It was a bitter feeling, having a friend leave because of your own stupid actions.
It was a situation Screw Driver had been in only once before. The circumstances were different, but the outcome was the same. He'd acted brashly, deciding to eschew rational thought and go with a spur-of-the-moment action that ended as he should have expected: poorly. Once, an angry outburst, then the opposite, trying to reassure and comfort. It was infuriating, saddening, disheartening.
It was his fault.
He tipped his head back and downed everything in his mug. It was the same swill he'd gotten the last time he had been there, so watered down that it may as well have been water for how drunk it got him.
It was also less of an achievement that he wanted, since it was mostly empty anyway.
He placed the mug back down, off to the side. Slowly, carefully, he followed it with his head.
Every now and then, one of the staff walked over to him and asked if he needed anything. Every time, he'd lift his head a bit, shake his head, then place it back down. They'd always leave in a slight huff, and he'd be back by himself. Sitting at a bar in a place he probably shouldn't be, surrounded by ponies who probably couldn't care less about him or his problems. That was fine. Why annoy them more than he already was?
Eventually, the bartender herself came over, annoyance in her tone as well as her body language.
"You've been sitting here hogging space long enough. Either order something or leave."
She was blunt. Annoying at times, too. Then again, she probably thought the same of him. He paid it no mind.
"I'll have the same thing." He pulled another couple of bits out of the pouch at his side and tossed them to her.
She snatched them out of the air, her magical aura glowing around them, and snorted.
"Would you stop that?" she said, grabbing his mug at the same time. "Keep it up and you're outta here."
Screw chuckled. He knew it was an empty threat. He'd done it often enough over the course of his visits that it had slowly become a habit, and she knew that well enough. It also wasn't the first time she'd warned him, in one way or another, that he'd be kicked out if he continued. At this point, it was little more than idle banter to pass the time while she walked over to the taps.
She set the mug back down in front of him, startling him. He'd been lost in thought.
"There ya go," she said, giving him the curt kind of smile that showed she really didn't want to.
He nodded to her, and she walked away to tend other matters. Looking back down, he picked up the mug with his own magic and took another sip.
The ringing of the bell over the door caught his attention. Even at this time of night, there weren't usually other patrons. That was why he came here, to get away from other ponies.
He glanced around and noticed most of the staff staring toward the front of the bar. They hadn't expected anypony to arrive either, it would seem, though most of them went back about their business before things got too awkward.
He waited. One, two, three, four seconds. It took four seconds for her to cross the room and enter his peripheral vision. He glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow. He'd expected some random stranger, come to drink their problems away, even though the drinks were low quality. Her coat color, posture, and the general air about her were unmistakable, however.
Octavia Melody, famous cellist and all-around high class pony, stood beside him, waiting for the bartender to return.
She was completely out of place here, but he didn't say anything, choosing instead to turn back to his drink and take another sip.
The bartender walked around the corner and smiled when she saw her.
"Tavi!" she said, walking over. "Been a while since you came here. You want the usual?"
He saw her nod out of the corner of his eye and heard the clink of a few bits hitting the bar, followed by the bartender going about her business. There was a shift and a slight racket as Octavia clambered onto the stool next to him, then patiently waited for her drink. It was almost funny, seeing someone so remarkable in this part of the city. He was kind of surprised she hadn't been mugged, or otherwise stopped, on the way. Anyone else of her prestige probably would have.
It was an interesting sight, watching her down an entire mug of whatever drink she'd gotten in one go. Certainly quicker than he could've, even trying it with the crap in front of him. If the smell coming from hers was anything to go by, she'd gotten one of the stronger drinks this fine establishment had to offer.
He turned his head to the side and looked at her. She noticed rather quickly, and faced him.
"Yes?" she asked, frowning ever-so-slightly.
"So, why are you here?" His tone was wrong. It sounded more like an accusation than a question to him, and from the subtle shift in her expression, it had to her as well. He didn't really care at this point.
She turned away with a dismissive sniff. "I will not dignify that with an answer."
Screw snorted and turned back to his own drink. "Yeah, I figured. Just seems an odd place for a mare of your..." he waved a hoof. "Standing. There are definitely better bars in Canterlot than this one." He was probably getting some dirty looks from the staff for that remark, but it was true. There were fancier, and more importantly cleaner places she could've gone to than this trash pile. They'd probably be cheaper overall, too.
"Yes, well, this is a familiar place for me." She looked around, an almost-wistful expression on her face. "And, there aren't usually other patrons." She glanced back over at him, disdainful. "I much prefer the quiet. If you would kindly leave me alone, or better yet leave altogether, that would be greatly appreciated."
"How funny," he said, glaring back at her. "That's why I'm here, too!" He glanced around the room. "And, if I'm not mistaken, I was here first. So I should ask the same of you." He shrugged. "But I won't, since I'm not a stuck-up, high-class pony like you." He mock bowed as far as he could without falling off his own stool. "I apologize deeply for daring to stay in your presence for more than but a moment."
Octavia frowned, deeper this time, and sighed. She turned back to her empty mug and stared into it.
He looked back down at his own, but she surprised him by responding.
"Fine. If you insist, I see no point in postponing it."
She gave him a forced smile. "What would you like to talk about?"
She was surprisingly talkative once she got going. It was probably helped by the alcohol in her system, but it was kind of endearing at the same time. He smiled, listening to her tell him about something or other. He hadn't quite caught the subject. Maybe his own drink was having more of an effect than he thought, but he didn't care. He was having fun.
She trailed off, staring into the distance to the left of him. "Now I've lost my train of thought," she said, pouting.
He opened his mouth to respond.
"Hey Tavi!" They both looked toward the voice. It was the bartender, leaning around the corner. "You'd better head out. It's almost midnight, and you don't want to be late for rehearsal tomorrow."
Octavia's eyes widened and she clambered back off the stool. She walked over to the bartender and gave her a hug.
They pulled apart, and her mom asked, "Do you need me to head back with you? I can close up."
Octavia shook her head. "No, it'll be fine. It isn't far."
"Alright, if you're sure." They hugged one more time. "Stay safe."
As the bell above the door rang out again, the bartender walked over to him, a small smile on her face.
"Thanks for talking to her," she said. "When she comes here normally, she won't say anything to anyone. Especially not to me." She looked off to the side, sadness tinging her voice. "Thank you for getting her mind off of... whatever it was she was thinking about. She seemed a lot happier when she left than when she came in."
Screw blinked at her in surprise, and muttered a quiet, "Y-you're welcome." She flashed him a quick grin, then walked off again.
Today had not gone how he'd expected, but as he looked back on it, maybe that was a good thing.
He sighed and stood up, grabbing his pouch at the same time. He hesitated for a moment, then whisked ten bits out of it and placed them on the counter. A tip, for the trip that had been much better than he'd expected. He'd have to visit more often in the future.
With a bit of pep in his step, he nodded goodbyes to the staff members and trotted out the door.