• Published 9th Feb 2012
  • 2,337 Views, 121 Comments

HeartBeats and HeartStrings - DJ-PonRainbowFireJack

The story of the love and lives of Vinyl Scratch and Octavia

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Chapter One

Chapter One

The thirteen year old pony watched the scenes flash by out the rain speckled window of her train compartment. Each passing moment and sight filled her with an odd combination of growing trepidation and relief. On one hoof she was terrified. She was only a child after all, as much as she tried to deny it, and she had no idea where she was going and what she was going to do. Her future was uncertain and there was little light at the end of the tunnel. On the other hoof, there was no light on the end she was coming from either. No matter what happened to her in the future, no matter where her journeys took her, she knew that it would be better than staying at home. She had made the right decision.

Vinyl pulled away from the window with a sigh. It was amazing she’d made it this far without being shipped back to her home. Some part of her had remained certain that somepony, be it her sister or one of her parents, would chase after her and force her to return home. Somewhere in her heart she had held a notion that someone would recognize her and bring her back to her parents doorstep. But now she was on a train bound for Manehattan and nopony had done more than pose the expected, “Aren’t you a little young to be out on your own?”

She didn’t know what drew her to Manehattan of all places. She had no relatives there. Perhaps there were a few from her mother’s side of the family across the bay, but she couldn’t trust any of them, what with their connection to her mother. She might have sought the comforts of her father’s relatives, but something pushed her away from family, even the ones that she might have been able to trust back in the day. Vinyl had decided at some point since climbing out her bedroom window that she could trust no one but herself and that was the way it was going to remain.

When Vinyl stepped off the train at the station it was with a little bit of uncertainty in her heart. Now that she was there she didn’t know where she was going. With a deep breath she hoisted the few possessions she had onto her back and set out across the platform.
“Hey, what’s a little filly like you doing steppin’ into a big city like this,” a man at the ticket booth commented as she walked by. Vinyl stopped in her tracks and turned to scowl at the man.
“What’s it to you, old man?” she snapped.
The man raised his eyebrows. “Okay, simmer down! Don’t get ya tail in a twist! I was only askin’ because it’s unusual for a girl your age to end up in a place like this. It’s dangerous around here, kid.”
“I’ll manage.”
“Do ya have any idea where ya headed?”
Vinyl hesitated, the walked cautiously up to the man at the window. “No, no really. But like I said, I’ll manage.”
“It’s a hard city to navigate on ya own, kid,” the stallion commented. “You’ll get lost. Here,” he handed her a map of Manehattan through the ticket window, “take this. It’s got all the hotspots and the public transit routes on here. Also,” he hesitated, then beckoned closer. “Listen, ya can’t tell anypony I’m tellin’ you this, but there’s a guy named Golden Tooth who’ll help ya if ya get yaself in a real tough spot. He’s not a great guy in the sense of the law, but he’ll help ya out if ya agree to help him out. But don’t tell anypony I told ya and don’t go there unless ya have literalley no other choice.”
Vinyl blinked for a minute, then smiled. “Thanks… I wasn’t really expectin’ somepony to be all nice to me the moment I stepped off the train.”
“Don’t get used to it, kid… It’s a Diamond Dog eat Diamond Dog world out there. Just remember… The name’s Velvet Chapeau and if ya ever need skip town fast, I’m ya guy.”
“I’ll remember.”
“Don’t be a stranger, kid!” he called as she headed off toward the carriage taxi that would take her into the city. “I could use some company every once and a while!”

Vinyl took a deep breath. This was it. The moment she set hoof into the city bound taxi-carriage she would be on her way to her fate. Whatever lay in store for her, she knew in her heart it would find her in this city. Whether it would be for the better or not… That was in the hands of some power greater than her.

Octavia closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, trying to push through another day. A student at the Canterlot Music Conservatory, she was often underestimated. She was just learning after all. As a result she felt her own skill was falling behind. She wanted to excel, to learn, to play, but her teachers insisted on keeping her at this elementary level. It was almost wasn’t even worth it to go to music school anymore.

It hadn’t started out that way. In the beginning she had felt that she was far behind everpony else. They had all grown up learning their instruments. She hadn’t picked up the cello until the day she got her Cutie Mark. Though she had learned very quickly, as all ponies with a special talent for music would, she didn’t have the years of experience to set her ahead. She had worked her flank off to reach the level she was at now. Apparently her instructors did not realize the work she had put into improving. To them she was the same struggling pupil who had entered the school.

“Margaret Octavia Pie, are you listening to me?” her instructor snapped. Octavia’s attention snapped back to the present.

“I’m sorry Madame Pianissimo,” she said with a slight shake of her head. “I guess I spaced out.”

Madame Pianissimo sniffed, her nose in the air in true Canterlot fashion. “If you will not focus on your craft, Miss Pie, you will never succeed as a musician, young lady. At this rate I will be surprised if you can even get a silly birthday gig with your playing.”

This is how it was with her instructors. She had so much ability, but nopony saw it. She was beginning to wonder if she imagined her own talent. But that couldn’t be. It was her special talent after all. How could her one true talent be imaginary? But why couldn’t her teachers see it? Why couldn’t her peers? For her other classmates didn’t seem to have much faith in her either. They simply saw her as the weird, quiet gray pony without any high class music training before the music school. Which was entirely ridiculous, for they had all gotten into the same conservatory, had they not? But the other students didn’t seem able to see beyond their own class. It was like their own upturned noses obscured their vision. But no, she ought not to look down on other ponies. That made her no better than them.

“Oh, look, it’s Octavia the Talentless,” a voice sneered. Octavia closed her eyes tightly. Not today.

“Please leave me be, Piano Forte,” she said through gritted teeth. She had no patience for her tormentors today.

The sleek black and white mare cackled. “Why, Dorktavia? Afraid to prove yourself?”

“She’s afraid because she knows she’ll fail,” a stocky tan filly jibed.

“I don’t have time for you today,” Octavia snapped.

“Face it, loser. You can take the girl out of Hicksville, but you’ll never take the Hicksville out of the girl,” said Piano. “You’ll never be half the musician any of us are. They should kick you out of the conservatory.”

All the ponies around her were laughing. Tears in her eyes, Octavia turned on her heel and stormed away to her dormitory. She threw herself onto her bed and allowed herself to cry for the first time in months. It had been a mistake coming to this school. She had been fighting that fact for a long time, but there was no denying it. No one saw her as anything but the pony from the rural county of Ponyville. There was nothing more hick than being from right outside of Ponyville after all. They didn’t see her as a musician and they never would. It would be best just to give up now.

Just then, the door the her room opened and her roommate walked in. Her roommate was a short, pale blue pony with a pale yellow mane named Viola who, unsurprisingly, had decided to take up her namesake instrument. “Hey, Octavia, are you okay?” she asked sympatheticalley.

“I’m going home, Viola,” Octavia sniffed.

“Oh, Octavia, please don’t do that,” Viola said, her eyes growing wide. “You’re the best cello player I’ve ever met. You deserve to be here more than any of the other ponies.”

“Try telling them that,” Octavia replied bitterly.

“Don’t listen to idiots like Piano Forte. She thinks she’s all that because she grew up on the piano, but let’s face it. She’s hardly the best musician at the school. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Money doesn’t buy talent.”

“It’s not just the other students, Viola. It’s the teachers. None of them seem to think I can do it!”

“Prove them wrong, then. Show them what you can do Go the extra mile. But if you leave, Octavia, you’ll never prove any of them wrong.”

She nodded as if she agreed but inside she was still wondering if it was even worth it.

Was it even worth it? Vinyl asked herself as she wandered the streets of this new city. The larger part of her answered with a resounding “yes.” Anything was better than what she had left behind, even if she had no idea what she was doing. But a small part of her, the part of her that often spoke like her sister, said that perhaps things would have been better if she’d just toughed it out. She’d at least have a place to sleep that night. But she couldn’t think like that. What was done was done and she was never going back to that place. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t.

Vinyl went through what Velvet had told her. “Listen, ya can’t tell anypony I’m tellin’ you this, but there’s a guy named Golden Tooth who’ll help ya if ya get yaself in a real tough spot. He’s not a great guy in the sense of the law, but he’ll help ya out if ya agree to help him out. But don’t tell anypony I told ya and don’t go there unless ya have literalley no other choice.” The idea of seeking out help from somepony who was clearly a criminal made her a little uneasy, but what if it came down to that? Then I’ll do it, she thought firmly. If I have no other choice I’ll get help where I can, but until then, I’m on my own.

There was a strange comfort in knowing that, if push came to shove, she would have the guts to seek help from less than reputable sources. But hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. She had her zebra bongo drum. Maybe she would be able to scrap a few bits out of a few suckers she could guilt into feeling sorry for her with that. It wouldn’t be enough to get her shelter, but it might get her enough to feed herself. That would be nice. She hadn’t eaten much since she’d left home a few months before. Enough to get by. That was pretty much how she lived these days.

Vinyl quickly realized that ponies in Manehattan, no matter where she played, didn’t seem to care much for street musicians mussing up their streets with the noise. She got a few bits from a few passers by, but overall, she didn’t come up with much. In the end she settled into a street corner in the dirtier part of town. The competition between street musicians was fierce here, but that was because it was almost the only place in the city where the ponies who lived and travelled there didn’t have their snooty noses so far up their butts that it was no wonder they walked around constantly with their faces crunched up like they smelled something vile.

The streets started to clear a little as an orange haze blanketed the street. Dark was approaching quickly. The street musicians were packing up and being replaced by a darker sort. Prostitutes stood on every street corner and drug dealers prowled much more out in the open than they would ever dare during the day. It was time for Vinyl to clear out before things started to turn ugly. There was no telling what could happen to a thirteen year old girl on the streets at night in this part of town.

Vinyl stole off into an alleyway. It seemed like the kind of place that a street bum might live, not that she actually knew much about those sorts of things. But the place was filled with boxes and bums lived in boxes. She pulled a large one into an erect position and curled up inside it, hugging her brown scarf tightly around her body and curling up around her drum. She was lucky. It was a relatively warm night. The crisp air of fall hadn’t set in yet as it would soon. But right then she didn’t worry about that too much. She couldn’t waste her energy worrying about the future. She knew that to survive this life she would have to life entirely in the moment.

Just as she was about to drift off into sleep a loud noise down the alley jerked her awake. She lay, frozen to the spot, hoping that whoever, or whatever, had made the noise wouldn’t notice she was there. When the others on the alley began to talk, she stiffened her body and tried her best not to make a single noise.

“Ya think ya can play me for a fool, Ruby?” a voice snarled. “Ya think ya can double cross me and get away with it?”

“Get a hold of yourself, Red Hooves!” a female voice said, strangely calm and gentle in spite of her words, not to mention the current situation. “I do not know where you are getting your information, but I have not double crossed you, dear. I am as loyal as ever.”

“Not accordin’ ta my sources, girl,” Red Hooves sneered.

“Who told you that I was double crossing, dare I ask?” Ruby asked in a tone that was almost bored.

When Red Hooves spoke again he sounded livid. “Who do ya think ya are, questionin’ me?”

“All I have to say is that your sources are notoriously apt at collect wrong information, Red,” Ruby replied. “It ought to be your faulty informant that you kill for this happening, not myself.”

There was a silence. Red Hooves seemed to truly be thinking about what Ruby had said. It seemed incredible that the young woman might be able to wiggle her way out of being hurt by this stallion. He sounded like somepony that nopony wanted to cross. More than anything Vinyl wished she could see what was going on, but she didn’t dare move. Finally, Red Hooves spoke again.

“You’re off the hook, Rubes,” he said slickly. “I shoulda known a crafty dame like yaself wouldn’t be dumb enough ta double cross Red Hooves.”

“I wouldn’t think so,” Ruby replied. Vinyl could hear Red Hooves trotting away down the alley. Soon the sound of his hooves were gone, but Vinyl still waited with baited breath. For a long time there was silence, but suddenly Ruby spoke again.

“Crystal, take this message directly to Golden Tooth. Nopony else, understand?”

Vinyl watched as a cat so pale it was almost invisible streaked past her box. Then there were hoofsteps. Ruby’s hoofsteps and they seemed to be coming closer to her. Vinyl closed her eyes, hoping she wouldn’t be noticed. She wasn’t afraid of the mare like she was of Red Hooves, but she still didn’t relish the moment that Ruby found out she had been eavesdropped on, especially since it seemed that, whoever she was, she was working for both this Red Hooves and Golden Tooth, the pony Velvet that recommended Vinyl see if she became desperate.

“Who the hay are you!” Ruby hissed. Vinyl opened her eyes to see Ruby peeking into her box. She was a very striking and attractive unicorn. Her coat was the palest of pinks and almost looked white. Her mane, which was curled and done up in a way that looked out of place in the dirty alley, was a bold red that matched her namesake perfectly. Her lash-lined eyes were a piercing shade of gold.

“Nopony,” Vinyl answered, trying to sound as if she were not frightened. “Nopony important.”

“How much did you hear?” Ruby snapped. Vinyl hesitated, thinking about lying, but the hesitation was all that Ruby needed to hear. She cursed softly and looked at Vinyl a little desperately. “I really ought to take you to Golden Tooth, get this all straightened out… by my, you are young, aren’t you?”

“Thirteen,” Vinyl admitted.

Ruby shook her head. “I’m really sorry to have to do this, but I can’t have random ponies on the street knowing about me without Golden Tooth knowing about it. You’re going to have to come with me.”

“To meet Golden Tooth?”

“Yes… You don’t sound frightened. Either you don’t know who he is or you are very stupid.”

“I doubt he can be scarier than Red Hooves.”

Ruby looked mildly appraising. “You have pluck, child,” she commented. “Well, up you get then.”

Vinyl followed Ruby through a maze of streets. They seemed to be taking a very convoluted direction. No doubt that was on purpose. Ruby probably didn’t want Vinyl knowing where to find Golden Tooth’s hideout. This theory was all but confirmed when Vinyl made the last leg of the journey blindfolded.

The room they stopped in was cold. Vinyl couldn’t see through her blindfold, but she could feel that the room was large and probably underground. She could hear water dripping, but it seemed to be from the passages rather than the room itself. The air felt damp, but not like there would be condensation on the ceiling.

“I understand that Red Hooves nearly caught you again?” A low, gruff, yet somehow comforting voice said.

“Yes, but that’s not all. I was overhead.”

“But this girl?”


“But she is just a child!” The man sounded shocked.

“Thirteen, Golden… I know that she is young, but I couldn’t take the risk…”

“Take off her blindfold.”

The blindfold was removed from Vinyl’s eyes to reveal that the room was indeed large and dark. It was also decked out in a variety of gems. In the center of the room there was a large desk with a high backed chair. At that desk sat a pony that could only be Golden Tooth. He was large and yellow with greasy black hair that was slicked back from his scarred face. He wore a pinstriped, black vest and a thick golden watch that made Vinyl think of old-timey gangsters. As she had expected from the moment she’d heard his name, inside his smile glistened a single golden tooth. He looked at her with his oddly warm brown eyes.

“What’s your name, girl?” he asked gently.

“Vinyl,” she answered, her voice soft, but audible.

“Vinyl… you are thirteen?”


“Vinyl… you are young, but you don’t seem to be dumb. I imagine you can understand the consequences of telling anypony about what you heard tonight?”

Vinyl gulped. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. You may go. You are young. I do not force the hooves of one as young as you to work for me. I trust you to keep your word. Just know that sometimes in the future, when you are older, I may call upon your assistance.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said, her breath uneven.

“Ruby Brooch will escort you out.”

As they left the premises Ruby Brooch patted Vinyl lightly on the shoulder. “Don’t be scared, child. Golden Tooth is fair. He probably won’t even call on you to help him. So long as you don’t talk you’ll be fine. Red Hooves doesn’t know about you, so you’ll be safe.”

Vinyl nodded. She didn’t trust herself to speak. Despite Ruby’s reassurances she couldn’t help but feel that she had fallen into cahoots with Golden Tooth far earlier than she had ever intended.

Octavia relished Saturdays. She loved being able to get off campus, get away from the snide remarks from her peers, away from her classes. It was strange for her to actually enjoy free time. In the past she had always been the kind of pony who preferred to have every minute of every day filled productively, but since joining the Conservatory she was more than happy to take a few days to herself to wander around the classy Canterlot streets. Her favorite place to go was a small coffee and tea shop on the corner of Magic Avenue and Harmony Lane. It was privately owned by a young and eccentric mare named Mocha Latte. The cream colored pony was a little pretentious at times, but as many had told Octavia that she was the same she found that she could overlook this quirk.

“Oh, look!” Mocha said with a smile as Octavia entered the shop. “Fancypants music school pony is back! The usual?”

“Yes, please,” Octavia agreed.

“One tall white mocha comin’ up! What’s up, Octavia?”

Octavia sighed. “The usual. Snotty students, disapproving teachers.”

Mocha smirked. “I keep telling you, get out of there while you can. Schools like that are just trying to make you the same as everypony else. You’ll turn into a music making robot.”

“At least I’ll be a talented and skilled music making robot,” Octavia pointed out. “A lot of the ponies in the music industry seem to be getting by on good looks and money.”

Mocha Latte made a noise of disgust as she adjusted her thick, square-rimmed glasses that Octavia wasn’t one hundred percent certain were real. “Please, you can’t even call that mainstream crap music. You’ll only find real music in my collection!”

“Oh, like Coltzart and Neighthoven?” Octavia asked, already knowing the answer.

“Nah, stuff life… but you’ve probably never heard of them.”

Octavia rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why you put such a premium on being undiscovered, Mocha.”

“Musicians lose their souls when they get popular,” she replied with a wrinkled nose as she tossed her coffee colored mane out of her eyes. “I mean, seriously, look at Sapphire Shores. I have some of her original R&B demos and their actually, like, really good. But when she got that major record deal a few years ago and shot to fame all of her actual talent flew out the window because she decided to go all mainstream… I’m telling you, Octavia… Popularity kills talent.”

Octavia shook her head. Thought most musicians that were considered “mainstream” weren’t really to her taste, she didn’t really agree with her friend. There were plenty of popular artists that, though they did not play her brand of music, clearly still had the essence of the art in their souls. But she had learned a long time ago not to argue with Mocha Latte about the issue. She was very stubborn about the matter and Octavia had found that it was easier to pursue friendships with ponies if you didn’t constantly challenge their beliefs. So she’d learned to stay silent even if what she heard irked her.

“Anyway,” Mocha said as she pushed Octavia’s drink to her, “you definitely need to get out of that school. Playing classical music is fine, but there’s definitely a mainstream culture in that industry and all of it comes right out of that institution.”

Octavia smiled and sipped her drink. “How about I just promise not to lose my soul in favor of fame and fortune?”

“I’m holding you to that.”

For all of her quirks, Octavia definitely preferred spending time with Mocha to spending time with the other students at the school. It was the same day after day with them. She didn’t entirely know why, as she wasn’t the only pony without a high class background at the school, but she had been singled out from day one. Viola was the only pony she sort of counted as a friend there. Nopony else had the nerve to try to befriend her. Piano Forte made life miserable for anypony that did. Part of her wanted to show Piano up. After all, she was pretty certainly that she was talented. Her treble clef cutie mark proved at least that much. Unfortunately for that side of her, Octavia was wasn’t confrontational by nature. In fact, she was just the opposite. The idea of legitimate confrontation usually sent her fleeing as fast as she could in the opposite directions.

As if summoned by her thoughts the last pony she wanted to see come anywhere near her private sanctuary appeared at the door to the coffee shop. Octavia squeaked audibly, causing Mocha Latte to raise her eyebrows. No! No, no, no! Please keep walking… please keep walking… But there was no chance of it, really. Octavia’s luck didn’t allow it. Instead Piano Forte, flanked by a couple minions, walked right into The Coffee Beans Café. Octavia turned her head away, praying that she wouldn’t be seen.

“Friends of yours,” Mocha commented in an undertone.

“Not exactly… actually, no… no, not at all.”

“I can kick them out if I want to?”

“With what grounds?”

Mocha shrugged. “Don’t need grounds. It’s my business, I can choice to deny service to whoever I want.”

Octavia shook her head. “No, just serve them and get them out of here quickly before they see me!”

But it was too late. “Octavia,” Piano said in a falsely sweet tone. “Who would have ever guessed that you would be the here of all places!”

“You, by the sounds of it,” Mocha said, her voice disgusted.

Piano Forte turned her attention to the coffee shop owner. “Nopony asked you,” she said snottily. “Who’s this, Octavia? Your girlfriend?”

Octavia could feel her face growing hot. Why did Piano have to torment her all the time? Why couldn’t she just leave her be? Mocha Latte didn’t take well to the accusation of being Octavia’s girlfriend either, for she swelled up like a balloon. “Watch your mouth!” she snapped. “I own this place, you know! I could throw you out if I wanted to!”

Piano Forte giggled. “Why so embarrassed, Octavia? There’s nothing wrong with it! I mean, there are a lot of lesbian ponies in Equestria! What could happen? I mean, besides being totally ostracized from respectable Canterlot society, of course…”

“You’re right, Piano Forte,” Octavia snapped. “There is nothing wrong with it! It’s accepted all over the country except for in this high class little niche you call ‘high society!’ But truly, what could possibly be sophisticated about any society that breeds ponies like you?”

She regretted saying it the moment it came out of her mouth. Piano Forte’s face twisted into an awful scowl. “You’re going to regret that, Dorktavia,” she sneered in Octavia’s face. “You’re going to wish you had never been born!” Then she and her posse were gone, leaving Octavia sitting still like a statue at her seat.

“That was impressive, Octavia,” Mocha said approvingly.

“It was stupid.”

“Don’t worry about it. What can a little bitch like that possibly do to you?”

“You’d be surprised, Mocha.”

“I mean,” Mocha continued, “I’m guessing that there’ll be a rumor floating around that you’re a lesbian, but that’s totally okay in most of Equestria. It’s just the uptight ponies that you don’t want anything to do with that care.”

“The uptight ponies that listen to the music that I practice, Mocha!” Octavia groaned and collapsed on the counter. “What am I going to do?”

“What the rest of us do, Oct. Grin and bare it. It’ll be torture in school, but who’s gonna listen to a brat like Piano Forte? It might make your life a living hell, but it won’t effect your career.”

“Thanks,” Octavia said sarcastically. “I feel so much better now.”

“No prob, Octavia. Any time.”