• Published 10th Jul 2020
  • 1,087 Views, 147 Comments

Three-act Play - Dave Bryant

Wallflower Blush didn’t show up for graduation. Sunset Shimmer is worried—but luckily she knows just the person to consult about it. If Rose Brass can’t help, no one can. • A Twin Canterlots story

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“Hey, Wallflower.” Sunset stood in the ICU doorway, wearing the same cheerful dress in which she’d started her vigil four nights ago, along with a fragile smile pasted over gnawing worry. “So, uh . . .”

A passing nurse in scrubs murmured, not unkindly, “In or out, please. You’re not a cat who can’t decide—”

“Oh! Sorry.” The visitor literally skipped forward a step, startled and embarrassed, before shuffling farther from the door. She paused more or less in the middle of the room and shifted from foot to foot. “. . . Anyway, yeah, the doctor told me they don’t know whether you’re able to say anything right now, but they’re pretty sure you can hear me, and Even Keel said talking would help.”

Wallflower didn’t move; only her half-lidded eyes indicated she was conscious at all. Still, there was a hint of animation to her features, almost subliminal.

“Oh, right.” Sunset didn’t quite smack her forehead. “Even Keel’s gonna be your personal counselor at the clinic, once you’re in good enough shape to go over there. From what they told me, that’ll be a couple of weeks, maybe a little more.”

Silence fell again with a metaphorical thump.

“Right now I’m just glad you’re—you’re doing better.” Sunset changed course at the last instant; Wallflower definitely was not “okay” by any definition. “I was so worried the last few days. I . . . had a lotta time to think about everything that happened, and everything I did. And, I guess, everything I didn’t do.” She couldn’t keep still. As if her saltwater sandals were seven-league boots, she started to pace.

“I’m really sorry about the plants, and the window, and not being more careful. Rose warned me, but I was so stupid I just didn’t think about it.” Pent-up relief, remorse, guilt spilled forth in words she hardly listened to herself until, with another shaky breath, she managed to drag her mouth, if not her feet, back under control.

“But now—now I’ll do whatever it takes,” she vowed through clenched teeth as she turned for another lap across the tiny room. “Once we’re at the clinic, I’m gonna help any way I can.” With honest enthusiasm she described the idea Rose had proposed, Even Keel had endorsed, and she had accepted almost before they had finished laying it out. “I’ll be there with you the whole time. I’ll do anything and everything, no matter what, and we’ll get through this together. You’re gonna be okay, I promise.”

That’s when another voice croaked, “No I won’t.”

One of the rides at Equestria World rotated a long boom like a propellor, with a car at each end that also swiveled freely. It looked simple enough—but none of the girls, even Rainbow Dash, had been willing to ride it twice. Sunset felt as if she’d been stuck on that ride since the day she’d asked Rose’s help.

Tonight she listened to soft, regular breathing from the other bed and spared a flash of envy for the social worker’s ability to switch off like a light, apparently at will. Instead she lay on her back and stared up at the hotel room’s high cottage-cheese ceiling, barely visible to her dark-adjusted eyes. No sooner had she gotten used to flipping her sleep schedule than things changed again, and now she was struggling to flip it back.

It wasn’t just that, though. She no longer trembled from anger and adrenalin, but she remained wired enough for sleep to elude her. With a sigh she rolled onto her side, shifting a little to settle the inevitable wrinkles and twists in her favorite mulberry pajamas—the ones Rarity had embroidered her mark on—and resolutely closed her eyes.

Wallflower could have spoken up any time. She could have spared Sunset the worry of wondering whether she was able to hear and understand anything going on around her. She could have stopped Sunset from babbling like an idiot. When she finally did answer with what were, as far as Sunset knew, her first words since the night before it all fell apart, they were completely the opposite of that parting encouragement, and even worse than her alarming silence.

Sunset had succeeded in rousing Wallflower to a reaction. It just was the wrong one.

She’d tried to be optimistic and supportive. In return she’d been stonewalled, left floundering when Wallflower’s roughened voice had offered nothing—not even acknowledgement Sunset over the past few days had spent all the time she could in the ICU—other than direct answers in the shortest and most unhelpful sentences possible. Rose might have known what to do. Even Keel definitely would have. Friendship magic couldn’t make up for the training they had and she didn’t.

No, all she could do was break a promise and break her heart finding out Wallflower thought she would be grateful if her friend died. Why would Wallflower think Sunset would be so heartless?

After all, nobody would even care if you just disappeared.

Yeah, that was why. Sunset wriggled onto her other side, eyes still squeezed shut, with a rustle of sheets and blankets.

From the start of this whole mess Sunset had tried so hard to help, and to find help from others, only for Wallflower literally to throw it all out the window. She wanted to scream, to rant at the top of her lungs until she was red in the face, but the last time rage had driven her to say something unkind to Wallflower, it had led to . . . this.

The horrifying realization was dawning just how much power to destroy anger had—how much power to destroy her anger had. She was so good at hurting others out of fury, not at all a talent to be proud of. Defying and then running out on Princess Celestia had been only the start, hadn’t it?

How had Sunset not noticed her mentor’s brief expression of pain and dismay when last they met, before her sixteen-year-old self had fled through the portal? The patient, ageless face hovered in her mind’s eye, disappointment clear in the gentle gaze, and her pique shriveled under the wise magenta eyes, leaving behind a leaden dejection.

She wished Wallflower were more willing to talk, but after days with a tube in the throat, it probably was physically painful to do so; Wallflower’s voice sounded terrible, dry and cracked. She wished she could bring the past out into the open, so she could apologize for what she said to Wallflower those years ago, but that would bring her broken promise with it. Wallflower might never trust her again, might shut her out and actively fight any further help she tried to give.

And when all was said and done, the foremost focus of her life right now was to help her friend through this. She took a deep breath, released it slowly, and settled onto her back again.

With a click, sudden light leaked through her closed eyelids, and a tired voice rasped, “You wanna talk about it?”

By now the route was burned into Sunset’s memory. She couldn’t navigate anywhere else in the hospital building’s mouse-maze, but she was sure she could get to Wallflower’s ICU in her sleep. She’d walked to or from it . . . how many times now? Not hundreds, that was ridiculous, but it certainly felt that way. And today she practically was finding her way in her sleep, what with spending half the previous night tossing and turning or unburdening herself to a patient—if wearily irritated—Rose, organizing her swarming thoughts into something more than a nebulous cloud of “bad”.

At least this morning when she got dressed she’d managed not to put on her jeans and top backward or something equally humiliating.

She drew a deep breath in through her nose. Enough of that. It was time to let go her anger from the day before. Time to be positive, be hopeful, be helpful.

She blinked heavy eyelids upon spotting Even Keel, in yet another pantsuit, stepping out of the doorway toward which she was headed. A moment later they saw her as well. Their stride became purposeful as they beelined toward her, not that the corridor’s limited width allowed much choice about it.

As soon as Keel got close enough Sunset asked in a hushed voice, “How is she?”

Keel stopped in their tracks, but then a lot of their movements came off a bit abrupt. They paused for thought before offering a guarded, low-voiced “We’ll have a lot of work to do.”

Sunset searched their bland expression for clues, but found none. Maybe because she’d been spending so much time with Rose, the stray thought popped into her head that Keel probably would do well at poker. “Uh, okay.” After a brief rummage she dredged up, “This’s the first time you talked to her, right?”

A single nod answered. There was another awkward pause, then Keel appeared to take pity on her and expanded with, “Yes, it was our first consultation. I learned a great deal, and now that I’ve had a chance to talk to her, I’d like to sit down with you as well to go over everything that’ll be involved. Not right now, of course, but soon would be best.”

“S-sure.” Nothing in Keel’s tone or posture seemed overtly ominous, but Sunset couldn’t shake a slight sinking feeling as the two of them arranged an afternoon meeting in the hotel room, for the privacy that would afford such a sensitive discussion.

At length Keel flicked a glance over her shoulder. “I shouldn’t keep you any longer, Ms. Shimmer, and we’re blocking traffic. I’ll see you then.” They detoured around her and headed down the hall.

Sunset turned her head, and in the corner of her eye glimpsed a couple of nurses trundling more caster-equipped electronic cabinets in her direction. With alacrity she scurried ahead of them to her destination and, a bit flustered, popped through the door into the now-familiar little room where Wallflower lay. “Wallflower! Hi.”

It could have been minutes, not hours, since she last saw the limp girl on the bed. Wallflower didn’t seem to have moved a muscle in the mean time, though Sunset knew that couldn’t be true. She pressed on. “I just saw Even Keel. They told me they talked to you. How’d that go?” There was no answer. “I’ll be meeting with them later too, since we’ll be going to the clinic together.” She strove for a brisk, businesslike tone; the information was genuinely important, something Wallflower deserved to know.

The lure of curiosity didn’t work either. Sunset pressed her lips together and tried to press away a flare of temper before pleading, “Please talk to me, Wallflower.” A bizarrely appropriate comparison sprang to mind. Some months back her tower computer had gotten balky with a maddeningly elusive fault; only consultation with a Twilight full of technobabble had solved the problem. “I can’t stand seeing you just—just shut down like this.”

“Then you shoulda let me die.”

Gritting her teeth helped Sunset not to snap something rash, like pointing out it was Rose, not she, who had saved Wallflower’s life on the halfway house’s lawn. When she could unlock her jaw, she asked in as even a tone as she could manage, “So how are you feeling?”

This time she got a grunt. Was that progress? At any rate, it was a legitimate question; if she was going to help as Wallflower’s attendant, she really did need to know where Wallflower was physically. She remembered what the nurse told her and Rose before the first time they’d walked into this room, that the patient needed to be awake before the medical staff could figure out how badly she’d been affected by her injuries.

. . . How badly had Wallflower been affected? Sudden fear gripped Sunset by the throat and the bottom fell out of her stomach. She hadn’t allowed herself to dwell on just how bad it could be, but a sudden realization bubbled up from the place deep down where she’d tried to hide it away.

Wallflower might not be moving because she couldn’t. Sunset swallowed and cleared her throat. “Well—how do your legs feel?”

“They don’t.”

Sunset couldn’t breathe. Her mouth flapped uselessly; tears blinded her. Something horrible happened to her friend, and it was her fault, but that wasn’t the worst of it. No, even more frightening was that Wallflower didn’t seem to care.

What was she gonna do?

Author's Note:

Acedia (noun, uncountable)

  1. Spiritual or mental sloth.
  2. Apathy; a lack of care or interest; indifference.

As I understand it, a lot of folks in the military learn how to sleep whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself—and to wake up in reaction to unexpected stimuli. Rose has mastered the trick to the point it’s second nature, but hasn’t thought to explain it to Sunset, for whom it’s a baffling mystery.