If CSU didn't take me, what makes you think MIT would?"

"Someplace close by, then, like Rarity. Or wherever Pinkie and Fluttershy are going."

"Again," says Sunset tersely, "none of them would have taken me. My grades in my junior year were trash, and I had to repeat my senior year; just one of those is a death sentence for an application."

"So, just don't try at all, huh?" Flash grumbles.

"I only applied to CSU because Celestia wanted me to – part of my redemption tour after the Fall Formal," Sunset snaps. "I didn't see a point; I told her there wasn't a point. All I wanted was to play out what was left of my senior year, and then..."

Flash prompts her when she doesn't finish. "And then what?"

"...Whatever, Flash. I always thought things worked out pretty good, all things considered. If you disagree, fine. You're entitled to your opinion." Sunset scoffs. "I thought you'd be happy we'd be going to Canterville Community together."

She's fishing for reassurance again. Flash doesn't trust himself to reassure her right now, not when his foot is leaving such an awful aftertaste in his mouth. He clams up until Sunset's apartment comes into view, on the other side of the street.

Flash parks and kills the engine. Intent on walking her to the door, he starts to unbuckle his seatbelt.

"Don't. It's okay." Sunset crinkles her half-eaten bag of chips up, and stuffs it in her jacket pocket. She huffs a bit, and then says, "Listen, I don't want you to make a big deal about this, okay? But since you're so worried about my future... I figure I should tell you, I got a job interview coming up."

Flash blinks. "You do? Where?"

"The county office. Health and Human Services. They need someone to work with troubled teens, and, well." She smiles joylessly. "I’ve got a PhD.”

Flash furrows his brow. "Why didn't you say so sooner?"

"Didn't think you'd care."

"Of course I'd—" Flash stops before he has to swallow another foot. "I wish you'd told me a little sooner."

"...I'm sorry." The door clicks open; Sunset steps out, and lightly shoves it closed. She crosses around the front of the car to Flash's window and peers at him, faintly visible in the night. "I'll tell you more about it later; right now, I'm beat. See you tomorrow?"

Flash nods, mutters an affirmative.

Sunset sticks her hands in her pockets. She turns to walk away.

Reaching through the window, Flash catches Sunset's sleeve and tugs. He releases her arm as she turns, and she smooths out her sleeve where he'd caught her.

"I'm not trying to nag you, Sunset. I'm sorry if I did. And I'm happy you've got an interview. You deserve it, you're..." Flash fumbles to get the words right this time. "You're the most amazing girl I've ever met in my life. I know how smart you are, how talented... I wanna see you get outta here, do good for yourself. Because I hate seeing you sell yourself short."

Sunset's expression shifts into a tender, sympathetic smile. She steps closer to the car, leans through the window, and pulls Flash into a long, slow kiss, the kind that always makes Flash feel like he's weightless and untethered.

Breaking the kiss, Sunset cups his cheek. "I promise, I'm exactly where I want to be."

A knot forms in the pit of Flash's stomach. "Sure you don't want me to walk you to the door?"

"I'll be fine."

Flash purses his lips, then nods. "I really am sorry. About you and your friends."

"At least I have you." Sunset beams that private smile at him. "Canterville Community won't feel so big and empty with you around."

The knot in Flash's stomach tightens.

"For real now, though. G'night, Flash." Sunset turns, looks both ways quickly, and crosses the street toward her apartment. From her front door, she looks at Flash one last time, to blow him a kiss.

He pockets it, and watches her slip inside. Satisfied that she's safe, Flash keys the ignition, and the car rumbles to life. He holds the wheel, still slick with sweat, and stares out into the night.

"'Exactly where you want to be,' huh?"

Shaking his head, he peels away from the curb, and sets off toward home.

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