• Published 7th Apr 2020
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Consonance and Dissonance - applezombi



After an unfortunate injury while hiking, Pinkie Pie accidentally sets into motion of a chain of events that leads to new friendships, romantic encounters, and even the salvation of an old enemy.

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Chapter 5

If somebody had asked Twilight what the concert was about, what the theme of it was, or even the names of the pieces played or the composers featured, she would have drawn a complete blank. She’d been buzzing all night, nearly vibrating in her seat with excitement. She was there. She was sitting in her seat on the balcony. Twilight had to spend the entire concert calming herself down, trying to cool down her expectations and her anticipation for the conversation that was to come, if she was brave enough. Before she’d shut her phone off when the concert hall’s lights went down, she’d already received four texts, one encouraging text from Shining, one inquisitive text from Rarity (no matter how helpful the fashionista had been in putting together her ensemble and makeup, Twilight had kept her tongue about why she was getting all made up for a solo trip to a concert) and two texts from Cadence. The first, like her brothers, had been simple cheer leading and encouragement. The second had contained a threat and a photograph.

“Ask that girl out or I’ll text this super embarrassing baby picture to all your friends. Remember, I have dozens of these.” The picture in question was Twilight’s first birthday, and involved a pink cupcake that wound up everywhere but Twilight’s tiny mouth. She didn’t need to imagine what else Cadence had. Embarrassing bath pictures maybe, or finger painting disasters. It didn’t matter; Twilight had a goal, and nothing ever stood between her and her goals. Not even, she ruefully admitted to herself, common sense or logic sometimes. The mental image of her, warped and twisted by dark magic, threatening to destroy two worlds just to learn more about magic, flashed through her mind. It happened less and less these days, but every so often the specter of Midnight Sparkle still haunted her.

The outfit Rarity had assembled for her, basically by scavenging from her woefully under stocked (according to Rarity) closet, was gorgeous. She had planned on wearing her short sleeved black dress, but Rarity had taken one look at the garment and sniffed judgmentally.

“You need to stand out, darling,” Rarity had said dismissively. “Frankly, I could make the little black dress work for you tonight, but you simply don’t have the accessories.” She’d brought an entire suitcase full of a random assortment of clothing pieces, not knowing the nature of the ‘fashion emergency’ that Sunset had texted her about. Between the eclectic assortment Rarity had brought and the mishmash in Twilight’s closet, Rarity had worked her magic.

“We’re going to make you turn heads, darling,” Rarity had told her as she finally chose an outfit that left Twilight terrified. She had no idea what ‘punk chic’ meant, or how one could possibly somehow fuse it with formal wear, but she knew better than to challenge Rarity while she was on a roll. Rarity had dressed her in a dark blue skirt with an asymmetrical hemline, something she’d called a ‘high-low’ skirt, with the left side ending just above her ankle and the right side about four inches above her knee. It was a bit more skin even than her little black dress. Under the skirt was a pair of long, knee length stockings, horizontally striped black and white. The strip of flesh she was showing off on her right leg, between her knee high socks and the short side of her skirt, made her incredibly nervous. The blouse was white, sleeveless, with half inch long shoulder straps and a round neckline. Not too high, but not too low either. There was matching blue belt, wide and high on her midriff, with a wide round buckle. Completing the look was a pair of rather thick bangles made of black faux leather and a wide matching choker of the same material.

After the outfit was assembled, Rarity went to work on her hair and makeup. Twilight didn’t know what a ‘smoky eye’ was, but she looked amazing when Rarity was done with her mascara brush. After nearly a solid five minutes of ‘hmm’s, and ‘um’s, Rarity finally concluded that a ponytail would be acceptable. When it was time to leave, Rarity even confiscated Twilight’s purse, demanding that she take with her a mini backpack instead.

“It fits the look,” Rarity said, when Twilight asked what did it matter what her purse looked like. The idea that one could have different purses for different outfits seemed inefficient to Twilight, but she was smart enough not to say a word about it in front of Rarity. “Now. You have to go, or you’ll be late for whatever mystery event you’ve got going on. That somehow involves romance, even though you won’t tell me more.” Rarity had made it sound like she’d committed some form of crime.

So Twilight had rushed to the concert hall, nervously presented her season pass to the ticket taker, and found her usual seat down in the audience. She thought very briefly about simply sitting on the balcony where the crying girl usually sat, but Twilight didn’t want to scare her away. So she took her favored seat, and pretended to wait for the concert to start while she watched the balcony above her. Just before the lights dipped, the blue-haired beauty emerged. Her eyes found Twilight’s, and they widened slightly in pleased surprise as they took in her outfit. There was something different about her that Twilight noticed, as well. While the crying girl usually dressed in an old, ratty hoodie, today she was wearing a clean pink t-shirt and a faded but clean brown jacket. Twilight smiled and waved, and the girl blew a kiss and winked in return, just before the lights dropped.

The concert was both the longest and shortest of Twilight’s life. She couldn’t concentrate on the music at all, and in the minimal light, all she caught were the barest glimpses of the girl’s face. She was reacting to the music as she usually did, eyes closed, tears seeping down her face, her lips pursed with emotion. Twilight’s heart ached. She wanted so badly to put a smile back on those lips.

As the concert dragged on, though, Twilight became more and more nervous. She’d tried all week, ever since her conversation a week ago with her brother and sister-in-law, to come up with any sort of game plan or strategy for how she was going to approach the crying girl. Every single idea had been rejected (she had a wastebasket full of crumpled up notepad sheets) and finally had even gotten the hair brained idea to try making some sort of baked gift, which had ended poorly. Cooking may be chemistry, but expertise in the latter did not automatically transfer to the former, as she had discovered. Finally she’d taken a page from her more adventurous friends and decided to simply ‘wing it’. The terror building in the pit of her stomach suggested that this may have been a deadly mistake. Once the last song of the evening began, she started making a mental checklist of what she would have to do to win a date with the mystery girl.

Step one: don’t let her leave before you can speak with her.

Step two: actually talk to her.

Step three: Uh…

Every other concert night, Twilight had missed the girl leaving. So before the final song was even halfway done, Twilight rose out of her seat, staying as silent as she possibly could so as not to disturb the other concert goers, and crept out of the hall. The concierge standing at the door looked at her in surprise as she approached; few people bothered to leave in the middle of the concert. She didn’t slow down, so the uniformed man opened the door a crack for her to leave.

Outside, she approached the ticket booth, where a woman wearing a similar uniform was stationed.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” she asked politely.

“Um, yes please. Can you tell me how to get up to the balcony?” Twilight replied.

“The balcony? But it’s closed for tonight’s performance, sweetie,” the ticket taker replied, sounding confused. “You won’t be able to get onto it. Besides, the performance is nearly over. Is everything okay?”

“Just fine. Could you just tell me where the door to the balcony is?” she repeated. There must have been something in her eyes, because the concert hall employee stared at her.

“Um, sure, I guess, but it’s locked. Head down the hallway on your left, my right. You’ll see the signs on the door. Are you sure that you…”

“I’m just fine!” Twilight nearly sang as she spun around and tried not to sprint down the hallway. She had no idea why the crying girl always escaped before the end of the performance, but she could only hope that she’d gotten out before the other girl could leave.

The hallway in question had several doors, each one with a clear label. There was a supply closet, an instrument storage room, restrooms, and then finally, a wooden door labeled balcony. Twilight rushed up and was about to grasp the metal handle when the door swung open and the crying girl, her eyes fixed on the floor in front of her, slipped out.

“Hey,” Twilight said. She felt oddly out of breath, even though she hadn’t run more than a few dozen feet to the balcony door. Her heart was pounding. The girl jumped, glancing up and seeing Twilight for the first time.

“Oh! I, uh, um,” the girl articulated, looking panicked. Twilight reached out in what she hoped was a calming gesture with her hands.

“Woah, calm down, I’m so sorry for startling you,” Twilight said. “I just wanted to talk. Are you okay?”

“Uh, yeah, just fine, I guess. But I have to go. Now. I’m not supposed to be here,” the girl said. Her voice was nervous and shaky, but there was a pretty sort of innocence to it that Twilight found endearing. She wondered what the blue haired girl meant.

“You have to go?” Twilight repeated a little dumbly, her mind whirring. Her chance was escaping. “But I finally tracked you down!” It must have been the way she said it, because the look of panic on the other girl’s face was suddenly washed away in a spurt of giggles.

“You tracked me down, huh?” the girl asked, still laughing. “Well okay then. We’ll go somewhere else and talk, okay?”

“Coffee? Or ice cream? Or dinner somewhere?” Twilight spurted out, and then wanted to die of embarrassment. After weeks of planning, that was really the best way she could have asked the girl out? Twilight didn’t even know her name. Fortunately the girl smiled and nodded.

“Sounds good. Follow me, I don’t wanna get caught,” the mystery girl said. She reached out and seized Twilight’s hand in her own. Twilight nearly tripped and fell as the girl pulled her further down the hallway towards a metal door marked as an emergency exit. “See, I didn’t exactly pay for tickets.” There was a smirk on her face, but something in her voice sounded like guilt. Twilight tried to concentrate on what she was saying, but her hand felt hot. When they reached the emergency exit, Twilight noticed a battered wooden doorstop on the ground, propping the door open. The two of them slipped out the exit, and the other girl carefully removed the doorstop and leaned it up against the brick wall outside the door. She felt a thrill of adrenaline at the rule breaking they were doing; she wasn’t entirely sure which rules they were breaking, but it was implied.

The emergency exit led into an unadorned metal platform complete with a railing, and an iron staircase going down to the alley behind the concert hall. It was the kind of door that would be impossible to open from the outside; there was no handle to pull it open. She supposed that was what the doorstop was for; somebody on the inside had left it there, probably so the mystery girl could enter that way.

“Okay, great. Do you think anybody saw us?” the girl asked, glancing both ways down the alley. Twilight shrugged. She hadn’t been paying attention to much else besides the warm hand that was still holding hers! The other girl seemed to notice at the same time. “Oh, sorry,” she said softly, and slipped her fingers out of Twilight’s. “So…”

“Hi, I’m Twilight Sparkle,” Twilight said suddenly. It sounded so ridiculous, so out of place in this dark alley, and so different from anything she’d planned, that she burst out in nervous laughter right afterwards. The other girl smiled back at her.

“Yup, I know,” she said. “I met your other you a while back. I’m glad you’re not her, though.” She held out her hand. “My name’s Sonata Dusk.”

“It’s really nice to finally meet you, Sonata,” Twilight said. Part of her wanted to ask what had happened between Sonata and the other Twilight. Another part, a stronger part, didn’t even want to care. After her conversation with Sunset, thinking about the faraway Princess left a bitter taste in her mouth. “I’ve been waiting a while for this moment. I guess I didn’t see it happening in an alleyway after just having become an accomplice to trespassing.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Sonata said sheepishly. “I know one of the head janitors here, and he knows how much I love music. I could never afford a ticket for something like this, so he ‘accidentally’ props the door open for me every week.” She looked away, staring at nothing as the two of them went silent. “So where do you want to go?” A faint blush dusted her cheeks.

“What?” Twilight said, flustered, before her brain caught up with the conversation. “Oh. You mean for our date. The date I asked you out on. Um, it was clear I was asking you out on a date, right?” Sonata was laughing.

“Yes, it was pretty obvious,” Sonata said. “I’d love to go on a date with you, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Oh. Okay. Great!” Twilight said, flushing. “Um, are you hungry? I’d love to share a meal with you and get to know you a bit.”

“I could eat,” Sonata said. She began to walk down the iron stairs into the alleyway. “Um, you can pick the place, wherever is fine. I’m not picky.” At the foot of the stairs, she paused. “Why me?” She turned and looked up at Twilight above her. There was a sadness in the question, a despair that reminded Twilight of the look on Sonata’s face as she listened to the concerts. It was a vague question, but Twilight knew what she meant.

“Because anybody who feels as deeply as you do when you listen to music is worth getting to know,” she replied without hesitation, then paused. “And you’re really cute, too.” The words were out before she could think too hard about them.

“Oh,” Sonata said simply, smiling. It was a quiet, private kind of smile, and her eyes were unfocused. Finally it brightened into something much lighter and more cheerful. “I think you’re pretty cute too, Twilight. Your outfit’s amazing too. You’re really rocking that look.” Twilight blushed and muttered something that might have been a ‘thank you’ before following the other girl down the stairs into the alley.

“Do you enjoy Indian food?” Twilight asked. Sonata shrugged. The two of them exited the alleyway into the street.

“I haven’t eaten it in a few hundred years,” Sonata said simply. “I’m not sure I remember if I liked it or not.” Twilight glanced at the other girl as they walked side by side, but Sonata wasn’t acting like she was joking. Twilight nearly asked what she meant, but was reminded of the times she’d been a little too inquisitive about Pinkie Pie’s oddities. She managed to suppress a shiver at the memory of her poor departed lab equipment. A year ago, it might have been a red flag, but Twilight had literally been to another world, carried a magical geode that allowed her to levitate objects with her mind, and had even spent a bit of time as an otherworldly demon. Her mind and her world had opened up in ways that were fascinating and enlightening, if not always entirely comfortable. “Let’s give it a try,” Sonata continued, unaware of the internal monologue going on in Twilight’s head. “At least if it’s terrible, the company will be great.”

“Aw,” Twilight cooed, blushing. “There’s a new place, The Tasty Treat, just a block down from here. Two of my friends really recommended it, and they both have wildly different tastes.”

“Your friends, huh?” Sonata’s face darkened just a bit. “Um, Twilight, before we go much further, I hafta confess something, okay? But please don’t hate me.”

“Okay…” Twilight agreed. They walked, side by side, down the street in front of the concert hall. The concert itself was just releasing, and several finely dressed people were streaming out into the night, heading for their cars. Twilight and Sonata wove between them, and Sonata was silent as they worked their way through the dispersing crowd.

“When I first saw you, the first night, I thought you were somebody else,” Sonata admitted, as soon as they were out of earshot of the other concertgoers. Twilight nodded. She’d guessed as much. “You knew? Yeah, that makes sense. I did kinda glare at you when I first saw you. Which means, you probably know why I thought you were somebody else.”

“You ran into the other Twilight,” Twilight said softly. Sonata nodded.

“I’m from the other side originally. Like the other Twilight. And your friend Sunset,” Sonata admitted. Twilight looked at the blue skinned girl and tried to imagine her as one of the little ponies she’d seen on the other side of the portal.

“You were a pony too?” Twilight asked, and Sonata flinched. “What brought you over here?”

“Me and my sisters didn’t come willingly. We were banished here by a powerful unicorn wizard. The coward didn’t know how to handle us, so he inflicted us on this poor, magic-dead rock.” Sonata laughed, and for a moment, there was a wickedness there that frightened Twilight. “We weren’t ponies, Twilight. We were something else. Monsters, if you ask the ponies. So he banished us here, and we did what we’d always done; made our way in the world by manipulating and using people. Much like your friend Sunset. Then, just a few months ago, your friends, plus the other Twilight, shut us down. Hard.”

“Why tell me?” Twilight asked, her mouth suddenly dry.

“Because you’d find out eventually,” Sonata said. “You’re brainy. I know, cuz I’m not. And you’re nice, too. I didn’t want to mess up what could be a good thing by hiding stuff, especially when some of the videos are still up on the internet. It can be a little hard to escape your past when your worst moments are still recorded permanently on YouTube. Besides, all your friends know who I am.”

“You sound angry at them,” Twilight said. Sonata hesitated.

“I was. My sisters still are. Or, at least, I think Adagio is when she climbs out of her vodka bottle long enough to even have emotions. Aria’s definitely still angry. But me?” She shrugged. “It’s not worth it. They did what they had to do. And I have to live with the results. So I’m trying to do the best with what I have. Until this last week, that hasn’t been much.”

“Oh?” Twilight asked, and Sonata smiled.

“Let’s just say this last week has been a good one. Especially since I just got asked out by a cute girl.” She glanced nervously at Twilight. “So have I scared you away yet?”

“No,” Twilight said, thinking of her own brush with corruption. Sonata didn’t seem like the villain she was describing herself as. “I’m a firm believer in second chances. And you seem like you could use some friends.” Carefully, she reached out with her right hand, brushing her fingers against the back of Sonata’s left. Sonata looked down in surprise, before eagerly taking hold of Twilight’s hand. She locked her eyes on the sidewalk in front of her, but Twilight saw a small, sweet smile spreading across her face.

The Tasty Treat was a gorgeous splash of colors set in the greys and browns of Canterlot City’s downtown. The owners had painted and decorated the façade a nearly dizzying rainbow of oranges and reds and turquoises. The sign over the door was a silhouette off an elephant, grasping a large spoon in its trunk. Over the image in a curling font was the words, ‘The Tasty Treat’. The place looked warm and inviting, and the smells from inside wafted out into the street. Twilight could identify all of the essential smells of Indian cooking, the aromatic spices, the curry, and the roasting vegetables. The only problem was that the place was beyond busy. There was a line of people, groups and couples, that extended past the propped open door and even a few feet down the sidewalk.

“Oh jeez,” Twilight sighed. “I didn’t think that there might be a wait. We could…”

“Too late, I smelled it,” Sonata said, squeezing Twilight’s hand with a silly grin. “If it tastes half as good as it smells, it’s worth the wait.”

“Got it,” Twilight said. She felt light and giddy, and she wanted to bounce along on the sidewalk like her friend Pinkie. Before her injury, that was. “So. I want to know more about you, if that’s okay,” Twilight said as the two of them pulled into line behind the last group. “I know there’s some hard stuff there, so you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to.”

“It’s okay,” Sonata said encouragingly. “You ask whatever you want. I’m not afraid.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Twilight warned. “I’m a scientist. If you leave that door open, I’ll have to find a notebook and a pen to start taking notes.” Sonata laughed, but Twilight wasn’t really joking. “No, really. If I could, I’d ask you all about Equestria. It absolutely fascinates me.”

“Really?” Sonata asked. “It was a really long time ago since I was there last.”

“Um, how long?” Twilight asked. Sonata’s eyebrows wiggled, and she jabbed Twilight in the side with one finger.

“C’mon, Twilight. I’ve heard you humans consider it rude to ask a girl how old she is.” Twilight’s eyes widened.

“You can’t tease me like that,” she complained. “I need to know all about you. Your history, what you were on the other side of the portal.” She was trying to keep her voice down, but her eagerness was beginning to leak through. “I wasn’t kidding about being a scientist. It, uh, gets in the way of my social skills sometimes,” she finished, her voice dropping with a hint of embarrassment.

“A scientist, huh?” Sonata said, her voice light and musical. “So, Doctor Sparkle, what do you want to know? If you were writing a paper on me, what would you ask?”

“Well, I’d start by asking about what you were on the other side,” Twilight said. Sonata hummed, her eyes going distant. The line moved forward a few feet as one of the groups in front of them was seated.

“Do you know much about Greek mythology? Homer’s Odyssey?”

“Required reading freshman year at Crystal Prep,” Twilight said. “At the time, I didn’t really like the fantastic or magical elements. It felt too much like a fairy tale, and I hated literature that wasn’t grounded in reality. That was until I found myself in a fairy tale of my own. Why?”

“You remember the Sirens?”

“Evil water spirits disguised as beautiful women, using the magical power of their song to lure sailors to their death by drowning,” Twilight recited. “Odysseus wanted to experience their amazing music without drowning, so he had his crew plug their ears with wax while they tied him to the mast so he could listen safely.” Sonata nodded, and looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Do you have your phone with you?” she asked. Twilight was a little surprised by the non-sequitur, but she dug into her mini backpack and retrieved her phone. “Can I?” Sonata asked, letting go of Twilight’s hand and holding out her hand for Twilight’s phone. Twilight handed it over after unlocking it. Sonata gazed at the screen, pulling up a browser. A quick search later and she’d found a video. She handed the phone back to Twilight. “Just watch that. Then you can ask whatever you want.”

“Should I turn the sound on?” Twilight asked, and Sonata shrugged, though a look of pain floated across her face. Twilight touched the little speaker icon on her phone, turning the volume just high enough to hear, but not enough to disturb the other people waiting in line.

Twilight instantly recognized the cafeteria at Canterlot High, as seen from the lens of somebody’s phone camera. There were three girls, absolutely gorgeous with immaculate hair, clothes, and makeup that would have made Rarity green with envy. The leader was a light yellow skinned girl with insanely voluminous orange hair, spread out behind her in a perfectly fluffy cloud that somehow complimented her rock-diva outfit. The second, with her purple twin pig tails and torn sleeve vest looked confidently vicious in her punk-rock aesthetic. The third was Sonata, but a Sonata that Twilight had never met. She was made up, wearing perfect mascara and lipstick, and she wore an amazing pink miniskirt with a purple button up blouse, complete with wide lapels, that perfectly set off her eyes. It was a far cry from the ragged hoodie Twilight had seen her in before, or even the clean but faded hand-me-down outfit she was currently wearing. All three girls in the video wore a brilliant ruby pendant around their necks that sparkled with an inner fire, perhaps a bit more radiant than mere reflected light would allow for.

The three girls, with the orange haired one in the lead, stormed into the cafeteria with an impact that drew every eye. The three of them were singing gently, striding into the room with a sensuous sway to their hips that made Twilight want to blush. Their voices interweaved in a complex harmony, with Sonata and the punk girl serving as backup singers to the main act, the orange haired diva.

“Don’t worry,” Sonata interrupted softly. “The magic doesn’t work in a recording.” Twilight wanted to ask what she meant, but she felt almost hypnotized into silence by the haunting beauty of the song. She couldn’t tear her eyes away as the three girls, with a snake-like grace that defied explanation, danced and sang their way into the cafeteria until every single eye was on them. It took Twilight far too long to recognize the sinister nature of the song, the subtle, manipulative lyrics as the three singers slowly and gradually turned the students of the school against each other. This wasn’t the unified, welcoming, inviting Canterlot High she was used to; this was a hornet’s nest. Suddenly Twilight’s awe and admiration were replaced by a sense of horror as she watched her friends from school turn against each other.

“You know, your little group was immune. Sunset and the others. We came so close, but we never fully beat them,” Sonata said when the video ended.

“What… happened there?” Twilight said. The song had been amazing, but nothing to justify the vitriol and fury that the students were showing towards each other. The friendly competitive spirit of the school she was used to had been replaced with a nearly violent fervor, and the students looked like they had wanted to tear each other apart.

“My sisters and I happened. I’m a Siren, Twilight. Or rather, I was. I think I’m just a normal human girl now.” Her voice was low. “We fed off of human emotion, Twilight. The dark, mean ones. Hatred, jealousy, bitterness. That was fine dining. And the angrier and meaner people got, the more power over them we had. So we used our magic to stir up hatred and anger, and then fed. When we found out somebody had brought Equestrian magic into this world, Adagio, my oldest sister and our leader, decided it was our chance to amass more power than we’d ever had since being banished here by Starswirl the Bearded.”

“How did it end?” Twilight whispered, immediately wishing she hadn’t. Sonata looked away, folding her arms around herself. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have…”

“We got what we wanted,” Sonata interrupted. “A battle of the bands. But your friends, and Princess Twilight, beat us at our own game. Our magical gems broke, we lost our power and our voices, and became normal teenaged girls.”

“You were Sirens?” Twilight breathed, turning off the sound on her phone and restarting the video. There was a wealth of information there, but Sonata had seemed uncomfortable with the audio. “So Sirens didn’t really hang out in oceans luring sailors to their death?”

“Nah,” Sonata said. “That was just the legend they wrote about us. Or maybe it was around before us, I don’t really know. We’ve been around a very long time, Twilight. So long I lost count. I guess that’s over now.” She didn’t seem sad at that, merely resigned.

“You’re mortal now?” Twilight guessed, and Sonata shrugged.

“I think so. I don’t know. I asked my therapist what it felt like to be constantly aging. He kinda thought that was funny, but didn’t really have an answer.” Sonata seemed to realize what she’d just admitted, then glanced fearfully at Twilight. “Um, I see a therapist. Is that okay?”

“As a culture, we humans have made great strides in the last few decades in the de-stigmatization of mental health problems,” Twilight said thoughtfully. “We’ve gotten to the point where we now realize it takes courage and strength to recognize when one needs help, and seek it out.” She looked at Sonata. “I had to talk to somebody myself, after I experienced a trauma.”

“Can I ask?” Sonata said softly. Twilight nodded. The line moved forward up to the door, and the two of them stepped into a heated foyer. The room was small, with a desk for the host and a pair of benches covered in bright orange cushions for those still waiting for a table.

“Welcome to the Tasty Treat!” the host called out to them as they slipped inside. He was a jolly looking man, with a musical voice and an accent. His skin was slightly yellow, and he wore a large bushy brown moustache that somehow perfectly fit his wide face. He appeared cheerful but harried. “I am sorry, but the wait will be probably twenty minutes from here.”

“That’s fine,” Twilight said, though she was upset at the wait. Their conversation would have to be put on hold as well; the confines of the foyer were probably too close for an intimate conversation about magic, monsters, and another reality. There were a few other people seated on the benches. “My friends who recommended this place said it would be worth it.”

“Oh, so you must be the Twilight Sparkle I have a reservation for!” the man replied with excitement. “I received the strangest call from my dear friend Pinkie Pie just an hour ago. She made a reservation for two, under that name.”

“Um, wha?” Twilight managed. Sonata giggled. “Er, yes, that’s me.” She turned and whispered to Sonata. “I didn’t know Pinkie was making a reservation. I wasn’t even sure we’d end up here.”

“Pinkie Pie sometimes knows the future,” Sonata said, and Twilight nodded, wondering herself how Sonata had enough experience on the subject so speak so confidently.

“Come this way, ladies. We have a table ready for you. I am Coriander Cumin, your host and waiter. My daughter is the chef tonight, and we are honored to be serving you.” He motioned further inside the restaurant, and the two girls followed behind. “Any friends of Pinkie and Rarity are friends of mine. They saved my business, after all. You’ll have to get them to tell you the story sometime.”

The interior of the restaurant was just as colorful as the outside, with walls and chairs all decorated in the same bright motif. The tables were stained polished wood, beautiful and natural in color. It was packed with diners, who made a cheerful cacophony as they clearly enjoyed their food. The smell of spices filled the room. In a spontaneous bit of chivalry, Twilight even stepped over and pulled Sonata’s chair out for her, which made the girl giggle. Twilight decided that she really liked Sonata’s laugh.

“Here are your menus, Miss Sparkle and Miss…”

“Sonata Dusk,” Sonata said.

“And Miss Dusk. I will be by to take your orders or answer any questions in just a moment.” Twilight wondered just how Coriander Cumin managed; it was a small restaurant with only eight tables, but he appeared to be the only host and waiter. Despite his size, however, he maneuvered gracefully between the tables and diners. His open, friendly demeanor brightened the room and the smiles of everybody he passed by.

“I can see why Pinkie likes this place,” Twilight said. “It seems like the owner is just like her, in some ways.”

“I like it,” Sonata said. “We owe Pinkie for calling ahead.” Twilight watched her; she seemed to be comfortable and happy. “So…”

“Yeah,” Twilight said. “I don’t want to weigh down the conversation with too much negative stuff, but I also spent some time as a bad guy and had to be shut down hard by Sunset and my friends.”

“Really?” Sonata gasped. “This world’s Twilight Sparkle was a bad guy?”

“Yes,” Twilight cringed. “I have a bad habit of becoming obsessed sometimes. I decide I want to know something, or learn about something, and everything else just kind of disappears. Personal relationships, morals, logic, social activities, sometimes even eating and drinking. When I first met Sunset and the other girls, I had just invented a device that could detect magic, though I didn’t know that’s what it was doing. I nearly killed myself and most of my school, and Canterlot High, trying to learn more about this strange new energy source I was detecting. When it was all over, I’d turned into a demon thing, and Sunset had to use magic to turn me back. That’s why I have no problem with people who need second chances. Or with people who need to talk to somebody about bad stuff that’s happened to them.” She reached out and grabbed Sonata’s hands in her own, their menus forgotten for a moment. “Even if we don’t end up dating again after this, I want to be friends with you, okay?”

“Okay,” Sonata said, her face reddening a bit. “But I think we should definitely consider a second date. For sure.”

“Okay,” Twilight agreed. “Um, we should probably actually look at the menu.”

Both girls laughed, and they picked up the plastic laminated sheets. There were no colorful pictures on the menu, just a list of dishes that Sonata was clearly confused about. Twilight wasn’t super experienced with Indian cuisine, but she knew enough to read the menu and explain to Sonata what each of the dishes were. Finally the blue-haired girl just shrugged with a bit of frustration and suggested that Twilight order for the both of them. Finally Coriander Cumin returned, with the same harried-yet-cheerful expression on his face, and asked what they would like to eat.

“Um, we’d like an order of rajma, and an order of malai kofta,” Twilight said, barely struggling over the foreign words. “And maybe two masala chai to drink?” Coriander Cumin complimented their choices as he scribbled them down on his ticket pad, before disappearing past the swinging metal door into the kitchen. She looked back at Sonata. “I don’t know which one you’ll like, but they both looked good to me, so when they show up you can pick whichever one looks better to you, okay?”

“Or we can just eat off of each other’s plates,” Sonata said, her voice low and silky. She leaned across the table as she said it, her eyes lidded, and Twilight felt her face heat up. “Maybe I’ll even feed you.” Twilight was reasonably sure she let out a little squeak before Sonata couldn’t hold it any more, falling back into her seat with a laugh. “Oh, you’re fun to tease, Twilight Sparkle,” she said with a warm smile while Twilight grumbled at her.

“Yeah, okay,” Twilight waved her off with a hand. “I do kinda want to try both dishes before. My mom does some Indian cooking, but mostly the basic stuff like butter chicken or curries. I wanted to branch out a bit.” She paused. “What do you usually like to eat?”

“Um, whatever I can get ahold of, really. I mostly just like tacos.”

“Oh. You should have said something. We could have found a Mexican place,” Twilight said. She was trying, really hard, not to let her tendency to give reign to her anxieties and overthink everything. Sonata was already shaking her head.

“No, don’t worry about it. This will be just fine,” Sonata reassured. “Next time, I’ll take you to my favorite taco place, okay? It’s not as nice as this place, though.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Twilight was blushing. She wasn’t completely socially inept, only mostly. Between sneaking into concerts and the state of the other girl’s clean but threadbare clothing, Twilight was already starting to get the idea that Sonata might be a bit resource poor.

“It’s only fair. You took me out tonight, so I should take you out next time.”

“Next week, maybe?” Twilight asked hopefully. “My season pass comes with two guest tickets for every performance. You can come listen to the concert legally, rather than sneaking in.”

“I…” Sonata began, then took a deep breath. Her eyes were wet; Twilight couldn’t quite figure out just what she’d said. “I’d really like that,” she finished in a whisper.

The moment was interrupted by Coriander Cumin, who arrived with two steaming plates of food and two steaming mugs of milky tea. For a moment, their conversation went on hold as the two of them sampled the food. True to her teasing threat, Sonata did try to feed Twilight from her own fork, but after a blushing refusal, the two of them simply ended up splitting both dishes between them, with half on each plate so they could try the cuisine. It was phenomenal.

“How was everything tonight?” Coriander Cumin asked when he returned to check on them.

“This is incredible,” Sonata answered for the both of them. “Spicy and sweet at the same time. I love it, thank you.” She said the last both to the host and to Twilight, who’d been caught with a mouth full. Rather than speak, she gave the large man a sheepish thumbs up. He gave them both a pleased smile before retreating to the kitchen.

“So can I ask you about music?” Twilight asked carefully into the silence that descended after the host had left. Sonata nodded, her face somber. “What’s your favorite kind of music?” Sonata looked surprised; she’d probably expected a question about the magical songs she’d sung as a Siren.

“Um, all kinds, really. Music is everything for me. It’s my life. I lived and breathed music once, when I could sing,” there was a depth of sadness and loss in her voice, but she brightened. “The next best thing is live performances. I find any I can.”

“Or any you can sneak into,” Twilight added.

“Well, not any more, if I get to go with you,” Sonata quipped. It was interesting that she didn’t show any hint of guilt or shame over having trespassed before. Twilight decided not to say anything.

“But isn’t there one song, one kind of music, more than anything else, that you really resonate with?” Twilight asked. “One composer, one genre?”

“What about you?” Sonata countered.

“That’s easy. Classical,” Twilight said. “Classical music is math.”

“Math?” Sonata asked, confused. Twilight made a frustrated noise.

“I’m bad at explaining this. So I’m kinda socially awkward, right?”

“I didn’t really notice,” Sonata said, her voice sincere. “You came right up to me and asked me out with like, zero hesitation.”

“That’s different,” Twilight said, embarrassed. “I’m goal-oriented. When I decide I want something, nothing can stop me. Sometimes not even good sense. If I apply that to social situations, like asking out a cute girl, I can accomplish the goal in the clumsiest, most ridiculous fashion possible.”

“I wouldn’t call it clumsy,” Sonata said thoughtfully. “More, cute and determined.”

“Those things aren’t mutually exclusive,” Twilight said. “It can be all three things.”

“So you admit you’re cute,” Sonata said, her voice triumphant. Twilight rolled her eyes. “So explain it to me. Why is music math?”

“Well, there’s how it’s written. Written music is fractions and numbers, intervals and slopes. Then you get into the science of sound, of wavelengths and frequencies. It’s all absolutely fascinating.” Twilight kept her description vague, knowing that she had a tendency to get lost in minutiae and completely lose other people. “But somehow, all that math, all those numbers, mixed together in exactly the right way, produce an emotional response in people. Like you at every concert. Music is just math, but it makes people love and hate, it makes people dance and cry. It’s like the perfect place where logic and emotion meet, where dispassionate science meets art and poetry.” She tried not to sound frustrated. It was always difficult for her to articulate unquantifiable values like emotion, romance, and poetry. “Calling it ‘classical’ music is really a misnomer; most people refer to classical music as anything older than a century or so. But the great composers; people like Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Vivaldi, they, uh, speak to me. Reach me in ways I can’t put words to. I find it both accessible and utterly frustratingly incomprehensible, and that paradox is irresistible to me.”

“I get it,” Sonata said earnestly. “I really do. I mean, not the math stuff. That makes no sense at all. But the other stuff, yeah. I think...” she trailed off, her eyes unfocused. “I think I took it for granted. When my music was magical. When I could sing. I didn’t realize what I had.”

“You can’t sing anymore?” Twilight asked, aching at the heartbroken tone Sonata was using.

“Not since your friends broke our amulets, yeah. Singing is how we did what we did. And now…” Sonata trailed off, looking down at her mostly empty plate. Her eyes were full of tears.

“I’m sorry I brought it up,” Twilight said. She’d seen the video. She knew her friends, loved her friends, and trusted her friends. Whatever they’d done, she was sure they’d had no other choice. But that didn’t meant there wasn’t pieces to pick up afterwards. “When I fell… when I turned, somebody was there to pick me up. I’m sorry nobody did that for you.” Sonata snorted.

“We didn’t give anybody a chance,” Sonata said. “We just ran. Back then, Adagio was still in charge. She was gonna find a way to get our power back, to get revenge. It didn’t take her long to give up.” She shook herself, then met Twilight’s eyes again with a smile that only seemed partially forced. “Sorry. I’m being kind of a downer.”

“No, I asked to get to know you,” Twilight said, while trying to make her smile warm and encouraging. “I know I said it already, but anybody that feels that deeply about music is worth getting to know.” They went silent again, though Twilight didn’t feel awkward in this silence.

“Cartoon music,” Sonata said suddenly, and Twilight stared blankly, completely taken by surprise by the seemingly random response. “That’s one of my very favorites. I mean the stuff you’d hear in the really old cartoons, like the one with the mouse driving the steamboat. There’s a lot of classical and jazz stuff, but some of its original too.” She paused, thoughtfully. “I snuck into some of the studios to watch them compose, watch them perfect the timing of the notes and the sounds. They had no idea I was there, of course,” Sonata laughed. “Hypnotic magic came in handy. But it was a different kind of magic that those people made. There’s something wonderful about the way they made music to tell a story, and have that story be so full of joy.” Sonata sighed. “I thought right then that there was no way I could ever make music like that. It was something beautiful and wonderful, and my music was only made to use and tear apart.” Sonata sniffed, then glanced apologetically at Twilight. “I’m being a downer again, sorry.”

“Stop that,” Twilight insisted. “Don’t talk down on yourself, okay? I don’t like to hear it.” Flashbacks of her time at Crystal Prep, images and sounds of a thousand subtle insults, a hundred ‘accidental’ bumps in the hallway, books shoved out of hands. Self-esteem was a touchy subject for her after years of bullying. Sonata looked at her curiously, and Twilight was suddenly self-conscious. Had she come off too strong? Maybe a little too possessive? She felt a wave of relief when she saw Sonata’s smile.

“I’ll try,” the other girl said. Sonata opened her mouth to say something else, when they were interrupted by a gentle feminine voice clearing her throat. They looked up. Standing there was a beautiful young woman with fabulous brown hair and a skin tone nearly identical to their host. She was probably only a few years older than Twilight, and her brilliant purple eyes sparkled with cheer. She was wearing a white apron dusted with the evidence of the busy dinner service she’d just been cooking. She carried with her a small plate filled with some sort of fried pastry.

“I am sorry to interrupt, ladies,” she said, in the same musical accent as Coriander Cumin. “I am Saffron Masala, the chef here at the Tasty Treat. My father told me we had friends of Pinkie and Rarity dining with us tonight, so I had to come out and say hello, and bring you some on-the-house dessert.”

“Oh, no, we couldn’t possibly accept…” Twilight began, but Saffron was ready for her denials, plopping the plate down in front of the two of them so they could catch the aroma of the food.

“It’s only good business sense,” the chef interrupted. “Once you try my Gulab Jamun, you’ll be a regular customer for life. It is a small price to pay for some ingredients. Go on, eat. My father will be by in a bit to check on you again. Do you need more tea?” Both girls shook their heads, and the stunning young chef retreated back into her kitchen.

“I feel a little bad to get stuff for free,” Twilight said, reaching hesitantly for one of the fried dessert pastries.

“Mmf,” Sonata said, and Twilight looked up. The other girl had already shoved one of them into her mouth while Twilight had been looking at the chef, and her expression managed to be both chagrinned and rapturous. Twilight giggled at the image of the other girl’s stuffed cheeks as she selected her own dessert and took a bite. It was simple and sweet, though she could taste the saffron that had been infused into the dough. It was a perfect end to the meal. Twilight felt no more hesitation as she and Sonata split the rest of the treat between them, devouring the delicious dessert.

“So, if you can’t sing, could you at least play instruments?” Twilight asked cautiously.

“Never learned to read music,” Sonata said neutrally. “Singing was always just a natural thing I was born with. As easy as breathing, or moving your fingers. Now, that part of me’s been amputated.”

“Do you think you could learn?” Twilight asked, the beginning of an idea forming in her head.

“Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve never tried,” Sonata said.

“I could teach you,” Twilight offered. “I’m no expert, but musical training was a requirement at the school I was going to. If you want. I don’t want to…”

“Can you teach me?” Sonata interrupted her. “To make music again? Please?” Her voice was full of hope and heartbreak.

“It would be my pleasure, Sonata,” Twilight breathed. Sonata’s eyes were wet, and she scooted her chair around so that she was sitting right next to Twilight. Gently she reached out and touched Twilight’s cheek with one hand. Without any warning, the crying girl leaned in and kissed Twilight, gently, on the cheek.

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