Something possessed me to participate in Equestria Daily’s Valentine’s Day fanfic event. I hope you’ll forgive this lapse into shipfic. We will return you to our regularly-scheduled analysis shortly.
The door to the music room was locked again.
Sighing in frustration, Sunset Shimmer shook the handle and pulled on the heavy door — she idly wondered why she always did that, since she knew it wouldn’t actually open. Force of habit, maybe.
Giving up, she turned and trudged back down the empty hallway, tinny footsteps echoing off the linoleum tile. Nothing was going right today. She’d hoped that some practice after school could help clear her head. So much for that idea.
The click of a doorknob and the creak of a hinge made her stop and look back.
“Shimm- uh, Sunset?”
Flash Sentry stood holding the half-open door.
“Oh, hi Flash. Sorry, I didn’t know anyone was in there.”
“Oh,” he said blankly. “Do you need to get in here?”
“Um, yeah, just for a second. I think I left something in there.” That would give her an excuse to get in, pretend to look around, and leave.
“Oh? What did you forget?”
“Some notes from class earlier,” she said, taking the door from him and walking through. That was usually a good lie. The door shut behind her with a thunk as she crossed the room and pretended to search the tables and shelves along its edge.
“So how did you get in here, anyway?” she asked, leaning down to scan through some lower shelves. “The last few times I’ve tried, it’s been locked.”
“I just asked Principal Celestia about it.” He walked back to the chair and guitar he’d been using. “She said they’d started locking it after school for security reasons, but I could get the key from her before she left. I just have to return it to the office when I’m done.”
“Oh, okay.” That would probably have occurred to her if she didn’t still avoid Celestia. She knew the human wasn’t the same being she’d left in Equestria, but still…she made Sunset uneasy. A lot of things made Sunset uneasy these days.
“So, you’ve been coming here after school?”
“Yeah,” she responded idly, hoping he wouldn’t ask further. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the fact that she spent time in the music room, but…she just didn’t want to get into it right now.
Flash started playing, for which Sunset was grateful. It was a simple three-chord progression — he’d always liked to use those as a warm-up. She must have caught him just as he was starting — that would explain why she hadn’t heard him playing.
Honestly, Flash’s skill with music was what had first attracted her. Unlike Equestria — where musical ability was basically a given — such talent here was rarer, and esteemed. That meant that Flash had a lot of social capital — but didn’t seem particularly aware of it. That made him perfect for her. He’d been willing to accept her as a girlfriend when she was new, without much stature. Yet he was established enough that she could use him to gain influence.
Good grief, had she really once thought that way? No wonder the others still didn’t trust her. That girl seemed so distant now — like a relative she hadn’t seen in years.
Sunset finished looking for her nonexistent notes. She should get out as soon as possible, but…
Her eyes wandered to the guitar rack next to her, and settled on her favorite one. She did really want to practice, she thought, running her thumb over the fretboard. It would be difficult with Flash here, but the room was pretty big. She could get a least a few minutes in. If she was quiet, she wouldn’t disturb him.
She took the instrument’s body in her other arm, and quietly started her own warm-up, copying Flash’s chord progression — it worked well for a warm-up, and it meant she didn’t have to block him out for a few minutes.
Behind her, she heard Flash switch up his play, shifting into a flowing melody that matched the chord progression Sunset was now playing. She turned, looking at him over her shoulder. Flash grinned sheepishly.
Well, it would be rude to cut out in the middle of his solo, she told herself. She turned, strumming a bit harder so as to provide a decent accompaniment, but not overpower him.
It felt odd, playing this way. They had played together before, but just as lessons, with him teaching her some new melody or technique. She hadn’t had the skill to actually play a duet back then — and she wouldn’t have been interested in playing a suporting role, anyway.
Flash finished a phrase, dropping all the way from a minor sixth to the unison, then resumed the chord progression in unity with her. He’d always liked to end with those sudden, intense drops. After another few bars, he looked at her and inclined his head. With a start, she realized he was waiting for her to start her own melody.
Gathering herself, Sunset launched into a series of staccato rises and falls. It was rudimentary, but it would do for a start. She doubled her tempo, filling more of the space between the chords, then moved to a more complex note progression near the top of the octave they were sharing. Flash looked impressed — he hadn’t heard her play since they’d broken up, and she’d managed to improve quite a bit since then. Despite herself, Sunset felt a surge of pride. She played one final patter of notes, and finished it off with a long note on the octave. She let the final tone echo for a few bars, then returned to the chord progression. She and Flash played in unison for one more phrase, then ended with a strong, echoing octave chord.
“Nice,” he said, smiling.
“Yeah.” She was smiling too, she realized. “Hey — thanks.”
“For teaching me to play, I mean,” she explained, strumming a few playful chords. “I don’t think I ever thanked you for that.”
“Oh,” Flash chuckled — it sounded a little forced, but he chuckled. That was something. “I don’t really think I can take credit for that. You picked it up faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. After a few weeks, you were playing like it had been months. You were playing what — two, three hours a day?”
“More like two. But yeah, I did get a little fixated for awhile, didn’t I? This was fun — it was kind of like old times.”
“Yeah, those sessions were some of the few good times we had.” He started, realizing what he’d said. “I mean- well, I didn’t mean- that came out wrong, sorry.”
“No, I deserve that,” she sighed, looking away. “I was a pretty terrible girlfriend, after all.”
He didn’t respond to that. Of course he didn’t, how was he supposed to respond to that? Stupid girl. She set the guitar down and got up to leave.
“I wasn’t so great either, honestly,” he finally replied.
“Oh please, Flash. You sure weren’t perfect, but at least you weren’t just dating me for the status.”
“I kind of was, actually.”
“What?” That hurt. Absurdly, stupidly, and unreasonably, that hurt.
“I mean, not just for the status. I did- I did like you that way. But a lot of it was the status. Getting to date the Formal Queen, the most popular girl in school — what kind of idiot would turn that down? That’s a lot of why I kept it up — for status and appearance.”
He looked down, avoiding her gaze and plucking at a few strings. He always did that when he was uncomfortable.
“Eventually, I realized that’s why I was doing it. That’s when I decided to break it off.”
Of course. She’d wondered why he’d ended things when he did. It wasn’t like the relationship had suddenly gotten worse. Heck, it had barely even been a relationship to begin with, looking back.
She bit her lip and looked away from him. “Hm,” she said, more to fill the silence than anything.
Why did she even care? It was probably just wounded pride. After all, she’d never really liked him like that.
It didn’t matter. It was over, and that was all she needed to know.
“Thanks, Flash. This was fun. I’d better get going. See you around.” She turned and strode toward the door.
“You are better now,” he called after her.
She turned. “What?”
“You’re better now. You’ve changed. You’re trying to be a better person. Not everyone believes it — some of them still think you’re just faking it, to try to become popular again — but I believe it. So…yeah.” He looked down and picked at his strings again.
That made her feel better. A lot better, actually. “Thanks, Flash. That means a lot to me.” She turned and put her hand on the doorknob — then stopped, hesitating.
Open the door and walk out, said her better judgement. You’re ahead of where you were before, things are improving, just walk away. Don’t say anything you’ll regret later — you can think things over before you say anything else to him. Just walk away for now.
“Hey, Flash?” she heard herself say.
No, no, no you idiot, no.
The music stopped. “Yeah?”
Sunset turned, leaning back against the door.
“Just so you know, um…in case you ever want to try again, I’m here. I mean, I know you probably don’t, I’m sure you don’t, but…just in case.”
Just in case? What was that supposed to mean? Idiot. Get out. Her face was burning.
Flash looked to the discarded guitar, then back to her. Then his face lit up with realization.
“Yeah, I mean…I know. Never mind. Bye. Thanks. Sorry.” She turned and opened the door, rushing through as quickly as she could.
“I’ll think about it.”
What? She turned around, looking at him through the half-shut door.
“I mean, no promises, but…I’ll think about it.” He looked bemused. Well, that made two of them.
“Oh. Okay. Bye. Thanks. Bye.” She shut the door. Actually, it was more of a slam, really. She started down the hall, trying not to think about how stupid she’d just looked. That was a mistake. She shouldn’t have said that, and in any case she shouldn’t have said it right then.
Well, there was nothing to be done for it now. Maybe the next time (“next time”?) she saw Flash, she could just pretend it had never happened. Hopefully, he wouldn’t bring it up. In any case, it hadn’t caused an immediate disaster, so she was lucky for that.
Just as she reached the end of the hall, she stopped as the faint, muffled sound of music reached her. An acoustic guitar, playing three chords.