Chapter 1: Allegro
“I’m sorry, Ms Melody, but we are no longer accepting resumés,” the gentleman said.
Octavia leaned forward pleadingly.
“Please, sir. It was simple happenstance which delayed my entry. You can see from my resume that I have extensive experience and could be quite an asset. Surely you could make an allowance…”
“Which would mean making allowances for fifty others,” he said with a sigh. “I’m sorry, we just can’t make exceptions. You’ll just have to wait for the next submission period like everyone else.”
Octavia bit back an argument. Antagonizing him would not get her into the Royal Canterlot Philharmonic.
“Yes. Of course,” she said. “I apologize for my rudeness.”
Octavia gathered her resumés and music, stuffing them back into her portfolio.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where a starving cellist might find some affordable housing, would you?” she asked, hefting her cello case.
The interviewer smiled wearily.
“We were all starving artists on the outset, weren’t we,” he said sympathetically. “Well, tempted as you might be, I would avoid Canterlot. Even shoddy apartments have outrageous rent prices. If you ask me, you should look at Ponyville. The ticket prices for the train are quite affordable, and though housing in Ponyville isn’t readily available, it’s not really a desirable area, so prices stay reasonable. If you happen to find an apartment-mate and can split the rent, you should manage quite well.”
“Thank you,” Octavia said politely, bowing as much as she could with her arms full before retreating.
She sighed once she hit the street. She’d been summarily turned down, and almost hurt her chances for any future submissions. It had not been one of her better days.
Octavia looked up and down the block. There had to be places she could afford somewhere, whatever her interviewer had said. It would just take some time and legwork to find it.
Octavia shouldered her cello, regretting for a moment that she hadn’t specialized in something a bit more transportable. The piccolo, perhaps.
Canterlot was where the action was. That was where the jobs were, and that was where she was going to live, and heaven help anyone who got in her way.
Vinyl Scratch turned off the ignition on her coupe and sat for a moment, taking slow, even breaths. Slowly, she reached up, straightened her tie, and adjusted her trademark sunglasses. Vinyl Scratch was no more. DJ P0N-3 had arrived.
The first time Vinyl had tried to DJ had been a total disaster. The moment she’d walked on stage she’d completely frozen up in front of the crowd. The lights, the noise, the sea of people, it had all been too overwhelming. It was in the midst of that that DJ P0N-3 was born. DJ P0N-3 was everything Vinyl Scratch was not, at least initially. By pretending to be DJ P0N-3, Vinyl had overcome her stage fright, and learned to thrive on the energy of the club. Now the transition from Vinyl Scratch to DJ P0N-3 was more habit than anything else. Vinyl no longer needed to pretend to be someone else to get on stage. The moment of imagined transformation was little more than a way of making sure she had her head in the game.
Vinyl popped the keys out of the ignition and opened the door, stepping out of her coupe, her seeming ever-present smirk firmly entrenched. It was going to be a good night. No, it was going to be a great night.
The train ticket was reasonably priced, Octavia had to admit. Even if she did have to buy two so her cello, mon chaton, could stay with her, and not go back in the luggage car. Mon chaton was the single most important thing she owned. She’d be damned if she let it out of her sight on a crowded train.
She sat her cello on the window seat before sinking into her own with a groan. Canterlot was every bit as expensive as the interviewer had warned. She’d seen hovels not fit for rats that cost more per month than she’d seen in a year. Over and over, block after block, she saw the same thing, until her feet throbbed in agony.
Octavia adjusted in her seat, stretching her legs as much as she was able, and wincing as the aches in her feet infected her calves as well.
She had to find someplace to stay, and soon. Hopefully she could find an inn, a bed and breakfast, or even a hostel in Ponyville as she looked for a place to stay. And employment. She mustn’t forget employment. Everything cost money, and her resources were rapidly depleting.
Octavia sighed. It was days like this that made her wish she drank. Or could afford to. At this point she’d knock back the cheapest vodka she could find if it meant enough of a buzz to let her ignore her aching legs, regardless of whether or not it was something she particularly enjoyed.
The train whistle gave a blast, and the car rumbled and lurched as the train began to move. For a while Octavia stared out the window at the scenery flying by her window, but before long the gentle swaying of the car and the low rumble as the train continued down the track lulled her into a dreamless sleep.
Vinyl Scratch stopped the sequencer as the last notes of her piece faded behind the roar of the club crowd. She allowed herself a smirk as she watched the crowd move, cheering for more.
Tonight was a good night. The energy was high, and the people were hungry. Vinyl looked around the club, both gauging the mood, and scoping out where a few of the hotties had gone to. Several good looking girls had already made their availability known. DJ P0N-3 never wanted for company. With her lanky, androgynous physique, girls lined up to have a chance with the DJ.
A twinge of something unpleasant ran through her. She shrugged it off without a thought. She liked her lifestyle. She liked being sought after. She liked the attention. And if it prevented her from having something a bit deeper… well, everything was a compromise.
Vinyl flashed the crowd her trademark grin, and they responded with increased cries. One more encore tonight, she thought. One more, then I see where the night takes me.
Vinyl kicked up a beat on her sequencer, and let the music flow.
Octavia jerked awake as the brakes squealed and the train gave a lurch. She blinked and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Her jaw cracked as she gave a yawn. She rubbed her eyes again. They felt sore, and she was sure she had bags under them. The brief nap she’d managed to grab on the train did little to sate her need for sleep. She gathered her things as she felt the train jerk and stutter to a stop.
Octavia stood and lurched down the aisle, keeping her head down to avoid the glares and curious looks of the other passengers. Ponyville was more of a stop than a station, and at this time of night she was likely the only reason for the train to stay. Octavia moved as swiftly as she dared without banging on anything.
As soon as she’d stepped away from the train, the whistle blasted a note, and steam erupted from exhaust valves. As the train shuddered and rocked into motion, Octavia hurried toward the station exit. Her mind was still foggy from unfulfilling sleep. She staggered through the station, only stopping to speak to an official looking gentleman.
“Pardon me,” she said. “Is there a hostel or motel nearby, perchance?”
The uniformed man gestured sharply with his head.
“There’s a motel attached to the station for stopovers,” he said. “It ain’t pretty, but it’s cheap.”
“Sounds perfect,” Octavia replied. “Thank you.”
The man nodded respectfully. Octavia hastened in the direction he’d indicated.
Before long she found what he’d meant. The room was cheap. It was also a dingy beige that screamed for renovation without going so far as to be dirty. It was as much as Octavia needed at the moment, and it wasn’t long before she’d been swallowed by the endless abyss of sleep.
Vinyl watched the girl get dressed, a wistful melancholy settling over her. The sex was good. Vinyl wasn’t complaining. But the awkwardness of that period between the sex and finally being rid of her ‘guest’ drove Vinyl to distraction.
“So…” the girl said once she’d put her shoes on. “I… um… guess I’ll be going?”
“See you ‘round the club,” Vinyl told her.
“Yeah,” she replied, before walking out.
The wistfulness drained from Vinyl leaving a blue funk.
She wasn’t sorry the girl, whatever her name was, was gone. She was one of a multitude of skinny, fake-boobed girls from too much money that Vinyl saw around the club. It was just that after they were gone, there was nothing distracting her from the loneliness.
Vinyl sighed. Even if those big-boobed bimbos wanted more, which they didn’t, and neither did Vinyl, it would never work. They didn’t fit into her world, and she didn’t fit into theirs. Hers was a world of sweat and stress and elation and hard, grueling work. She imagined theirs was a world of cocktail parties, too much expensive alcohol, and ‘oh my god, did you hear what “the help” did to Fifi’s Rolls?’ She imagined, anyway. She’d never been a part of that world, nor did she have an interest in it. She’d had a few people express interest in more private parties once she’d gotten trendy, but she’d turned them all down. She still thought of her music as being populist. How else could she, with no formal education, no money, and no family name, become a sensation? No, let the rich folk find some sellout to play their parties. Vinyl’s music was for everyone.
Besides, they were girls, even if they were in the same early-twenties age range as Vinyl. They didn’t have the same experience. Mommy and Daddy still solved most of their problems for them. They didn’t know what it was like to be out on their own, living without a safety net.
Vinyl got out of bed and walked to the door without bothering to dress. She stood stood there a moment, closing her eyes and resting her forehead against the frame. Brief fantasies flickered through her head. Fantasies of that nameless girl returning and professing undying love, and feeling their souls intertwine as their lips met.
Vinyl locked the door and stumbled back to bed. To Hell with today, and the same for tomorrow.
Ponyville was disgustingly charming. It was quaint. It almost went so far as to be cute. Even the stores. They were whimsical, lacking any hint of a chain or megastore.
Octavia shook her head. It was the houses that worried her. There were no visible apartment complexes, and no blocks of what looked like affordable housing.
Octavia frowned. How was she even going to know where there was room available?
Octavia jumped at the cry emanating from behind her.
“Thought you could sneak by me, did you?” the voice continued. “Well nothing escapes my Pinkie sense, new person!”
Octavia turned to see an energetic woman with a veritable mane of shockingly pink hair.
“I beg your pardon?” Octavia replied.
“You heard me,” the young woman accused. “You’re new in town.”
“I am,” Octavia confirmed.
“And you thought you could escape my notice!”
“What?” Octavia said. “I don’t even know you!”
The woman stopped mid-accusation, mouth agape.
“Oh,” she said. “In that case, I’m Pinkamena Peitz, but everyone calls me Pinkie Pie. Probably because I tell everyone to call me Pinkie Pie.”
“Um,” Octavia said uncertainly, “pleasure to make your acquaintance?”
“Likewise,” the woman chirped. “Now that that’s out of the way, we need to decide where your ‘new person’ party is going to be!”
“Oh. Um, while I appreciate your good intentions, I don’t know if I’m staying.”
“Oh, you totally are,” Pinkie assured her. “My Pinkie sense is never wrong.”
“Your ‘Pinkie sense’,” Octavia repeated.
“Well, your Pinkie sense may be on the fritz, since I don’t yet have a place to stay.”
“Oooh,” Pinkie exclaimed, “that’s a good one. But don’t worry, Auntie Pinkie is going to make everything work out fine!”
“I do believe I’m older than you,” Octavia said.
Octavia opened her mouth for a rebuttal, but couldn’t think of a proper response. Instead, she merely shut her mouth and shook her head.
“Now,” Pinkie said, “let’s see what we have here.”
Octavia watched curiously as Pinkie circled her, eyeing Octavia up and down.
“What do you do?” Pinkie asked.
“I’m a cellist.”
Pinkie gasped, covering her mouth with both hands.
“That’s a terrible thing to say in public!” she hissed. Pinkie looked up and down the street worriedly. She sidled up to Octavia and whispered out of the side of her mouth.
“Between you and me,” she hissed, “how often do you chell?”
Octavia gaped at Pinkie, her mind blank. She felt her face heat as a thought occurred to her.
“What? I… no, I… buh…” she sputtered. “I play the cello! I’m a musician!”
“Oh,” Pinkie said simply. “That makes much more sense. Hmmm… Lyra would have been perfect for you, but now she’s with Bon Bon. She plays a small harpy-thingy.”
“Lyre?” Octavia said, hazarding a guess.
“No, she does! Honest!” Pinkie said.
Pinkie didn’t seem to notice Octavia working her mouth in a wordless search for a response.
“So that rules out Lyra. And Bon Bon. There really aren’t that many… Oh! Of course!” she said with a snap of her fingers. “Vinyl needs a roomie.”
“Flatmate,” Octavia clarified. “Is Vinyl also a musician?”
“She’s a DJ and turntablist,” Pinkie answered.
“Yeah-huh,” Pinkie replied. “She plays a club in Canterlot every other night! She’s really popular. I get her to play some of my parties too, and she even gives me a discount! She’s really nice. You two will get along great!”
The mere thought of club music made Octavia’s headache.
“It was probably foolish to think it would be that easy,” Octavia said, slumping her shoulders. “I knew the orchestra was a longshot, but I thought just finding a place to live and some session work wouldn’t be this hard.”
“What are you talking about?” Pinkie asked, pulling out her cell. “This’ll be great! Just let me call her.”
Octavia frowned. She needed a place to stay, but was it worth it to share a place with someone who thought thudding bass qualified as music? What if she constantly practiced? What if she expected Octavia to share in the enjoyment of her ‘music’? On top of that was the fact that most people involved in such things tended to be younger. All in all, it seemed a recipe for disaster.
But she needed a place to stay. She needed work and to be nearby if she was going to last until the next time the Canterlot Philharmonic accepted resumes.
Octavia sighed. She was an adult. Even if they didn’t get along, she could be civil. They didn’t have to be friends, they just had to share the domicile.
“Hiya, Vinyl,” Pinkie said into her phone. “I got a roomie for ya. Whaddya mean ‘what for’? You don’t want to stay in that big ol’ house by yourself do ya?”
Octavia’s frown returned as she felt her heart sinking in her chest.
“No you don’t,” Pinkie continued. “You need a roommate, and she’s perfect. She’s even a musician. No, I told you she’s with Bon Bon. This one’s a cellist. It is not bori… ok, maybe it is. Still. Meet us at Sugarcube Corner. Yes, now.”
Pinkie smiled brightly at Octavia.
“She can’t wait!”
Vinyl stared at her phone in confusion. She resisted the temptation to wonder what had just happened. She knew what happened. Pinkie happened. The question was ‘why’?
Vinyl rolled out of bed and rummaged for clothing that didn’t look too rumpled. There was no use delaying. When Pinkie had something she wanted you to do, she found a way to get it. Besides, Vinyl had gotten her start at Pinkie’s parties. If it hadn’t been for that, she wouldn’t have gotten her club gig. Vinyl owed her.
She only had to meet this person. That was all.
Vinyl paused outside the door to Sugarcube Corner, taking a breath to steady her nerves. She hated meeting new people. In the club it was fine. They weren’t there to see Vinyl Scratch, they were there to see DJ P0N-3. No one ever got closer than that, not even the ones that made it into her bed. Meeting an actual person and having to talk as Vinyl Scratch? That terrified her. She peered through the window, trying to spy Pinkie and the mysterious other.
Vinyl saw Pinkie’s trademark pink coif bobbing at a table tucked back in a corner.
Vinyl’s breath caught in her throat. The woman, and she was very definitely a woman, sitting across from Pinkie was spectacular. Vinyl almost gasped as the woman turned to look at something, and Vinyl caught her in profile. She was probably ten years older than Vinyl, with long dark hair and bright, clear eyes. Also, she was stacked. Her curves had a softness to them which proudly proclaimed that they were 100% all-natural and silicone-free.
She was the polar opposite of everyone Vinyl saw in the clubs. She looked more… real.
Vinyl stepped back from the door and took a breath, feeling almost intimidated by the stranger sitting with Pinkie. She took a couple slow, calming breaths, and tried to put herself in performance mode. She wasn’t Vinyl Scratch, she was DJ P0N-3. People came from all over to hear her perform. She intimidated them by her talent. They were nervous to talk to her. She swaggered. She schmoozed. She made the room come alive.
Vinyl set her shoulders and pushed her way into the bakery. It was time to put on a show.
Octavia sipped her tea. It wasn’t the best blend, merely some mass market name brand, but it was serviceable. In all honesty, she wasn’t in a position to complain. It had been so long since she’d had money for good tea that this was actually better quality than she’d drank in some time.
Octavia inhaled the scent and took another sip. They’d even given her real milk for it. She felt a lump form in her throat. Real, civilized tea in a teacup. It brought to mind the smells of baking in the kitchen, the clanking of dishes, and her mother humming a tune. A sense of security, when times were simpler.
She blinked away the threat of tears. They’d even given her a dollop of honey.
Octavia looked up when she heard the bell on the door jingle.
“Ah, there you are,” Pinkie exclaimed.
Octavia twisted to watch the new arrival walk over. She was thin, falling somewhere between ‘lithe’ and ‘skinny’. She had a rather androgynous look that was accentuated by her choice of clothing: slim cut pants, a man’s shirt, tie, and sport coat, topped off by shockingly blue hair. Her eyes were obscured by heavily tinted purple sunglasses, and she wore a cocky smirk which tied the whole ensemble together.
All in all, she was rather attractive. Very attractive.
“So,” Vinyl said, “this is the potential housemate?”
Octavia rose and offered her hand.
Vinyl grasped her hand firmly.
“Great!” exclaimed Pinkie. “Friends already. I have to start my shift soon, so you two kids hang out and chat for awhile, and shout if you need anything.”
With that, she bounced off.
Octavia examined Vinyl as they both sat, cursing the sunglasses which made her impossible to read. Vinyl showed no inclination to start a conversation. That left Octavia to begin.
“You sounded less than enthused about the prospect of a flatmate,” she said.
“Yeah,” Vinyl confirmed. “I’m pretty good living by myself, and I’m making enough from the club that I don’t actually need to split the rent.”
Pinkie swept by, dropping a fresh pot of tea and a creamer full of milk. Without saying a word, she vanished into the growing crowd of people.
Octavia freshened her cup of tea, and raised the cup up to her face, inhaling the steam.
“Then why are you here?” she asked. “If you aren’t looking for a housemate…”
“When Pinkie starts getting insistent, you just roll with it,” Vinyl told her. “Besides, Pinkie’s a friend who got me work when I needed it, so… . What about you? Why Ponyville?”
“I tried to get into the Royal Canterlot Philharmonic, but I missed the entry period. I hoped to find a place and do some session work until a spot opened up again, but Canterlot was far too expensive.”
“Yeah, Canterlot is for rich snobs. Wait, that means you’re…”
“Unemployed with dwindling resources,” Octavia finished. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
Octavia rose to leave.
“Whoa!” Vinyl blurted, holding out her hands. “Whoa, wait a minute.”
Octavia sat uncertainly.
Vinyls mouth twisted. Again, Octavia wished she could see her eyes.
“I… uh…” Vinyl muttered. “Look, ‘m sorry if I came off all megabitch on you. I know how hard it can be to get a foothold around here, too. Pinkie’s the one who really helped me get my start, and if she vouches for you…”
“Yuppers!” Pinkie chirped, coming out of nowhere.
Octavia jumped, knocking over her teacup.
“Yeah,” Vinyl chuckled ruefully as Octavia hastily mopped up her spilled drink. “You get used to that. Anyway, if Pinkie thinks you’re cool, then I’ll let you stay. I’ll even float your rent for a couple months while you look for work.”
“Th-that…” Octavia stuttered, “that is most generous of you.”
“Yeah, well… I have my moments. Don’t get used to it.” Vinyl’s cocksure smile returned. “Come on, Tavi, I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.”
“What did you call me?” Octavia demanded.
“Tavi. It’s better than ‘Octy’.”
“My name is ‘Octavia’,” Octavia said cooly. “I am neither a cephalopod nor a mongoose.”
“Okaaaaaay...” Vinyl said after a moment, “I get octopus, but mongoose?”
“Tavi?” Octavia said to Vinyl’s confused look. “Rikki Tikki Tavi? Kipling?”
“Oh, yeah,” groaned Vinyl. “I can tell this is going to be great.”
“And this would be your bedroom,” Vinyl told her.
Octavia merely nodded. She’d run out of superlatives long ago. The house was amazing. It was small, yes, but Octavia had notice none of the Ponyville homes were very big and what Vinyl’s home lacked in size, it made up for in character. Glossy hardwood floors ran through the house, perfectly complemented by the dark wood molding which Octavia suspected was real oak, and not some plywood laminate. It gave the house a warm, homey appearance, but Octavia knew from experience that the hominess belied the money which went into it.
It was marvelous.
There was only one problem.
“I noticed some equipment in the living room,” Octavia said. “Do you compose here?”
“Mostly I work at a studio in Canterlot I rent time in,” Vinyl said. “I do a little work here, but mostly through headphones. I had a few run-ins with the neighbors early on, before I realized how close all the buildings were.
“What about you?” Vinyl asked. “What do you do to practice?”
“I have a hotel mute,” Octavia told her. “No one outside the house should even know there’s a cello here.”
“Sounds good,” Vinyl said.
An awkward pause began to grow between them.
“Well,” Vinyl said with a clearing of her throat, “I should let you settle in. Lemme know if you need anything.”
“Of course,” Octavia replied with a nod. She turned to the empty room with nervous excitement. For the time being, this was home.
Vinyl shut the door to her room, turned and leaned against it. What was she thinking, taking on a housemate? A stranger? All because Pinkie called her up?
Liar, she thought sourly to herself. She might have gone to Sugarcube Corner because of Pinkie, but she stayed because of those eyes, that body, and that elegant accent.
As long as she wasn’t murdered in her sleep, everything would be fine.
Chapter 2: Adagio
Vinyl Scratch knocked on the back door of the club and waited for the door to open. She glanced back at her precious sequencer, synth, mixer and turntables on the cart behind her, all encased in foam-lined boxes. So much of her life was contained in those boxes. Those, and the laptop in her shoulder bag. All of it replaceable. An odd melancholy settled over her before the telltale sound of the door opening drew her attention.
“Hmm,” the club manager grunted as he held the door open for Vinyl. “Good crowd tonight. Should be a fun night.”
Vinyl nodded with a smile as she pulled on her cart.
“Got a new waitress, too. Just started a couple of days ago. Hot number. Confident too. Might even be too much for a cocky DJ.”
“Care to bet on it?” she asked.
“I’ll send her over with some water as you’re setting up,” the manager said. “I’ll throw you that bone.”
Vinyl raised an eyebrow.
The manager snickered.
“I think you’re gonna need it.”
Vinyl plugged her mixer into the club soundsystem with barely a thought. She’d been running sets here so long the club equipment felt almost like her own. The club as a whole was nearly a second skin to her. Not only did she essentially have free range over the club floor, but she’d also been in all the back rooms, private areas, even the janitorial closet. Hell, she’d even gone down on a girl in the manager’s office.
She made buckets of money for the club and its owners. In return, the owners gave Vinyl plenty of freedom.
Vinyl plugged in the last couple of cables and flipped on the power switch. LEDs blinked on like christmas lights on a newly erected tree. Vinyl sat back, satisfied, and basked in the peaceful moment before the doors opened. She’d have to run a pre-check, but these days it was mostly a formality. The club was all but hers. She knew the equipment, she knew the people, and she felt at home here.
“Pardon,” a voice interrupted Vinyl’s thoughts. “I’ve brought you some water. If you would like anything else, I can… Oh bloody hell. Vinyl!”
Vinyl turned, barely believing her ears. That voice could only belong to one person.
“Tavi! What are you doing here?”
Octavia scowled as she set down several bottles of water.
“Octavia is working. What does it look like?”
“As a waitress?” Vinyl asked.
“Session work is hard to come by,” Octavia sighed, “and I can’t live off your good graces forever. I need to pull my own weight.”
“It’s only been two weeks,” Vinyl said.
“Yes,” Octavia said. “Two bloody weeks looking for work. There comes a point where you take what you can get. Besides, having some actual money in my pocket would be a welcome change. Now, can I get you anything else?”
Vinyl frowned and pulled out her wallet.
“Nah, but could you do me a favor?”
She handed Octavia a fifty.
“Give this to the manager, and tell him Vinyl knows when she’s licked.”
Octavia raised an eyebrow took the bill.
“Inside joke,” Vinyl said with a grin. “Nothing to worry about.”
Octavia shrugged and walked away. Vinyl watched her go with a frown, her mood dampened. This was going to be a rough night.
Octavia trudged grumpily into the house. Her feet ached from her shift at the club. They ached further because of the walk from the train station.
It was unreasonable to expect Vinyl to give her a ride from the club. Vinyl had cleaned up her equipment and taken off long before Octavia’s shift had ended. But still… she could have offered.
Octavia dropped her keys and purse on an end table with a grumble, and stretched, feeling the aches in her back.
A giggle sounded from Vinyl’s room, followed by some unintelligible words. Octavia looked curiously at the door to Vinyl’s room. A loud moan emanated from the offending door.
Octavia rolled her eyes and sighed.
Vinyl had company.
Octavia set her jaw and strode over to her cello case. She reached inside where there was an obscured pocket, and withdrew a small, outdated MP3 player. She turned the device over in her hands for a moment, then swiftly made for the door, plucking her keys off the end table on the way.
The night was cool, which Octavia was grateful for when she walked from the train station. Now it was a bit more uncomfortable. Even more so, there was a stillness to the air and the town that was unsettling, as though the town of Ponyville didn’t just sleep through the night, but stopped, like a clockwork automaton whose spring had wound down.
Anyplace other than Ponyville, and Octavia wouldn’t have done this. Canterlot could be positively dangerous at night, and most other places Octavia had lived became a bit unsafe once the sun set. Here in Ponyville, however, such concerns seemed foolish.
Octavia walked into the park and looked around, trying to get her bearings. It took a moment to figure out which direction was east, but Octavia eventually found a bench which faced it, and sat. She put the earbuds connected to her MP3 player in her ears and hit the shuffle button. Music filled her world.
Most people assumed Octavia only listened to classical music. This was absurd. No one Octavia had ever met ever listened to one single type of music. Sure, someone might like country, but those people often listened to some pop rock or folk, or some other genre, related or otherwise. Octavia listened to whatever moved her, and the music on her player showed the breadth of her taste. There was old country music from before country became pop music with a twang. There was alternative country. There was a rapper with an exceptional vocabulary. There was hip-hop that someone had written orchestration to. There was an indie pop group with a tap dancer instead of a drummer. There was post folk, prog metal, and even some synth pop. And yes, there was definitely some classical.
Octavia took a deep breath of the cool, sweet night air as the music filled her ears. She flexed her back and rolled her shoulders, feeling the evening of work catching up with her.
Octavia looked around worriedly, assuring herself she was alone. The park was empty, and all the businesses around dark. Octavia kicked off her shoes, and quickly reached up under her skirt to pull off her nylons. She extricated herself from them as quickly as she dared without causing a run or tear, and shoved them into her pocket. Now freed, she smoothed her skirt and settled herself back on the bench. She moved to put her shoes back on, but hesitated. Instead, she plunged her feet into the cool, dewy grass and sighed.
Her mind wandered to Vinyl and her penchant for temporary companionship. Octavia didn’t have the desire or energy for that lifestyle anymore, not that she begrudged Vinyl her fun. However, it did make things somewhat awkward for Octavia, as well as bringing up more… wistful emotions. Octavia hadn’t had an actual relationship in some time. She wasn’t in the market for a one-night stand. That kind of physical need she could, and did, take care of on her own. No, it was the connection she missed, the gentle intimacy of cuddling post-sex, or waking up together on a weekend when neither partner had work.
Octavia shook her head and grimaced. Maybe once she’d settled in a bit more she’d look for romance. Or maybe not. Prospects seemed slim. It just didn’t seem fair that Vinyl, who never wanted for companionship, eschewed the very thing Octavia desired.
Such was life, Octavia supposed. She let out a sigh and sat back on the bench, letting the music wash away all the worry and stress of the day as she patiently waited for the sunrise.
Vinyl watched from her bed as her latest fling exited her room. It was that view that inspired Vinyl in the first place, and it had only improved as clothes had been removed.
Vinyl smiled and stretched before rolling out of bed and following after. She caught her naked reflection in the mirror and once again wished for a more womanly figure. She made her physique work for her, and the girls seemed to like it, but at moments like this, Vinyl felt like a boy. She wished she didn’t look like puberty had forgotten her. Maybe more like Octavia.
Vinyl smiled. Octavia was stacked. She made Vinyl salivate when she walked by. Vinyl bet she’d never been mistaken for a boy.
Vinyl wandered out of her room, making sure ‘what’s her name’ had closed the door when she’d left. She turned to go back to her room, but stopped dead.
Octavia’s door was open.
That meant she wasn’t there.
Vinyl padded back to her room and fished around in her discarded clothes for her phone. It was late. Too late. So late that it was early. If Octavia wasn’t home by now, she was probably stuck in Canterlot. The last train had gone hours ago.
Vinyl tapped a message into her phone and sent the text. Immediately a buzzing erupted from the end table by the front door. Vinyl frowned as she spied Octavia’s purse. She’d been there and left.
Had she not approved of Vinyl’s recreational activities? The thought rankled Vinyl.
Vinyl paced around the living room. Why was this getting under her skin? She’d never cared what anyone thought of her previously. And it wasn’t like she had any designs on Octavia. Even if Tavi was hot, she’d never shown any interest in women… or anyone for that matter. And if she was going to be all judgy, well, Vinyl didn’t need that in her life.
Vinyl groaned and stalked back to her room. She would need clothes for if and when Octavia came home.
Octavia trudged toward the house. The sunrise was, of course, beautiful, though the decision to stay up and watch it was still unwise.
Octavia yawned a large, jaw-creaking yawn. It was a good thing her next shift wasn’t until the afternoon.
As she approached the house, she noticed a trim figure standing outside the door smoking a cigarette.
“Vinyl,” Octavia called. “Early morning? I’d have thought you’d still be in bed.”
Vinyl took a drag on her cigarette before answering. Her clothes were rumpled, and her hair even more disheveled than usual.
“Couldn’t sleep,” she said simply.
Octavia scowled and waved her hand to dissipate the cloud of smoke.
“Please don’t blow that in my direction,” she said. “Anyway, it couldn’t have been me keeping you up, since I wasn’t here. Was your companionship not to your satisfaction?”
Vinyl took another drag with a scowl and blew the smoke in Octavia’s direction.
“Does my ‘companionship’ bother you?” she asked.
Octavia frowned, waving the smoke away.
“Why should it?” she demanded.
“Well, I…” Vinyl started.
“Vinyl Scratch,” Octavia interrupted, “I am not your mother, and I don’t care whom you fuck. Whilst there may be some awkwardness on my part, especially if I don’t particularly care to listen to your escapades, you are free to do what you please in your own home. Now give me that!”
Octavia snatched the cigarette from Vinyl’s hand and took a long drag before Vinyl could protest.
“Twelve years I’ve been off the bloody things,” she said, handing the cigarette back. “If I buy a pack tomorrow, I’m kicking your ass.”
Octavia pushed the door open.
“Good night, Vinyl,” she said.
Vinyl watched her go, not sure what she was supposed to be feeling.
“‘Night,” she said, dropping her cigarette to the ground, and crushing it out.
Vinyl jammed the cable into her mixer and huffed. Since that first night with Octavia, Vinyl had felt unsettled. Unsure.
She hated it.
It was everything DJ P0N-3 had been created to overcome: the uncertainty, the lack of confidence. To have it come back now… well…
“This sucks,” Vinyl muttered.
“What does?” Octavia asked, setting a couple of water bottles down next to Vinyl’s mixer.
“Nothing!” Vinyl blurted. “Just… thinking through a new mix.”
“Well, don’t get discouraged,” Octavia told her. “Does the manager know we’re flatmates?”
Vinyl tilted her head in confusion.
“Because he keeps sending me over here with water,” Octavia said. “I thought he was trying to capitalize on some assumed pre-existing relationship.”
Vinyl felt her face heat up.
“Um… yeah... no. It… it was something else.”
Octavia raised an eyebrow.
Vinyl fidgeted under Octavia’s unflinching gaze.
“OK, fine,” she sighed. “Look, the manager and I have… kind of a standing bet, OK? He picks a girl, and I see if I can take her home.”
“That’s what the bullseye was for!” Octavia blurted.
“The what?” Vinyl asked.
“The bullseye. The fifty.”
“So you paid him because you couldn’t take a girl home. What does that have to do with… I was the girl!?”
“No!” she blurted. “Well, yes, but…”
“Why didn’t you just give me a ride home and lie?”
“Buh-wha…? “ Vinyl stammered. “Why would I lie? It’s just a silly bet. Besides, we don’t know each other very well, but I still wouldn’t want to do that to you. DJ P0N-3 is nothing if not honest.”
Vinyl knew she wasn’t the most sensitive person on the planet, but she thought she had a pretty good handle on expressions. I helped when trying to score with club bunnies. Octavia’s face, however, was a complete mystery.
“What do you do with girls who aren’t gay?” Octavia asked.
“Um…” Vinyl tried to find her footing in the change of topic. “Go for broke anyway. That’s part of the challenge. And the fun.”
Vinyl flashed a grin.
“More go home with me that you might think.”
Vinyl simply stood wondering what Octavia was thinking as she seemed to digest the information. For Vinyl’s part, she definitely would not share that some of those girls went home with Vinyl thinking she was male.
“Let me know if you need anything,” Octavia said.
She turned to leave, but seemed to reconsider.
“Vinyl,” she said.
Vinyl watched her go, wondering what the hell had just happened.
“Here’s your craft beer,” Octavia said, gently setting down the drink, “your Seven and Seven, and your… ugh. Your Long-Slow-Double-Entendre.”
The greasy-haired kid smirked.
“I could share one with you, if you like.”
He reached his hand back and placed on Octavia’s rear. She stiffened in shock.
“Move your hand or lose it,” she said calmly.
“Aw, come on, Honey,” the kid said. “You might like it.”
“I have access to a wide array of sharp objects,” Octavia said. “Remove your hand or I will personally cut off your balls and shove them down your throat.”
The kid’s hand shot back as though it had touched a hot stove.
“Let me know if you need anything else, gentlemen,” Octavia said as she turned and left.
As soon as she was sure she was out of sight, she allowed herself a shiver. It was as if people didn’t understand that she was a waitress, and not a prostitute, she thought, as she gripped her upper arms in a self-hug.
She sighed, trying to shake off the revulsion she felt, and straightening her spine. Stiff upper lip, and all that rubbish.
The lights on the stage went up, and the crowd cheered. Octavia turned to see Vinyl on stage, wearing her ever-present shades and trademark cocky grin. She hit a few buttons on her equipment, and the beat started. The crowd roared as music began flowing from the club sound system.
Octavia watched Vinyl be truly in her element. She flowed with the music, putting out a seemingly endless amount of energy, only to have the crowd return it tenfold. There was a raw, unchained beauty in Vinyl’s performance, an untamed, animalistic power.
As she wandered back to the bar. She found herself liking the cocky DJ. Vinyl was an irresponsible, carefree sort of person, but there was an honesty that Octavia found refreshing. Perhaps Octavia had become too jaded, but she wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if Vinyl would have lied about sleeping with her, yet she had not. And she was letting Octavia live rent-free while she got on her feet. Honesty and kindness. In one person, no less. A rather cute person, at that.
“Easy, Octavia. Don’t go soiling the nest,” she muttered to herself.
That was the last thing she needed, to ruin her situation with some ill-advised tryst, especially when it was so clear that Octavia and Vinyl weren’t looking for the same things. And it wasn’t like Octavia was any prize for someone like Vinyl, who could have any girl she wanted.
Octavia signed as a wave of loneliness washed over her. She squared her shoulders and set her jaw. Wishes and regrets were for when there was no work to be done.
Vinyl downed the rest of her water, sat back, and took a deep breath. The end of a night was like coming down off a high. The adrenaline made her jittery. Once out of the lights, and away from the heat of the bodies below her, her sweat cooled quickly, giving her a chill. The exhaustion and dehydration, only noticeable once the thrum and roar of the crowd were gone, quickly sapped her remaining strength, making her only good for sitting.
Octavia walked by, dropping a new bottle of water next to Vinyl in the process. Vinyl watched her go with mixed feelings.
A month. A whole month they’d been housemates.
It was frightening how quickly something new began to feel normal.
It was weird. Octavia was weird. She was equal parts thoughtful and standoffish. And Vinyl knew next to nothing about her.
Vinyl cracked open the new bottle of water and took a swig, then set the bottle down with a sigh. She hadn’t arranged any company tonight. She just hadn’t been in the mood.
Vinyl heaved herself up with a groan. Her thoughts and emotions were all in a jumble, but there was one thing she felt clearly.
Vinyl walked out of the back area onto the club floor. She smiled and waved as she walked through the crowd of leaving patrons, but carefully resisted responding to any ‘come hither’ looks. Carefully she made her way through the throng toward the bar, keeping her eyes peeled for one person in particular.
There she was, standing by the bar and shifting her weight uncomfortably from foot to foot.
“Octavia,” Vinyl called.
Octavia turned and raised her head in acknowledgment.
“Want a ride home?”
Octavia raised a curious eyebrow.
“No visitors tonight?” she asked.
“Taking a break.”
Octavia rolled her shoulders.
“I wouldn’t mind not having to take the train,” Octavia said, “but I’m liable to be working late. I don’t work tomorrow, so I was going to help clean up a bit.”
Vinyl waved off her concerns.
“Take your time,” she said. “I’m just gonna be chilling in back.”
Octavia nodded, and Vinyl took her cue to leave. Heading to the back of the club now felt like swimming upstream. She tried to smile politely and wave and nod at the fans crowing her praises. Her little cubby in back now felt like a refuge, she thought as she sat and picked up her abandoned water bottle. It was strange. Usually the adulation of her fans was a source of energy for her. Today it was noise. Vinyl felt off. Unsettled. And she knew the source. Hopefully, getting to know Octavia a bit more on the drive home would help sort out Vinyl’s feelings, and get her back on track.
Vinyl leaned back in her chair and sipped from her bottle.
Everything would sort itself out, she thought, closing her eyes. She just needed to find her footing. Once she did, everything would go back to normal.
Vinyl felt a gentle prodding at her shoulder as she woke.
Vinyl opened her eyes to see Octavia staring down at her.
“Wassit?” she croaked.
“Rise and shine, sleepyhead,” Octavia said with an amused smile. “The club is closed up, and we can leave. Are you sure you can drive?”
Vinyl let out a jaw-cracking yawn.
“After a nap like that? No problem.”
Vinyl stood up and stretched. Her back popped and cracked as she did.
“Let’s hit the road!”
“So,” Vinyl began once they were comfortable in Vinyl’s sportscar, “Hell of a month, eh?”
“Hrmph,” Octavia grunted noncommittally.
Vinyl suppressed a groan. This was not starting well.
“I mean,” she ventured again, “new place, new job… Y’know?”
“I suppose,” Octavia said as she stared out the window.
“I was thinking…” Vinyl said, “We really haven’t gotten to know each other… soooo….”
“Hmmm…” Octavia mused. “I suppose we are overdue for a chat. And I don’t work tomorrow. Would you care for a nightcap and small talk?”
“Here we are,” Octavia said as she emerged from her bedroom.
She’d changed from her work clothes into some loose fitting pajamas, and was carrying a bottle. Vinyl watched curiously as she walked to the kitchen and rummaged in the cabinets.
“Ah,” Octavia exclaimed as she set down a couple of glasses. “I thought I saw some Old Fashioned glasses in there.”
“Hey,” Vinyl snapped. “Don’t hate my glasses. I thought they looked nice.”
“Old Fashioned is the type of glassware,” Octavia corrected. “I’m not criticizing your choice in dishes, Vinyl.”
Vinyl watches as Octavia dropped a few cubes of ice into each glass, followed by a healthy dose of amber liquid, and a splash of water.
“Whaddya got?” Vinyl asked.
“Scotch,” Octavia replied, handing the glass to Vinyl. “A decent blended. Nothing too fancy, but nice enough.”
“Hmmmm…” Vinyl said, swirling the amber liquid in the glass. “Cheers.”
Octavia touched her glass to Vinyl’s and took a sip.
“Mmmmm…” she hummed. “Sweet and spicy. I think this one’s a keeper.”
Vinyl took a sip. Octavia was right. It was sweet and spicy, tasting of toffee and pepper and citrus, as well as things Vinyl couldn’t name.
“So,” Vinyl started, “What’s your story?”
“Oh, you know,” Octavia replied. “Same-old story about a girl chasing her dreams.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Vinyl said. “There’s got to be more to it than that, what with your hoity-toity accent, and taste in booze.”
Octavia frowned. Vinyl shifted in her seat uncomfortably. Had she hit a sore spot, she wondered? Maybe it would be best to lighten-”
“Dad was from a posh family,” Octavia said, staring into her glass. “Mum… not so much. It didn’t exactly put them on the outs with the rest of the family, but it didn’t do them any favors. It didn’t help that Dad was bad with money, and there hadn’t been much to start with. Mum helped as much as she could. She was always the shrewder of the two. But when Dad got sick, and the hospital bills started rolling in… well… that didn’t help. And when he died, and the funeral costs….”
Octavia took a gulp of her drink and grimaced.
“All in the past now,” she said with an unconvincing smile. “Now I’m a girl on a mission, with little but the clothes on my back, and my trusty cello, ready to take on the world!”
It took a moment for Vinyl to find her voice.
“Why do I think there’s some gaps in there?” she asked.
“Pssh,” Octavia spat with a dismissive wave. “There’s been plenty of odd jobs, failed relationships, and the occasional concert, but that’s not unique to me.”
“Okay, but when did you start playing the cello? And why the cello?”
Octavia chuckled, a genuine smile gracing her lips.
“Not the most stylish of instrument, no? Culture was important in my family. What disposable income my parents had usually went to symphonies, concerts, and theatre. I could recite the prologue to Henry the Fifth by the time I was twelve. But music… music was in my soul. I did some singing, tried some keyboard… anything to be a part of the music. Then one day we were at a performance, and this bloke… well, he played this piece on a cello, and it… it made me sad.”
“It made you sad??? That’s what turned you on?”
“Vinyl!” Octavia gasped. “It wasn’t like that. It…. The piece, it was like it spoke to me of unrequited love and infinite despair. It was achingly beautiful, and heartbreaking. I knew right then and there that I wanted to make people feel with music, and the cello was the perfect medium. I’ve only regretted it when I’ve had to carry the bloody thing for too long.”
“Yeah. I can see how you’d wish you had something more portable,” she said.
“Says the turntablist,” Octavia replied, pouring more scotch into their glasses. “What about you? What made the famous DJ P0N-3 who she is?”
Vinyl sipped her drink, knowing full well she was stalling. She could feel the warmth of the alcohol spreading out to her extremities as a numbing balm.
“Foster homes, mostly,” she admitted. “I don’t remember my parents. I just remember bouncing between homes. Not that they were bad, just that I wasn’t me. Spent a lot of time on the streets, in clubs, etc. As soon as I could, I extracted myself from the system, and pretended to adult. From there, it was mostly skill and a lot of luck. I had some pretty cheap equipment from my last foster home that I played around with. I tried a turn or two on in some clubs, but I was too green. Then I happened to enter a contest, and blew them all away. The rest is history.”
Vinyl took another sip, trying to mask her discomfort. She didn’t share those secrets with just anyone, but, then again, Octavia had shared something with her. It was exactly what Vinyl had asked for, and she knew you didn’t get without expecting to give in return. She just wished she could read Octavia and figure out what she was thinking.
Octavia cursed Vinyl’s shades for the umpteenth time. They made it impossible to read her expression. She sipped her drink, feeling the warm tingly effect of the alcohol. Despite herself, she was warming up to the DJ more and more by the minute. She was brash, arrogant, and the opposite of Octavia in every conceivable way, yet Octavia felt a kinship with Vinyl. They were both driven by their love of music.
“But at least I play some awesome music, and don’t have to lug around some huge piece of wood,” Vinyl said with a smirk.
If only she knew when to keep her mouth shut.
“My cello is an amazing piece of workmanship,” Octavia protested.
“Pssh,” Vinyl spat. “Please, unless they’re screaming out of an amp, strings are lame.”
It was not the first time Octavia had heard such barbs. Hell, it wasn’t the first time Vinyl had said such things. This time, however, Octavia couldn’t let it pass. Perhaps it was the alcohol. Perhaps she felt like she needed acceptance from her flatmate. Whatever the reason, Octavia was not going to roll over and take it.
“Yes,” she shot back, “because letting a machine do all the work of playing the note and modulating the tone is so much more work, and conveys sooooo much emotion.”
“Don’t feed me that shit,” Vinyl said, rolling her eyes. “I don’t care how artistic you think you’re being, if the end result sucks, artistic integrity can lick me.”
“Don’t be vulgar,” Octavia rebuked. “It’s all about emotion. I can play the same notes and give you two vastly different songs. Every time I sit down at my cello, I play a different song. My emotions, my state of mind, it all gets channeled through my instrument, and projected to the audience. Your sequencer can’t say the same thing. It runs the same program, plays the same notes the same way every time. What do you add once the song is written?”
Vinyl knocked back her drink and slammed down the glass with a loud clatter.
“That’s bullshit,” she spat. “I can make the audience feel anything I want, any time I want. I’ve never heard a cello make anyone feel anything but boredom.”
Octavia set down her own drink.
“You don’t think I make people feel?” she demanded.
“Nothing but boredom,” Vinyl repeated, “and I know you can’t rock.”
Octavia stood and shoved her chair back.
“Challenge accepted,” she growled.
Octavia turned and strode from the room, fuming.
“Running away proves nothing!” Vinyl called after here.
Octavia ignored her. She walked into her room and pulled her cello out of its case, fishing her bow out immediately after. She hefted the instrument and walked back to where Vinyl was still seated. She planted the cello with a thud.
“You,” Octavia threatened, pointing her bow menacingly, “are going to learn how mon chaton and I make grown men cry.”
“You named your cello?” Vinyl smirked.
Octavia ignored her. She reached behind her with her foot, and hooked the chair leg with her toe, dragging it forward to an adequate spot. She fell into her chair, and tried to take a steadying breath. Instead, the breath made her dizzy. The alcohol was still doing its work.
Octavia ignored it like she ignored Vinyl’s smirk. She’d done a lot of things drunk, more than was advisable. This, while also inadvisable, was war. It was a battle for validity, and being a little drunk probably wouldn’t hurt, especially with the amount of abuse she was about to reap on both her fingers and her cello.
Octavia took another breath and held her bow ready. She placed the fingers of her left hand on the strings, and adjusted her grip on the bow in her right. On some level she hated what she was about to do. She was abusing her music and her instrument for some petty argument, and while tipsy on top of it. On the other hand, Vinyl and she had been throwing barbs back and forth for what seemed like ages. It was time to end it. It was time to show there was more to her than the conformity of an orchestra, or the boredom some associated with classical music.
Octavia squeezed her bow tightly for a moment, feeling the firmness of the grip and the weight of the bow.
It was time to fire her first shot.
Octavia started with a piece she’d found by accident. She’d found a solo cello piece one day which was one of several ‘moods’ the composer had written. One in particular had captured her fancy: Fury. It had the benefit of being unlike anything typically thought of as ‘classical’. It screeched. It thrummed. Alternated between atonal and wickedly rhythmic.
As the piece quickly reached its end, Octavia wracked her brain for follow up. She transitioned into ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’.
Octavia frowned. The faster she played it, the smoother it came out. It had none of the sting she was hoping for. She shifted into the guitar intro to AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. It still was too smooth. It wasn’t raw enough.
It was time for the next weapon in her arsenal.
Octavia paused, and placed her bow in her mouth. Hand free, she restarted ‘Thunderstruck’, but this time plucking the strings. That brought some of the sharpness back to the tune.
People were usually familiar with fingerstyle guitar, and most knew that basses could be plucked, but it didn’t usually occur to them that you could do the same with a cello. Octavia used as many fingers as she could fit to get out as many notes as possible. The introduction of the drums, with their simple, pounding rhythm were due to start soon. Octavia had one last secret weapon to use that would fit perfectly. One last trick that most people didn’t expect.
A cello could be strummed.
You didn’t get a ton of sound out of it, and you had to keep your chords simple, but it was perfect for the simple pounding of that two-strike rhythm.
Octavia continued to pluck strings in time, only pausing to pound that beat against the strings.
The vocals were soon scheduled to start. Without another cellist, Octavia was not about to add another part, and her singing could politely be compared to the sound of a goat in distress. No, it was time to go off script.
Octavia snatched the bow from her mouth and continued the quick notes of Thunderstruck, this time opting to quickly saw the bow across the strings to get that edge she’d been missing earlier. Once she’d gotten back into the rhythm, she started improvising. She slapped the bow against the strings. She drove the notes up and down, sometimes without rhyme or reason, sometimes falling into a simple melody. She sawed. She plucked. She strummed. She kept the beat going faster and faster. Finally, as her energy drained, she resolved everything into one long sustained note.
Octavia dropped her hands and gasped for breath. She was almost panting, she was so winded. She looked down and winced. The ribbon on her bow was in tatters. She’d need to have it restrung before using it again. Hopefully she could scrounge the cash for it before she got another gig. She had a spare bow, but this one was her favorite. It had just the right balance of stiffness and flexibility.
Octavia gently placed the bow on the kitchen table with shaking hands, and picked her drink back up. She needed her buzz back. Octavia carefully avoided looking at Vinyl. She didn’t want to know what the DJ thought. Octavia wasn’t sure what she thought. She’d pushed herself to the limit, and what came out was… what? Wild? Absurd? Raw? All of the above? Octavia didn’t know. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know. If she’d had a master of her performance right now, she’d burn it in a fire without a second thought. God only knew what Vinyl thought of it.
Vinyl was astounded. She couldn’t believe the sounds and speed and just raw energy Tavi had gotten out of that cello. It was as strange and wonderful as Tavi herself.
“That was amazing!” she gushed. “Oh my God, the sounds you got out of that thing…!”
Tavi glanced at her, a blush on her cheeks.
“Oh, well, thank you.”
Vinyl shook her head and took a sip of her drink. Tavi was a total enigma to her. A hot, sexy enigma. Take now for instance; after that display of pure aggression, now she was acting all bashful. It was crazy. And Tavi was a Russian nesting doll of dichotomies like that. She moved and spoke with elegance and grace. She acted like a princess, polite and caring to all who crossed her path. Then sometimes she displayed a pragmatic brutality that scared Vinyl, like a whore who you didn’t dare turn your back on, unless you wanted a knife in your ribs. And all of this wrapped up in a hot, stacked package. Vinyl found the whole thing to be both frightening and intensely arousing.
Vinyl bolted upright.
“We should totally collab!” she cried.
“What?” Tavi blurted, her eyes wide with confusion. “I told you, I hate-”
“Nah,” Vinyl interrupted, waving her drink. “I’m not talking about that. Don’t get me wrong, I love DJing, but I wanna do more than that. I wanna record an actual EP. Something more than just a club track.”
Vinyl leaned forward.
“I’ll give them the wubs they want, but that’s just the bait. Once they’re suckered by the wubs, then I’ll hook them with the feels. Then I reeeeeeel them in. Then they’re mine.”
Tavi raised an eyebrow.
“Are you quite sure you’re speaking english?” she asked.
“Trust me,” Vinyl assured her. “Stick with me, and we’ll do great things.”
Only some of them with our clothes on, the alcohol added in Vinyl’s head.
Vinyl stared speculatively at the amber liquid sloshing in her glass.
“Hey, Tavi,” she said.
“As I’ve repeatedly asked you,” Tavi answered crossly. “Please don’t-”
“Why do you want to be in the orchestra so badly?”
Vinyl was sure she knew the answer, she just wanted to hear Tavi say it. It was probably some bullshit about culture, respectability, fame, or some other nonsense.
“Are you kidding me?” Tavi cried.
Here it comes, Vinyl thought, taking a sip of her drink.
Vinyl choked on her drink, coughing and sputtering to clear the burning liquid from her throat.
“What?” she croaked.
“Health insurance,” Tavi replied. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had actual insurance? I don’t make enough to pay for my own. I’m not well known enough as a musician to dictate terms for any of my session work, so I always end up getting a flat rate and signing a release. I don’t own anything I play. I’m poor, Vinyl. I make enough to scrape by, but one accident could send me over the edge. I can’t afford to get sick, and heaven forbid I break a bone. The loss of income on top of the hospital bills would ruin me.”
Vinyl took a sip to hide her embarrassment.
“I… I knew you weren’t well off, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”
Tavi shrugged uncomfortably.
“I try not to dwell on it. Whinging about it would make little difference.”
“Well… that’s totally why we should collab! I’d never screw you,” Vinyl assured her.
At least not financially, the alcohol added. If we talk her out of her clothes, there’s no promises.
Vinyl watched Tavi take a sip of her drink.
“Well,” Tavi said, “it’s worth discussing.”
Vinyl tried to keep her heart, as well as some lower body parts, from doing leaps of joy. Instead, she took a sip from her own glass, trying to collect herself.
“We’ll start slow,” Vinyl promised. “We’ll record some samples that I can take apart and play with, and if that goes well, we can talk about other things.”
Vinyl swirled the amber liquid in her glass before taking another sip.
“Those were some amazing sounds you got out of that cello,” she said.
“Well,” Tavi replied with a bashful smile that made Vinyl tingle, “One does one’s best. I met a musician once who was very fond of an electric cello. I’ve never been able to justify such an expense, but it would be interesting to see what I could get out of it.”
“If things work out, we might just find out,” Vinyl said.
Tavi’s eyes clouded and she looked away, staring at nothing.
“It’s nice to dream,” she said.
Chapter 3: Scherzo
Vinyl rolled out of bed with a groan, and staggered to her bedroom door. She stumbled forward, throwing her weight against it for a moment before pushing herself back, pulling the door open with her momentum, then launching herself forward.
“Morning,” she muttered to Octavia as she lurched out of her room.
“Morning, Vinyl,” Octavia said. “Coffee’s on.”
Vinyl grunted unintelligibly as she made her way to the kitchen. She plucked a mug out of the cupboard, and poured herself a cup of the dark, steaming liquid. She leaned back against the kitchen counter and breathed in the aroma.
Vinyl took a careful sip as she regarded her housemate, who was seated on the couch in the living room, mug of tea, and newspaper in hand. Vinyl couldn’t understand where she even found newspapers these days.
And yet, it was so very Octavia.
Vinyl inhaled more coffee scent. She and Octavia had settled into a comfortable familiarity over the past month or so. They weren’t exactly friends. What they had was both more and less than that. It was the familiarity of seeing someone every day, and the distance of having no real overlap in their social lives outside of home.
Perhaps it was time to change that, Vinyl mused. Octavia was new in the area. She wasn’t from Canterlot or Ponyville, meaning she had no friends around at all.
“Tavi,” Vinyl called.
That earned her a sharp look. Vinyl hid her smile behind her coffee mug.
“You don’t work today, right? I’m going out with some friends later. Wanna come?”
Octavia looked skeptically at Vinyl.
“I appreciate the offer, and I’m sure your friends are nice, but I think I’ll pass.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Vinyl replied. “Get out. Meet people.”
“I don’t know, Vinyl,” Octavia said hesitantly. Why would your friends care to meet me? I’d hazard to guess they’re around your age.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit. You’re actually pretty cool when you let yourself be. Besides, most of them are musicians. If nothing else, you’ve got that in common.”
Octavia’s face twisted.
“Well… maybe,” she relented. “Where are you going?”
“A decent restaurant in downtown Canterlot,” Vinyl told her. “A little upscale, but nothing too too fancy. Fortunately we know DJ P0N-3, so we got a table pretty easy.”
Vinyl flashed a cocky smile.
“How should I dress?”
“I’m just gonna wear my usual. Lyra and Bon Bon are making an evening out of it, so they’re probably dressing up. We might hit a club or something afterwards. It’s your call. Anyway, reservation’s at 8. Leave here at 7?”
“Give me the restaurant’s name. I’ll meet you down there.”
Vinyl’s eyebrows jumped up.
“I have some errands to run beforehand. I wouldn’t want to delay you.”
“Whatev’s. Ima get a shower and head out for a bit.”
Vinyl downed the rest of her coffee and began walking back to her room.
Awesome, she thought, I’m getting Octavia out so she can finally have some fun and relax. This is awesome.
What am I going to do, she asked herself. Dinner at an upscale restaurant with people 10-15 years younger than I. What do I wear? What the bloody hell am I going to do? Octavia cursed Vinyl and her easy, iconic style that she wore so easily, confidently, and beautifully. She likely never worried about what to wear.
Octavia hurried to her room, and looked at the meager offerings in her closet. Even though she’d had the rest of her clothes shipped from home, she didn’t really have much in the way of dressy clothes.
It might be time, she thought. I might need to do it.
Octavia dug in the back of the closet. It had to be there somewhere. It had to be. Octavia dug further, anxiety driving her. It had to be there. I had to be…. There. There it was. The Little Black Dress™.
The Little Black Dress, or LBD, was a singular weapon in a woman’s arsenal. Wearing it was a statement. It bespoke confidence. Power. It was even a little aggressive. She hoped it still fit.
She needed to find some Spanx. And to shave her legs. And curl her hair. And get her eyebrows done. Was her eyeliner still good? Did she still have a good mascara?
Octavia tossed the dress back in the closet and ran out the door, grabbing her keys and purse on the way.
She was going to kill Vinyl for dropping this on her, assuming Octavia lived through getting ready.
Vinyl walked to the table where her friends were already seated.
“What’s up, peeps,” she called cheerfully as she neared. Lyra and Bon Bon were sitting a bit too close to each other. Neon Lights was sitting across from them looking both amused and disgusted at their displays of affection. Next to him, the twins, Boom Base and Cable Drop were laughing at some private joke. At the end of the table, Third Inversion sat contemplating his drink.
“Vinyl!” Lyra replied with a smile. “Come. Sit down.”
Vinyl looked around the table.
“Tavi hasn’t shown up?” she asked.
“Your mysterious housemate?” Neon asked. “Haven’t seen her.”
Vinyl sat at the end of the table by Lyra and Neon. She smiled lasciviously at the waitress as she gave her drink order.
“Dammit, Vinyl,” Neon swore. “Can’t we just have one dinner without you trying to lay the waitstaff?”
“Jealous ‘cause I get more tail than you?”
“God, Vinyl,” Lyra groan. “You can be such a guy sometimes.”
Vinyl frowned and sulked into her menu.
“Aw, c’mon, Vinyl,” either Boom or Cable chided. “Take it like a man.” The other twin snickered.
“Don’t listen to them,” Third said. “They’ve been sniping at each other all evening. Something in the water, I guess.”
Vinyl snorted and picked up her water glass.
“Why do I keep you clowns as friends?” she asked.
“Because no one else will put up with you,” Bon Bon retorted.
“Et tu, Bon?”
“Sorry, Hon,” Bon Bon said with a grimace. “I think Lyra’s been a bad influence.”
“And you’ve loved every minute,” Lyra smirked.
Bon Bon rolled her eyes dramatically.
Vinyl opened her mouth to throw a barb of her own, when she was interrupted by the host walking up to the table.
“Right this way, Madam,” he said.
Vinyl turned to see who he was speaking to. When she caught sight of her, Vinyl’s jaw dropped. Octavia was strutting toward the table on four inch heels, wearing a black dress that clung to her curves like a second skin. Her hair flowed down around her face, perfectly framing her smoldering eyes and burgundy lips.
Vinyl’s mouth went dry as her nethers did the opposite.
“Boys,” Bon Bon chuckled, “you’re attracting flies.”
Vinyl closed her mouth with a snap, and turned sheepishly to see Neon, Boom, and Cable returning similar looks.
“Dayum,” Boom or Cable said. “You never said she was a fox.”
Vinyl could only shake her head.
“Apologies for being late,” Octavia said as she reached the table. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
“Not at all,” Bon Bon said as she and Lyra moved to make room for her. “We were just chatting.”
“Octavia Melody,” Octavia said, holding her hand out to Lyra as she sat. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Lyra,” Lyra said, grasping Octavia’s hand. “And this is Bon Bon. That’s Third, Cable, Boom, and Neon.”
“Charmed,” Neon said with a smile. “So. We finally get to meet Vinyl’s mysterious housemate.”
“Oh?” Octavia said, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize I was such an enigma. Honestly, my life has been so pedestrian lately it’s hard to imagine anyone finding me intriguing.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Third said, smiling over his drink. “There must be more to the vision before me than simply the grind of day-to-day life.”
“Flatterer,” Octavia replied with a smile. “Unfortunately I’m mostly waitressing to make ends meet. If I’m lucky, I get a bit of session work as well. I don’t know if Vinyl told you, but I play the cello. That’s my real passion.”
“We may have to have a conversation later,” Third said. “I do some composing- don’t get too excited, it’s mostly mindless pop- but I occasionally branch out and do some recording. I’d love to have you, if you’re interested.”
“With such an invitation, how can I refuse?” Octavia smiled.
With that, the group devolved into idle chit chat and banter as the waitress walked up to take orders. Vinyl said little, barely trusting to speak.
“We’re gonna go hit a club, if you’re interested,” Neon told Octavia as they finished their dinner.
Octavia suppressed a sigh. Her feet were holding up for now, but standing around a club, or, God forbid, dancing? Her feet would never forgive her for being in these heels for that long.
“I’m really not much of a club person,” Octavia protested. “I’d hate to be responsible for ruining the mood.”
“Psst, whatever,” Neon said. “C’mon. The night is young.”
“Well… if you’re sure…”
Octavia looked to Vinyl, who shrugged indifferently. Octavia’s insides twisted. The DJ had been curiously quiet during dinner, and Octavia wondered if she’d inadvertently done something to offend. Then again, Vinyl had never been shy about voicing her displeasure. Did she simply not want Octavia around?
“Of course!” Neon said. “Don’t think you’re going to get away with depriving me of a dance.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Octavia said, faking her best smile.
The club was quite different from the one Octavia waitressed in, much to her relief. It also had the great fortune of being on the opposite side of town as well.
“She does that on purpose,” Neon shouted over the music. “It’s a whole different crowd here. She might still get recognized, but the chance is smaller. That, and there’s a lot of fresh meat here.”
Octavia shook her head.
“I’m just glad she didn’t pick my club this time,” Neon continued. “I DJ too. I’m kinda her biggest rival. Sorta.”
“Sort of?” Octavia inquired.
“Well,” Neon scratched the back of his head, looking a bit embarrassed. “It’s not like I’m competition, right? We just have a friendly rivalry.”
“Then she’s lucky to have a friend like you,” Octavia assured him.
“Tell her that. Now. How about that dance?”
Neon extended his hand, which Octavia accepted, following his lead out onto the dance floor. In truth, Octavia wasn’t much of a dancer, especially in heels. Fortunately, she could get by simply by pivoting on the balls of her feet and swinging her hips. She swayed with the music, trying to find her rhythm After a bit of gyrating, Neon slipped behind her and grasped her hips. Octavia smiled archly at him and waggled a finger as he ground his groin into her rear. Part of her relished his needy hands on her. Octavia hadn’t had that kind of contact in some time. The more rational part of her knew it was a bad idea. A quick fuck was fine, but never where it could make things awkward amongst friends.
As the song ended, Octavia slipped away and headed to the bar.
“Vodka and coke,” she told the bartender. “Heavy on the ice, and light on the vodka.” Drink in hand, she wandered back to a hightop where Cable and Boom were drinking beers.
“Cheers,” she said, raising her glass.
“Salut” one of the twins replied. “Not a bad night tonight.”
“And which one are you?” Octavia asked.
The twin grinned.
“Not telling. There’s no fun in that.” he said. “It drives our boss crazy.”
“And what do you do?”
“Theater work, mostly,” the other twin replied. “Lights and sound. That kind of thing.”
“Artists in your own right, then,” Octavia said as she sipped her drink.
“Thank you,” the first twin exclaimed. “Try telling that to Neon and Vinyl. We never get that kind of respect from them!”
The other twin grunted in agreement.
“Bastards think that if you’re not front and center, you don’t matter. Forget that if the lighting is bad, or the sound is off, the whole play can bomb.”
“I’m sure they wouldn’t be that dismissive,” Octavia protested.
“Nah, not really,” the twin sighed. “I’m just tired of taking their shit. Like it’s a big joke.”
“That, at least, I can relate to. Try being a cellist in Vinyl’s house. Especially one who’s never been first chair.”
The twins let out a good natured laugh and raised their glasses to her. Octavia raised hers in kind.
“To the real artists,” she said.
“Cheers!” they replied as one.
The trio clinked their glasses, chuckling at their shared burdens. The chuckling grew into laughter. It was in this laughing fit that Lyra found them.
“Hey,” she said, walking up to the table. “Did something happen with Vinyl?”
“Why?” Octavia asked. “What’s going on?”
“She… well…. She only does this when she’s depressed.”
Octavia raised an eyebrow.
“It’s hard to imagine Vinyl depressed.”
“I know, right?” Lyra agreed. “That’s why I wanna know if something happened. Did you get into an argument or something?”
“No,” Octavia replied. “I haven’t seen her since we entered the club. I danced with Neon, got a drink, and came back here.”
Octavia paused in thought.
“You know, she was curiously quiet during dinner.”
“I… I think you should go talk to her,” Lyra said.
“Me? Well… I mean… of course.”
Octavia gulped from her glass and marched in the direction Lyra directed.
Vinyl tried to dispel the ugly thoughts plaguing her as she smoked the joint offered her. It was stupid, she knew. There was no reason to believe that Octavia swung that way, yet seeing her dancing with Neon still felt like a betrayal. Fuck, she didn’t even realize she’d been crushing on Tavi that hard. Sure, she was hot. But lots of girls were hot. Hotness did not make for crushness. Or something.
It was all Pinkie’s fault, Vinyl decided. If Pinkie hadn’t called her and convinced her to let Tavi use her house, none of this would have happened.
Vinyl took another puff. The world began to feel as though it was flowing around her, leaving her behind. She stood up from her seat. It felt like she was swimming in molasses.
“Vinyl! So this is where you’ve been hiding!”
Bon Bon and Lyra came walking up.
“Heeeey… Lyr. Heeeey… Bon,” Vinyl said. Her body seemed to be moving at half speed.
“Shit, Vinyl,” Lyra exclaimed. “You’re stoned!”
“Psssssssssst,” Vinyl replied with a wave of her hand. “Isjst a joint.”
“I don’t think that was ‘just’ a joint,” Lyra said. “Shit. I think we might need to get her home. Bon, can you wait here with her while I get Tavi?”
“Shhhhe… dsnt… dsnt like being called Tavi,” Vinyl warned her. “Css… Css she’s a stuckup bitch. Too good fr me. Us.”
Lyra stared at Vinyl for a long time.
“Oh. Shit,” she said. She reached for the joint in Vinyl’s fingers.
“Nnnnnnnnuuuuhh,” Vinyl protested, flailing her arms in defense.
“Goddammit,” Lyra swore. “Fine. Bon? Watch her like a hawk. I’ll be back with Tavi.”
Bon Bon nodded, and Lyra stalked off.
“Yooon Lyra’re good together,” Vinyl told Bon Bon as she swam toward a table. “‘S good.”
“I like to think so,” Bon Bon said. “So when are you settling down?”
“Psssssst… DJ P0N-3 don’ settle with no one,” she replied, sitting down.
“No?” asked Bon Bon. “What about Vinyl Scratch?”
“I donneed anyone,” Vinyl protested. “‘Specially no stuck-up cellist.”
“I… see,” Bon Bon replied. “Well… I think you should give a particular cellist the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think she’s as stuck-up as you think.”
“No. Shain’t,” Vinyl mourned placing her head on the table. “Still too good fr me.”
Too good for me, Vinyl thought. Octavia was a classy lady, no matter her circumstances. All it took was a quick spruce-up and a nice dress, and she floored all of Vinyl’s friends, leaving Vinyl herself feeling… well, feeling like a boy. A rawboned youth discovering women for the first time. It was as funny as it was sad.
“My goodness, Vinyl. What have you been up to?” Octavia said as she walked up, Lyra two steps behind her.
Vinyl bolted upright, her eyes wide.
“Nnnnuuuuhhhh!” she exclaimed.
Octavia raised an eyebrow in an unspoken question. Vinyl felt her irritation rising. Vinyl was an adult, able to take care of herself, not someone that needed looking after. She was DJ P0N-3, after all. She made herself a well-paying career with little more than hard work, talent, and a little dumb luck.
“Hey,” she shouted, “don’ lookame that way! Just cs... cs you need you need a cock ‘n you, don’ mean I’m nuttin’. I ain’t ‘neath you! I don’ need you! I… I got… skills. Yeah.”
Octavia’s face was a white, unreadable mask of tension.
“Tavi,” Lyra interjected, “I think you should take her home.”
“She gets to call you ‘Tavi’, even,” Vinyl muttered.
“Come, Vinyl,” Octavia said finally. “I think we should be going home.”
Bon Bon helped Vinyl to her feet, and they staggered toward the door.
“I’m sorry!” Vinyl sobbed suddenly. “I… I wan’ed tonight to be special. I… I just wan’ed…”
“Oh, hey,” Neon called, running up to them. “I wanted to warn you…. Oh. Too late.”
“Too late for what?” Lyra demanded.
“I caught some guys with weed, which, you know, whatever. But they were lacing it with Ketamine. Looks like Vinyl partook.”
Neon gave Octavia a serious look.
“Go easy on her. She probably won’t even remember tonight,” he said.
Octavia nodded. She pulled Vinyl’s arm over her shoulders and guided her toward the doors.
“Come,” she said. “I think I’ve had enough fun for tonight. And if I don’t get out of these heels soon, I’m bloody well going to kill someone.”
Vinyl groaned as she stirred in bed. Her head pounded, and her eyes felt like they were glued shut. She pried her eyes open and staggered out of bed. Her stomach lurched. Vinyl leaned against the wall, trying to steady herself before she hit the living room.
“Coffee,” Vinyl croaked as she stumbled into the living room.
“Tea,” Octavia countered.
Vinyl groaned as she made it to the kitchen, only to find the coffee pot empty.
Octavia pushed a warm mug into Vinyl’s hands.
“Tea,” she repeated. “Peppermint-green tea with honey. It should settle your stomach.”
Vinyl let out a groan.
Octavia stayed silent.
Vinyl sipped her tea. It wasn’t bad, really. It was no coffee, of course, but it was sweet and soothing. When it was gone, Vinyl looked to where Octavia had seated herself. She was sitting in a chair, attention studiously trained on a book. She was dressed casually, looking much more like Octavia than the devastating creature that had shown up last night. But unlike most mornings, where they spent a leisurely morning, Vinyl with her coffee and tablet, and Octavia with her tea and newspaper or book, simply being after a long, busy night, today there felt like there was a distance to Octavia. A coolness.
“The tea…” Vinyl said tentatively. “It was actually pretty good.”
“Good,” Octavia said without looking up. “There’s more in the carafe if you want it.”
Vinyl looked around the kitchen for the mysterious ‘carafe’. All she saw was an insulated pitcher. Hefting it, she felt that it was full of liquid. She poured some of the contents into her mug, and sniffed. Success. She sipped and grimaced at the taste.
“Honey is in the cupboard by the fridge,” Octavia said, still focused on her book.
Vinyl walked over and opened the cupboard, looking for the aforementioned honey. As she pulled out the bear-shaped container, she tried to think of what could have caused the rift between her and Octavia. Could something have happened last night? If Vinyl were honest with herself, last night was a bit of a blur after dinner. She remembered going to the club, but what happened after was mostly a blank.
Vinyl squirted some dollops of honey out of the bear’s head and stirred her tea. The silence dragged out between her and Octavia.
Fuck, Vinyl thought as she sipped her tea. This sucks. I guess it’s time to rip off this bandaid.
“Tavi,” Vinyl called.
“Did something happen last night?”
Octavia put down her book and looked at Vinyl. Her face was stony, unreadable.
“You smoked an amp,” she said.
“A laced joint,” Octavia clarified. “Neon said it was doped with Ketamine.”
“Keta…. Oh,” Vinyl said. “Shit.”
“I have no experience with Ketamine,” Octavia said. “I had to look it up on your tablet.”
“Tavi, whatever I said, I didn’t mean-”
“The effects of the marijuana, combined with the dissociative feelings of the Ketamine,” Octavia interrupted. “I expect whatever came out of your mouth were your true feelings.”
Vinyl opened her mouth, but couldn’t find her ability to speak.
“Despite our differences,” Octavia continued, “I’ve enjoyed staying here with you. I even consider us friends. That said, I think I need some time alone.”
Octavia picked up her book and stood.
“I want to make four things clear,” she said. “First. I don’t think you’re beneath me. You are a talented musician, and, though occasionally immature, a thoughtful and kind person. Second, I’m bisexual. And even if I wasn't, my world would still not revolve around cock, as you so eloquently put it. Third, I do find you attractive. Quite, actually. But I wasn’t going to jeopardize my living arrangements on an ill-advised fling.”
Octavia walked toward her bedroom.
“Wait,” Vinyl croaked. “Four?”
“I’m glad you are feeling better,” she said. “You had me worried last night. And five, you may call me ‘Tavi’ if you like. I’ve been called worse. And besides, we’re friends.”
“Thanks, Tavi,” Vinyl said. “For everything.”
Octavia nodded before entering her room and shutting the door firmly behind her.
Vinyl looked down at the mug of tea in her hands. She sipped it cautiously. Curiously, it had no flavor. She dumped out the mug in the sink, and trudged back to her room, closing the door behind her.
Octavia sat on her bed staring at her book without really seeing it. Jumbled emotions had been wrestling around inside her since the incident in the club, and she hadn’t found any more success in sorting them out as more time passed.
Octavia knew she wasn’t perfect. That kind of hubris eroded quickly in the sands of time. She knew she could be standoffish, bordering on prickly, and occasionally reaching all the way to waspish. She knew that her well-practiced manners, a consequence of her upbringing, only exacerbated the issue. She also knew that it was all a defense mechanism to cover her deepest, darkest secret: she was not a people person. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that dark. The truth of the matter was that Octavia tended toward social anxiety and social avoidance. It wasn’t a matter of being shy, it was more like a kind of paranoia. Feeling like she was always on display. Always being judged. Life, of course, has no pity on the weak, and again and again, Octavia had been forced into social situations until she’d built up some tolerance, a benefit to someone who legitimately wanted to be a performer. Regardless, her condition came with a host of personality quirks. She was quick to judge. Slow to trust. Slow to make friends. Easily hurt. And often wanted nothing more to crawl up in a ball and hide away from the world.
Vinyl’s words had hurt. Her ridiculous, drug-fueled rant had cut Octavia deeper than she was willing to admit. She knew it was absurd. That Vinyl hadn’t meant it. Probably. And that Vinyl would have apologized if Octavia had given her the chance. Yet there was more.
Vinyl had said she liked Octavia. Well, maybe not liked as much as wanted. But still. What sense did that make? Octavia was ten years her senior. And Octavia was by no means unaware of the girls Vinyl had been bringing home. The kind with tight, trim bodies. Bodies that personal trainers and plastic surgeons were proud of. Bodies belonging to girls around Vinyl’s own age.
Octavia, on the other hand, was fully aware of her extra weight, the wrinkles starting to creep in on her face, and the rogue grey hairs starting to pepper her dark tresses.
Octavia threw her book to the side and flopped down on her mattress. She was starting to get herself depressed.
Focus, Octavia, she thought to herself. Your career might be nonexistent, but at least a young, popular DJ finds you attractive, even if she thinks you’re a stuck-up bitch.
Octavia sighed. This was not helping. She rolled over and pulled open her bedside table drawer. She pulled out an old flip phone. It still had a decent charge. As she hit the first speed dial button, she brought the phone to her ear to listen to it ring.
“Hello, Mum,” she said into the phone as the ringing stopped. “Nothing’s wrong, I… I just wanted to talk.”
“Thanks, Mum,” she said as she relaxed back onto her bed. “I love you too.”
Chapter 4: Sonata
Vinyl frowned at her bottle of water, a bottle which had appeared silently at her equipment. Vinyl knew Octavia had dropped it off, but Vinyl hadn’t seen hide nor hair of her housemate.
Vinyl tossed the bottle to the floor in disgust. Everything was wrong. Her set had felt flat. She didn’t feel like hitting up girls to take home tonight. Hell, she didn’t really even feel like going home. And all because of her.
“I knew it was a mistake,” she muttered to herself. “Damned Pinkie.”
She couldn’t even kick Octavia out. Not without being a total cunt. Not that she wanted to, if she were honest. Fuck, forget Tavi being hot, she did dishes. Vinyl’s kitchen had never been so clean. She was even drinking out of glasses on a regular basis, and not just plastic drive-thru drink cups.
Vinyl groaned and bent down to retrieve her water bottle. Maybe a good night’s sleep would help, she thought. Maybe a quicky before bed. Maybe a toke…
No, that’s what’d started this mess.
Of course, something out of her own stash would be safe...
Vinyl wrenched the top off the bottle and took a long swig.
Damn Octavia for making her even think about this shit, she thought. The whole week had been shit.
She heaved herself out of her chair.
She was too tired to think. It was time to go home.
Octavia yawned and rolled over on her mattress, relishing the warm, comfortable, pre-waking feeling. As she drowsed, luxuriating in the warmth of her blankets, an idea pierced her thoughts.
A week. A full week had passed since the tumultuous outing.
Octavia had been keeping some distance between her and Vinyl since the incident, a fact she was not proud of. She’d started with the best of intentions, trying to sort out her thoughts, but as the days dragged on, Octavia began to suspect she was just stalling. On the other hand, Vinyl had not made any overtures of breaching the distance, even after Octavia had declared them friends. Did she not feel the same? Was she simply respecting Octavia’s space?
Octavia curled into a ball, pulling her legs close to her chest. If it was this complicated when they were just friends, how much worse would it be if they became something more?
Did Vinyl even want that?
Octavia let out a sigh and rolled over. She reached out and opened her bedside table drawer and fished out her phone. As she flipped it open, her eyebrows went up.
Octavia quickly hit her voicemail and put the phone to her ear.
‘Hello, Octavia, this is Third Inversion. We met at dinner a week ago. Anyway, if you’re interested, I might have some session work for you. My number is…’
Octavia threw herself off the bed, desperate for a pen and paper.
She was being offered work.
It didn’t matter what it was. She’d play the Funky Chicken or the Hokey Pokey as long as it meant work.
The first shred of reality that pierced Vinyls slumber was music. Not her normal music, not the synthesized beats and tones of her EDM, but rich, clear tones, rising and falling in time. The notes had no melody, and barely any rhyme or reason, yet they suited Vinyls half-awakened state as an appropriate soundtrack. Perhaps they were part of a fading dream.
Vinyl opened her eyes. The music remained. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, listening to the seemingly random notes floating through her room. There was only one possible source, yet this was a new occurrence. A sudden change in the status quo.
Curiosity got the better of her. She stood up and walked out of the room, and stood before the door to the adjacent room. The door stood slightly ajar. Vinyl pushed it open gingerly.
Octavia sat in a chair playing her cello. She wore simple knit cotton shorts, and a cropped tee, yet for a moment she was the most beautiful woman on earth. It was the look on her face that created the burning in Vinyl’s chest. Her eyes were closed, and she swayed with the notes, completely engrossed in the act of drawing music from the instrument before her.
Vinyl gazed in rapture at a musician being one with her instrument. She wondered if other people saw her the same way when she played at the club.
It was then that the music screeched to a halt.
“Vinyl!” Octavia gasped. “How long have you been standing there? Did… did I wake you?”
“N-no!” Vinyl stammered. “I… I j-just h-heard you playing, and the door was… open...ish, and I didn’t mean to bust in on you… I…”
Octavia chuckled, a fact that threw Vinyl for a loop.
“Please,” Octavia said. “It’s my fault for practicing this early in the morning. Vinyl… I have work!’
“Eh?” Vinyl managed to squeak out.
“Your friend Third, he has some session work for me! I’m waiting for him to send me the pieces, but I was just so excited, I couldn’t help but warm up a bit, and... I’m afraid you caught me noodling around a bit.”
Octavia blushed, but the smile didn’t leave her face.
“I… You play really well,” Vinyl said.
Octavia’s smile softened.
“Well... thank you. I like to think so, of course. But it’s nice to be told.”
Silence stretched out between them. Despite what Vinyl expected, it wasn’t an awkward silence. There was something comfortable about it, though there was a tension, too, as though there was expectancy in the air.
Octavia isn’t upset with me, Vinyl realized. She’s talking to me like a friend.
“I… I mean it,” Vinyl said, ending the pregnant pause, “and I’m hard to please. But you make that cello sing. I… I’m a bit jealous, actually. I’ve never had a ‘normal’ instrument, and lately, well….”
“Ah,” Octavia said with a frown. “Hitting a slump, are we? I thought it sounded like your heart wasn’t in it last night.”
“Don’t be like that,” Octavia said. “We all hit slumps now and then. Honestly, I’m surprised, considering how often you play, that you haven’t burned yourself out.”
“DJ P0N-3 does not slump,” Vinyl protested.
“Please,” Octavia said. “Even Beethoven wrote a dud.”
Octavia set her cello aside and stood, stretching. She thrust her chest out as her back popped and cracked.
“I’m not going to tell you how to do your business,” Octavia said, “but I usually find I need to take a break when that happens. You know, get away and do something else.”
Octavia gave Vinyl a soft smile.
“Well, that’s me anyway. I’m sure you have your own ways to relax.”
She walked toward Vinyl, stopping when she was mere inches away.
Vinyl stiffened at the closeness between them. She realized she could smell Tavi. It was far from unpleasant, a mingling of sweat and the aroma of simply existing. Vinyl could find no words to describe it more than just being Octavia.
“Pardon,” Octavia said, jolting Vinyl into presence, “I’d like to go use the loo.”
“Oh,” Vinyl said with a small jump, “sorry.”
She backed out of the doorway, giving Octavia space to pass.
Octavia glided by smoothly.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said with a sultry smile as she passed.
“Huh?” Vinyl muttered.
Octavia’s eyes flickered down before she turned and walked to the bathroom.
Vinyl looked down. Her nipples were evident through her tee, poking out proudly.
“Oh my God,” Vinyl groaned, mortified. She crossed her arms over her chest as she felt her face heat. She retreated to her room to let herself calm. As she sat on her bed, feeling the hard nubs rubbing against her shirt, she realized she was feeling heat in more than just her face.
“Stupid, sexy Octavia,” she muttered to herself.
She cursed her body for reacting the way it did, as though she was a teenager who couldn’t control her hormones. If only Tavi hadn’t stood so close, hovering in Vinyl’s personal space like that.
Vinyl gasped. Octavia never did that. She always maintained her very reserved distance. Even if Vinyl was in her way, she would never have stopped that close.
Vinyl burst out of her room in time to see Octavia exiting the bathroom.
“Tavi,” Vinyl called, her finger pointing accusingly. “Were you… flirting with me?”
Octavia actually blushed and looked away.
“You were! You were actually flirting with me!”
“I’m sorry!” Octavia cried. “I was just in such a good mood! I hope I didn’t upset you.”
Vinyl gaped at her incredulously for a moment before busting out in laughter.
“I didn’t know you had it in you!” Vinyl wheezed, holding her belly. “Oh, fuck did you have me going!”
Octavia stared at her, bemused.
“I-I…” Octavia stammered. “Thank you?”
“Oh God,” Vinyl grunted between laughs. “Oh, fuck. And here, I thought you had no sass. All business, and no party in you. Shit was I wrong!”
Octavia pouted at her.
“It’s the accent,” Octavia told her. “People expect a certain amount of decorum to accompany the accent.”
“Well, you won’t fool me again,” Vinyl told her as she regained her composure.
“No duplicity was intended,” Octavia assured her. “I’ve simply been going through a rough patch, and haven’t felt like I could cut loose like that.”
“Well feel free to cut loose any time,” Vinyl said. “I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to do that around me.”
Octavia smiled a small, shy smile, so different from the one she had before. It was tentative. Cautious, as though unsure about risking trust.
“Thank you,” Octavia said, “for allowing me the opportunity to.”
Octavia waltzed through the door, swinging her cello through the entrance, and setting it against the wall. The fingers of her left hand danced in the air as her right hand drew and imaginary bow across phantom strings. She strode across the floor, flowing to music only she could hear.
Octavia paused, a frown gracing her lips as she halted both her steps and her hands. She adjusted her fingering, and nodded to herself before resuming her imaginary performance.
Vinyl could only watch this absurd display, a show which ended only when Tavi spun in place and planted herself on the couch.
“Have a good time with Third?” Vinyl asked.
Octavia nodded vigorously.
“It feels like forever since I’ve made real music,” Octavia replied. “I’ve almost forgotten how galvanizing it is. And how exhausting.”
Vinyl let out a sharp bark of a laugh.
“Yeah. I know what you mean. Or I… .”
Octavia looking up sharply.
“Still feeling uninspired?”
“Yeah. I spoke with the club about taking some time off. If nothing else, it gives someone else a chance to shine. And, hey,” Viny flashed a cocky grin. “This way the fans won’t get complacent. After all, if I’m never gone, they never have a chance to miss me.”
Octavia chuckled in response.
“Ever the optimist, I see.”
Vinyl shrugged, and a silence settled over them. It grew and filled the house until it reached every corner, nook, and cranny. Despite this, Vinyl didn’t feel it was uncomfortable. It was pregnant, waiting, yet not awkward.
“Vinyl,” Octavia addressed tentatively. “That composition you wanted to write, have you done anything with it?”
Vinyl shook her head.
“Well… this might be the perfect time to try your hand,” Octavia said. “It’s totally different from what you’ve been doing, and it might help you break out of yourself, so to speak.”
Vinyl pursed her lips, thinking.
“And,” Octavia continued, her voice even softer, “if you like, I could help.”
Vinyl’s head whipped up to gaze at Octavia’s blushing face.
“I don’t have much experience,” Octavia said, “but I’ve taken quite a few music theory classes. I could help build a framework.”
Vinyl’s mouth worked silently.
“Forget I said anything,” Octavia said, standing. “It was a silly idea.”
Octavia walked toward her room.
“Wait,” Vinyl called after her. “I… I think I’d really like that.”
“Good. I look forward to it.”
“So…” Vinyl said as they sat at her equipment. “Where do we start?”
“Well… I assume you have some ideas,” Octavia replied. “Melodies? Keys? Themes? If we start going over some, I can help with harmonies and development, and then you can remix to your heart’s content.”
“Um, OK,” Vinyl said. “I guess that makes sense.”
“So,” Octavia said, “what ideas did you have?”
“Um… well,” Vinyl began, “I thought the first track should kinda start like…”
Vinyl output a rhythmic tone from her sequencer.
“Then it should go…”
She scratched a pattern on her turntable.
“Then it should end like…”
Vinyl pounded a chord three times on her keyboard.
Octavia could only stare.
“This is going to be more difficult than I imagined,” she said.
“STOP TELLING ME HOW TO WRITE MY MUSIC!” Vinyl shouted.
“I’m NOT,” Octavia replied. “I’m trying to give you a grounding.”
“Yeah, I can tell,” Vinyl sneered. “I definitely feel like you’re trying to ground me.”
“Stop that,” Octavia snapped. “I’m not your mum.”
“You’ve got that right,” Vinyl responded. “So stop telling me how to do things.”
“I’m not…” Octavia began. “Fine. We’re done.”
Octavia stood from her seat and stomped to her room, slamming the door behind her.
Vinyl snarled and flipped off her sequencer. Most of the work she liked was safely saved away. Anything she lost now was thankfully forgotten.
“Fucking knew that was a mistake,” she mumbled to herself.
Vinyl spun in her chair, letting her head loll back, and reveling in the silly, yet nice feeling sensation of the world rotating around her, and the forces pulling on her head and feet. It was one of life’s simple pleasures, and not one Vinyl would give up easily. Adulthood be damned.
Vinyl put the brakes on when she heard Tavi’s door open.
“Come with me,” Octavia told her.
“Please,” she added in response to Vinyl’s stare.
Vinyl shrugged and stood.
She followed Octavia out of the house, across town, and onto the train.
“Where’re we going?” She asked finally.
“Have you something you’ll be late for?” Octavia asked.
Vinyl shook her head.
“Then trust me.”
Vinyl frowned. Octavia was being her Octavia-est. Vinyl separated in her mind between Tavi and Octavia. Tavi was playful. Cheeky, even. Clever, without being snooty. Octavia was inscrutable. She stood silently, staring with unreadable eyes, and when she finally spoke, she could cut to the core with a word.
Occasionally Vinyl wondered if people saw the same dichotomy between DJ P0N-3 and Vinyl Scratch.
They exited the train, and Vinyl followed Octavia down the streets. Vinyl realized they were skirting the edges of Canterlot, and not necessarily through the best areas.
“Seriously, Tavi,” Vinyl said. “Where’re we going?”
“Almost there,” Octavia said. “Not much further.”
“I asked where we were going, not how long,” Vinyl muttered to herself.
When Octavia finally slowed, they were in front of a tinted glass window decorated with gold lettering.
“A bar?” Vinyl asked. “We came all this way to go to a bar?”
Octavia frowned and nodded toward the door.
Vinyl followed, bemused. She didn’t think Octavia knew any bars. She didn’t seem the type, for one. And two, most of her free time she seemed to spend holed up in her room, or reading in the living room, and she never talked about going out on her days off.
The pair stepped into the dimly lit establishment.
“Hey, there’s the lady,” the bartender announced as they walked in. “Thought you weren’t gonna show tonight.”
“Plans changed,” Octavia said. “Usual for me, and a pint for my friend.”
The bartender looked at Vinyl expectantly.
“Uhhh… Bud?” Vinyl ventured.
Octavia and the bartender shared a look.
“Discovery?” Octavia asked.
“Inna bottle,” the bartender replied.
Octavia shrugged and nodded, and the bartender hurried away.
Vinyl took the opportunity to look around.
The place had a dingy elegance. The furniture, from the stools to the booths, were real hardwood, worn, but obviously maintained. The brass fixtures showed spots of tarnish yet clean, and there wasn’t a speck of dust in the place. Everything, from the hardwood floors, to the well-used dartboard, spoke of equal parts age and care.
The bartender returned with the drinks, a tall glass for Octavia, and a bottle for Vinyl. Vinyl took a cautious sip. It was different, but not undrinkable.
Octavia grabbed her glass and quaffed a quarter of the dark liquid in her glass.
“Didn’t think you really drank,” Vinyl said.
“It’s not drinking if it’s Guinness,” Octavia replied. “Darts?”
Vinyl shrugged. She’d never played darts before, but she was curious what Octavia was doing.
The pair picked up their drinks and moved to the dart board. Octavia plucked the darts off the board and walked to Vinyl, pausing only to frown at the television.
Vinyl glanced back to see a Soccer game playing.
“Your team losing?” she asked.
Octavia shook her head.
“Arsenal game,” she said. “Would it kill them to put on a Burnley match now and then?”
Vinyl had no idea how to respond, so she merely stood as Octavia threw her darts at the board.
When it was Vinyl‘s turn, she looked at the board nervously. She knew she was supposed to throw the darts at the board, and try to get a bull’s eye, but beyond that, she knew nothing about the game. There was nothing to do but woman up and try. She hefted a dart in her hand, testing its weight, and tossed it at the board. It flew high and wide and stuck itself in the wall, missing the board completely.
Octavia gave her an eyebrow-raised look.
Vinyl shrugged uncomfortably.
“So,” she began, chucking the remaining darts at the board. Only one missed the wall, embedding itself in the outer edges of the board.
“What are we doing here?” Vinyl asked as she retrieved her darts.
Octavia took a healthy swig from her glass.
“This… this is sort of my refuge. I come here when I’m feeling unsettled,” she said.
She stepped to the line and readied a dart.
“It reminds me of home. Of… simpler times.”
Octavia tossed a dart, landing it squarely in the 20.
“Father was a nob, but not a twit. He thought nothing of stopping by the pub for a munch, or tossing some darts with the regulars. I think part of it came from not actually having much money. He didn’t have a staff to wait on him or cook his meals. Mum did some of that after they married, of course, but sometimes they still would stop by the pub for a pint and a chat.”
Octavia tossed another, landing another 20.
“That slowed down a bit after I came around, but even then, sometimes we’d all go to the pub for a meal, and to chat with the regulars. Father taught me to play darts. He’d sneak me sips of his Guinness when mum wasn’t looking. He’d sit me up at the bar, and the bartender would give me a pickled egg, or some peanuts, or the occasional sweet.”
Octavia let loose her last dart, sticking it low on the 5.
“After Father died, well… money became even tighter, and the trips to the pub mostly stopped. But whenever I could spare the coin, I’d stop by the pub for a pint and a butty. The old-timers would remember me, and reminisce about Father. The bartender would still slip me a pickled egg on the house. And for a moment, it was like he was still there with me.”
She picked up her glass and sipped her drink.
“I know I can be a bit… passionate about things,” she said, looking Vinyl in the eye. “Mum would probably mutter something along the lines of ‘overbearing’ or ‘tyrannical’ if she were here. But I swear it was never my intent to take your music away from you. The music is yours. I… I just got caught up in the creation process. So if you want to tell me to sod off, I wouldn’t blame you a bit.”
Vinyl took a pull from her bottle, and toed the line, darts in hand.
“If every apology you give is gonna mean beer,” she said bouncing a dart off the wall, “we’re going to get along just fine.”
Another dart hit the wall, this one sticking. The third actually found the board, landing in the 8.
“So you’re only keeping me around for the beer?” Octavia asked with a smile.
Vinyl turned with a smirk, ready to fire back with a retort. When she saw the look on Octavia’s face, the words died in her throat. The smile on Octavia’s face was shy. Vulnerable. Fragile.
Vinyl took a sip from her beer while she considered her response.
“Maybe I keep you around for a lot of reasons. It doesn’t exactly hurt my reputation to have a beautiful woman in my home, but more than that…”
Vinyl looked down at her bottle, and fiddled with it, spinning it in her hands.
“Having someone who will watch my back when I inadvertently take some Vitamin K? Someone that will forgive me after I was an absolute cunt? That means… well, it means a lot.”
Octavia’s smile grew while becoming softer and a bit less forced. A bit more natural.
“Well, I don’t think ill of you. You took in a starving cellist without the promise of repayment, and have been nothing less than hospitable. It’s thanks to you that I’m playing as more than just a hobby again. And you are definitely one of the more talented musicians I’ve ever met, and believe me, I’ve met a few.”
Vinyl felt her face heat. She tipped back her beer to stall and cover.
“Yeah, I’m pretty awesome. I mean, I don’t like to brag… but….”
Octavia gave Vinyl’s arm a swat.
“Talent matched only by your humility,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Vinyl snickered as Octavia picked up her darts and faced the board.
Octavia threw a dart, landing it in the 20 again.
“Tavi,” Vinyl said. “Thanks for sharing this with me.”
Octavia graced her with a real, full smile.
Vinyl spun in her chair as the music washed over her. It was everything she wanted. It was wild. Raw. It wove beats that made your heart pound, and drove the music forward at a terrifying pace. It was everything she’d hoped for.
And it was all wrong.
It lacked… cohesiveness. It had flow, but for some reason, it just didn’t… flow. Vinyl couldn’t figure it out. All those weeks of work… wasted. On the surface, everything seemed fine, but it lacked… something.
Vinyl sighed and looked at Tavi. She’d been quiet through the whole process. Too quiet. She’d made suggestions here and there, but more philosophical suggestions than anything concrete. Vinyl supposed this was her way of helping without taking over.
Vinyl sighed again and pulled off her headphones.
“Well?” she said to Octavia.
“It’s good. It’s very good,” she said. “You have talent, and a real flare for making music come alive.”
With a grunt, Vinyl saved her work, then did a ‘save as’ to keep the original file unchanged.
“It sucks,” she said.
Octavia raised an eyebrow.
“I think you’re being a bit harsh,” Octavia countered. “I said it was good, and I meant it.”
“Good,” Vinyl said, “but not great.”
“Well,” Octavia explained, “it’s really not my kind of music.”
Vinyl spun her chair again, throwing her arms out in frustration.
“That’s the problem!” she cried. “It’s supposed to be better than that. It’s supposed to bring you into the music, not keep you out just because of the type.”
Vinyl growled and stopped her chair.
“Let’s go through those exercises we were doing before.”
Octavia blinked in surprise.
“Are… are you sure?”
“Hey,” Vinyl admonished, wielding an accusatory finger at Tavi. “Who’s music is this? It’s my music, and I get to do those stupid exercises if I want to. So stop arguing before I change my mind.”
“Well,” Octavia hesitated, “If you’re sure…”
Vinyl rolled her eyes and nodded.
“Then let’s go over the key changes.”
“Ugh,” Vinyl gasped. “I knew some of those key changes were a mistake!”
“No no no!” Octavia assured her. “I think they’re genius! I think it really helps the music build. I just think we should map out the keys, then start looking at how that might change your chord progressions.”
“UUUUUUUGH! WHY did I let you talk me into this?” Vinyl demanded.
“This was your idea, Vinyl,” Octavia reminded her.
“I admit nothing!”
Octavia closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“Why,” she muttered, “did I suggest this again?”
Octavia collapsed onto her bed with a groan. Vinyl was exhausting. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand the theory, far from it. She seemed to have an innate comprehension of music theory that Octavia envied. No, it wasn’t a lack of skill or understanding. Vinyl had exceptionally high standards. The music never seemed to be good enough for her, and she mercilessly wrenched every last scrap of information regarding music and composition theory Octavia had ever learned out of her memory. Octavia had even gone to the library and done some research in an effort to recall long-forgotten bits of lectures or techniques buried in her brain.
It was draining. Even a little bit terrifying.
And it was working.
Octavia marveled as the two of them ripped bits of music apart, and put it back together again in new and unexpected ways, creating a masterful composition the likes of which Octavia had never seen. And Octavia was helping. She’d tried to sideline herself after her initial missteps, offering advice and some theory, but Vinyl had dragged her back in. Now it was more of a collaboration. Vinyl was clearly in the lead, but Octavia could point to bits of the piece that clearly felt like her. Certain jazz chords she was mostly sure Vinyl wouldn’t have thought of. Syncopation and triplets that Octavia always found interesting.
It was exhilarating and frightening all at once.
And very, very tiring.
Octavia’s musings were interrupted by a knock at her door.
“Come in?” she called curiously.
Vinyl opened the door, an odd expression on her face.
“Hey,” she said simply.
“Hey,” Octavia replied in kind.
“Soooo,” Vinyl started, “I know I’ve been a bit of a ball-buster lately…”
“Fortunately for me, my ovaries are safely contained inside,” Octavia retorted.
“Well, maybe,” Vinyl said, “but I wanted to share something with you.”
Octavia sat upright.
Vinyl nodded toward the door.
Octavia stood, her curiosity piqued, and followed Vinyl out of her room and into Vinyl’s. Vinyl’s room looked like it belonged to a teenager, with clothes strewn everywhere, and energy drink cans decorating most flat surfaces.
Vinyl plopped herself on the floor in front of an impressively large-screened TV, and picked up the device.
“You play?” she asked, holding a similar device out for Octavia.
“I used to,” Octavia replied, receiving what appeared to be a game controller for a newer console. “A long time ago.”
“Eh, this is co-op,” Vinyl told her. “I can carry you if it comes to that.”
Octavia rolled her eyes.
“Well, I’d hate to be a burden,” she said.
Vinyl smirked, but didn’t take her eyes from the screen.
“Yeah, well, I can handle it.”
Octavia shook her head with a rueful smile, and tried to figure out the strange contraption in her hands. After a few moments of experimentation, Octavia managed to move, aim, and even fire off a couple of shots.
“Niiiiice,” Vinyl said, as Octavia managed to miss an oncoming attacker with several shots, then run in a panicked circle while aiming straight up in the air.
“Shut it,” Octavia snapped. “I usually played platformers.”
“I’m just teasing,” Vinyl assured her. “You’re actually not doing bad.”
“And now you’re patronizing me,” Octavia said. “I’m smart enough to know I’m doing absolutely wretched.”
“Well, a little,” Vinyl admitted.
Octavia blew a raspberry at her as she struggled with the foreign device in her hands.
After a few minutes, Octavia spoke again.
“So… what are we doing?” she asked.
“This is how Vinyl Scratch relaxes.”
“So Vinyl Scratch refers to herself in the third person now?”
“No,” Vinyl said. “It’s like… people know DJ P0N-3. They know how she looks, or they at least know her shades… they know she’s a talented DJ, and she loves to party, and blah blah blah. But it’s kinda lonely, you know? Here there are people that know and talk to Vinyl Scratch that don’t know how she relates to DJ P0N-3. And Vinyl Scratch can say things, and they’re not earth-shattering or terrible or a fucking travesty, because they’re not coming from DJ P0N-3.”
Vinyl paused to focus fire on a particularly difficult foe.
“Sometimes this is lonely too, ‘cause it’s all anonymous, and you never actually see real people. And the people you talk to… you never see in real life. But still. Sometimes it’s nice just to be Vinyl Scratch for a while, and not have to worry about DJ P0N-3.”
“Well,” Octavia said after a moment, “having seen DJ P0N-3, I can say she is, indeed, amazing.”
Octavia paused the game and looked at Vinyl.
“But I think it’s fair to say I rather like Vinyl Scratch as well.”
Vinyl turned and graced her with a soft smile.
“Good,” she said.
They unpaused the game and played for quite a while, laughing and shouting. And when they were done, Octavia realized she was still quite tired, and would assuredly sleep quite well, but didn’t feel as thoroughly drained as she had previously.
Vinyl sat stone still as the music flowed through her. As the last few notes faded away, she opened her eyes.
Octavia looked at her expectantly.
“It’s perfect,” she said.
“May I listen?” Octavia asked.
Vinyl flipped a switch on her board and the music began to emanate from her standing units. She watched as Tavi closed her eyes and lost herself in the music. She really was beautiful, Vinyl realized. And even more, she was a musician. Regardless of their differences in taste, they felt the same way about music. They just got there in different ways.
Vinyl followed Tavi’s lead, and closed her eyes, reveling in the music. It was amazing even when it wasn’t being pumped directly into her ears. There was flow to it that made it easy to listen to, but the beat under it captured you and drove you forward through the music.
Vinyl opened her eyes, and looked at Tavi’s enraptured expression. Her heart lurched in her chest.
Then Tavi’s eyes opened. They locked eyes. As the last few notes finished, their gaze held. The moment drew out.
Tavi leaned forward and kissed Vinyl on the lips. Vinyl started for a moment, but relaxed and leaned into the kiss. Tavi’s lips were soft and warm, and as Vinyl’s heart fluttered, she realized that in all her recent hook-ups, she’d never felt so thrilled by a simple kiss.
Vinyl closed her eyes, content to lose herself in the moment.
Octavia’s heart fluttered as the kiss continued. It had been so long since she’d had any sort of intimacy, even so little as a kiss, that she couldn’t help but savor the moment. Too long since she allowed herself that luxury. Since she’d let down her walls enough.
Yet here she was, kissing Vinyl.
Kissing her housemate Vinyl.
Octavia broke the kiss in a near panic.
“Oh my God,” she cried. “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.”
Octavia turned and bolted for her room.
“Wha…?” Vinyl uttered in confusion.
“I’m sorry!” Octavia said. “Imsorryimsorryimsorry!”
Octavia reached her room and fled into it, shutting the door behind her. She leaned her back against it and sank to the floor.
“That was completely inappropriate of me,” she sobbed.
It didn’t take long before there was a knock on the door.
“Tavi?” Vinyl called, speaking more softly than Octavia had ever heard her.
“C-Can… . I- I can’t believe I’m saying this… but can we talk about it?”
Octavia immediately froze up, joints locking and mind going blank, though her heart was racing a million beats a minute.
“I… I guess not,” Vinyl said mournfully.
“WAIT!” Octavia managed to blurt out.
She struggled with herself, trying to undo her paralysis.
Come on, Octavia, she said to herself. Put on your big girl panties and fucking deal with it.
She muscled herself to her feet, powering through her panic-induced immobilization, and turned to face the door.
This is it, she thought, grasping the knob. Time to see how bad the damage is.
Vinyl’s face, as it appeared behind Octavia’s door was… not… lacking emotion, that much was obvious even with the blasted shades obscuring her eyes. That said, the specific emotions on display were muddled. Unclear. Octavia just hoped disgust wasn’t one of them.
All things being equal, Octavia opted for the truth.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I panicked. I should have stayed and talked like an adult. It’s just… I try to maintain a rule about not soiling the nest, so to speak, and I went and broke it because I was feeling lonely and emotional, and we were having a moment, and you’re so damned sexy-“
“You think I’m sexy?” Vinyl interrupted.
“Please,Vinyl,” Octavia replied. “You can’t possibly have doubts about your attractiveness, what with the parade of girls you’ve had through here…”
A realization struck as she spoke.
“...which petered out a month or so ago! Vinyl, have you been striking out?”
“What?” Vinyl gasped, offence clearly written on her face. “Fuck that! I can have any girl I... want… almost.”
Her words ended in a mumble.
“Then why haven’t you,” Octavia pressed.
Vinyl’s face turned bashful.
“I… just haven’t been in the mood.”
“And then I go and press myself on you. That must have been frightfully uncomfortable. I’m sorry, Vinyl.”
“No!” Vinyl exclaimed. “No! No, no, no. Look, it’s just…”
Vinyl took a deep breath.
“Look,” she started again, “I’m into you, ok? Like into you into you. Like, I thought it was obvious. All those hook-ups… they didn't mean anything, and it started to feel like I was just wasting my time. Like I was just trying to use them to forget I wanted you.”
Octavia’s face radiated shock.
“I… I knew you found me attractive,” Octavia said. “God knows why. You must have a thing for cellulite.”
“Please,” she said. “You have curves women would kill for. And everything is real, not plastic or manufactured. And I’ve banged enough girls who got plastic surgery for their sweet 16 to know. And you turn heads at the club. You had to notice. I mean, when we had dinner, you had Neon wrapped around your finger.”
Octavia looked uncomfortable.
“I… . That's an exaggeration,” she protested.
“Bullshit,” Vinyl spat. “You are something special, whether you wanna believe it or not.”
“And now we’ve gone from exaggeration to outright fantasy,” Octavia muttered ruefully.
Vinyl looked down bashfully.
“Well… you’re something special to me,” she mumbled. “And I gotta know… that kiss. Did you mean it? ‘Cause if you didn’t, tell me now so I can go cry myself into a bottle. But if you did, I’d really-“
Vinyl’s words were lost and forgotten as Octavia put her hands on either side of Vinyl’s face, and brought her lips to hers.
Vinyl sighed into the kiss, relishing the warmth of Octavia’s lips, the coolness of her hands, and the nearness of her body. She moaned needily as they parted.
“Hey,” Vinyl said, “you wanna maybe call it an early night?”
“Vinyl!” Octavia gasped. “It’s early afternoon!”
“Yeah,” Vinyl said with a smirk, “but I’ve got this dry spell I need to put behind me. And besides, there’s this gorgeous little number I’m dying to know more intimately,”
Octavia rolled her eyes, but couldn’t suppress her fond smile.
“You,” she said, “are incorrigible. But that’s part of your charm, isn’t it? Well, I can work with that. I just have one request.”
Octavia reached up slowly, her hands moving smoothly, but carefully, as though afraid Vinyl was going to stop them or pull away at any moment. She did neither as Octavia gently grasped Vinyl’s shades and pulled them off her face.
The eyes behind the sunglasses were bright, clear, and vulnerable, and Octavia thought she had never seen anything so beautiful in her life.
“Ah,” Octavia said, “there you are. So good to finally meet you.”
She wrapped her arms around Vinyl’s neck, and touched their foreheads together.
“I think we’re going to get along just fine.”
For a change, Vinyl found herself lacking a retort. In fact, she lacked any words at all, and for the first time in memory, she was completely okay with that.