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Of all the places she wanted to be on a Sunday night, this was not in the top ten.
Stumbling half-drunk down a dark Manehattan street, leaning on Shady Oaks for support.
This wasn’t even in the top fifty.
“Didn’t know you were such a lightweight,” chuckled Shady, sliding a hoof around the DJ’s neck to keep her upright.
“You were pumping drinks into me, dude. Buck off,” replied the grumpy drunk.
The two ponies continued their awkward shuffle down the gum-encrusted sidewalk. Slowly, the dark stallion let his hoof drift along Vinyl’s back until it came to rest upon her flank. Ever so softly, he began to trace little circles on her coat.
“What are you doing?” The unicorn shoved him away, but stumbled and tripped without the support.
He laughed and helped her up. “Come on, let’s get you home.”
“Where are we going again?”
“Back to my place, like you asked.”
She frowned. “I don’t remember asking that.”
“Well you did, dude.” Shady put his hoof around her neck again and pulled her forward a few steps.
“Wow there, easy. I don’t know what you think is happening, but it ain’t happening,” she said, trying to sound as serious as possible through the haze that clouded her mind.
The stallion paused in his attempts to assist her. “Are you serious?”
“So… all those bits I blew on drinks… were for nothing?”
Vinyl’s drunken brain felt absurdly guilty, and she placed a hoof on his shoulder (though that may have been for support as much as sympathy). “Sorry, Shades. When you said drinking buddy I thought you meant, like, an actual buddy.”
The stallion slumped visibly. “You’re a damn tease, Vinyl.”
“No I’m not!”
He snorted. “Hanging off me all night, pretty much grinding on me in the dance pit, doing tequila shots off my back, nah, you’re a saint.”
“Did I really do all that?”
“More or less.”
“Crap, I’m sorry. I get a little friendly after a few drinks.”
“Whatever. Reckon you can find your way home from here?”
“Uh…” She looked around at the tall, black buildings and the featureless road. “Sure, no worries.”
Shady shook free of her comforting hoof and started trotting away without another word.
Left on her lonesome, the warmth in her veins slowly chilled in the icy night air. As pretty as Manehattan was during the day, it looked downright creepy at night. Sure, there were plenty of streetlamps, but they seemed so suffocated and suppressed by the cold blackness that they provided little comfort. Sudden, crackling tendrils of panic curled around her spine.
I’ve changed my mind!
“Shady?” Vinyl turned to look at the way her ‘friend’ had gone, and only saw his tail vanishing around a street corner. “Shady!” she croaked. A night full of shouting was affecting her voice at the worst possible time. She tried to gallop after him, but only made it a few steps before falling over. The world swam before her. “Stop it… I just wanna get home…”
But her head was heavy and it felt as though the pavement was the only thing stopping her from dropping below the world. It was not a good feeling, but she had endured worse. Granted, those times she hadn’t been lying in the road.
There comes a time in every drunk’s night where they have to accept that they may not make it home.
She took some deep breaths to try and force her mind to work.
Can’t get home on my own.
Somepony who can take care of me.
Screwing her eyes shut in concentration, the unicorn hovered her mobile out from its pouch.
As the ringing began, she let the phone rest on the side of her head, releasing it from her magical grasp.
“Honestly Vinyl, this is late even by our standards,” yawned the angelic voice on the other end.
“Are you okay? You sound a bit hoarse.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. You?” What was she calling about again?
“Aside from being awoken by this call, I’m quite alright.”
“Yeah you are. You’re always alright,” Vinyl grinned, scratching her cheek against the ground.
“Well, I suppose. Are you sure you’re okay?” Somehow, the DJ could hear Octavia frowning in concern.
“Hey, I just wanna say, cause I’ll never say it to your face, you’re pretty cool. And, and, I reckon we should chill together more because… yeah. You’re awesome.”
“Oh sweet Celestia, have you been drinking ever since our phone call on Friday?” She ignored the words entirely.
“Nah, nah, just tonight. But, like, listen to me. I am being totally open and stuff. I’ve been having these dreams, right? And they’re like, full of those cleff things, like the one on your cutie mark. And sometimes I’ll see you in my dreams too, and we’ll hang out and go walking together.”
“Vinyl,” interrupted the cellist, who sounded more amused than irritated. “You should get some sleep. Drunken phone calls are most unbecoming.”
“I can’t, I don’t know where I am. But shush, this is really important. I think. When I think about you-“
“You don’t know where you are?!” exclaimed Octavia. “What do you mean? Are you just wandering the streets?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“That’s not safe at all! Do you see anywhere familiar at all? I’ll come and get you.”
“That would be awesome. Um, nothing familiar, but I think the street I’m on is called ‘Blueberry Road’, though I’m also pretty hungry so that could just be… hey, can you bring some blueberries?”
“Hold on, I have a map of Manehattan here somewhere.”
“And some whipped cream. Throw in some chocolate shavings too.”
“Blueberry Road is adjacent to the main clubbing district. Did you go to any clubs?”
Vinyl snorted. “Filly, please. I went to all the clubs.”
“Of course you did. Well, I think I know roughly where you are. Just stay there until I find you, okay?” the cellist sounded so serious that she managed to cut through the nigh-delirious fog clouding the white pony’s world.
“Heh, don’t worry. I’m going nowhere fast.”
As soon as the conversation ended, Octavia shoved her phone in a small, one sided saddlebag and bolted out of her room into the hall. The lamps were bright and made her eyes hurt, but she persevered regardless.
The cellist burst into the stairwell with a crash, leaping over the first set, skidding, and bypassing the second via rail slide. Her mane was a mess, her coat was ruffled, and she had forgotten her bowtie, but all of those things took a back seat in her mind.
A friend in need.
She had read about the responsibilities of friends, and best friends, and best friends forever. In this situation, she was bound by the rules of friendship to help Vinyl get home safely. It didn’t matter if the unicorn had brought this on herself, or if Octavia had two lectures later today. Those were the rules, and this mare always followed them.
This was, however, the first time she had ever needed to remember that particular set of rules. It was all well and good to know the code of conduct among advanced acquaintances, but if she didn’t have any, they weren’t much use.
Well, not anymore!
With determination in her veins, Octavia charged down the hall and through the final door into the night. It was cold, very cold, but she didn’t stop running. Her teeth were chattering so she clenched them to remain focused.
The student village was on campus, hidden away in a far corner. The point was to be close enough to justify living there to get to class easier, yet far enough that students could maintain their own lifestyles without being under the scrutiny of the university’s faculty.
A long, winding path through an unnatural forest led her into the main court. For once, the sheer enormity of the place didn’t excite her; rather, she felt exhausted just by looking at all the ground she had to cover.
Thoughts of a carriage crossed her mind, and she latched onto it hungrily. There was no way she could run all the way downtown! A hired transport was the clear solution. Not only would it save her legs, but the driver would know exactly where Blueberry Road was.
It was a great disappointment then to see the empty ranks outside the university gates. Where usually there would be a couple of carriages eager for your directions (and your bits), now there was a single wet newspaper flapping in the breeze.
Running all the way downtown it is, then.
She took off at a steady trot, wisely deciding to conserve energy. After all, she might need to drag a certain unicorn all the way back.
There were few other ponies out this late, and the ones she saw were promptly avoided. A thousand tutor-taught parent-approved lessons in safety came rushing back. Don’t make eye contact if somepony looks unprincipled. Cross the street to avoid them if possible. Remember, it’s better to look rude than to get mugged. And for the love of Celestia, Octavia, don’t go into any dark alleys.
Thankfully, the club district wasn’t exactly hidden away. It was entirely possible to reach it using only main roads, no alleys required. A small comfort in a big, cold city, yet she was grateful for it nonetheless.
It was barely fifteen minutes later and she was panting. Sure, she maintained a good exercise regime as required to keep herself healthy, but that was just a jog around campus and some stretching routines, nothing that actively increased her endurance. Slowly but surely, her hooves began to get sore from slapping against the tough (and occasionally uneven) pavement.
The pain that shot through each hoof when it struck the ground changed meaning, becoming incentive to pick up that hoof and push it forward. Each inhalation of crisp night air brought with it more energy, and she narrowed her eyes in conviction.
The cellist had a goal, and there was simply no time for physical limitations.
Rounding a corner, Octavia spotted the very sign that had eluded her.
Grinning, she forgot all about the ache in her hooves and started down the street with renewed enthusiasm.
No wonder she wasn’t certain where she was. This looks like every other street.
Black silhouettes came into focus further down the road, and her heart jumped into her throat.
Her comfy little dorm was a long way from here…
She slowed her pace, keeping an eye on the group. It was two colts, probably high school kids who had snuck out. They didn’t seem very good-natured, but it was the thing they crowded around that made her heart speed up.
A white unicorn with an electric blue mane.
“Hey!” she screamed. “What do you think you’re doing?”
They looked up, slightly startled, which was a good sign. It meant they weren’t sure who had the power in this encounter, which in turn meant that Octavia could take that power.
“Get away from her before I eviscerate you!” She picked up the pace, hoping it would frighten them into making a snap-decision of fleeing.
They backed up, but one of them still had a bit of defiance. “Or what?” he shouted, voice cracking and betraying his fear.
“I know Pilates! There won’t be anything left for your parents to identify!” She had never shouted so loudly and forcefully in her life, nor had she ever been so confident in a lie.
That final threat was enough to tip the tables in her favour, and the two colts sprinted away as she reached Vinyl.
As the cellist carefully looked over the unconscious mare, she felt her panic slowly abate. The DJ was clearly unharmed aside from a couple of light scrapes, most likely from tripping over. The two colts were probably just poking a passed out drunk, as disgusting little ponies are wont to do.
Vinyl’s signature purple glasses lay beside her head, and Octavia realised with a start that this was the first time she had seen her friend without them. Now if only she was conscious…
“Vinyl, wake up. Come on now, you can’t sleep here,” she whispered insistently, gently poking her white cheeks.
She certainly has very soft skin.
Finally, a response. “Urgh, just let me die,” groaned the unicorn without even opening her eyes.
“Absolutely not! I came all the way here from my dorm to get you, so you better darn well get up and be grateful!”
Her eyes cracked open ever so slightly, but in the dim street lights Octavia wasn’t certain if they were even looking at her.
“Huh? Octavia?” Well, that answered that.
“Yes, it’s me. You called and I came. Now hurry up and move your flank!” She couldn’t help but be a little annoyed at the slow reaction time.
Vinyl reached out with a hoof, patting the ground blindly until she found her shades. Fumbling a bit, she slid them on and raised her head slightly. “Hey.”
The cellist hoped her flat look would be a suitable reply.
“Uh, right. I’ll get up.” With several curses (three of which Octavia had never even heard of), she hauled herself upright and stood swaying upon the sidewalk. Her mane was even more dishevelled than usual, and her expression was one of hung-over agony.
Needless to say, the cellist snuffed a laugh. “Oh, you look ridiculous.”
“I think if I try to talk too much I might puke.”
The earth pony took a step back. “Can you walk on your own?” she asked hopefully.
“I can try, but if I fall over again I’m going back to sleep.”
Pushing through the mental image of being covered in vomit, Octavia walked up beside Vinyl and put a hoof around her neck. “Come on then, let’s get you out of here.”
They began the awkward drunk-herder shuffle. Never in a million years did the dedicated student think she of all ponies would need to do it. Truly, it was humbling to see that the lives of other, slightly less reserved ponies were also susceptible to hardships, albeit self-inflicted ones.
At least, that was what she used to occupy her mind during the long, painful walk through the streets of Manehattan. As streets blurred together and her hooves went numb, Octavia felt her energy drain away. Now that the initial rush was over and Vinyl was safe, the very late hour was beginning to have an adverse effect on her.
Or rather, the very early hour, as the lightening horizon suggested.
“Oh Celestia, I haven’t stayed up all night since… ever!” she mumbled, now holding onto Vinyl for support as much as the other way around.
“You get used to it,” came the croaky reply.
“I certainly hope not. At this pace, I’ll never get home in time to get any sleep.”
Vinyl snorted. “Just crash at my place. We’re almost there anyway.”
“I - I’m not sure, maybe I can just catch a carriage now that it’s morning-“
“Octavia. Chill. You’re staying at my place tonight. Today. Whatever.”
“Well… if you’re sure it would be okay.”
“It’s fine. Now come on, it’s just around the corner and I think my hangover is gonna get a lot worse if I don’t sleep soon.”
For once, the use of that vague phrase was extremely literal, a fact for which the cellist was infinitely grateful. Vinyl’s flat was indeed just around the corner, and up an elevator, and down a corridor. It wasn’t the nicest looking building, nor was it host to the most refined of company, but the earth pony held her tongue, knowing that such criticism would bring absolutely no good whatsoever.
Inside Vinyl’s apartment, she could definitely see why the unicorn wanted to leave. It was extremely small, with everything in one room (except the bathroom of course, which was somehow even smaller). Cardboard boxes packed tight with belongings took up most of the floor.
“I don’t blame you for not unpacking. I would also hate the idea that I could live here for any length of time.” The words slipped out before she could think, and she slapped a hoof to her lips.
Luckily, the exhausted mare didn’t even seem to hear. She slipped free of Octavia’s supporting hoof and stumbled forward, falling onto the bed.
“Um… where should I sleep?” asked the cellist, feeling very awkward about the obvious answer.
As expected, a white hoof patted the mattress lazily.
“Can you move over a bit?”
A twitch that almost looked like a shrug passed over the unicorn’s body. She was checking out of reality, next stop dreamland.
Octavia climbed tentatively onto the bed and tried to manoeuvre herself so that she didn’t accidentally touch the DJ. It was hopeless; there was simply no way to avoid it. Wincing and moving very slowly, she lay down and held her breath as their bellies were pressed together.
This is rather nice after being out in the cold.
Vinyl was fast asleep, her breathing deep and slow. Every time her chest expanded, it pushed gently against the cellist.
Warmth radiated from the blue-maned mare, and Octavia caught herself before she snuggled closer.
Must stay alert! This is my first sleep-over; I can’t afford to make a fool of myself.
But as her body realised that the action was finally over and it was time to rest, she found her ability to regulate movements to be severely lacking.
So nice and warm…
The cellist pressed her face into the white cloud, smiling at the comforting heat. It was safe there, nice and secure, relaxing and cosy. There was no need to think. Her eyes fluttered shut and she happily slipped into a doze.
And as the pair slept, unintentionally entwined but with complaints from neither side, the sun broke through the early clouds and lit the city with its merry glow.
Sorry about being a day late! I started writing and... sorta... forgot to stop...
Still, I think it turned out alright. Let me know what you think by wielding your thumbs in a threatening manner, or leaving a comment!
First person to spot the correct shameless pun in this chapter gets a cameo!