The weather outside may have been dreary and cold, but it held no power over the grey mare grinning into her pillow. She had the warmest of thoughts keeping her happy.
Her friend, her best friend, was lying in a bed not six metres away, giggling quietly beneath her covers. The faint sound of beeping barely reached Octavia’s ears, and as expected, a few moments later her phone began to ring. It was the third time this morning; the first had awoken her and the second had made her aware of the culprit.
The cellist reached a hoof out to her bedside table and pulled her phone over, answering it with a blind jab.
Tinny laughter reached her at the same time as the giggling across the room got louder. She waited patiently as the mysterious caller cleared her throat and spoke in a comically deep voice. “Is your refrigerator running?”
“…Are you really doing this?”
“Ma’am, I really need to know. Is your refrigerator running?”
“I don’t have a refrigerator. The dormitory kitchens are technically owned by the university.”
“Well you better run after… uh, hang on a sec.” The line, and the room, went silent as Vinyl attempted to salvage the situation. “Alright, is the university-owned refrigerator running?”
“I’m not sure, I haven’t used it yet.”
The DJ ripped the sheets off her head. “Damn it, Octavia!”
Sticking her tongue out, the mare in question slid off her bed and walked over to her friend. “Well, that’s why you don’t try to prank call somepony with the oldest trick in the book.”
“How do you even know about prank calls, anyway?” Vinyl casually patted the space beside her, and her friend took the hint, climbing up and lying next to the unicorn.
“Like I said: oldest trick in the book. Pranks were featured in one of the ‘university preparation guides’ I read. Granted, it was more focused on recognising and neutralising mischief rather than instigating it, but-“
“How many of those books have you read?” Maroon lenses flashed inquisitively.
Octavia inwardly cursed herself for not waking up early enough to see Vinyl without them. “I… a fair few. I got very bored, remember.”
“Did you ever try anything to stop being bored?” Reaching out, the unicorn idly started touching her friend’s slightly dishevelled mane.
The cellist frowned. “Like what?”
“Nevermind. I was just saying whatever, you know?” Vinyl’s voice shook a little.
“You can be really odd sometimes, Vinyl,” she giggled. “Why are you touching my mane?”
Pausing for a moment, the DJ’s mind raced. “Because that’s… what best friends do. One of the things, anyway. Play with each other’s manes, you know.”
“Really? What are the other things? I should start researching this.” Octavia bit her lip and quickly stuck a hoof in her roommate’s mane, making her wince.
“Easy there! You’re not supposed to rip my hair out. And anyway, you don’t need to research anything. That’s what I’m for! I’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
“Oh, thank you so much, Vinyl. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do without you.” She leaned closer and planted a grateful kiss on the unicorn’s cheek before hopping off the bed. “Well, you’ll have to start teaching me later, because I have a lecture soon.”
A rush of air swept past as Vinyl rushed to the bathroom door. “I’m having a shower!” she called, voice cracking as she stepped into the blue tiled room.
“O-kay?” After a moment, the charcoal-maned mare dismissed her friend’s antics and started getting ready.
First, she would need to prepare the books and stationery needed for the lecture. Next, she needed to perform her morning exercises. Finally, as she would be rather sweaty by then, a shower would be required, followed by the finishing touches. It was all a matter of not letting anything impede her routine.
Sheer, immovable awkwardness.
They descended the stairs without looking at each other.
“Are we going to talk about it?” Octavia ventured tentatively.
“No,” replied Vinyl.
“But we never wear clothes anyway, so what difference-“
“I was in the shower!”
“It was an honest mistake! I was distracted and forgot you were in there!”
“Couldn’t you hear the water?”
“I… get very focused on my routine.”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
The DJ pushed through the exit door and paused to keep it open for the other mare. Octavia smiled nervously. “So… are we still friends?”
That seemed to shock Vinyl out of her righteous anger. “What? Yeah! Of course we are. Just… let’s never talk about this ever ever ever again, okay?”
Smiling genuinely now, the cellist nodded. “Okay.”
“Cool. Now gimme a hug and go to class.” The embrace ended far too soon, and Octavia quickly trotted away.
Vinyl stepped back inside the building and practically skipped up the stairs. She didn’t have any classes today, so that meant finding something to do until her friend got back. The university provided many different on-campus entertainment facilities such as pool tables, movie rentals, and social hangouts like the tavern, but none of them caught her interest.
Instead, she trotted merrily back into her room, closing the door behind her. In a flash of magic, her mixing table (which had dragged itself over to sit beside her desk) came to life and whirred happily, like a pet greeting its owner. Additionally, the bulky computer beeped into being, flashing various screens at the DJ.
Plucking her glasses off and resting them nonchalantly on her head, Vinyl felt a grin tug at the corners of her mouth. There hadn’t been much time or energy for making music lately, but now here she was with a few hours and the perfect inspiration.
I hope these walls are strong.
Within minutes of starting production, the window was vibrating from an extremely low, almost imperceptible basslines, like the forceful hum of an empty room. It sent tingles down the DJ’s spine. She always started a song like this, just to get the energy flowing and keep her heart pumping. It filled the room with a restless yet focused vibe, forcing her to always stay moving and thinking about the music.
But something was slightly off today. She went for the usual tones, wondering how to give them new life, when a particular synthesised instrument caught her attention.
Maybe… just a test…
At the tap of a button and a pulse of magic, a deep, ominous tone emanated from her speakers. A cello playing a single, constant note. The sound quality was almost perfect, every minute scratch of the non-existent bow moving across virtual strings captured in jaw-dropping clarity.
And… it was good.
It gave the bass a completely different meaning, now dark and scary, almost seeming to warn of approaching doom, contrasted with the energetic feel it held before.
Vinyl seized the sudden realisation and began trying a few different notes, simple patterns, nothing truly amazing. But when the music looped and played her new additions, she practically squealed with delight. This was something she hadn’t even thought of doing before. Who knew such an old instrument would fit into modern tunes so well?
The next hour and a half passed in a haze of giddy experimentation as she brought in several other instruments from the strings section. The DJ felt as though there was a whole other world of music that she had been too blind to see before now.
And it was all because of Octavia.
As if she needed another reason to-
The music was suddenly kicked up to an even higher volume, safely blasting away any and all thoughts currently battling through the unicorn’s mind. She gritted her teeth and focused on the screen, but it was hopeless trying to concentrate now.
With a sigh, she turned the volume back down to more reasonable levels. Those traitorous thoughts crept back in slowly, whispering possibilities and confessions that she was neither ready for nor inclined to confront. But they didn’t care if she was ready, scratching as they did in the back of her head.
“Damn it, go away!” she yelled, slamming a hoof down on the table and making it shake. But the thoughts didn’t cease, so she buried her face in her hooves in frustration.
When would it stop?
The chilly air sent her mane completely into disarray the moment she stepped out of the lecture theatre. Sighing, the cellist vainly tried to restore order for a few moments before ultimately giving up, instead trying to focus on getting back to the student village.
Ahead, huddled together near the mouth of the path leading to the apartments, were two mares, one of them a familiar mint-green unicorn who raised her head upon spotting Octavia.
Heart beating slightly faster from remembered insults, the cellist tried to politely ignore them.
“Hey,” called Lyra. The other mare looked up as well, orange mane waving in the breeze. Octavia tried to keep walking, but a second shout followed after. “Hey, hold up a second!”
“I really should get home-“ she said over her shoulder, slowing very slightly.
“Only take a moment. Jeez, you act like I’m gonna hit you.” The green unicorn walked up and smiled. Her black eye had faded considerably, but was still quite noticeable.
The grey mare forced a chuckle. “Yes, that would be ridiculous.”
“Now listen, uh, you’re not a big fan of that Vinyl Scratch chick, are you?”
Oh no, oh no, we haven’t been very discrete lately, have we? Did she see us together? Does she know we share a room?
When no answers presented themselves, she hesitantly stuck to the plan. “No… not at all. She, er, really gets on my nerves.”
“Yeah, same here. She bothers a lot of ponies, way I hear it.” A dark smirk split Lyra’s lips. “Up for some revenge?”
Cold anger crackled to life within the cellist. “Revenge?” she asked coolly. “Revenge for what?”
The smirk faltered for a moment. “For… uh, for all the stuff she used to say about you in class.”
“Name calling and petty insults?”
“…Yeah. Didn’t she piss you off?”
“Yes, but only until I left the classroom. She hardly crosses my mind at all outside of our psychology tutorial. I think it’s rather childish to seek revenge for something so trivial.”
“But I bet when you two were out on your assignments she was even worse! Right?” The unicorn was quickly losing control of the situation, unable to deal with her unexpected response.
“Occasionally. But again, when she was out of sight, I forgot about her. I refused to let such negative feelings rule me.” Octavia stepped forward with a disappointed frown. “But it seems you have done the opposite, Lyra. Rather than accept your petty feud with Vinyl as just that: petty, you’re actually seeking other ponies to conspire with against her. Therefore, not only are you letting your hatred for Vinyl control your actions, but you’re setting a terrible precedent for the rest of your life. Every time a boss critiques your work or a passer-by hurls an insult, will you launch a personal vendetta on them? Tell me, do you see that resulting in a happy life?”
The green mare’s mouth worked and her wide eyes blinked rapidly as if trying to fend off the verbal blows. “I – I don’t – why –“
“You need to think about what kind of pony you’re becoming. Think hard, because if you don’t change soon, Bonbon won’t be the only friend to give you a black eye.” It was an educated guess, but it paid off, albeit only in getting a response.
“H-hey! You have no idea what happened with me and Bon, so don’t bring her into this!”
Octavia bowed her head humbly. “That is true. I apologise. But my words are still true, and you know it.”
Lyra wore a conflicted expression, defiance against acceptance. “You… you should get going, Octavia.”
The cellist turned to leave, pausing only to ask, “Will you think about it?”
Nodding, Octavia walked away, continuing down the path. Behind her, the conversation slowly grew softer.
“Way to back me up, C-Top,” muttered a despondent Lyra.
“Way to get your flank kicked, Lye-Lye.”
“Why didn’t you help?”
“Cause she’s right.”
“No she’s not, I’m not like that… right?”
Even at a distance, ‘C-Top’s’ voice dripped with venom. “You’ve told me to shut up three times today. I don’t even know why I hang out with you.”
And the very last thing Octavia heard was a very small yet oh-so momentous word.
She allowed herself a little triumphant smile as the apartment buildings revealed themselves.
I must have set the lie density record for a conversation, but it was worth it.
An odd buzzing noise became apparent as she stepped inside the thin-walled structure. It seemed to come from upstairs, somewhere around room ten…
“Oh dear.” Octavia’s eyes widened as she remembered the significant amount of musical equipment in her room… all of which was under the supervision of a bored DJ. “Ohhhh dear.”
She bolted past a familiar odd pegasus and into the stairwell, trying to climb quickly but carefully. About halfway up, additional sounds came into clarity. Violins, violas… cellos?!
“That’s an antique, you foolish unicorn!” she hissed under her breath, picking up the pace.
How dare Vinyl go through her most precious belongings! How dare she try to play her cello! And… how dare she be rather good at it!
Charging down the hallway, the true cellist skidded to a halt outside the door and pushed it open quickly, not giving any warning whatsoever so as to catch the privacy-invader in the act.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see her cello case completely untouched where she left it, but her focus was immediately drawn to the second computer desk, which was occupied by a white unicorn.
The music… it was all from Vinyl’s computer and mixing table. All of it, from viola to violin, orchestrated entirely from the computer. How could she possibly know how to combine them with such intricacy? It was a safe assumption to say that Vinyl had never sat through an entire piece of classical music in her life, yet here she was creating one. Where did such inspiration come from?
Octavia’s saddlebag slipped from her back with a silent thud against the carpet and she slowly closed the door so as not to disturb the artist at work.
Drawing may have been more than a hobby, and she certainly had skill with a pencil, but this was what Vinyl was born to do. It was obvious beyond question. Her posture, loose yet focused, her movements, sharp with the precision of talent and experience combined, and her creation, awe-inspiring as it was, all served to prove that her cutie mark suited her more than ever before.
As the song continued, looping and changing, improving with every iteration, Vinyl became increasingly agitated. She would shake her head as if to dislodge thoughts, and occasionally muttered something to herself.
The DJ suddenly turned the volume up to indecent levels, seemingly making the entire building shake. Octavia couldn’t help but jump at the sudden explosion of bass, but there was no way Vinyl could hear her over the music.
It was too loud to truly appreciate it, and the unicorn seemed to share that opinion, turning it down once more. But she remained as frustrated as before, shifting in her seat restlessly. Octavia watched the blue tail sweep across the floor and back almost hypnotically, synchronising with the music unintentionally.
In a flash, Vinyl slammed her hoof down on the desk with a bang, and shouted “Damn it, go away!” before stuffing her head into her hooves.
An icy bolt of fear struck Octavia’s heart. Vinyl must have seen her reflection and realised she wasn’t alone. It was like being caught observing a private moment between lovers, no matter your true intentions they would think the worst of you.
“Sorry,” she said softly. “I… didn’t mean to interrupt.” Vinyl turned the music off with a desperate-looking pulse of magic and spun around to face her roommate. From the surprise painted on her features, it seemed Octavia’s presumptions were incorrect.
The cellist felt as though reality itself was holding its breath as a wondrous sight revealed itself to her. “Red…” she whispered almost inaudibly.
“No! Uh, sorry. I wasn’t, uh, yelling at you.” The white mare tried to chuckle, but her voice cracked and ruined any attempt at nonchalance.
Octavia took a few steps closer. “I heard… your music,” she said, trying to fill the air with something resembling conversation, even though her focus was elsewhere.
Of course they would be red.
Nopony had red eyes, so of course she would have them.
Vinyl looked uncomfortable from the intense, unblinking gaze upon her, but the grey mare couldn’t stop. For weeks she had wondered about them and tried to catch a glimpse. Those two, deep orbs that had eluded her for so long were now visible in their entirety.
And they were beautiful.
“Why do you wear glasses?” her own voice asked somewhere far away as she took another couple of steps towards the unicorn.
“I-I… uh…” Now Vinyl was the one who couldn’t look away, cornered as she was by the close proximity.
They stood less than a metre apart, garnet reflecting amethyst. The white mare looked almost frightened; without the shades to hide behind, there was nothing between them. Octavia reached out and touched an alabaster cheek.
The DJ felt heat creep up the back of her neck, and all sounds grew softer. Her roommate’s coat looked so soft… and her hoof, gently holding her in place, as if she wanted to move, as if she would ever want to move again…
They stood for a moment, the room around them fading like a dream after waking. Worries and doubts flitted through the blue-maned mare, but those vague, mist-shrouded fears were burned away by the light from Octavia’s eyes.
For her part, the cellist had never felt more resolute in her life. It didn’t entirely make sense, not yet, but it felt right, and after a lifetime of trusting naught but facts and measurable phenomena taught in school, she decided that was enough, at least for now.
All that mattered was the last, slow steps that brought them face to face.
All that mattered was the DJ’s shaking breath brushing against her chin.
All that mattered was closing the last… few… inches…
And all that mattered was the kiss.