• 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.

  • ...

Worth Keeping Around

Mixing drinks isn't normally part of Flash's job. He's a server, not a soda jerk. But Sugarsocks called out with some kind of yeast infection in her feet, so Flash is assuming her usual duties until Tip-Top comes in.

He's arranging three Italian sodas on top of a serving tray when he feels a buzz in his uniform pocket. Immediately, he grabs his phone, holds it underneath the bar, and peeks at his notifications.

Seeing nothing, he seethes with frustration.

He dropped Sunset off for her interview almost two hours ago; it shouldn't have lasted more than one. She knew he'd be working, so she'd have to hitch a ride home from one of the girls, but she promised she'd text him as soon as she was done.

By now, Flash's shift is almost over. And he still hasn't heard back from Sunset.

Once, Twilight tried to lecture him about some kind of... what was the word? Psychosemantic, that's it. A psychosemantic thing, where you expect a message so much that your brain tricks you into thinking your phone's buzzing. He's so worked up that his brain's pulling tricks on him.

Flash sends a quick message to Sunset.

"You out yet???"

Then he tucks his phone away and picks up the drinks, and stuffs down his anxiety as he delivers one last order to a trio of familiar faces.

"Let's see if I got this right," he says. "Scootaloo gets the blackberry, Sweetie Belle the matcha, and Apple Bloom ordered... apple. No surprise there."

Apple Bloom giggles and elbows Sweetie, seated beside her in the booth. "An' you thought he'd get mixed up."

Sweetie doesn't look up from her phone. No surprise there. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom are nice enough, but Sweetie's never taken a shine to him.

Flash sets the drinks down on the table, ignoring another psychosemantic buzz. "Anything else I can get you?"

"I think we're good, Flash," says Scootaloo. "Thanks."

She and Apple Bloom immediately start slurping. Sweetie listlessly stirs the cream into her soda.

"Sweetie Belle?" Flash ventures. "Something wrong?"

Sweetie lifts the straw from her drink and watches greenish cream drip into the glass. "Pinkie Pie would sing us a song when she dropped off our drinks."

The other two girls stop sipping, and look at Flash.

Flash's carefully affected good mood wavers. "Should I wear a skirt and roller skates to work, while I'm at it?"

Sweetie hums and slides her finger against her phone's screen. "Couldn't hurt."

Flash's knuckles whiten against the serving tray.

The bell at the entrance chimes. Tip-Top strolls inside, holding her skates by the laces, swinging them loosely with one hand. Flash feels the phantom tingle of a tiny wheel smacking his skull, and rubs his head tenderly.

"Well, I'm out, girls," Flash says. "Tip-Top'll take care of you from now on."

Scootaloo beams. “You think she’ll sing to us?”

Flash fights down the urge to snark, and heads toward the back room.

He punches out, changes into his street clothes from a duffel bag stuffed behind the toilet, and slings the bag over his shoulder. Then he tugs out his phone to check his messages, expecting nothing.

His blood freezes. There's one unread message from Sunset.

"Got done a while ago."

Flash gets halfway into a reply before stopping, pulling up her number to call. She answers on the third ring.

"Hey, lover. You alright?" Sunset's voice betrays no emotion. She sounds perfectly, utterly, calm.

"I'm fine. Just confused." Among other things – relieved, anxious. "I thought you were gonna text me after you got done with your interview."

"Did I scare you? I didn't mean to. I got done about an hour ago; I didn't want to bother you at work." There's a rustling on the other end of the line. "You on a break?"

"Just punched out. What happened with your—"

A shrill voice in the background interrupts him. "Hurry up, Sunnybun; crepes are gettin' cold!"

A jolt runs down Flash's spine. "Was that Pinkie? Are you at Sugarcube Corner?"

"Be right there!" Sunset calls out, before dropping her voice back to normal. "Yeah, I'm hanging out with the girls, so I don't think I can talk right now. You want me to bring you a crepe later?"

"I— no, thank you." Flash fumbles for some way to express the precise combination of feelings running through him. "What I would like is to know how your job interview went. Could we maybe—"

Laughter from the other girls cuts him off. "Look, this isn't the best time. I'll call you tonight, okay?"

"You can't talk to me for five—"

"Later, okay? Love you, bye!"

The call ends before Flash can say her name. He stares at his phone. Then he stuffs it back in his pocket, grabs his bag, and storms out, mentally mapping out the fastest route to Sugarcube Corner.

He finds Tip-Top clearing the table that the girls were were sitting at; they've since left. Tip-Top skates up to him, all smiles. "Those girls left this for your troubles."

She hands him a folded note. Unwrapping it, Flash finds a pair of five dollar bills and a fistful of loose change. Flash reads the note.

Thanks for the drinks. Sorry about Sweetie.

A.B. and Scoots

Despite everything, he feels warmth kindle in his chest. It's nice to be appreciated.

And textbooks don't pay for themselves.

Flash finds Sunset and her friends sipping drinks around a table in the middle of Sugarcube Corner. There's a hot plate set up next to the table, where a batter-spattered Pinkie Pie spoons preserves into crepes, rolls them up, and tosses them onto her friends' plates.

Sunset's let her hair down, figuratively and literally, since he dropped her off at the county office. Her jacket's off, slung over the chair's backrest, and she's kicked off her heels and rolled up her sleeves. She wears a carefree smile as Pinkie slings her a crepe.

She spots Flash before the other girls do. Her eyes narrow.

The other girls take notice of him, one by one, and murmur their own greetings. Applejack dips her hat to him. "Hungry, Flash? Pinkie's whippin' up some mighty fine grub."

"Guaranteed to make you smile!" Pinkie chirps, holding up a plate.

"Not hungry, thanks," Flash says curtly. To Sunset, he says, "How'd everything go?"

"Peachy." Sunset crosses her knees. "Why?"

Flash shrugs. "You had me worried when we talked. I figured, if something went wrong, maybe you'd need a little time to yourself, but you seem pretty relaxed."

Sunset's lips stretch into a taut, insincere smile. "Any chance we could talk later, lover?"

"I think we should talk now."

Sunset's jaw shifts as she and Flash stare each other down.

"Anyone else missing the script here?" Rainbow mutters.

"Everything's fine, Rainbow." Sunset's clipped tone suggests that everything is definitely not fine. "We're just having a little misunderstanding."

"Misunderstanding?'" Flash snaps. "You left me hanging for an hour, and you're too busy hanging out with your friends to talk to me for five minutes. I just want to know how the interview went, but you're blowing me off at every turn."

"Interview?" Twilight's face comes alight with excitement. "You had a job interview, Sunset?"

Sunset glares with silent reproach at Flash.

Rarity hums thoughtfully. "So that's why I was picking you up from the Health and Human Services office. Here I assumed you were applying for public assistance. Not that there's anything wrong with that," she adds with a nervous chuckle.

"You applied to work with the county? That's awesome!" Twilight leans toward Sunset. "What's the job? Who did you talk to? How did you apply? Who were your references?"

Flash cuts in, gesturing sharply at the girls. "Why didn't you tell them?"

Twilight frowns. "Why didn't you? I could've helped you prepare."

"And I could have put together something a little more presentable than gray flannel," Rarity adds, examining Sunset's jacket. "Not that you don't look presentable, darling. But there's presentable, and there's presentable."

"I was going to. When I was ready." Sunset bunches up fistfuls of her skirt. "I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up in case I didn't get the job."

Flash doesn't need powers like Sunset's to see her answer coming. He asks the obvious question anyway. "Did you?"

"No, Flash. For your information. They thanked me for my resume, but said they wanted someone with more experience." She spreads her arms wide in offering, and arches her eyebrows. "Satisfied?"

The dining room falls silent. The girls glance quickly between Flash and Sunset, watching carefully, waiting.

Flash breaks the tension. "You sound real broken up about it."

He sweeps out of the diner before Sunset can respond. He’s nauseous, but he doesn’t know why. He didn’t do anything wrong.

She pursues him outside, grabbing him by the wrist. She’s gone red.

"What gives, Flash?" she growls. "You don't trust me, so you track me down and interrogate me in front of my friends?"

"I wouldn't have come if you'd just given me a straight answer when I called." Flash rips his hand free from Sunset's grasp. "I was worried!"

The hand Sunset grabbed him with clenches. "So you come stalking me when I don't answer the phone?"

"Forget the phone call!" Flash snaps. "Do you even care that you didn't get the job?"

"Of course I—" Sunset wipes her forehead, laughing bitterly. "I hoped I'd get the job. I really did! It's an important job, it pays way better than minimum, and you know what? That's exactly how I knew I wouldn't make the cut. I'm a part-time sushi cook who isn't even out of high school; I set realistic expectations for myself."

"That's why you didn't tell your friends? You didn't want them to set 'unrealistic expectations' for you?"

"It's not their business! It's no one's business but mine!" She gestures to him. "Hell, I only told you to get you off my back about college."

Flash recoils. "What?"

"You heard me!" Sunset pinches the bridge of her nose. "You have been riding my ass for weeks, trying to micromanage everything I do. My job, my school, my whole future! You're my boyfriend, not my father; you care way too much about stuff that isn't your business. It's my future on the line—"

"It's our future that's on the line!" Flash blurts it out and regrets it in the same instant.

"...Meaning what?" Sunset freezes, her posture tense. She doesn't even sound angry anymore. "Flash?"

Flash fights with himself, wanting to say it, wanting to say nothing. His throat tightens. In the end, he swallows his confession.

He rolls his sleeve up, and holds his hand toward Sunset.

Sunset fishes her geode out from her shirt. She grips it like a life preserver as she takes Flash's hand.

In all the time they've been together, Sunset's never used her powers on Flash. He's always wondered how it would feel. He imagined it would be something beautiful, like poetry. Like their minds would mesh together, and they'd know each other in a way they never otherwise could.

But there's no poetry to it. For an instant, Flash feels an itch in his skull, a set of thoughts that he knows aren't his. The instant ends before he can parse them; Sunset releases his hand, and gravity seems to falter. Flash takes a stutter-step back, panting, the world around him spinning.

The shock is plain on Sunset's face. Her eyes swim with unshed tears as she slowly releases the geode. She shuts her eyes, squeezes her tears out; her shoulders shake, once, with a silent sob.

Then she opens her eyes, her pain reforged into anger. "You lied to me."

Her words cut him to the bone. "I didn't lie to you, Sunset. I just—"

"You let me think you were staying in town. You knew you weren't. But you let me think that you were." She steps forward, her voice rising with her movement. "You're a piece of work, Flash. Acting like you give a damn about honesty, when you're keeping that a secret?"

"You were keeping secrets. You didn't tell me about your interview!" Even to himself, Flash's rebuttal sounds weak.

Sunset bares her teeth. "Don't pretend that's even on the same level as what you hid. You lying, self-righteous hypocrite. Stop trying to justify yourself, and get the hell out of here."

Flash feels his heart lurch. "Sunset—"

"You're leaving me anyway, right?" She makes a noise that's caught between a laugh and a sob. "Think of it as practice for the real thing."

Unsure of where to go, where he can go, Flash leaves the city behind.

He pulls onto an unpaved back road that slithers up a steep hill, trading the brick and concrete of Canterville for a dense forest of evergreens.

Flash breaks through the treeline at the top of the hill, and parks behind the rail that circles the summit. The downtown skyline blocks most of the city from sight, but the view is still spectacular, especially at this time of day. The fading sunlight catches the glass-paneled skyscrapers, and they shine like roaring fire. It's one of Flash's favorite views in the city.

Yet all he can think about is the irony of coming here at sunset.

Flash laughs a hollow, miserable laugh, and slumps forward until his head hits his steering wheel.

There's a timid rapping on his window, three sharp taps. A voice calls through the glass. "Flash?"

With a jolt, Flash rolls down his window. "Muffins? Uh... What're you doing? Here? On this hill? Tonight?"

"Yoga, yoga, yoga, and yoga. In that order." She's in a sweat-stained tank top and black tights; under her arm is a rolled-up rubber mat. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. Just hanging out." Flash forces a laugh and strikes a pose, stiffly laying his arm on the passenger seat's backrest. "I had tonight off, so I drove out here to watch the sun— the view. It's nice. Isn't it nice?"

"You look like you've been crying."

Flash scoffs. He grins. He mouths the word 'crying' sardonically and shakes his head.

Muffins raises an eyebrow at him.

Flash crumbles. He presses his hand to his face and pinches the bridge of his nose. He doesn't say anything for a little while; he's not sure he'd hold his composure if he tried to talk.

Muffins breaks the silence. "In, or out?"

Flash blinks. "What?"

"Of the car, dummy." Muffins shifts her grip on her mat so that she can rub some warmth into her bare arms. "It's cold out here, but I've been dancing all day, I smell like sour milk, and I'd hate to stink up your car. So, you tell me."

Flash stares at her, dumbly. Then he thumbs the button to unlock the door. Muffins drops the mat, comes around to the passenger's side, and slides in.

"Yeah, that’s what I was hoping for," Muffins sighs. "Nice to take a load off. And these seats are so comfy."

She shifts her butt in the seat, squeaking the leather.

Flash snorts. "What are you doing up here? Pretty sure I left you somewhere over there." He gestures vaguely at the skyline.

Muffins shrugs. "The bus to the observatory stops at the bottom of the hill. I come here sometimes for yoga, or to watch the... sun go down. It's relaxing."

Flash doesn't consider himself especially perceptive, but he still notes how deliberately Muffins chose those words. "Long way to walk for yoga."

"Well, the observatory's easier to get to, but they charge admission, and there's trash everywhere. Tourists. This is the only other place to go if you want a view this good."

"Don't most people come here to make out?"

"I'm not most people. Hashtag single-for-life." She smirks, a look that fades as she stares, seriously, at Flash. "First time I've seen you up here."

"I needed a place where I could think, too." Flash folds his arms on the wheel and rests his chin on them. "I've been up here a couple times, myself. Not always alone."

Scarlet rushes into Muffins's cheeks... or maybe it's the glare from the sun.

"Joking aside," she says softly. "If you need space to think, I can go..."

"And let you walk down that hill after dark? What if you met a bear?" Flash angles his head toward Muffins. "They get desperate when they're hungry. Maybe even desperate enough to go after you. Little Miss Skin-And Bones."

"I'm lean, not skinny. Jerk."

By now, the sun's drifted lazily toward the horizon. Flash cranes his head back to peek through the sunroof. Stars, like diamond pinpricks, stud the deepening purple sky.

"There isn't supposed to be a moon tonight." Muffins's voice falls to a whisper. "Gonna be a lot more stars."

"Yeah." Flash runs his tongue over his lips. He tries to say something else. It comes out as another sigh.

Slender fingers rest on his shoulder, squeezing him to coax him on. "Sunset, right?"

"...How'd you know?"

"I've seen you strike out enough to know the signs."

Flash laughs. A joke like that would be cutting from someone else. From Muffins, it comes as comfort. "You asked why I didn't want anyone to know that I got into FSU. I told you it was 'cuz I was still... processing. And that's true, but it's not the whole truth. Sunset isn't going away for school. She's staying here. And I didn't know how to break it to her that I'm... not."

"You don't think you could make it work long-distance?"

"I don't know, maybe. For a little while." Flash reclines the seat, folding his hands over his stomach. "But ever since I got this letter, all I can think about is how different my life'll be from now on. Part of me wishes everything could just be simple and easy forever, but when you cut away the bullshit? That future, whatever it looks like, I want it. Sunset, though... I don't think she wants what I want. I'm not sure my future and hers go together."

Flash thinks of Sunset, seated with her friends, laughing off a failure that she didn't seem to feel.

"I was trying to find some way around that difference, so we could stay together. I kept secrets. I... lied to her. Seemed like a good idea at the time." He laughs bitterly. "All I did was guarantee we'd break up sooner. Now, it's like... can I make things right? Should I even try?"

"Are you asking me?" says Muffins, fiddling idly with the radio knobs.

"Wasn't trying to." Flash shrugs. "Then again... why not? Everything I tried only made things worse."

Muffins doesn't say anything at first. Then her seat groans as she reclines it. "This is a very surreal conversation we're having, Flash."

Flash rolls on his side, pillowing his head beneath his arm. "What do you mean?"

"Well..." Muffins trails off, frowning. Then she rolls to face Flash, too. "I've seen you get hung up on girls before. I've been there for two flavors of Twilight, and I was there when you and Sunset were feeling each other out again. After all that drama, once you got back together, I figured it'd be for good."

Flash rolls his eyes. "This isn't making me feel better."

"What I mean is, your relationship— the second crack at it, anyway— always seemed so idyllic. Like the kind that I always wished I had." A melancholy smile crests Muffins's face. "If anyone at our school was gonna go the distance together, I thought it would be you two. She's perfect for you, and you're just..."

"I'm just?"

Muffins all but glows, red from her cheeks to her neck. Her lips move slowly, her voice feather-soft.

"Just perfect."

Her words chase every bit of feeling in Flash out of his system.

Suddenly uncomfortable, he rises in his seat and stares at her, numb. He knows what she's said, knows what she means, but like Sunset's angry barb, it loops back and forth in his mind, refusing to process.

The color drains from Muffins's face. She groans, rolling her head back to face the sunroof, holding her hands over her eyes. "God. I always thought you knew, that you were just too decent to say anything. Can't believe I..."

She laughs, thick and self-deprecating. Flash can't think of anything to say; he's afraid to even try. Words haven't been coming out right for him lately.

Instead, he reaches out, and takes her hand, pulling it away from her face. She looks at it, puzzled. A flicker of feeling crosses her face. She breathes, deeply and slowly.

Gently, she pushes Flash's hand away.

"I'm not bringing this up because I have any intentions, or whatever," says Muffins. "Y'know, swooping in and grabbing you when you're vulnerable? That would be scummy and awful and how dare you make assumptions about my good character. What I am trying to say is...."

Muffins brushes her bangs away and looks deeply into Flash's eyes, edging closer to the seat to close the distance between them.

"I want to be there for you. But if it's advice you want... I can't be objective when it comes to you and Sunset. I can say that, if I had the most wonderful guy in the world in my life? Whatever I thought my future looked like, I'd try to keep him around."

"Even if he screwed up?"

She hesitates before smiling. "If he knew how to apologize."

"Apologize," Flash echoes. "I ran off without even saying I was sorry. I don't know if she'll forgive me now."

"She might not," Muffins admits. "Are you gonna try?"

"...I owe it to her." Iron creeps back into Flash's voice. "I gotta try and make it right."

Muffins nods. "That's why you're worth keeping around."

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