>Sunset turned in bed as a dull crack interrupted her sleep.
>She grunted, pulling the pillow tighter over her head.
>With a sigh, she gradually dozed off.
>Sunset bolted upright.
>Okay, THAT came from inside her apartment!
>She clutched her blankets to her chest, blindly fumbling for her bedside baseball bat.
>Teeth clenched, she cast about for the intruder, rubbing the grit from her eyes.
>Nobody was around.
>It was a small apartment, only one room.
>Nowhere to hide.
>She relaxed. Must have been upstairs.
>Yeah, that made sense.
>Thin floors and all.
>Her eyes laser focused on a pale yellow ball, totally out of place in the middle of her floor.
>She gripped the bat harder.
>She jumped as something heavy smashed against her window.
>Hey eyes went from the half open window to the ball on the floor.
>”Damn it Pinkie, you’re gonna invalidate my deposit.”
>She scowled, pushing herself out of bed.
>Grabbed the ball, and threw the window open.
>”WHAT DO YOU WANT!?”
>She heard drunken snickering.
>That… wasn’t Pinkie.
“Aaaaye, Shimmer!” giggled a dark figure.
>”The fu- Aria!?”
“It’s Aria!” the figure chuckled, stepping out of the shadows.
>The pale light of a street sign revealed familiar pigtails and a ratty hoodie.
>The girl tossed something and caught it. A black ball.
>Sunset spluttered. “What the- Are you… I haven’t seen you since the music festival! Why are you throwing billiard balls at my apartment!?”
“Because I don’t know your cell number!”
>Sunset glanced up at the sky, pitch black but rimmed with the pervasive glow of a city at night.
>”Aria. It is three o’clock. In the Celestia-damned morning.”
“You coming down or not?”
>Sunset rubbed her eyes. “No, I’m not coming down. I’m trying to sleep, and I don’t feel like falling for whatever crazy schemes you and your sisters have cooked up.”
>Sunset’s heart stopped.
>She stared at the other girl, wide-eyed.
>Adagio Dazzle, lead singer of the Dazzlings?
>The leader of the sirens who were banished from Equestria?
>The girl who almost took over Canterlot High with barely a drop of magic?
>She was cut off by Aria’s mad, cackling laughter.
“Haaah! You shoulda seen your face!”
“Whoa-” the former siren barely ducked the 9 ball Sunset hurled at her head. “Hey!”
>”Fuck off and good night!” Sunset spat, grabbing the bottom of the window.
“Are you sure you wanna do that…” Aria’s tone was taunting, mocking, “Flanksy?”
>Sunset stopped dead.
>”What did you call me?”
>Aria grinned, and held up a cell phone. The screen glowed in the dusky night of the alleyway, but was too far to make out what was on it.
>But Sunset could guess.
>”Are you blackmailing me?”
>Sunset narrowed her eyes.
“I wanna do some crimes. You in?”
>”I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Sunset muttered to herself as she pulled on her street clothes.
>Black jeans, dark shirt, black jacket and black cap.
>Not that she actually intended to do anything illegal.
>No way. No how. Not with someone like Aria around.
>But better safe than sorry.
>Wouldn’t do to get caught up in the Dazzlings’ shenanigans wearing a bright yellow “arrest me” shirt.
>And so she found herself in a back alley in the middle of the night with a girl that was a criminal in at least two dimensions.
>”Fine. You got me here. What do you want?”
“I told you,” Aria scoffed haughtily, “We’re gonna do some crime.”
>”Uhuh,” Sunset said. She found herself edging away from the pigtails girl.
>Now that she was closer, Aria looked… off.
>More than normal.
>Her clothes were ruffled and dirty, and she reeked of booze.
>“And what makes you think I wanna get in on this ‘crime’?” she asked.
“Dunno. I’m bored.”
>”Oh yeah?” Sunset narrowed her eyes. Then she blinked. “Are you… barefoot?”
“Are you naked?” Aria shot back, turning and stalking off down the street.
>”What!?” Sunset stumbled, taken aback. “Of course not, you can see what I’m wearing.”
“Then don’t ask stupud questions with obvious answers.”
>Sunset exhaled a long, suffering sigh.
>”Fine. Let me rephrase. WHY. Are you barefoot?”
“Because fuck you, that’s why!”
>”SHUT THE FUCK UP, PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP”
“FUCK YOURSELF! YOUR MOTHER’S A WHORE!” Aria shot back, chucking her 8 ball at a random window with a light on.
“Uh oh,” Aria swore, “book it!”
>”Aria!” Sunset shouted, bolting after the fleeing siren.
>”Why do you have those!”
“Stop asking stupid questions!”
>Aria hissed, pulling another shard of glass out of her bloody sole.
>”So what did we learn?” Sunset asked smugly.
>Aria glared at her, then leaned back against the wall of the alley they were in. She ruffled through her pockets for a moment, producing a cigarette and lighter.
>She flicked the catch, raising the tiny flame to her cig.
“I’d offer you one,” she said, exhaling a lungful of smoke, “but, y’know, you’re kind of a bitch.”
>Sunset rolled her eyes. “I’m not the one knocking on people's windows in the middle of the night.”
>”Anyway, I don’t smoke.” She eyed the glowing cherry between Aria’s fingers. “Those things’ll kill you, you know.”
>She took another drag.
>Sunset shifted, shuffling her feet.
>She glanced around at the empty railyard.
>”So, what are we doing here?”
>She held up a hand to forestall Aria’s retort.
>”If you say ‘crimes’ I’m gonna hit you.”
>Aria’s eyes rolled back as she tilted her head in thought.
“Mmm… illegal activities.”
>”Aria…” Sunset said warningly.
“Trespassing, vandalism, and underaged drinking… for now.”
>”Okay,” Sunset said slowly, “We’ve done… none of that so far.”
>Aria scoffed, and pushed herself up, gingerly walking on the balls of her feet.
>She led Sunset to the end of the alleyway, where the street ended and a gravelly hill sloped down toward the railyard.
>She pointed toward the chain link fence.
>She lurched over toward a dumpster, heaved herself partway over the edge and hauled out an oversized duffle bag, throwing it toward Sunset.
>She hoisted herself up again and snagged a hefty bottle wrapped in a paper bag.
>Tearing off the bag, she twisted the bottle to show Sunset the label.
>Vodka. Stupid proof.
>”Where did you get that?”
>Aria stared at Sunset, one eyebrow raised.
>”Right,” Sunset sighed, “no stupid questions.”
>Aria chuckled, leaning against the dumpster and sliding back down to her ass.
>Shrugging in defeat, Sunset slid down next to her, stowing the duffel bag on her other side.
>It rattled with a hollow, metallic sound.
>Curious, she pulled the zipper.
>Just as she thought.
>”Well that’s a relief, I thought you wanted to rob a bank,” she chuckled awkwardly.
“Nah,” Aria said dismissively, twisting off the cap. “That’s second date stuff.”
>Sunset shot her a bemused look as she upended the bottle, splashing a shot’s worth over her lacerated foot.
>”A date huh? That what this is?”
>Aria hissed as the alcohol burned her soles.
“What did I say about stupid questions?”
>Sunset rolled her eyes, swiping the bottle.
>She took a long pull, and gagged.
>That stuff was FOUL.
>Compared to Applejack’s family cider, or the wine bottles Rarity sometimes smuggled to their sleepovers, this stuff was like drinking formaldehyde.
>Aria scowled, snatching the bottle back.
“You don’t like it, don’t drink it.”
>She took a big swig, coughed, and glared at the bottle as she punched her chest.
“This shit is awful.”
>She took another swig and handed it back to Sunset.
>”Yup,” Sunset said after another pull, “just as bad the second time.”
>They sat in silence a while longer, passing the bottle back and forth as a faint trail of smoke wafted from Aria’s cig.
>Eventually, it burned out, and Aria snuffed the butt against the ground.
>”Your feet feeling any better?”
“Nope. Let’s go.”
>They stowed the half empty bottle in the bag and Sunset hoisted it over her shoulder.
>As they began making their way down the hill, Sunset worked up the courage to ask.
>”So, what you said before…”
>”That name. Flanksy.”
“Oh, that.” Aria snickered.
“You aren’t subtle. Lots of people know about you. Well, not you, you. But your tag.”
>”Oh,” Sunset said.
>Aria smirked knowingly.
“But I know.”
>She pulled out her phone, opened an image.
>Sunset caught a glimpse of a gritty photo. A colorful mural, and a girl.
>A familiar girl. Wearing a familiar jacket and a familiar cap, and a shock of familiar red hair.
>She glanced down at herself sheepishly.
“Yeah. Ah. Thought it would be funny to turn you into the cops. But uh, I ain’t exactly in the clear myself.”
>She actually looked… embarrassed?
>Sunset hefted the bag on her shoulder, and something clicked.
>”You- you’re a street artist too!”
>Aria shot her an incredulous look.
>One that said “You’re just putting this together now!?”
>”I mean-” Sunset stuttered.
>She thought back, to other street art she’d seen, other tags.
>One stuck out, a jagged black serpent, edged with a deep purple.
>Her eyes widened.
>”You! You’re Black Adder!”
>Aria sketched a mocking bow.
>Sunset’s eyes widened and she grinned. “That’s amazing! I’ve admired your work!”
>She paused for a moment as another thought struck her.
>”Hey, wait a minute…”
>”I’ve got a bone to pick with you!”
>Aria raised an eyebrow.
>”You ruined my best work!”
>”Last month! On Mane and Seabiscuit!”
“That tacky piece? It deserved what it got. Besides, I made it better.”
>The piece had been one of her favorites, a ten foot tall mural of an elegant, rearing alicorn.
>She’d worked on it for the better part of a week, sneaking out after midnight and almost getting caught twice.
>Trying to remember every detail, to capture the beauty, the ethereal power of the creature she’d seen at…
>The Battle of the Bands.
>”Oh… I- I guess I can see how that rubbed you the wrong way.”
“No shit,” Aria replied acidly.
>Aria and her sister’s had been on the receiving end of the full force of that alicorn’s power.
>It had wrecked their performance, and shattered the gems that harnessed the last of their Equestrian magic.
>That explained the image of the coiling black serpent that had appeared overnight, strangling the alicorn and sinking its fangs into its neck.
>”That!” Sunset stuttered, “Okay fair, but-but that’s still like a- a breach of etiquette!”
> Aria rolled her eyes.
>She opened her mouth to retort, but held her tongue.
>Couldn’t really blame her for that one.
>Besides, the end result did look kinda cool...
>Maybe she could let it slide.
>Either way, now wasn’t the time for arguing.
>They were at the fence now, and a bit of caution was called for.
>It wasn’t exactly max sec, but there was a guardhouse on the far side of the yard near the gate, and a soft glow poured from the window.
>Aria held up a hand for caution, then scampered up the fence, easily scaling the chain link with the help of her toes.
>Sunset heaved, chucking the bag over to Aria before grabbing the fence herself.
>She took a last look toward the gatehouse and began climbing.
>Her boots actually made it a little harder, but she was glad to have them once she was over as the gravel crunched underfoot.
>Either way, Aria didn’t seem to mind.
>She was waiting with the bag, arms crossed as her fingers tapped her bicep impatiently.
“Come ON,” she hissed.
>Sunset rolled her eyes, giving her hand a dismissive flip.
>”Lead the way, boss.”
>Aria scoffed, turning into the railyard.
>The place was a maze of railcars, mostly big yellow boxcars with the occasional flatbed or coal carrier.
>Aria navigated the artificial aisles and alleyways with little care, leading them deep into the yard.
>Sunset looked around with a sense of wonder, the same feeling you get when you find yourself in an empty parking lot at 2am.
>Which, she supposed, was accurate in a sense.
>The massive cars towered overhead, blocking out the dim ambiance of the city lights.
>Finally, Aria stopped, apparently satisfied that they were suitably lost among the behemoths.
>She dropped the bag, waving to her chosen canvas.
>A tall boxcar, relatively new, with no rust yet and barely any graffitti.
>Sunset sidled up beside her, eyeing her selection with the look of a professional.
>”Yeah,” she nodded, “Yeah, that’ll do nicely.”
>She grinned, turning to Aria just in time to see the siren conceal her own.
“Yeah, no shit,” Aria blustered, “‘s why I fuckin chose it.”
>”Right,” Sunset nodded. “So, what did you have in mind?”
>Aria shot her a dirty glare.
“What did I say-”
>”-About stupid questions.” Sunset huffed. “Yeah, I got it. Freestyle then?”
>Paint cans have their own brand of music, their own language in the dead of night when the ordinary folk- and cops- are asleep.
>It’s a language of freedom, a language of self-expression.
>And, tonight, it is the language of crime.
>Sunset set upon the canvass with fiery shades of pink and red, the better to compliment the pale orange backdrop.
>Her vision took shape in cloudy, nebulous forms, billowing out from a central point.
>Aria attacked the car with practiced vision, striking with sharp blacks and purples as jagged shapes and harsh shadows began creeping from her chosen corner.
>And something magical began to appear.
>On one side, a swirl of light and fire.
>On the other, a shadow of death.
>More colors joined the fray. White, greys, golden yellow and poisonous greens.
>Until the image began to reveal itself.
>A mighty alicorn, glowing like the sun.
>Her mane sunlight and her wings fire.
>A three headed hydra, dark and brooding.
>Two heads snapping at the third as it stretched for the alicorn with its mouth agape.
>A swirling globe where their energies clashed, dark shadows marring the white core.
>the empty spaces were filled with music notes, half swirling and beautiful, half jagged and broken.
>Finally, the song stopped.
>The spent cans were dropped on the ground, the artists stepping back to admire their handiwork.
>It was the battle of the bands.
>Not in so many words, but there it was.
>They were silent a moment, taking in the details of the others contribution.
>The Alicorn’s coat was highlighted with a rainbow of colors, reflecting the elements that were released in the conflict.
>The serpent’s black scales glistened with hints of blue, purple and gold.
>A crimson heart lay shattered into three pieces against its chest, burning with a rainbow flame.
>It had happened without planning, without words or Equestrian magic.
>Just the simple magic of expression. And for a moment, they were… not friends, exactly.
>The two started, suddenly blinded by white light.
>The snarl of a dog and crunch of footsteps set them running.
>”Shit, shit, shit shit!”
>The ducked around a car, losing the light, but the thudding gait of some ill tempered guard dog was hot on their trail.
>They turned another corner, blindly running back the way they came.
>No sign of the fence, but they had a general idea of the direction.
>The main thing was, away from the guard.
>They rounded another corner, and a dark shape shot out from under a train car, driving Aria to the ground.
>”Oh no you don’t!” Sunset screamed, swinging the duffel bag at the canine as hard as she could.
>It whirled on her, snapping at the bag and tearing it out of her hands, but it gave Aria enough time to book it.
>Sunset lashed out with her foot, catching it’s snout with her heel.
>Sunset jolted, barely nabbing the silver canister before the dog charged again.
>No time to think!
>She turned the spray can on the mutt, blasting it full in the face with silvery paint.
>It yelped, jumping away and viciously scraping its snout on the gravel to rid itself of the fumes stinging its eyes and nose.
>Sunset ran and booked it just as the light found her again, followed by the overweight security guard.
>”I’ll get you, you little crook! What the hell did you do to my dog!?”
>Sunset just ran, not sparing him a second glance as the fence was finally within sight.
>Aria was already halfway by the time Sunset reached her, and Sunset was half up by the time the dog did.
>Sunset screamed, gripping the fence for dear life as vicious jaws tore at her jacket.
“Fuck OFF you little bitch!” Aria screamed.
>She swayed at the top of the fence, the glint of a billiard ball in her right hand.
>Her hand scythed violently as she released the ball, sending it into the mutt’s skull with a dull crack.
>The dog fell back with a whimper, releasing Sunset’s coat just long enough for her to scramble over.
>The guard arrived just in time to watch their backs as they retreated up the hill, his dog raging uselessly against the fence.
>They ducked around a corner as the barking dog was joined by a stream of expletives.
>Finally, they stopped, doubling over to catch their breath several streets away from the depot.
“Haha, holy shit that was awesome. We almost fucking died!”
>Sunset, gasping for breath, presented a single finger in response, making Aria cackle even harder.
>”That was… stupid and dangerous…”
>Sunset laughed, leaning against the wall for support.
>”And the best damn piece I’ve ever done.”
“Damn right. The danger fuels the artistic vision, or something.”
>”Yeah, or something.”
>They fell into silence again, and Aria lit another cigarette.
>Sunset frowned, but bit her lip before she could comment.
>Aria looked… drained. Exhausted.
>Dirty clothes, unkempt hair.
>Dark crescents under her eyes.
>Something stirred in Sunset as she realized that she looked skinnier too.
>”So…” she said slowly, “I haven’t really seen you since the music festival.”
>Aria shot her a look askance.
“You saw us perform?”
>Sunset blushed. She’d forgotten in all the excitement, there’d been a lot of magic and some time shenanigans going around.
>”Uh… yeah. Part of it anyway.”
>Aria wouldn’t remember the… incident with the van.
>Aria nodded, apparently satisfied.
“We were good, right?”
>Sunset swallowed. “Um…”
“Yeah, didn’t think so. That autotune crap can't match up to real magic.”
>Sunset scratched her neck apologetically.
>A car passed by, briefly flashing its lights down the alley.
>”So uh, how are your sisters then?”
>Aria growled, flicking her cigarette to the ground.
>Sunset winced as she ground it out with her bare foot.
“They’re dead.” She said flatly.
>Sunset narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
>”Like, ‘dead,’ dead, or…?”
“Dead to me,” Aria spat.
“Adagio’s busy locking clams with some rich bitch, and Sonata ran off with the van to take some gig in Mane. Haven’t seen her since.”
>”Oh,” Sunset said quietly. “Do they…”
“What?” Aria snapped, “Know I’m out on the street?”
>Sunset bit her tongue and nodded.
“Adagio probably thinks I’m with Sonata, and Sonata probably thinks I’m with Adagio. Sonata’s too stupid to ask and Dagi doesn’t care.”
>She scowled, clenching a fist.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m fine on my own! We managed this far in this shitty world with just each other, I can manage it alone without those two idiots weighing me down.”
>The words struck Sunset like a gut punch.
>She knew those feelings, if not the exact words.
>That feeling of betrayal from someone who was as close as family.
>Of wrongs, real or perceived, it made no difference.
>Of deciding to go it alone.
>That’s why she’d shown up at her doorstep, chucking billiard balls at her window.
>”Hey,” Sunset said gently.
“What?” Aria snapped.
>”Wanna knock over a convenience store?”
>Aria stared at her, dumbfounded.
“...Yeah, yeah I think I do.”
>The Triple Crown was one of those 24 hour chains that was never more than a few blocks away from any point in the city.
>Cloudy street lights cast the pumps into that pale yellow dusk that so pervades those nighttime urban streets.
>By contrast, the almost sterile white light pouring from the open windows was like a lighthouse, cutting through the fog of the early morning, a guiding light for those rare souls that were already up at this hour, or who’d never been asleep.
>The girl at the counter barely spared a glance at the pair that stepped into the empty store.
>A girl in a black jacket, her hair tucked up into a cap.
>Another girl, or maybe a very skinny dude, head hunched down hiding under a hood.
>She scoffed, attention returning to her phone.
>She tapped at her phone, barely paying attention as one began browsing the shelves and the other headed for the bathrooms.
>Sunset bit her lip, eyeing the cashier peripherally as she pretended to study a rack of candy bars.
>She seemed preoccupied.
>Carefully, Sunset swiped and pocketed a nutty caramel bar, watching for any reaction.
>She turned a corner, careful to keep her head down to hide her face from any security cameras as she lifted a peanut butter cup and a packet of cookies, slowly making her way to the drink coolers at the back.
>That was the real goal of her mission.
>Aria turned the lock on the bathroom door as it slipped closed behind her.
>She looked around, cracking her knuckles.
>Time to work.
>First the toilet.
>A wad of paper towels into the bowl, followed by half the role of toilet paper.
>Then the sink.
>She plugged the drain, stuffing it with the rest of the TP and turning the faucet on full blast.
>Finally she cranked the handle on the toilet, flushing two, three times, until it started to gurgle dangerously and the water began to rise.
>The girl at the counter started as she heard an all too familiar chuffing sound.
>”Oh no, nonononono!” she begged, rushing around the counter.
>”No no, please not on my shift!”
>She barged into the restroom, shoving past the girl in the hoodie making a strategic retreat.
>The little fucker!
>No time to yell at her, she had to stop the toilet!
>She ran in, nearly slipping on the wet tiles.
>It was too late, water was already spilling out onto the floor.
>She spun, running for the maintenance closet to grab a plunger.
>Sunset made her move as soon as the cashier was past her.
>She threw open the cooler, grabbing the first six pack she got her hands on.
>She met up with Aria on her way out of the bathrooms.
>The former siren shot her a smug grin, before swiping a box of snack cakes off the shelf.
>”What did you do?” Sunset hissed.
>Aria winked mockingly.
>”Right. Stupid question.” Sunset rolled her eyes. “Let’s GO.”
“One sec,” Aria said, jumping the counter.
>She snatched a carton of cigarettes, knocking half a dozen others to the ground.
>She turned, eyeing the cash till.
>”Ari!” Sunset snapped.
“Yeah, yeah,” Aria huffed, giving up in the locked register. She tucked the carton under her arm and rolled back over the counter.
>Two seconds later, they were out the door.
“Mm, I swear this shit tastes better stolen,” Aria muttered around a mouthful of frosting and carbs.
>Sunset chewed on her chocolate bar guiltily.
>”I dunno… I feel kinda bad…”
>Aria scoffed, downing the rest of her cake with a swig from her bottle.
>Sunset shrugged, taking a sip from her own bottle of shitty beer.
>An hour of aimless wandering, several counts of jaywalking, and a broken padlock had brought them to a familiar set of bleachers in a familiar school.
“I don’t get you.” Aria muttered around another mouthful of saccharine sugar.
>Sunset raised her eyebrow questioningly.
“You’re whole… thing.” Aria went on, leaning back to lay across the bench.
“When we arrived, we heard you were some kinda hardass, someone who stuck to her own rules who wouldn’t take shit from nobody.”
“Then we met you, and you were this total whipped bitch, scared of your own shadow and playing to the tune of the principal and those sissy girls.”
>Sunset leaned back on her elbows, looking up at the gradually brightening sky.
>”I dunno, you caught me at a pretty vulnerable time. Maybe my most vulnerable. That power you felt? I got hit by the same, and probably twice as hard. That shit BURNED, from the inside out.”
“So? Why did you give in?” Aria pressed. “Yeah, they beat you, boo-fucking-hoo. Man up, show ‘em who’s boss. Don’t crawl around kissing ass like a pussy.”
>Sunset… shrugged. “I don’t know. They beat me, and I was done. I didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to be alone. So, when they offered a hand in friendship… I took it.”
>Aria shook her head, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“Come on, you were Equestrian, right? You used to BE somebody. You must have had power, or else you never woulda been banished to this shithole.”
>Sunset flushed, hiding her chagrin behind another tip of the bottle.
>”Yeah,” she wiped her eyes, “I was somebody. Or… thought I was. Student of the princess, destined for the throne.”
>She laughed bitterly.
>”Or that’s what I thought. Celestia- the Princess disagreed.”
>Aria started, knocking her bottle off the bleacher with a clatter.
>She sat up, fixing Sunset with a skeptical glare.
“You. Were a student of the Sun Tyrant?”
>Now it was Sunset’s turn to start. “What?” she asked with an incredulous snicker.
>But Aria’s face was serious.
“What? That funny to you? That monster wiped out my family, Shimmer.”
>Sunset stared at her blankly.
>”Nuh-uh, you’re messing with me again.” She laughed nervously.
“I fucking am not. That bitch had us hunted down and slaughtered, just for siding with the moon princess.”
>She turned and glared toward the school building.
“It took all our power not to kill the principal when we met her. If she hadn’t been so easy to control, we would have.”
>Sunset swallowed nervously.
>”W-well, I’m glad you didn’t. Petty theft aside, murder is a lot harder to get away with!”
“Not with our magic it wasn't,” Aria said darkly.
>Sunset shifted uncomfortably.
>”What- what about now?”
“Doesn’t matter. Anyone that weak couldn’t possibly be connected to the REAL Celestia.”
>Sunset breathed a sigh of relief, relaxing muscles she hadn’t realized she’d tensed.
>”That’s… that’s good. Principal Celestia has… she’s been very supportive of me. Much more than the… other one ever was. She’s the one that helped me find a place to stay.”
“That shithole?” Aria scoffed.
>Sunset shrugged. “It’s not so bad. I have everything I need, and it’s clean enough. I can afford it, more or less. It’s more than I could ask for, considering.”
>Aria didn’t have much argument for that. She was dirty, barefoot, and living on the street.
>... sitting less than a foot away from the girl responsible for that situation in the first place.
>Sunset worried her lip awkwardly.
>Her mind had gone more or less down the same track as Aria’s.
>She really, REALLY shouldn’t take it for granted that this wasn’t some contrived revenge scheme.
>But then, she’d met the Dazzlings, at the music festival. Even if Aria didn’t remember.
>They’d been angry. Bitter. Hostile even. But not antagonistic. They'd just been…
>Living their lives.
>And now one of them had lost her way.
>Probably not. Sunset’s mind wandered back to the junkyard, a cue ball clobbering an angry guard dog.
>Maybe, but certainly alone.
>That was why she’d sought Sunset out, wasn’t it?
>In the absence of her sisters, she was seeking the only person who would, or even could, understand her plight.
>Or… maybe she was just bored, and the whole thing had been a drunken lark.
>But she didn’t think so.
>Aria was a lot like Applejack in some ways.
>Tough. Stubborn. Proud.
>Beyond asking for help.
>But not beyond needing it, from time to time.
>Sunset coughed, realizing she’d let the silence lapse for a while.
>The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, painting the dusky skyline in a golden color.
>She glanced over to her companion, who was lying back with her head in her hands, eyes closed against the encroaching sunlight.
“What?” Aria asked grouchily.
>Sunset licked her lips, deliberating on the next part.
>”You know, my place isn’t very big. But it’s got a shower. And a pull out couch. You know, if you ever needed a place to crash.”
>Aria opened one eye, fixing Sunset with a skeptical glare.
>She studied her face for a moment, then laughed incredulously.
“What did I tell you about stupid questions?”