The next morning everypony arrived bright and early for the first meeting of the Equestrian Girls. Since some of them had classes right afterwards most had brought saddlebags full of their things; Vinyl didn't trust leaving her laptop or equipment alone and carried it with her at all times.
Everypony stacked their bags near the door as they went to seat in the middle of the room. They were arranged with the sopranos in front, mezzos in the middle and altos in the back row. As everyone took a seat facing the front of the room they noticed they were short a pony.
“As some of you are noticing, Silver Note is not here. She was Treble Boned last night and is no longer an Equestrian Girl.” Claire said primly, with Octavia looking solemn at her side.
“Ho-oh-whoa! You mean that oath was serious?” Vinyl asked indignation as she waved a hoof to get Claire's attention.
“Completely.” Claire said flatly.
“That might be a problem. I can't help but exclude sexiness that attracts all.” Cloud Kicker stated as she leaned back a little. A few eyebrows were raised at this statement as Cloud Kicker raised both fore-hooves in a shrug.
“'A sexiness that attracts all'?” Vinyl couldn't help but ask as she crossed her hooves in disbelief while looking towards the persian-blue peagasus.
“Can't help but flaunt what I've got. You want?” Cloud Kicker looked back at the white unicorn who snorted dismissively.
“No, not interested.” An image of a certain gray mare shot through Vinyl's mind along with a thought of (unless it's a certain somepony. Whoa there! Where did that come from? Focus!)
Vinyl shook her head to clear it and focused on the two captains once more.
“That's not good enough reason for being with a Treble Maker. The Treble Makers don't respect us and if you let them have their way with you they won't ever.” Claire said with finality in her voice.
“Oh buck no! Next you'll be telling us what to eat and controlling every aspect of our lives! I didn't sign up to be told how to spend my college days! I'm -” Vinyl was getting into her rant when she looked up into purple eyes that held a mixture of emotions as they looked back at the white unicorn; concern, sadness, annoyance and disappointment.
Octavia had been about to interrupt Vinyl when she had suddenly silenced herself. While the gray earth pony wasn't sure what the white unicorn was doing now, but she had a bad feeling that this meant a very short singing career for the young DJ.
Vinyl stopped suddenly as she slammed her mouth shut, chewing her tongue as she was tempted to still rant. But as she continued to look at the purple eyes, she saw how sadness was slowly taking the lead in the warring emotions and knew that it was because of her anger at Claire for how controlling she was being.
Vinyl gave a groan as she felt her will crumbling to those striking eyes, rubbing her mane in a random fashion as she closed her eyes. It didn't help much, she could FEEL the eyes watching, feel the disappointment. She gave a louder groan as she leaned back briefly before setting her hooves onto the ground and opening her eyes once more.
“Alright already! I'm sorry. It's all, whatever.” Vinyl softly stated as she leaned forward a little, peering up to Octavia, worried about what she would see in her eyes this time.
Octavia had a soft half-smile while her eyes were warmly watching the mare before her apologize for her rude behavior without any intervention on Octavia's part; though she actually did influence the white mare unknowingly.
The rest of the ponies watched the DJ get riled up and almost as quickly back down. While some were unaware as to what caused the white unicorn to suddenly stop, most saw how she was focused on the gray earth pony and how the two seemed to be telepathically communicating.
Cloud Kicker especially thought this was funny and decided to poke a little fun at the DJ.
“Wow, Vee, you're so totally not a whipped pony.” Cloud Kicker smirked as she looked at the white unicorn from the corners of her eyes.
Vinyl could feel that she was on thin ice already and decided to not say anything. She merely glowered at the ground, though the effect was diminished by her glasses that prevented anypony seeing her dark gaze.
Cloud Kicker, Blossomforth and Arpeggio giggled at the sulking mare while Windy Day made a comment.
“Maybe Discord got free and is trying to sabotage our first meeting...”
Or at least the peagasus moved her mouth. The others tried to listen, but merely looked confused at the extremely quiet muttering.
Claire shook her head and refocused on the main issue at hoof.
“If you don't like how I run the Equestrian Girls, you can just leave.” Claire pointed a hoof to the door as Vinyl just sunk down on her haunches further to show that she wasn't going anywhere as she crossed her hooves in front of her chest.
“This is war, Vinyl! And it is my job to get my soldiers ready for battle with three kick-flank songs and awesome choreography. That means that we have to have practice every day for at least two hours and you have to add your own cardio.” Claire sternly looked at all the assembled ponies as Vinyl kept her mouth firmly shut.
“This does not mean that we will try to control your whole life, you do have your freedoms.” Octavia tried to cut in to resolve any remaining doubts about how controlling Claire Belle was going to be.
“Unless it conflicts with the needs, traditions or oath of the Equestrian Girls. And we will gt to Finals and win this year using this strategy.” Claire flipped the white-board behind her over, showing an extremely detailed plan with lots of topics covered, such as relationships (no Trebles!), songs that could be done (only songs made by mares) and so on.
“Oooo! Can I write on the board too?” Pinkie Pie bounced in place while waving her hoof in the air.
Claire deadpanned the pink mare.
“No. Here is the list of all the songs we have ever done.” Claire handed out copies of the list to everypony in the room, who then looked over the songs.
“There is nothing from recent times on this list.” Vinyl couldn't help but point out as she flipped through the pages. She tried to make sure her tone of voice remained neutral and didn't even look up at the two ponies standing in the front.
Claire flashed an annoyed glance at the unicorn before looking out in general once more.
“We don't stray from tradition. These songs are what will get us to the finals once more and that is our goal.” Claire said.
“What happened last year at finals?” Windy Day asked as she looked at the tense cream earth pony who was determinedly looking at everything but the DJ.
This made everyone pause and look at the sky-blue peagasus.
“Sorry, what?” Octavia could tell that Claire was getting annoyed at how she couldn't hear the extremely quiet peagasus and tried to cover for her by asking before Claire could say anything.
“What happened last year?” Everypony exchanged confused looks before looking back at her.
“Did Discord appear and turn everypony into cupcakes?”
Vinyl was the only one who could hear the quiet murmuring and figured it was best to not mention what was being said and focused on the rather good question instead.
“I think she's asking about what happened last year.” Vinyl raised a brow as she looked at the two leaders once more who both tensed up at the simple question.
“Well, there's no way to show you and we don't have time to go into that right now, so let's just get on with practice.” Claire turned away to the board when Vinyl held up a hoof.
“Are the finals recorded? I have my laptop, we can search online, see if we can find a vid of it.” Vinyl pulled her laptop over with her magic from where they had put all their belongings when they first came into the room.
Claire was annoyed at the white unicorn and would have tried to stop them from watching except that she could tell they were all interested in it, and she wouldn't be able to stop them forever.
The ponies all gathered around as Vinyl found the recording and set it to full screen so that everyone could see, though she noticed that both Octavia and Claire stayed away. After the first few moments of the clip where they saw Claire Belle sharing her lunch, dinner and everything else with the third row of the auditorium in the middle of their set, Vinyl turned to look at the two earth ponies still staying away from the rest.
Claire seemed to focus internally and seemed to be trying to restrain herself. Octavia laid a comforting hoof on her shoulder and whispered to the tense mare.
After the video finished, Vinyl closed the laptop, even though she began to get requests for other videos. Claire had control over herself once more and stepped up and stomped her hooves to get everypony's attention.
“Enough! What happened in the past is irrelevant! We must look to the future! We have to practice now!” Claire began the practice sternly, throwing off a lot of the others but they at least understood why she was so tense and desperate now.
The first practice went as one could expect from eight new members, badly. The ponies were well off musically, just not as a whole group, so they focused on the movements for now.
They started with some laps around the room to warm up their bodies, with no flying involved. Then they practiced standing and walking upright, standing on their hind-legs made a better impression on judges and some of the movements they were going to learn required strong back muscles.
Not many of them (aside from the two upper classmates) were used to standing on their hind-legs and became very tired after that. They moved onto their dancing styles, with a wide range of results.
Pinkie Pie had way too much movement, often bouncing in place if nothing else and lots of hoof movements. She caught on to the movements they were learning quickly, but then started to improvise more on top of them.
Cloud Kicker showed exactly why everypony's door swung her way with her dance moves, running her hooves over her sides and flank as extra movement to the song. She also couldn't walk or move to anyplace without swaying her hips in a sensual manner.
Blossomforth's movement showed how reserved and neutral she was, her motions having less passion and emphasis than the others. She picked up the motions after a while, but didn't flaunt anything at all unlike her friend Cloud Kicker.
Lyra's motions were extremely too stiff. Claire could tell that the mint-green unicorn had never done these kinds of dancing before, though she had potential. There was a rigid edge to her moments as though she had always been told how to do something the 'proper' way and had a hard time shifting from the rigid style she was used to.
Windy Day on the other hoof was entirely too loose, her moments much like the sea, wobbly and flowy. Almost like she had no joints at all, though Octavia did check that she was ok; it was just a little odd to see a pony with that much flexibility.
Arpeggio and Beautiful Composition were both of the punk mindset and dance moves, being at times jerky and then others slightly loose, with lots of hoof pumping and head banging.
Vinyl was another matter entirely. Claire knew there was no way that she would be able to work with the independent-minded unicorn and had Octavia teach her, which didn't help the white unicorn at all.
She was having enough trouble dancing, something she had never really done before since there hadn't been much reason to dance, and in her confused and subdued mindset when it came to the gray mare, it became all that much harder to remember the moves and perform properly.
Vinyl was extremely surprised when Claire tried to have everyone do it all together with the expected results, utter failure. No one was in time and only Octavia was singing the song just to make things easier. At the end Claire stopped them, to which most gave a big sigh of relief.
“Alright, that's enough. Uh, great work for the first one.” Claire's grimace was soon covered by another tense smile.
“... Did we just learn the set from last year?” Vinyl was hoping this wasn't the case, it would mean that they had reached a dead-end for the group before they even got off the ground.
“We'll meet again tomorrow morning. I got us a 'gig' in a week and a half at a local sobriety. A week and a half.” Claire completely ignored the white unicorn and passed out the details of the gig as well as the music and movements they just learned.
Everyone else was excited and didn't notice how tense Claire was or how Vinyl rubbed her fore-head with a hoof as she walked up to take her paper.
“Alright, hooves in.” Claire stood next to Octavia who both had their hooves outstretched to the others. Everypony else looked at her in confusion, wondering what she needed their hooves for. Pinkie Pie was trying to think of what kind of game they would need right hooves for.
“Hooves in A Ca-bitches!” Claire snapped at the others who were even more shocked at the reaction.
Vinyl could hear that the cream colored mare was on her last nerve for the day and didn't hesitate any longer, sticking her hoof out towards the two upper classmates. The others rapidly followed along and soon they made a circle with each having a hoof in the center.
“Sing 'Ah'.” Claire began to instruct when she was cut off by Pinkie Pie singing.
“No, on three. Sing 'Ah' on three. Altogether now, 1... 2...” Claire tried to explain and counted the marks for them to sing at the right time.
“Ahhhh!!” Sang about half the group, not in tune with one another. A half second later the rest of the group joined in as they all tried to copy Claire and Octavia's motion of lifting their hoof upwards from the circle with mixed results.
Vinyl watched, half-amused at these attempts, as Claire rubbed her ears at the out of tune singing and grimace-smiled.
“Right, we'll work on that first thing next time.” Claire dismissed the others as she faced the board once more, trying to think of a way to make them better faster.
Vinyl was more than happy to leave the room and filed out behind the others. She noticed that Octavia stayed behind, most likely to encourage the tense earth pony and Vinyl decided that she would wait for the gray mare on the side of the door.
It wasn't much longer before Octavia came out and looked around once she was out of the practice room. She was pleasantly surprised to see that Vinyl was waiting for her, standing against the wall with her fore-hooves crossed in front of her. Once Vinyl saw that Octavia noticed her, she dropped down to all fours once more and walked along-side the earth mare as they headed back to their room to prepare for their classes for the day.
They trotted along in silence, neither one looking at the other as they were both lost in their own thoughts. Once they got to their room however, Octavia felt the need to show how happy she was at Vinyl's control over her behavior.
“Vinyl?” Octavia watched the unicorn, making sure she had her attention before continuing.
“Hmmnn?” Vinyl tilted her head towards the other mare. She had gotten use to how no one could see where she was looking and finally gotten the hang of tilting her head to show that she was paying attention.
“Thank you for staying. You were going to get up and leave after seeing how serious the oath was, but you stayed. Thank you.” Octavia placed a hoof to Vinyl's shoulder.
Vinyl in turn blushed, knowing exactly why she didn't leave. It wasn't to help out a promising group of A Cappella singers, it wasn't to make lots of new friends, it wasn't to learn and do new things, it was to please the gray mare and Vinyl knew it. She couldn't bring herself to say as much however, especially since it hadn't been more than a month since they became roommates, she was still waiting for everything to turn sour and fall apart.
“Yeah, well, whatever. I said I'd give it a shot, I can't promise anything though.” Vinyl tried to be nonchalant about it all and shrugged.
“I know, and I'm grateful all the same. I'll see you after classes, ok?” Octavia gave the white unicorn a half-hug before turning around and exiting their room to head for her first class of the day.
“Yeah, ok. I'll see you later, Tavi.” Vinyl quietly said as she watched the gray mare leave. Octavia managed to hear it and promised herself to get Vinyl to explain why she is being given nicknames when she got back. Not that she minded, but she never had one before and wanted to know why was Vinyl making them up and using them.
Once the gray mare left the room, Vinyl took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes.
(Maybe if we stay roommates and friends for over three months then I'll tell her about some of my past... Are we friends? I think we are. What if when I go to check if we are she gets insulted and then doesn't want to be my friend? Arggg, am I really doing this to myself? We'll just have to have a talk when we both get back tonight. Can't believe we have to get up extremely early for A Cappella practices. If they keep using the same old stuff as before, they're never going anywhere. Sigh, maybe something can change. Just stick with it for now Vinyl and at least work on it to please Octavia if not yourself.)
Vinyl got up as she put her glasses back on and left for her classes, trying to not think of why pleasing the gray mare meant so much to her and if the earth pony felt the same for her.
That night, both mares came back from working (either at a job or on music) and sat on their respective beds facing each other. They could tell that they both wanted to talk; now it was only a matter of who went first.
“Octavia, I -”
“Vinyl, why -”
They stopped at the same time, finding it a little odd and funny that they both wanted to speak and had tried to start at the same time. They spent a moment looking at each other, trying to let the other go first when they both tried again.
“Why do -”
“Are we -”
At this second false start, Vinyl rubbed her temple and waved for the earth pony to go first. Octavia looked back with a raised brow before asking her question.
“Vinyl, why do you sometimes call me 'Tavi' or 'Octy'?” The light-gray mare looked at the white one in curiosity, hoping that they were friends and that's why she was getting nicknames.
Vinyl for her part shifted on the bed before deciding to go whole-hog about it.
“Well, at first I wanted to annoy, well, tease you I guess.” Gray brows came down in a pensive frown at this straight forward answer.
“But then, I liked hanging out with you and I, uh, never really had any friends and never had the chance to give someone a nickname, so I wanted to do that with you, I guess.” Vinyl's hoof found it's favorite spot on her head as she looked at the ground, she had hinted at what she wanted to ask in the first place and was nervous about how Octavia would respond.
Octavia's face cleared up and even went into a large grin. They were friends then!
“While I don't like that it was at first to tease me, but I am pleased to call you my friend and do not mind any nicknames you come up with; though I do prefer 'Tavi' than 'Octy'.” The earth pony grinned as she hopped in place slightly, her joy spilling out in her moments, unaware that she was under scrutiny as soon as she said that she was pleased to be friends with the unicorn.
Vinyl grinned back, happy to know that she was friends with somepony and that they didn't mind having nicknames.
“Cool. Did you want to do anything in particular tonight?” Vinyl leaned back, all her stress suddenly gone in a few short moments.
Octavia smiled in return and put a hoof to her chin in thought.
“Did you want to just sing whatever we want for the night?” Octavia looked over at the white mare, knowing that she didn't seem too pleased with the selection of songs they did that morning during practice.
“Sure!” Vinyl sat up properly so that they could sing together better and they spent the rest of the evening shifting through different songs as they felt like it, picking up from a word or phrase and moving into another different song.
While both mares enjoyed their night much like they did every other night, Vinyl was distracted by a difference in Octavia's voice. It wasn't noticeable to anypony who wasn't paying extreme attention, but with Vinyl's perfect hearing and constant singing with the gray mare, she knew something was off just by a little bit but she couldn't put her hoof on it.
By the end of the night when the two settled down for bed, the white unicorn figured it must have been nothing since Octavia never said anything about it.
The last thought the young DJ had was that she would do just about anything to make sure her friend was happy, no matter what the cost.