I pull my shades off.
With a shivering hoof, I rub my eyes dry.
She's staring at me. Waiting. I don't need to see her to know. I've never had to see her. Just hear her. Like I did on the first night.
And there is no lying. Not anymore.
I hold my breath... and I nod.
It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. Even harder than climbing down.
I nod and I collapse, rocking in the chair, weighted by breathless sobs.
And when the other half of the room resonates with indigo...
...it tears me to shreds.
"How... h-how, Vinyl? How could you? All this time... all these... mmmm... bloody years spent in each other's sad shadows... and you've... you've been holding yourself back? You've... you've been sacrificing everything you deserve for... for some pathetic... p-peasant life with a mare of misfortunate like me? Just... just because you're in love?"
I can barely sit straight from the magenta hyperventilating in and out of me.
"Bugger... bugger all, Vinyl! Did you honestly think I would be proud of you when I found out that... th-that you've been wasting away your talent? Th-that you've been... w-wiping your own arse with all that amazing... genius potential all on account of... of..." She whimpers, and I hear her voice taking on a foalish sob. "Don't you r-remember what even happened to my mother?! She died, Vinyl! She had so much to live for! So much talent... so many musical gifts and she threw it all away, including herself! And for what?! No mare in her right mind would have wanted to please that abominable monster of a stallion who sired me! It... it was all b-because of me, Vinyl! She... she sacrificed all that was g-good for some... silver-spoon-fed trollup who could barely even lift a bowstring and what did it get her?! What has it gotten me?!"
I shake my head. Furiously. I force my naked eyes open. I fight through tears to make sure she sees me denying all of this.
But it's no use. She's shaking her head faster.
"Dammit... dammit, Vinyl..." She rubs a hoof over her muzzle. "Isn't it enough that I must go through life with one soul pasted to my shadow?! That you'd have to come and throw yourself... th-throw yourself..." She melts. She sobs. "It's... it's all my fault, Vinyl. You... you're like this... after seven years, you're still so... so backwards and fractured and it's all b-because of me! I... I coveted your attention for so long." She gulps. "Honestly, I-I did. What? You think I-I've been blind to how much you've adored me? I've cherished it, Vinyl... and all of these years I've f-fed it! I fed this... this bloody tumor that's infested itself in your soul, keeping you from taking off the ground! Like you deserve to, Vinyl—"
I reach out to her—
—she only bats the hoof away. "Don't you see?! I br-brought you down to my level! I made you f-fall in love with... with what's pathetic instead of wh-what's awesome! And don't you dare try to bring up the night we first met, Vinyl... oh Vinyl..." She sobs into her fetlock, a shivering mess. "It's... it's not enough to save another pony's life! Don't you see? You've got to let her live! You have to let her go! And all this time... I-I've been so selfish..." She hugs herself, close to wailing now. The indigo thrashes me left and right in its maw. "I've held onto you so t-tight because... because it's so lonely here, at my level. It's always been. But now that I know... n-now that I know what it's c-cost you!" She hiccups and cries. "You don't really love me. You shan't love me! That's something hideous... viral! Like my father imposed! And... and I-I've p-passed it on to you!"
"I've infected you!"
I reach in, throwing my arms around her.
It's not that at all... it can't be—
"Mmmmm-get away from me!" An explosion. I fly back, shivering. "It c-can't go on like this! Don't you understand?!"
The bedroom door flies open. Two breathless, wide-eyed mares burst through.
"If we let it..." Octavia gestures at her battered body. "Something worse will happen! And only worse! That's all it ever does, Vinyl! Just stew and stew and explode over time!"
"What's the matter?" Bon Bon stammers, her voice strung between gold and blue. "What's wrong?"
"Please... leave..." Tavi yelps... sobs into her forelimbs.
"Leave! Leave me! All of you!" Tavi's voice is a muffled hush, dammed by her trembling forelimbs as she curls up in bed. "Mmmmmm—goddesss. Goddess, I hate it... I hate it so bl-bloody much...!"
"Omigosh! Tavi! Don't do that—your stitches!" Bon Bon looks over my shoulder. "Lyra! Vinyl! Quick! A little help here!"
"Right." Lyra shivers, gloss-eyed. "Buck me sideways. Vinyl? You grab her leg while I grab her other fetl—"
The world spins. Her golden voice dwindles, melts away in the brine.
"Vinyl?" A stutter. A gasp. "Vinyl!"
"Vinyl, where... where are you going?!"
I don't know.
I can only obey.
If it can make her happy in even the slightest...
I stumble away from the abyss of sobs.
I burst through the front door and into a baptism of blinding light.
...I'm so sorry.