• Published 23rd Feb 2021
  • 1,851 Views, 135 Comments

Lunatic Fringe - kudzuhaiku



Luna becomes the Princess of Detention. It's not because she was naughty.

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Wednesday Waterkey

The last time that Luna had stood in her sister's shadow, things turned out all kinds of wrong. She had slept poorly, plagued by dreams that might have been nightmares. Or maybe The Nightmare. She couldn't quite remember and wasn't sure if she wanted to. Overcast's words haunted her and now she fell victim to her own insecurity. What was it that Celestia was doing? Why do this? Was this done with ill-intentions? It was so terribly easy to believe that it was.

But a part of Luna wanted to believe that her sister had good intentions.

Both of them had changed. Celestia was not the same pony that she was a thousand years ago, and neither was Luna. Grass rustled underhoof as she paced to and fro, and some of the guardsponies cast worried glances in her direction when they thought she wasn't looking, or wouldn't notice. What were they thinking, seeing her in this frantic, manic state? Did they worry that she might turn? Did they fear for their lives? Would some of them go and report her erratic behaviour to Celestia? Anything was possible.

Was it possible that Celestia resented her return? Luna considered this as a very real possibility. Now Celestia had to share the spotlight. Was this craven act a means to diminish her? To drive her back into the darkness so that she might be banished again? A part of Luna didn't want to believe this, but she couldn't push the thought from her mind. It was so easy to be suspicious of the atrocious ulteriour motives of others when every night one saw the absolute worst in ponies—and it was astonishingly hard to believe in good intentions.

It felt as though it was tearing her apart.

Overcast was correct; ponies were two-faced. Whatever the little ponies might believe, Celestia was a pony. And a duplicitous one at that. Of course, circumstance necessitated a certain level of treacle-tongued treachery. Sometimes one had to lie by omission—or just outright lie. A dozen lies or half-truths might pass through a monarch's lips before lunch. The job required it. Celestia was good at ruling, and had a thousand years to practice it. She told little lies with ease. Flattering fiblets. Polite half-truths. She might tell a mare that her dress was fabulous for the sake of diplomacy, or kindness, when in truth the garment was a tacky eyesore, a felonious crime against good taste. Such lies were commonplace and allowed society to continue to exist.

When she happened upon the reflecting pool, she looked down at her own reflection, which in turn looked up at her. Would she see it? Sometimes she did. Not herself… but her. She never went away. Sometimes, she popped out of mirrors. Other times, she was a pair of eyes glowing in the dark. Occasionally, she was maniacal laughter with no conceivable source. But not now. Not today. At the moment, Luna only saw herself and was thankful to see her own reflection. There was no horror lurking in the sunshine, only pollen, butterflies, and bees.

"Are you feeling a little blue?" she asked of her reflection in a hushed whisper. "You sure look it. That's fine. Sometimes a pony is a whole lot blue… just like you. Just like me." She saw koi surfacing in the water, and her reflection rippled around them. Somehow, the Luna in the pond didn't seem convinced. Was this something she should be doing? This worry gave her pause. A thousand years ago, when the loneliness ached too much, she had long conversations with her reflection.

Until one day, when her reflection had something to say in return.

Luna shivered and backed away from the reflecting pool.

Of course, she could just go and talk to her sister. That would be the sane thing to do. But doing so would reveal that she was having crazy-thoughts again and that was the last thing she wanted. Celestia would worry; a worried Celestia was a clingy Celestia, and that was just too much to bear. Her sister would cluck her tongue in that annoying way, which was just too galling to deal with right now. Of course, if her sister's plans were truly nefarious, going to her and trying to talk would only reveal that the malevolent plan was working. Could Luna afford to divulge that she was cracking under pressure?

Luna was forced to close her eyes so that she might clear her head.

Self-loathing warmed her flesh while also causing chilly goose-prickles. She had to endure. It was the only way to get better. More than anything else, she wanted to get better. To recover. Not for anypony else's benefit but her own. This was something she had to do for herself, and deep down, she knew she was worth it. She was just having a rough spot. It would pass. Surely it would pass.

Perhaps it was time to place herself into detention.


Luna's hooves had barely even touched the floor when the full weight of her anxiety struck. It bowed her neck, caused her legs to wobble, and the sudden constriction in her barrel made it next to impossible to draw breath. It washed over her like a festering tide, festooning her with the seaweed of shamefacedness and the kelp of culpability. The sensation was so strong that it made her skin crawl in reaction to the illusion of sliminess and she risked drowning in the tidal pool of turpitude.

But just as tides came in, they also went out, and Luna knew that better than anypony.

Perhaps she should have ate something—but it felt too early for that. It was too late now. She had her duties and would have to endure. The room was exactly as she had left it; the chair was even askew, not quite pushed in nor straightened. She trotted around the room on cramped legs and returned to where she'd started several times. It felt good to move, to be free, to have unbridled physicality once again. Even the awful parts still had their appeal; aches, pain, hunger, being too hot or too cold, all of these things were missed when one had no body to speak of.

Having the hiccups once again had been quite an experience, one she had savoured.

What if nopony showed up today? Would it feel like rejection? How awful was it that she wanted students to have detention, just so that she might stave off loneliness? Acknowledging that she was in a weird place, she pulled herself together. She had to be at her best. What if another student needed help? Was it her place to help them? Just what did punishing them accomplish anyhow, and how did that deal with the root of the issue? As the Princess of Detention, surely she had free reign—surely she had total autonomy—to act in the manner she thought most prudent.

She found the notion empowering and somehow felt better.


Again the chair tickled Luna but this time it made her grumpy. She did not wish to be tickled. Truth be told, she had no idea what she wanted, no clue as to what might make her feel better. Even the banana candies in the drawer held no appeal. Why did she like them, anyway? They didn't even taste like bananas. What they tasted like was a mystery even to her. Just what sort of pony liked mystery flavoured candies? Why did she enjoy what she did not recognise?

Quite without warning, she went numb. Oh, the chair still tickled her, and she could feel the weight of her body pushing down into the overstuffed cushion. What was missing was her tumultuous torrent of emotions. It was gone. She felt nothing. Nothing at all. While she wanted to feel relieved about this strange occurance, she felt rather panicked, all things considered. But she had no time to give herself a good sorting out, because there were hooves on the stairs.

When she saw Overcast's face in the doorway, she felt nothing. Not even surprise. Of course he was here. Just as the day before, he was sweaty, disheveled, and out of breath. He lugged his bookbag with him, and if it were any lower to the ground it would drag behind him. Also, he carried a long black case covered in peeling stickers, which struck Luna as more than a little odd because it appeared entirely too feminine. Who was she to judge? A filly entered just after him, and Luna wanted to be irked that he had not offered to allow the curly-headed girly to pass through the door first. But the wellspring of emotion had gone dry and Luna could not muster up even a vague sense of mild annoyance.

Then, the curly explosion came into full view.

She struggled to even walk; no wonder she lagged behind. All four of her legs were covered in what had to be the most ornate and complex set of braces that Luna had ever seen. Struts of brass. Strips of canvas. Articulated joints. Screws. Wingnuts. Her legs were completely devoured by hardware. Every step seemed as though it took tremendous effort. How had she even made it up the stairs?

She was curly-headed, flaxen-maned, and a pale off-white that was almost cream but the fashion-minded might call ecru. What a riotous mess of curls she had; they reminded Luna of Pinkie Pie, of Ponyville. They went everywhere, in every direction, and completely swallowed the filly's ears. The little unicorn stopped, grimaced, winced, and then gave herself a dainty shake—as dainty as one could be when one's legs were completely swallowed up by metal.

"Thank you for carrying my trumpet," she said to Overcast.

Lips pursed, Luna was still miffed that the colt came through the door first.

Why? She didn't need a reason why.

"It's pinchy," the filly announced. "Ooo-ooo-ooh!"

Then, as if by some terrible magic, the filly noticed Luna sitting behind the desk. Little by little, her eyes widened, until they were as large as saucers, and then she froze. Before Luna could respond, Overcast was already snorting with disgust and he stomped his hoof against the stone floor. But the filly did not respond; she was far too frightened to do anything but just stand there. The metal of her leg braces clattered and clanked as she began to tremble.

"Oh, please." Overcast had to raise his voice to be heard over the sounds of clanging metal and chattering teeth. "She's just sitting there. There's nothing scary about her." Then, after a few moments that felt far too long, he added, "You're being really stupid right now, you know."

"Thank you, Overcast. That is enough. You may go sit down."

But the colt did not sit down. No, he stood there eyeballing the frightened filly with a sneer of sarcastic contempt. Luna wanted to scold him, to rebuke him, to command him to go sit down—but for some reason she could not. Something about his actions comforted her, reassured her, and made her feel better. Which was wrong. So terribly wrong. Yet, Luna was compelled to indulge in it for just a little longer.

The sardonic sneer softened and became something else. Still harsh, perhaps, but the hard sarcasm departed. Overcast's face contorted for a time, going through a variety of changes as he fought to control his own breathing. His ears rose, fell, rose again, and then splayed out sideways. He started to speak, but didn't, and then started tugging at the strap of his bookbag around his neck so that he might free himself.

As he disentangled himself, he said, "If you just give her a chance, she can help you. She helped me. Today I got detention on purpose just so I could come back. There's nothing to be afraid of."

Eyes rolling, an explosive snort shot out of both of Luna's nostrils, which caused the ceiling overhead to shudder. She wanted to scream, to shout, to make the colt's ears ring with the sound of her voice. Not out of anger, perhaps, but possibly exasperation. Detention on purpose? What was he thinking? Did he not understand the danger of a permanent record and having the reputation of a ne'er-do-well? Had he made a career choice of rapscallionry? And yet, she was touched that he'd come to her defense. That his efforts seemed sincere. And was that possibly kindness he had shown for the terrified filly?

She wanted to praise him and toss him out of a window in equal measure.

Uncertain, she did nothing; no praise would be given, but the window would remain an option for the foreseeable future. Her jaw cramped ferociously and she realised that her teeth were clenched together. All of her efforts to relax failed her and she remained in what could only be called a snit. Overcast had done this to her and she vowed to return the favour. But that would have to happen later. For now, there was a filly in distress and a princess trapped in the top of a tower. One of these things could be dealt with.

Luna chose the filly.

"Do you have a name?" she asked in a tone she hoped wasn't too saccharine.

A few curls sproinged in terror, but no response seemed forthcoming.

"Aw, come on. Give her a chance." Shoving his bookbag against the wall, Overcast kept his eyes on his scared-stiff classmate. "Yesterday, she taught me a spell and showed me a whole new way to look at the world. Who knows what she might do for you. Could be anything. But probably something nice."

"Where is Mrs. Brambleberry?" she asked through chattery teeth.

"Retired," Overcast replied, "and nopony will miss her." The colt's face puckered as if he ate something entirely too sour, and then he shuddered so hard that his tail whipped out. "She was mean. Heartless. She hated us, you know. I heard everything she had to say and how she thought we were all monsters."

"Mrs. Brambleberry thought we were monsters?" Somewhere within the wild mass of curls, the filly's ears pricked. "I'm not a monster!"

"Neither is Princess Luna. See how it feels? How do you like it?"

The curly girly shivered one final time, forced her teeth to stop chattering, and then took a step back from Overcast. "Well, I don't like it at all!"

"Overcast, I find the quality of your toadying lacking."

The colt turned his head so that he might look directly at Luna. "Toadying?"

"Do not play coy with me. Do not attempt to ingratiate yourself to me. You sought out trouble on purpose to be here today… which rather defeats the purpose of detention, which is intended to be a deterrent. By no circumstance are you supposed to want to come here, much less return. If you continue this farce, if you even think one sarcastic thought, I will order the entirety of the faculty to call you 'Flunkius' as a reminder that Princess Luna has no need for flunkies."

"You just spoke of yourself in the third-pony. Are you alright?"

What came out was a thunderclap in the small room: "Go sit down!"

"I'm going to go sit down now. That seems like a great idea. Excuse me."

As the colt scurried off, she could not help but wonder if his behaviour was a clever ruse to show the frightened filly that everything was fine. Luna gave him a stony stare, the sort of imperious gaze that would turn a cockatrice to mush. When he blinked and turned away, she returned all of her attention to the filly. Once Overcast was seated on a bench, Luna chose to start anew.

"Do you have a name?"

The treacherous mess of curls bobbed when the filly cast a sidelong glance at Overcast and then cautiously made eye-contact with Luna. She swallowed once, then several times, licked her lips once, waggled her jaw, and then after finding her voice she said, "My name is Wednesday Waterkey."

"Why are you here?"

"You don't know?" Wednesday's long eyelashes almost tangled when she blinked. "Mrs. Brambleberry always knew."

"I am not Mrs. Brambleberry."

"No, I guess not. Well, I mean, of course you're not. Why are you here?"

"I believe I asked you first," was Luna's measured response.

"Well"—the filly stretched this word out for some time and she blinked her eyes once more—"My story is pretty typical and boring. Filly falls in love with trumpet and then gives up on everything else in life."

For a moment, Luna almost suffered a slip of the tongue; something almost slipped out that would have certainly made things worse. Cursing her volatile mood, she forced every distraction out of her mind so that she might give the problem at hoof the attention it deserved. Why, she even ignored Overcast, who was doing his very best to be a worshipful supplicant on his bench. She would deal with him later. How she dealt with him remained to be seen.

"Why have you given up on life?"

"Because, life has given up on me."

"And why would you say that?"

"Because. It has."

"Would you care to elaborate?"

"No."

"Well, you will do so anyway. Why are you in detention? Why were you sent to me?"

"There's a couple of reasons."

"This can go one of two ways," Luna warned and she arched an eyebrow in an outright act of hostility.

"We both seem to be rather ambiguous," Wednesday said to Luna in a rather noncommittal manner. "You don't want me scared of you, but you're trying to scare me."

"She's got a point—"

"Silence your tongue, Overcast. Or shall I call you… Flunkius?

"Silencing my tongue right away."

A weary sigh escaped. Luna did not intend to do so, but such was the nature of sighs. They were much like sneezes, or hiccups, or any other sudden, unwanted expulsions of air. Such things happened with frequent regularity and so one learned to live with them, even the really unpleasant release of bodily vapours. Wednesday was still scared, but doing a remarkable job of coping with it. Her standoffishness was probably defensive. Carefully, Luna relaxed her readied eyebrow and took on a wholly neutral expression.

"I don't know if I want to talk in front of him," Wednesday said whilst she jerked her fetlock in Overcast's general direction. "I don't know if you've heard, but he's a weirdo."

"Oh, I know," Luna said, and she took secret pleasure in Overcast's sudden frown.

"I already know everything about you," Overcast said.

"What could you possibly know about me, you weirdo?" Wednesday demanded.

"Well, since you asked." The colt turned a bold, defiant eye towards Luna, as if daring her to tell him to stop. "You're the middle foal of seven and you believe that you suffer some kind of curse of invisibility. For the longest time, you were a model student with perfect grades. You turned in all of your papers early, always did extra credit, and volunteered for every project. That is until recently, when your grades fell into the cellar, never to return, and you started skipping class every chance you got."

Eyes narrowing dangerously, Wednesday's curls began to writhe around her horn as static crackled from its pointy tip. She wickered faintly, inhaled, grunted, and then her lower lip protruded out so far that it was almost comical. Her eyes flashed with feminine fury, her nostrils flared wide, but she said nothing. No, she just stood there, huffing and puffing so hard that it made her leg braces rattle.

"I need to sit down," she said in a heated huff.

With great effort, she went over to a bench, balanced precariously on her front legs, scooted her backside up onto the bench, and then sat down. When she sat up, she almost fell over, but caught herself. The entire time, she never took her eyes off of Overcast, and glowered at him in a manner that Luna was genuinely impressed by. Of course, the colt didn't seem particularly bothered by it, but that didn't stop the filly from doing her utmost to stare him into submission.

"Alright," she said, almost seething. "So you know a few things. Do you know why? How is it that you even know all this stuff, anyhow? I haven't told anypony."

"You haven't told anypony because you ditched your friends," Overcast said. The colt's voice wasn't sarcastic, but rather sad. "Which is for the best because all the ponies you thought were your friends weren't. As for how I know… you talk and say everything when you write in your diary and I—"

"That's private!" Every curl on Wednesday's head now wriggled like electric serpents and static electricity crackled alarmingly. "How could you? How could you!" Then, in a much quieter voice she asked, "What do you mean, my friends weren't my friends? Explain yourself, or else!"

"You're kinda bossy—"

"And you're kind of dead if you don't tell me what I want to know!" Wednesday said, interrupting.

"Every chance they got, those three fillies you called your friends talked about the time you wet the bed during that sleepover cute-ceañera. They laughed about it and made jokes about it all the time. Also, they called you Spit Valve the Trumpet Strumpet behind your back and called you Butt Trumpet to that one colt you used to like."

Wednesday's jaw dropped as she approached the event horizon for a conniption fit.

Overcast asked, "Princess Luna, if she tries to kill me, will you save me?"

To which Luna replied, "No. A well-deserved death might mean your betterment."

The colt swallowed, and then, much to Luna's surprise, he made an effort to save himself.

"You might as well talk about it," he said to Wednesday. "Get it all out. Nevermind how I know. We've only got an hour and the more time I spend trying to explain myself, the less time you have to get all this poison out. I've given up on ponies myself. You… you have your trumpet. Me? I've got nothing. There is nothing to look forward to or to be happy about. So let it all out and save yourself."

"You're very weird!" Wednesday said, almost shrieking in her fuming state.

Shrugging, Overcast said nothing in return.

While Luna faulted the colt's methods, she saw in him great potential. If he could be made to have sincere concern, he might very well be an asset to others. But in his current state, he was a detriment to everyone around him, and also himself. He did have some sense of care, even if he said he didn't, because he listened. And kept listening. He paid attention to details and committed them to memory. In him, she saw a troubled version of herself.

Of course, the current version of herself was quite troubled.

"Ooh, you're a stinky turd and I think I hate you!"

Overcast took it all in stride. "You and everypony else. That's the way it is. Can't change it. So I just stay stuck with it."

Much to Luna's surprise, Wednesday's face immediately softened. Her lower lip quivered, and her staticky curls shed blue arcs. All of her anger vanished in an eyeblink. Groaning, she kicked her hind legs around, trying to get comfortable, and winced when one of her knees popped. She tried to rub it, but there was too much metal and canvas in the way. When she could not relieve herself, she shook her head.

"You shouldn't be fine with that," she said to the colt. "Why are you the way you are?"

"This isn't about me. Not today. This is about you."

"I don't understand you."

"Nopony does… and that's why my life means nothing. But enough about me."

"Well," Wednesday began, "I am Wednesday Waterkey, and I am the Invisible Filly..."


Luna—a pony that could actually turn invisible—listened with rapt attention. Wednesday Waterkey wanted to talk. She wanted to pour her heart out. And from the looks of things, Overcast wanted to listen. Why, the little colt showed more care and attention to the filly's words than most adults, Luna reckoned, and it occurred to her that this might be a problem. Listening to the young was a relatively new concept, as far as Luna was concerned. It had happened at some point during her long absence and was now considered good for foalhood development.

Of course, Luna wasn't entirely sure where she stood on the issue, but at this very second, she seemed to be coming around to the idea. Her problems began young, but she was expected to be seen and not heard. By the time she was old enough to have a voice, she was told to listen by her big bossy sister. And so it came to pass that every awful thing remained bottled up inside of her. That is, until the cork could no longer hold, or however that metaphor ended.

Nightmare in a Bottle had come spraying out like so much tooth decaying soda-pop.

"He was right"—she held out a braced foreleg in Overcast's direction—"I am the middle foal of seven. My parents wanted a horn quartet, but then the accidents kept happening." A dull, sour expression made her look older somehow, as if she'd aged before her time. "One day, I just turned invisible and everypony stopped noticing me. Oh, they noticed my brother, the oldest. He was going into the Guard and he had a bright future as an officer. And… they noticed my other brother, the youngest. Because he's little, and cute, and has mild asthma, so everypony thinks he's going to keel over dead at any moment."

She rolled her eyes so hard that Luna feared that the filly might pull a muscle.

"Me, on the other hoof, I have weak tendons and I'm knock-kneed. I have an actual serious medical condition that everypony just ignores. Builds character, my dad says. It's something I'll look back on and laugh about later, he says. I get to have a super awkward phase, so I get to have super character later, when it matters. Well, my dad can go fall down the stairs for all I care, just like I have so many times. Let's see how he likes it."

Wednesday Waterkey had gone from sad to fuming once again in just a few spoken words.

"When I was younger, I thought the problem was with me. It had to be. I just wasn't doing enough to get my share of what attention there was available. So I became an academic. I got accepted into this school… I was the only one of my siblings to get accepted into this school. I worked my tail off. Did all of the right things. Made all of the right friends. Not friends I particularly liked, but the sort of friends that helped you with your future. Those kinds of friends."

Her braces creaked alarmingly as she tried to fold her front legs into a self-hug and failed.

"One night, at supper, my dad says to me… he says to me, 'Whinny, I'm so glad that I don't have to worry about you. Just keep doing what you're doing. You're one less thing for me to have to worry about and you're doing great.' And that was when I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. Not long after that, I decided to live here, at the school. And I've stopped going home so that my parents have one less thing to worry about."

Overcast quietly cleared his throat as Wednesday took a deep breath.

"When I got my mark, I wasn't that surprised. I figured it was a matter of time, and it was. It just showed up one day and I was relieved. At first, nothing changed. Nothing at all. My mark just allowed the outside to match who I was on the inside. But the change came soon enough. I stopped being happy with my schoolwork. I wasn't doing it for me… I was doing it for my parents, who didn't seem to care.

"My own future didn't seem to matter, honestly… and the more that sank in, the more I retreated. I ditched my friends, because they were part of that future that I didn't know what to do with. My trumpet made me happy. Not much else did. Like he said, I started skipping class so I could focus on my music. I got really depressed and the only time that life didn't feel like an overwhelming chore was when I was tooting my own horn. Now that I've squandered everything, I feel even more depressed and guilty, too. Which only makes me want to shut myself off even more."

Her eyes darted around the room, but found no worthwhile distraction. The faint creak of metal could be heard as she fought against the heavy weight of her own legs, which threatened to pull her off of her bench. Overcast had checked out; his face and eyes were like an abandoned house with the boarded up door left askew and vacant windows that showed no signs of life inside.

Somehow, Luna knew that he still listened, but whatever animated his face was gone.

"I didn't mean for this to happen… I just didn't know how to stop," she said to the floor down below her. "Now, I don't want others around. I just want to hear the music. My music. It's my joy."

These words made Luna think of her stars and their faint song. Even the slightest sound would overwhelm them. She watched as Wednesday fidgeted, with each movement causing a creak or squeak of metal. The little unicorn filly struggled now, she fought to make the words happen. A little horn blower that had all the wind in the world when it came to music, but barely enough air to make speech happen.

"Sometimes," Luna began, "a horn solo is lovely. It can sustain the soul. But there is also great beauty to be found with an orchestra. You have strings, woodwinds, percussion sections, and brass. A whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Harmony made manifest. Controlled chaos. If you are alone, how will you harmonise with others? What sweet music will you make?"

"I…" Words failed Wednesday Waterkey, and her attempt to answer turned into a squeak that was immediately lost to the cacophony caused by her leg braces. Her mouth closed so hard that the click of her teeth could be heard.

"Deep down," Overcast whispered, "you knew this. You knew this but you rejected it because it's terrible. Sometimes, the truth is too much to bear. Believe me, I know. I'm not sure that anything is worth it, really." The dim windows to his soul showed no signs of life, no warmth, just emptiness. "I might be weird, but at least I know what the score is." He considered his own words for a moment, tilted his head, blinked once, then snorted. "Was that an accidental music pun?"

"If nothing matters, then why are you helping me?" asked Wednesday.

"A street sign still tells others to stop even if they do nothing else with their lonesome existence but collect bird droppings."

"There's something dreadfully wrong with you," she said matter-of-factly. "And there's something wrong with me now because what you said made too much sense. Stop that! Stop that at once, this instant! You stop that!"

"I can't," he replied as he turned his dull stare upon her. "Just like you can't stop blowing your horn. We do what we do. Well, until we don't. But that means dying."

With wide, pleading eyes, Wednesday turned to Luna to ask for help. "Make him stop being creepy."

Something inside of Luna almost laughed; she couldn't quite be sure of what it was, but it might have very well been her inner-foal, that metaphorical concept given reality through the magic of make-believe given a more adult name: psychology. A deadpan expression kept Luna's face from revealing her feelings but she rather enjoyed Wednesday's growing distress. Oh, not in a cruel way, not at all. But she was pleased that the hornblower's mind had been forcibly opened. Wednesday was aware now, and with awareness came growth.

"I'll stop," Overcast said in a soft, defeated whisper. "I feel like a good sulk is needed. Don't mind me… nopony else does. Do go on. I'll continue to be the warning sign that everypony ignores. I'm fine with that."

Unnerved, Wednesday shied away from the colt, who had turned his head towards the wall. She too, looked away, and her eyes lingered upon her trumpet case for a time. Luna had seen the same look upon the filly's face as could also be found on those who had an unquenchable thirst for strong drink. Overcast became somehow even more vacant, and now had a thousand-year, thousand-yard stare that spared onlookers from catching a glimpse of the void found within.

Luna knew that somehow, she would have to scare him away from peering into the abyss.

Where to begin? How did she start? Luna struggled to find the words in much the same manner that Wednesday struggled to find meaning. She completely failed to notice the faint blue glow surrounding Overcast's horn, and had she been paying attention, she would have known that he wasn't peering into the abyss so much as he was eavesdropping on the wretched conversations found within.

"Wednesday Waterkey"—saying a name wasn't much of a start, but it was all Luna had—"you must play your song for others. If you must play your trumpet, at least do so in the open. Play your sweetest songs so that you might bring others to you. With luck, you might find a like-minded companion. But this will not happen if you choose to remain invisible."

The filly scowled and her lip curled up in a feminine snarl. "Miss Rosethorn asked me who I was going to the dance with and I told her I wasn't going and she said I was squandering my life and she said a bunch of malarkey about how important love was and that stung a bit so I just kind of… well, I said some very unladylike things and she got mad and started hollering at me and then I left her and I just couldn't go to my next class because it felt impossible, and then I was tracked down and taken to the disciplinary office and you already know what happened next because I'm here."

Then, before Luna could respond, Wednesday added, "I don't know what I'm doing here. Not here in detention, but here at school. I've lost interest. Everything feels wrong. Every time I get into it with one of my teachers, I keep thinking about having a big huge blowout so that I'll get expelled from school and then I won't have to make the decision myself, it'll be made for me, and then everything will finally just be over, and maybe the crushing disappointment I've caused will make my mother and father angry with me, and they'll shout at me, and while that's not great, at least they'll realise that I exist and that might be nice."

"You cannot fix what is wrong right now," Luna said, and her own honesty surprised her. "The best that you can hope for is to endure and wait it out. The clouds will clear eventually and the sun will come out again." These words almost choked her, and she found them incredibly distasteful to say. What sort of horrible garbage had just come out of her mouth?

Yuck!

Yet, she had said them.

Worse, she had meant them, which made her worry for her diseased mind.

"No matter how long a day seems to last, the sun sets eventually and even the most horrible of days will come to an end. The same is true for the night." Her throat closed so much and so tight that it almost changed the pitch of her voice. "No matter how nightmarish a night might be, no night can last forever. The sun will rise. An extinguished candle and the sudden dark doesn't signify an end, it just means the night is almost over and the sun is coming."

When this was over, Luna planned to make herself eat a bar of soap.

"No offense, Princess Luna, but he makes more sense than you do," Wednesday replied.

Oh, this was just the worst. But Luna didn't let this drag her down. She took it all in stride… or at least in whatever it was that one took it in when one was sitting down. Then, by accident or coincidence, she noticed Overcast's glowing horn and she knew exactly what he was doing. Hesitating, she wasn't sure how to deal with this, but then chose the straightforward approach, because surely that was for the best.

"Overcast, just what do you think it is that you are doing?"

His only response was a twitch of his fuzzy ears.

"I am aware that you are listening, but it is the manner in which you are listening that vexes me. Cease your remote listening at once. This is detention."

Life came back to his eyes, and emotion to his face. Somepony moved into the vacant house. For a brief moment—an eyeblink and nothing more—Luna saw anger. Maybe rage. But it was gone before she could react to it, and there was no point in chastising him. As he regained his senses, he turned his peculiar gaze upon her, and then nothing happened. Nothing at all. Whatever might have been was swallowed up by ennui.

"You know, Princess Cadance is a mean pony," he said to nopony in particular. "For the Princess of Love, she's a really snotty jerk."

"What are you saying, Overcast?" asked Luna.

"Exactly what I said," he replied fearlessly. "I think the upcoming wedding might have her in a snit, but I don't know. Sometimes, she talks funny. In a weird voice. And she keeps talking to ponies that I don't recognise… funny ponies that are somehow even bigger phonies. She keeps saying that it's not time yet and she complains a lot about waiting. I just can't get over just how mean she is though. Princess Nasty has come to—"

"Overcast, that is enough."

"Whatever," he said, almost sighing, and then he checked out once more—but his horn remained unlit.

Unnerved—though she could not say why—she returned the whole of her attention to Wednesday, who sat in open-mouthed shock from Overcast's unsettling outburst. Luna found herself struggling for words. The right words, anyhow. Any words could be said at any time, but only the right words would be helpful. The wrong words could make things worse. A profound sense duty left Luna mindful of her words, and a lingering sense of shame made her regret her trite utterances about light and hope. She would have words with herself later for that little fiasco. There was nothing quite like a good scolding from one's own reflection.

"What is it that you want, Wednesday?" asked Luna.

"I thought I knew," she replied as she cast a bit of side-eye at Overcast. "I thought I wanted a big family, because that's what I knew. But then, one day, after I played my trumpet for a while, it popped into my head that if I had a big family, I'd have my own invisible foal that I'd end up neglecting. A middle foal of my own to pass my curse along to. After that, a family didn't seem so appealing and I guess I just lost interest. When I lost interest in that"—she hesitated, and seemed to reach some moment of profound understanding—"you know, that was when everything really fell apart. I mean, it really just all fell down after that."

Eyes misty, she continued, but did so choked up and with a voice as creaky as her leg braces.

"I was raised to believe that a family is a band. We all made music together, at least we did before there were too many of us. Mom got stampeded by the young ones. By the time that all the young ones were around, the older ones weren't so young at all, and we all wanted different things. I was just stuck in the middle, and nopony cared what I wanted. I wasn't old enough to be with my big brother and my sisters, but I wasn't a baby, either, and I didn't want to be babied. The music stopped at some point… and I guess the band broke up. There was just too much to do and no time to jam."

Looking down at the floor, she murmured, "The band broke up and I became a solo act."

"It seems to me that you need to find a new band," Overcast said, his dead stare unchanging.

"But how?" Then, Wednesday asked, "Wait, do you mean that I need to find a new band or a new family? What are you saying, exactly?"

But Overcast did not respond, and neither did Luna, who kept a wary eye on Overcast's horn, that most dangerous and treacherous organ. Meanwhile, Wednesday seemed to flounder, flummoxed by the unexpected question and her own soul-searching. The answer, of course, was friendship, but the three of them struggled with this very thing, this difficult concept that eluded them.

"Can we just sit in silence for a while?" Wednesday asked. "I need some time to think. I see now that I've made a mistake. But it seems impossible to fix it. I want to fix it though. I want things to be better."

"If you need silence," Luna replied, "then that can be provided. We have silence in abundance."

"Before I shut up, I just wanted to say… I had a really nice time in detention today. I needed this. I thought I'd hate it, but it was nice talking about my problems. You're really very nice, Princess Luna, and I'm sorry for earlier." Then, she turned to look at Overcast, and took a moment to study him. "You though, you're still a creepy weirdo. But that's fine… I guess. As far as creepy weirdos go, you're not so bad."

She hesitated, her legs clanged and clattered with every slight movement, and then a relieved half-smile could be seen on her face. "Mrs. Brambleberry's detention was awful. It made everything worse. There was something about her that always left me feeling drained and exhausted. Tired. Defeated. Worn out. It's like she would just suck the life out of you. She's part of the reason why I gave up, I think. She just… smothered me."

"Mrs. Brambleberry spends an awful lot of time with Princess Cadance, saying mean things, and complaining about how we're all monsters. For whatever reason, Mrs. Brambleberry is helping Princess Cadance plan her wedding, and I can't figure out why. Doesn't seem right."

"Overcast, that is enough," Luna said to the colt. "I do believe a little silence will do us good. We can be silent, but not alone. When we're done here, we can go have supper together, perhaps."

"Dinner detention?" Wednesday's eyes brightened with hope. "That would be nice. I'm sick of eating alone. Really, I am."

"Very well," Luna said. "We shall finish here, and then we shall sup together. Hopefully we'll have a pleasant conversation. But for now, silence. Think of good things to discuss as we dine. Mood determines digestion."

Squinting to see if Overcast's horn had even the slightest illumination, Luna prepared to spend a little time in blessed silence. She was overwhelmed, emotional-but-not-emotional. In fact, she had trouble remembering when her mood had been this stable. Whatever had started with Overcast had continued with Wednesday Waterkey. A welcome continuation, she felt.

There were worse things than being the Princess of Detention.

Author's Note:

So... I decided to do a raw late night release because it's been a hell of a long time since I've done that. This probably isn't as edited as it should be, and there's a good chance that an edited version will be uploaded later. For now, I just wanted to enjoy a bit of momentum, so please, I beg forgiveness for the raw content. Don't judge to harshly.

Report all typos so that they might be sent to detention.