• Published 23rd Jan 2019
  • 2,494 Views, 116 Comments

Pressed for Time - Aragon



Vinyl and Octavia need to hug for eight hours – or the building explodes.

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Epilogue – Hey, Come Here a Second

Octavia took a sip and swished the drink around in her mouth. “Hmm. Hmm!” Her ears perked up and she looked at Vinyl. “Hmmm!” And then she swallowed, huge grin in her face.

Vinyl grinned back, and nodded. “Is it bad?”

“It is!” Octavia took another sip of the coffee, holding the cup with both her hooves. “It is quite bad.”

“It is super quite bad.” Vinyl nodded, and looked up. “Never change, Joe.”

Joe was unimpressed, and also squinting. Hard. “You know,” he said, holding up a tray with two more cups of coffee. “You can just ask for donuts. My donuts are really good.”

“Nah.”

“We’re not going to do that!” Octavia chirped, right before taking a third sip. “Oh wow this really is the worst coffee I’ve ever had.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I know I am!”

Joe mumbled something offensive under his breath.

Three days had passed since the bomb exploded. And, in the distance, there were no more sounds of war.

The place was Canterlot Hospital, room 206. The air smelled like latex and sanitizer, and the walls were white and sterile—but the bed was queen-size, the pillows were comfy, and the sheets were silky. The windows showed off some amazing vistas, and there was a minibar by the corner.

Vinyl and Octavia were sitting in the middle of the bed—Vinyl, with her back straight; Octavia, curled up.

“I have to say.” Joe put the tray with the two coffees on the bedside table and looked around, frowning. “I didn’t know hospitals did private suites.”

“They don’t!” Octavia said.

“They super don’t,” Vinyl added. “This is really just the hospital giving us special treatment.”

Huge health hazard!” Octavia sounded extremely proud when saying this. “The doctor wanted to punch us when we said we wanted the queen-size bed, but I’ve never listened to bourgeois scholars in my life, and I’m not going to start now. The minibar was my idea!”

Joe frowned, and looked at the minibar Octavia was pointing at. “Do you have drinks in it?”

“Yeah!” Octavia said, nodding, sipping from her coffee again, making a face at it. “Much better than this one, too. No offense!”

“Full offense,” Vinyl said.

“Oh, we can do that?”

“Joe’s a friend. Bon and him go a long way.”

“Oooh. I didn’t know that!” Octavia gave Joe a huge, brilliant, innocent grin. “Full offense, then! You are terrible at your job. I am only drinking this because I know your deliveries are awfully expensive!”

Joe sighed, nodded, and rubbed the space between his eyes. “Alright,” he said. “Scratch.”

“Joe?”

“Why am I here.”

“Because your deliveries are awfully expensive!” Octavia chirped again, finishing her coffee with a ladylike long sip, and putting the cup down. “And Vinyl is paying.” She looked at Vinyl. “Full offense!”

“Love you too, Octavia.”

“I know you do!”

“Right. Right.” Joe nodded again, took the bill out of his breast pocket, and placed it on the bedside table next to the other two cups of coffee. “I’m just going to leave.”

And he left.

“Say,” Vinyl said once they were left alone again. “I heard his coffee machine got busted during the hydra invasion? I was afraid that his coffee would get better with the new one.” She flashed her horn, and one of the cups went floating towards her. She took a sniff, and her entire face crumpled. “I’m glad to see he hasn’t lost his touch.”

“He has not! He has not lost it at all. The terrible coffee was inside him all along.” Octavia cocked her head to the side, all cutesy, and nodded towards the bedside table. “Pass me another cup, please? I want to see if it is an acquired taste.”

“It’s really not.” Vinyl took the empty cup from Octavia’s hooves, but did not give her a new one. Instead, she just arched an eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to drink them that fast? They pack quite a punch.”

“Oh?” Octavia’s eyes went wide, and she pressed a hoof against her mouth. “You won’t give me another coffee yet! How quaint! What shall I do!”

And Vinyl frowned. “Ah. Are you going to do the thing again.”

Octavia ignored her, and started rubbing her chin, as if deep in thought. “Mmm. Maybe I should go and sell my soul to Hell, and then sacrifice myself to get it! Yes! That is a perfectly reasonable course of action! Don’t you think?

Vinyl rolled her eyes, flashed her horn, and gave Octavia the coffee. “Yes, yes, I’m sorry for that. Look, I’m clearly alive and not in Hell, so can we just call it even? I did save your life.”

“You did! You did save my life. You also got us eaten, and tried to die.”

“I told you to take it as a compliment! See, I wouldn’t just sacrifice myself for anypony.”

“You would not! In spite of your mane, you have good taste sometimes.” Then Octavia sipped from her coffee, and had to blink. “Oh, this really is dreadful. Anyway!”

Vinyl nodded. “Anyway.”

“Do not kill yourself for my sake ever again. Flattering as it was!”

“Right. So you did take it as a compliment.”

“Vinyl, I am angry, not stupid.”

“Right okay. I can’t really win this argument? So this is what we’re going to do.” Vinyl flashed her horn. “I’m going to hit you in the face with a pillow.”

Octavia blinked, and cocked her head to the side. “You what?”

Plaf

“Ah!” Octavia wobbled, and looked at Vinyl with fake despair. “Vinyl!” she said. “I’m holding coffee!”

“Oh, right, you are. Hold on.” Vinyl flashed her horn again, and Octavia’s cup floated to the bedside table. “There! Much better.”

“It is! It is much bett—”

Plaf

“Vinyl!”

“What.”

Octavia grabbed the pillow and tore it from Vinyl’s magical grasp, pouting. “This is not the proper way to win an argument!”

Vinyl winked at her and leaned closer. “Thought you hated formalities?”

“I do! But I like them a lot when they’re working in my favor. I’m a hypocrite.”

“And proud, huh?”

Octavia smiled. “Always!”

“Well, I don’t know what you were expecting then.” Vinyl inched even closer—they were sitting right in front of the other now—and gave Octavia a knowing look. “I’ve worked for a corrupt government for years! Violence is my go-to solution in any given conflict.”

Octavia rolled her eyes, and inched closer to Vinyl, too. She was hugging the pillow now. “Beautifully despotic, don’t get me wrong, but—wait, corrupt government?”

Vinyl nodded. “I worked for the Equestrian Secret Service, yes.”

“We have a corrupt government?”

“I mean.” Vinyl looked around. “I don’t know, we’re in a private suite in a hospital, just because we felt like sharing a room? You do realize this is being paid with taxpayers money, right.”

Octavia’s eyes went wide. “You choose to pay taxes?

“I me—wait, you don’t?”

“Of course we don’t!” Octavia seemed genuinely distraught at the thought. “We aristocrats have way too much money, so we felt it was worth it. I can’t believe you willingly give the government part of your income for no reason?”

“Uh.” Vinyl frowned. “No, that’s—that’s fraud. You’re describing fraud. You don’t choose if you’re going to pay taxes or not, you just do it.”

“My. How quaint.” Octavia shook her head. “I don’t think I know a single noblepony who pays taxes.”

“Well, that’s just wonderful, then.”

“It is! It is wonderful.” Octavia nodded, pensive. “You know, it makes one wonder how come you peasants haven’t rebelled already? But then I remember—hah!

And then Octavia suddenly perked up and tackled Vinyl—who was leaning towards her, so it wasn’t exactly hard—and then pinned her against the bed, grabbing the pillow with her teeth.

“We have social strata!” Octavia continued, eyes sparkling, huge grin on. “Which are lovely! And that means we’re constantly on top of you and we oppress you just enough to keep you down. Like this!

Plaf

Vinyl laughed, and tried to paw away at the pillow, but Octavia wasn’t letting her grab it. “Oh, no, no!” she said, poking Vinyl’s face with the pillow again. “Oppression time! Here comes the aristocrat!”

Plaf

“Pfft, ah! Ahahah!” Vinyl kept pawing at the pillow until she managed to get it out of her face, and then she grinned at Octavia. “Okay!” she said. “Okay—like, good one-liner and all that? And I appreciate how you’ve clearly been setting this up for a while now. But, like, is this really how we do playful chit-chat now? Sociopolitical commentary?”

Octavia stood with her back straight, still on top of Vinyl, pinning her down. She wagged her tail a little. “Tee hee.”

“Right, see, this is not a giggling moment. This is not the kind of conversation that should end in giggles—GOT YOU!

She flashed her horn, and another pillow came flying from the side and hit Octavia on the side of her head, causing her to lose her balance.

Plaf

So Vinyl rolled around, and she was now the one pinning Octavia. “Ah-hah! The revolution has started! The masses shall rise! Down with the—oh wow okay we do talk like this all the time. What’s wrong with us? This can’t be—whoa!” And she narrowly dodged Octavia’s swinging pillow. “Hey, I’m doing some serious introspection here!”

“And I’m trying to hit you with a pillow! I don’t see any conflict of interests.”

Then she weaselled out of Vinyl’s pin and hit her in the back with the pillow.

From there on the witty banter died, and they just kept throwing pillows at each other. They laughed aloud, and rolled around, and almost fell off the bed twice. Finally, when Vinyl had managed to pin Octavia down again, and was about to give the decisive blow—

Someone knocked.

Vinyl’s ears perked up, and then she looked at Octavia, who shrugged, still giggly. So Vinyl winked at her, and then moved to the side and sat down, trying to regain some dignity, panting a little. By her side, Octavia did the same. “It’s open!” Vinyl said.

The door opened, and Daring Do came in, followed by Bon Bon. “See what I mean?” Daring Do was saying, favoring her left side as she walked. She was fully clothed, hat and everything, though she wasn’t carrying her saddlebags. “You can just knock.”

Bon Bon frowned. She wasn’t wearing her suit or her sunglasses—although she was carrying saddlebags with her. “It’s not that easy.”

“How is it not that easy? You just punch the door until it opens? This should be second nature to you.”

Vinyl smiled at them and did a little wave, but she did not get out of the bed at all. “Hi, girls. What’s—“

Plaf

The pillow bounced off her face and dropped on her lap.

By her side, Octavia smiled at her, and then turned to the visitors. “Hi!”

“Uh.” Daring Do arched an eyebrow. “Hi? What was that?”

Vinyl shot Octavia a glare. “We were talking about politics,” she said.

“In a fun way!” Octavia added.

“So what are you two doing here?” Vinyl asked, right after blowing a little raspberry at Octavia, and looking at Daring Do. “And what are you doing out of your bed already? Didn’t the doctor tell you to spend a week in here?”

“Bah. Doctors.” Daring Do waved a hoof in the air. “I’ve never listened to them before, I’m not going to start now.”

“Ooooh!” Octavia gave Daring Do an elegant smile. “I like that.”

“Octavia, shut up.” But Vinyl said it with love. “Daring Do—I don’t know. You were kinda hurt. Maybe this once?”

“Bah,” Daring Do repeated, closing her shirt, tipping her hat at Octavia. “I only came around to say my goodbyes. Sugar Song’s already taken all my things—I’m leaving Canterlot for a while. There are some nasty rumors about Caballeron doing weird stuff in the south, and I wouldn’t want to miss that.”

Bon Bon gave her a nudge with her shoulder. “Workaholic. Send me a message if you need a hoof.”

“I won’t, so I won’t.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Shut up.” Daring Do looked at Vinyl. “So that’s that. Just wanted to check on you one last time.”

“I’m not going to lie,” Vinyl said, frowning at Daring Do, “that sounds like kind of a bad idea? You lost a lot of blood. Is the wound even closed already?”

“Yes,” Daring Do said.

“No,” Bon Bon said, rolling her eyes. “But she doesn’t care.”

“I used the Can of Wyrms to cauterize it.” Pause. Daring Do looked to the side. “Kind of. It’ll be okay—I can take care of it on the road; Sugar Song’s got first aid training.”

Octavia had been silent for a bit now, turning her head to look at whoever was talking at the moment, and eventually her neck started to hurt. So she just shrugged, and reached over for the coffee Vinyl had taken from her hooves earlier.

She did this by literally leaning over Vinyl to reach the table without getting off the bed. This meant half-hugging half-standing on Vinyl’s head, and at no point did Vinyl react in the slightest. She just kept talking.

“So.” Octavia was now hugging her from behind, but Vinyl was looking at Daring Do. “I’ve been meaning to ask, actually, but Sugar Song didn’t let me ask job-related questions while you were convalescent…”

Bon Bon and Daring Do said nothing. They were just staring at Octavia.

“…But I guess she’s not here now, so—what happened to the Can of Wyrms? You’re not—” Vinyl trailed off when she saw that Octavia was getting closer to knocking off the coffee than to grabbing it, so she flashed her horn, and floated the cup to Octavia’s hooves. “Here.”

“Ah! Thank you very much!” Octavia grabbed it, gave Vinyl a cutesy look, and then curled up on Vinyl’s lap. “I wanted to see if it gets better when it’s not burning my tongue!”

Vinyl nodded, and caressed Octavia’s mane like one would a cat. “Does it?”

Octavia sipped from it, and made a face. “It does not! It very much does not. This is dreadful.” And she took another sip.

Vinyl smiled. “Figures.”

“Uh.” Bon Bon had taken a step backwards, and was staring at Octavia and Vinyl with a weird face. “Uh. Okay, is there another bomb I haven’t heard of in the room or something?”

“No.”

“Not that we know of!”

“So you’re just.” Bon made a broad gesture towards them. “Cuddling. Like you just—that’s just a thing you do now.”

Vinyl looked down at Octavia, using her lap as kind of a pillow, and then at Bon Bon. “Yeah.”

“Right. That’s weird.” Bon Bon nodded. “That’s weirding me out. I always thought you weren’t really touchy, Scratch?”

Vinyl shrugged. “I got used to it. Octavia is very soft.”

Octavia glared.

“In the right places.”

Octavia kept glaring but in a good way.

“Anyway.” Vinyl looked at Daring Do again. “I was saying—whatever happened to the Can of Wyrms? You’re not omnipotent anymore, right?”

“Nah.”

“Shame.”

“I split it in three pieces again. Princess Celestia and Dragon Lord Ember got theirs back.” Daring Do pulled at the neck of her shirt—she was wearing a golden, ugly necklace. “The coltpixies are gone, so the third one is for me. I’ll keep it safe.”

“You’re gonna wear that around your neck?” Bon Bon was looking at the necklace with a professional eye—meaning, she looked angry, but in a cold way rather than in a hot one. “While you go around battling monsters and megalomaniacs? Doesn't sound very safe to me.”

Daring Do rolled her eyes, and put the necklace back under her shirt again. “I’ll keep it in my hideout,” she said.

“You have a hideout?”

“You don’t?”

“So you just gave that power away?” Vinyl asked, looking down and pointing at the coffee in Octavia’s hooves, then at her mouth. “Sounds like a bit counterproductive. Feels like it would be helpful in your job.”

“Just one sip,” Octavia whispered as she offered Vinyl the cup.

“It would, but that kind of thing goes to your head. I’d rather do things the old fashioned way and not risk going mad, with power.” Daring Do scratched the back of her head, and glanced at Bon Bon, who nodded sternly. Then she took a deep breath and looked at Vinyl. “So… how are you two doing?”

Vinyl drank a large gulp of terrible coffee before answering, and then she returned the now-empty cup to Octavia with a smug grin. “We’re fine? I guess? Octavia’s moving to Ponyville.”

Octavia looked at her cup with annoyance, and then gave it back to Vinyl, who floated it to the bedside table. “Next one.”

“Your stomach is going to hurt.”

“It is! It is going to hurt. But I don’t want to risk you enjoying any more of it. And you’re paying for it!”

Vinyl frowned. “So I can’t enjoy things that I paid for?”

“Not if you bought them for me!”

“Wait, hold on. What.” Bon Bon leaned closer to the bed and frowned at both mares. “You’re moving to Ponyville?”

“I am!” Octavia said, turning sharply to Bon Bon.

“She super is,” Vinyl added, floating the cup towards Octavia and offering her lap to her. Octavia shook her head, though, so they just sat shoulder to shoulder. “We’ve been talking about it a lot, and I think I’m not going to meet with Record Label yet. I’ll go back to Ponyville, take it easy for a while—Octavia can help me refine my material, so we have something to do.”

“I’m a musician!” Octavia said, pointing at her flank. “And I have been teaching Vinyl how to be decadent! The first step is to never work, ever.”

“Some commoner lifestyle will probably be great for Octavia’s character, too.”

“So she’s, what, going to move with you?” Bon Bon asked. “Does your apartment fit another pony in it?”

“Oh, there’s no need for that! I can just buy a house,” Octavia said. “Or build one! I’m a Pianissimo after all.” Octavia looked at Vinyl. “We’ll still live together, yes?”

Vinyl blinked. “Uh. Will we?”

“Yes?”

Pause.

Vinyl smiled. “Sure, why not. As long as you hire some lackeys to move all my stuff, I’m game.” Then she looked at Daring Do. “So yeah, we’re fine, don’t worry. And thanks again for saving my soul in Hell, that was—”

“My job,” Daring Do said, smiling at Vinyl. “Don’t sweat it. And, uh.” She cleared her throat with a cough. “Right. I meant what I said in Hell. It wasn’t just the Can of Wyrms talking—I hope we’re cool with each other.”

“As cool as we’re going to be.” Vinyl leaned towards Daring Do, and rose a hoof. “Which is pretty good, given it’s us two?”

Daring Do nodded, and bumped Vinyl’s hoof. “Right. Send me your new address when you move. I’ll send you postcards or something. And don’t go saving the world while I’m not around. Let the professionals take care of that.”

“Sure.”

Daring Do nodded, and tipped her hat to Octavia. “Mademoiselle,” she said. “Pleasure to meet you. I might need to pass by your family’s manor at some point in the near future, check some documents you’ve got stored in your private library?”

“That sounds like a great idea! I’ll tell my big sister you’ve been invited.” Octavia pointed at her own face. “She looks exactly like me, but with green eyes!”

“Right,” Daring Do said. “The inbreeding, I take.”

“Indeed! Indeed.” Octavia nodded before taking another sip of coffee. “We’re all very inbred, the Pianissimos.”

“And owning it. I suppose it’s better than the alternative.” Daring Do shrugged, and tipped her hat one last time. “Well then, see you around.”

And with that, Daring Do left.

Bon Bon watched as the door closed behind her, and then let out a sigh. “You’d think she’d learn to be less awkward around ponies, but once she can’t keep the snarky bravado up, she crumbles.” She looked at Vinyl. “She’s really worried about you. Feels a bit guilty, I think.”

Vinyl frowned. “Oh.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t worry. It’s just—you know Daring Do. To me this is just a job?” She pointed at the whole room, and then at herself. “But for her it’s a lifestyle. She wants to help others, so the fact that she hurt you without noticing it, that’s… It’s a little insecurity of hers.”

“You know, that sounds like the kind of thing you bring up before she leaves, so I can talk to her about it.”

Bon Bon shrugged. “I suppose, yes. I did talk to her before we came here, but she chickened out. Send her a letter or something—she does more good than bad, when you get to it, but she’s…” Bon shook her head. “I think she enjoys going on adventures so much she’s afraid it might be wrong, somehow? That she’s hurting people?”

Octavia arched an eyebrow, and looking at Vinyl. “That sounds awfully stupid,” she said.

“Daring Do is awfully stupid,” Vinyl said, nodding. “I’ll send her a letter. Or we can go talk to her when she visits your manor, I guess?”

“Oh, that would be wonderful! You can meet my family, too.”

“Sure, that’ll be a blast.”

Bon Bon was looking at them with a soft smile. “How nice,” she said after a while, causing both mares to look at her. Then she immediately stopped smiling. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s still really weird to see you like, this, Scratch. But, I’m glad you two get along.”

“We do, yeah.”

“We’re best friends!” Octavia chirped, resting her head on Vinyl’s shoulder. “Right?”

“Oh, definitely.”

“Uh-huh.” Bon Bon nodded, arching an eyebrow. “Best friends. That’s how you call it nowadays. Remind me to tell Lyra about it, she’ll love it.” And then she blinked, and looked at the door, frown on. “And speaking of Lyra, she should’ve been here five minutes ago. Did she get lost?”

“Lyra?” Octavia asked, looking at Vinyl.

“Bon’s girlfriend.”

“Oooh.”

“Lyra!” Bon Bon poked her head out the door and yelled at the corridor. “Where are you?! It’s room two-oh-six!”

“Uh.” Vinyl saw Octavia finishing her coffee and floated the cup to the bedside table before talking again. “Bon? Lyra’s here?”

“She is.” Bon Bon got back in the room. “Would love you to tell you that we’re here just to visit? But—”

“I was about to ask that,” Vinyl said, frowning. “I’m not sure if Lyra should come here? Like, how are you going to explain anything?”

Octavia licked her lips to get the last drops of coffee off her muzzle, and then she nudged Vinyl with her head until the later gave up and opened her arms. Once Octavia was comfortable—resting her back on Vinyl’s chest, Vinyl hugging her from behind and resting her chin on Octavia’s head—she talked. “Is this Lyra not a secret agent?” she asked.

“Nah,” Vinyl said. “She’s a civilian. She knows I used to save the world, she just doesn’t know about the—”

“Bon!” the door slammed open, and Lyra Heartstrings made it to the room, eyes wide. “Oh my gosh, I’ve barged in so many rooms already, this is a—wait is this a private suit?” She blinked and looked around at the luxury. “I didn’t know hospitals did private suites?”

“They do now,” Bon said.

“Wow! Sounds like a terrible idea.” Then Lyra grinned and turned to the bed. “Hi, Vinyl! Long time no—uh.” She blinked. “Um.”

Vinyl waved at her. “How’s it going, Lyra.”

“Uh.” Lyra was frowning, and her eyes went from Bon Bon to Vinyl to Octavia a couple times before she squinted and looked at her girlfriend. “Is there another bomb you haven’t told me about?”

Bon Bon shook her head. “No.”

“Right. So they’re just cuddling because…?”

“They just do that now.”

Lyra’s squint got even squintier. “Vinyl cuddles? Willingly?”

“Yes.”

“Right.” Lyra nodded. “That’s weird. You’re weirding me out, Vinyl.”

“Somehow I had the feeling that was the case, yes.”

“So are you going to…” Lyra gestured at them. “Like, keep cuddling like that while we talk, or…?”

“Probably!” Octavia chirped, grinning at Lyra while wrapped in Vinyl’s arms. She looked smug while doing so. “Also, hi! I’m Octavia Pianissimo. Of the Canterlot Pianissimos! But just ‘Octavia’ is fine.”

“I know. I’m Lyra Heartstrings,” Lyra said, nodding. “I’m Bon’s girlfriend.”

“I know!”

“Bon.” Vinyl was frowning now, looking rather serious. “You were saying…?”

“Ah, yeah.” Bon Bon nodded, and then patted Lyra’s shoulder. “I gave Lyra back her memories, so she knows about the Secret Service and everything that happened.”

“Oh.” Vinyl blinked. “Isn’t that high treason?”

“Yes.”

Lyra winked at them. “She likes me that much.”

“Yeah, you wish.” But Bon Bon said it with love, and Lyra smacked her with her tail after she said this. Bon Bon didn’t react, and just looked at Vinyl. “I told her about everything and brought her with me to try to stop the hydragon because I had to tell somepony that I had betrayed you. Couldn’t keep it in my chest.”

Vinyl shook her head, and waved a hoof. “Water under the bridge.”

“You were simply following orders!” Octavia said, smiling at her. “Everypony knows responsibility doesn’t apply when you’re following orders.”

Vinyl looked down at her. “You just solved all of morality in like three seconds, didn’t you?”

“I know! I am a natural at intellectualism.”

“The fact that I knew I had to do it didn’t make it easier.” Bon Bon looked at Lyra. “Anyway, I brought her here to—”

“Wait, I thought you hated anything erudite?” Vinyl asked, looking still at Octavia. “Didn’t you talk about never listening to scholars earlier?”

“Yes, but only the ones who don’t have any noble blood in them! I’m not a barbarian. Education is important!” Octavia nodded to herself. “It’s just that inheritance is more important.”

“Aaah. So our doctor…?”

“Merchant family! Petite bourgeoise. I only like them when they stay in their lane.”

“Uh-huh.” Vinyl patted Octavia’s head. “Octavia?”

“Vinyl?”

“You’re so lucky you’re pretty.”

“I know!”

“No, seriously.” Lyra looked at Bon Bon again, making a face. “If you told me I’ve died and I’m in Purgatory, I would believe you.”

“Wait, what?” Octavia’s ears perked up, and she stopped giving Vinyl the eyes to look at Lyra. She even sat upright, so Vinyl—still hugging her from behind—had to rest her chin on Octavia’s shoulder, rather than on her head. “Purgatory?” Octavia asked. “There’s one of those, too?”

“Yeah!” Lyra said.

“Really boring place,” Vinyl said. “Nothing much happens. Hell’s more lively.”

“Well! That’s just—well!” Octavia blinked, looked at Vinyl, at Lyra, at Bon. Then she frowned. “I don’t even know why I am surprised anymore! This is starting to become routine.”

“Welcome to my life,” Vinyl said.

“Thank you! I really hate it.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Right, see? See?” Bon Bon pointed at Octavia. “That? That’s why we’re here. Octavia, how many State Secrets do you know by now? After spending four days with Vinyl?”

Octavia grinned. “I’ve lost count!”

Bon Bon nodded. “And how many State Secrets have you told the doctors already?”

“I’ve also lost count!”

“At least you’re honest about this.” Bon Bon took off her saddlebags and left them on the ground, then started rummaging through them. “Okay, Scratch, here’s the deal.” She took a small black case and threw it at Vinyl’s face. “Catch.”

Vinyl grabbed it with her magic right before it hit her, and then opened it. “Huh.” she said, looking inside. “My sunglasses?”

“Shades,” Bon Bon said. “They’re shades. The distinction is important.”

Something in her voice made Vinyl and Octavia stare at her. Lyra looked at it all with a knowing look.

And Bon Bon sighed. “I need to erase your memories. Anything related to the Secret Service, and Hell, and so on.”

“What!” Octavia yelled. “No!”

“Oh.” Vinyl simply looked at her shades. “Hm.”

“Vinyl! You can’t let them do that, that’s nightmarish!”

“Nah, it’s really not,” Lyra said, shaking her head and grinning at them. “They’ve erased mine a million times! It’s never that big a deal.”

Pause.

Octavia looked at Lyra and her grin, and then back at Vinyl. “Vinyl,” she said. “You have to stop her.”

“I—”

“Lyra is not kidding, Octavia,” Bon said. “It’s why I asked her to come? I figured you wouldn’t believe me since, you know.” She pointed at herself. “Government worker?”

“Yes, you are not exactly trustworthy,” Octavia said. Then she smiled. “Full offense!”

“…I didn’t know we were that close already?”

“We are! Vinyl’s friends are my friends.”

“Cute. Anyway.” Bon Bon looked at her girlfriend. “Lyra, take it away?”

“Aye Aye.” Lyra saluted, and then looked at Octavia. “They’re not really going to erase anything, so don’t worry. They’ll just modify some details so you don’t know there’s a Secret Service? But you’ll remember the bomb and everything else.”

“But…!” Octavia grasped at her chest, and looked at Vinyl. “But Vinyl…!”

“You’ll remember her too.”

Pause.

Octavia blinked. “Ah. Will I?”

“Yeah! And you’ll remember that she has a dark past and everything.” Lyra shrugged. “It’s just the specifics you’ll forget. I’m guessing they’ll just make it so Vinyl saved the world a bunch of times because…?” she looked at Bon. “Because…?”

“Volunteer work,” Bon Bon explained.

“Aaah.”

“Yeah, you’ll still remember that Destiny was terrible to you guys, it’s just that, well.” Bon Bon shook her head. “No Hell, no Secret Service, no memory-erasing protocols… You get the drill.”

“I always remember our trips,” Lyra said. “I just stop thinking they’re related to the Secret Service.” She winked at Bon Bon before continuing. “Most of the time I just think Bon’s a very adventurous baker, who knows martial arts for some reason.”

“You find it cool,” Bon said.

“Sure do! It’s also literally the only reason we haven’t been killed yet, which is a plus.”

Octavia still looked unconvinced. She looked at Vinyl. “But…”

“Some bits are going to be hard to modify,” was all Vinyl said, looking at Bon Bon—but still hugging Octavia from behind. “I went to Hell to save Octavia.”

“We’ll work it out,” Bon Bon said. “But, yeah, Scratch. This time it’s final, and we’re not forgetting to delete your memories. You’re leaving the Service for real this time.”

Vinyl nodded, quiet.

And Octavia frowned. “Well! I suppose that is good.” Then she blinked. “Wait. Are you going to erase our memories by selling souls to—”

“Don’t finish that sentence and I’ll let you choose what you’ll remember instead of Vinyl talking to a demon.”

Pause.

Octavia frowned. “Vinyl pleaded to the hydragon because I was too thin and conventionally attractive to die, and the hydragon accepted.”

“What.” Vinyl frowned and looked at Octavia. “No.”

“Deal,” Bon said.

“What! No!” Vinyl glared at Bon Bon. “Don’t humor her! I pleaded at the hydragon? How does that even work?!

“I have no idea.” Bon smiled. “We’ll figure it out. I want you to remember the conversation you had with Daring Do, so we’ll say the Can of Wyrms saved the day after you pleaded, how’s that?”

“It sounds like a terrible idea!”

“Well, nothing I can do about it.” Bon Bon pointed at Octavia. “She called dibs on choosing your new memories.”

“She did not!”

“I did! I did call dibs.” Octavia gave Vinyl a brilliant look. “You’re welcome!” Then she looked at Lyra. “I have no idea what dibs are.”

“It means you’re better than her,” Lyra explained.

“Oh! Well, I already knew that.”

“Okay, so I see you’re both convinced. Scratch.” Bon Bon nodded at Vinyl. “This is for the better. You’ll still remember your trauma, but—”

“I’ll stop feeling guilty about leaving the Service,” Vinyl said, frowning at her shades. “It feels a bit like cheating.”

“I think after all you’ve been through, you deserve a shortcut, for once.”

“Hmm.”

“Right. So that’s that.” Bon smiled at her girlfriend. “Thanks for the help, Lyra.”

“You’re welcome! I literally did nothing.”

“I know, but I figured you’d want to see Vinyl before we leave.” Bon looked at Octavia. “Her memories will be erased too.”

“Again! It’s like the tenth time. I keep finding out her secret identities,” Lyra explained.

“Yeah, it really never sticks.” Bon Bon headed towards the door and opened it. “Anyway, we should be leaving. Scratch, Octavia, we’ll come pick you up tomorrow, we’ll delete your memories, and then we can—”

“Wait.” Vinyl put her shades away and looked at Bon Bon. “You’re not doing this now?”

“Direct orders from above,” Bon Bon said. “No memory-wiping until tomorrow. Somepony else wants to pay you a visit.” Then she looked at Octavia. “Which means that, seeing how we already have to wipe the memories of half this hospital, it would be great if you could stop spilling State Secrets left and right?”

“I can’t promise anything!” Octavia said. “I’m very bad at national security.”

“I mean, we all are, but you could at least try.”

“I could! I definitely could.” Octavia waved at her. “Close the door on your way out!”

Bon Bon sighed, but obeyed. Lyra followed her.

Vinyl and Octavia were left alone.

“So!” Octavia wiggled around until she was facing Vinyl, still clinging at her chest. “We’re to lose our memories! That’s slightly traumatic.”

“Hmm.” Vinyl was looking at her shades, making them float in front of her face. “I suppose. I don’t know if this is good for me or…”

“It’s convenient!” Octavia grabbed the shades and took them away from Vinyl's magic. She looked at them a bit—they were identical to the ones that Vinyl had been wearing the first time they met. “Ah-hah. They’re horrendous. They go well with your mane!”

“Uh.” Vinyl frowned. “I take that as a… compliment?”

“You should! I meant it like that.” Then Octavia put the shades on Vinyl’s face. They fit like a glove. “I like seeing your eyes better, but you can wear these in public,” she said. “At this point, I give up when it comes to your aesthetic!”

“Pff.” But Vinyl kept them on. “So you think that it’s good that I just forget…?”

“It’s convenient!” Octavia repeated. “I don’t think you will forget the trauma, but it’ll probably be easier on you if you just thought you were volunteering, yes?”

“Probably.”

“Then that’s good enough! Didn’t I teach you how to be decadent? This is what decadence is all about!” Octavia patted Vinyl’s head. “Convenience.”

“…Yeah.” It took Vinyl a moment, but then she nodded, and smiled at Octavia. “Yeah. You’re right.”

“I am! I am right.” Octavia tapped her chin as she looked at Vinyl’s face with sudden concentration. “Hmmm. I want to try something. Take off your shades, please?”

“Uh.” Vinyl flashed her horn, and her face was bare again. “Like this?”

“Yes! Perfect!”

Plaf

The pillow bounced off Vinyl’s face.

“Tee hee.”

“Oh, now you’re gonna get it.” The wild grin in Vinyl’s face showed a bit more teeth than necessary, but it was still the best thing Octavia had seen all day. Vinyl flashed her horn and two pillows started floating by her side. “Come here! Liberté, Égalité—

“Tee hee hee!”

And the sounds of war could be heard through the whole hospital for almost an hour. But they were pleasant, and sprinkled with laughter.


The visit came later that very same evening, way after the visiting hours had ended. The door to their room opened gently, the doorknob shining with a dark blue light. Princess Luna entered the room.

Behind her, Mister Labcoat, the dragon, followed.

And according to my investigations…” He was looking at his little notebook as he walked, scratching the side of his head. “That is how hugs react to murder and wanton violence.

“I see!” Princess Luna nodded. “That is good!”

That is how hugs react to murder and wanton violence so far.

“And that is unnecessarily ominous! You are such a good student.”

“Luna.” Princess Celestia was the third one to enter the room, and she closed the door behind her. “We have talked about this.”

“Oh.” Luna blinked, and bowed slightly at her sister. “You are right.” Then she turned to Octavia and Vinyl. “I apologize! It is not advisable to be unnecessarily ominous in the presence of our subjects. We do not want to scare you away.”

“We’re not scared!” Octavia said, smiling.

There’s a dragon in the room,” Vinyl whispered, terrified.

“Unnecessary ominousness is bad no matter the circumstance, Luna,” Celestia said, but her tone was pleasant, and then she, too, turned to face Vinyl and Octavia. “I apologize for the untimeliness of our visit. Pressing matters kept us busy until now, I am afraid.”

“Uuuuuh.” Vinyl, never looking away from Labcoat—who was still looking at his notebook—grabbed Octavia by the shoulders and hid behind her. “Right. Uh. No need to apologize.”

“Princess Luna, Mister Labcoat.” Octavia patted Vinyl’s hoof and gave the visitors a warm smile. “It is good to see you!” Then she turned around, not smiling so much. “And you are also here, Princess Celestia.”

That made Vinyl look away from the dragon. “Octavia.”

“Vinyl?”

“Could you not.”

“I could! I could not.”

Vinyl was going to say something more, but Celestia interrupted them with a light laugh, one that brightened up the room. “Do not worry, Vinyl Scratch,” she said when she saw Vinyl looking at her and Octavia with confusion in her eyes. “It is refreshing, to know that some ponies are not scared of showing open hostility towards me. I should be held accountable for my actions, just like anypony else.”

“Yes! It is good to be reminded that we, too, make mistakes.” Luna gave her sister a warm smile before looking at Octavia. “That said, Octavia Pianissimo.”

“Yes?”

“Do not talk to my sister like that.”

“Luna.” Celestia rose a hoof, and Luna stopped talking. “That is in the past. I did something I should not be proud of, and they are right to be angry. Nothing more to say.” Then she turned to the two mares. “I hope that you two are well, and that the treatment you have received has been pleasant?”

“It has! It has been wonderful,” Octavia said, after shooting Vinyl one look and noticing that she was still eyeing Labcoat with suspicion. “The minibar was a candid gesture, Princess Celestia.”

“I am happy to hear that.” Celestia arched an eyebrow. “Vinyl Scratch?”

“…Yes?”

“Is something the matter?”

“Uh.” Vinyl gulped, and crouched a little bit more behind Octavia. She flashed her horn, and put on her glasses before saying anything else. “There is, actually! Why is he here?”

And she pointed at Labcoat.

Luna and Celestia followed her hoof and looked at Labcoat, who was still lost in his notebook, clearly unaware of anything. Celestia took the matter into her hooves, clearing her throat with a cough.

“Ah-hem.”

Loudly.

What. Yes.

“Vinyl Scratch was wondering why you have felt the need to visit them,” Celestia said. “Perhaps you could offer them an explanation?”

Yes.” Labcoat looked at Luna—got a reassuring nod from her, which made him smile and close his notebook—and then faced Vinyl. “I have finished my investigations on casual acquaintanceship. For now.

Pause. Luna waved a hoof in the air. “Keep going,” she said.

Yes. Also I wanted to apologize for.” And here Labcoat looked down and had to open the notebook again and give it a quick read. “Almost murdering you. That was not nice.”

“Good!” Princess Luna said.

“Excellent, Mister Labcoat,” Celestia said, nodding. “It is a great start.”

“Casual acquaintanceship!” Octavia perked up when she said that, and looked at Vinyl. “I had forgotten about the casual acquaintanceship!”

“Oh, yeah, that was a thing.” Vinyl frowned. “Hold on. Octavia?”

“Vinyl?”

“Didn’t you say aristocrats don’t do friendship?”

Octavia nodded. “It counts as labor!”

“But you keep saying we’re best friends.”

“I know! You’re a terrible influence.”

Yes.” Labcoat nodded, and looked at Vinyl. “You are. It says it here. I have also found out hugs do not cause casual acquaintanceships.” And he pointed at Octavia. “She is not your casual acquaintance.”

“I’m not!” Octavia said.

“Yeah, we’re way closer than that, to be honest.”

“We’re going to move in together!”

I did not know that.” Labcoat nodded, writing something down. “Pony hugs are more powerful than I expected. I wanted to thank you. You have taught me valuable things about friendship.

“They have!” Luna spring up at this, ears perked up, and she looked at her sister with excitement. “Did you hear that, Sister? It worked! We taught friendship to an adult dragon! It can be done!”

Celestia blinked, and looked at Labcoat. “It… seems like it,” she said. Then she smiled. “I always knew you could do it, Luna.”

Yes. We dragons have been suspicious of friendship for a long while. Since it kills us.” There was a weird glint in Labcoat’s eye as he looked at Vinyl and Octavia. “But you have taught me it can be used to kill many other things. Bigger things. Powerful things.” Labcoat stopped writing and closed his notebook again. “There is no need to study friendship through murder and violence. Friendship is murder and violence.

Pause.

Luna grinned at Celestia again. “Sister! We have taught friendship to an adult dragon!

Yes. You have.

“Right. Uh.” Celestia’s smile got a bit strained. “It’s… a start, I suppose.”

“A great one! We should pursue this idea, Sister!”

“Teaching friendship to other species? Ehm.” Celestia looked at Labcoat—who gave her a thumbs-up—and then at Luna again. “Perhaps. It is an interesting concept, Luna—but maybe we should let somepony with a little more… experience? And less, ah.” She squinted slightly. “Murderous intent?”

“Hmm.” Luna frowned, and looked down. “Twilight Sparkle, perhaps?” she ventured. “She has a remarkably low tolerance for assassination.”

“It is a possibility. Perhaps in the future? I will talk to her.” Celestia looked at Vinyl. “That said,” she said, “Mister Labcoat is trying his best to learn our ways, and he does not desire to harm any other pony. While the hydra attack did pause the negotiations slightly, I do believe we have gone a long way in our official relations with the dragon lands.”

We are learning civilization. And non-murderous solutions.

“I know it might sound… futile,” Celestia said. “But I wanted you both to know, the bomb was my idea. Mister Labcoat and my sister helped me, and Luna was the one who selected Octavia Pianissimo…”

Octavia nodded. “Wise choice.”

“…But I was the one who selected you, Vinyl Scratch. Luna simply thought this would be a chance for Mister Labcoat to learn. We hit two birds with one stone—but it is still very much my plan that we followed.”

Vinyl frowned. “I know.” She was still hiding behind Octavia. “And no offense, Princess, but… Why are you telling me this again?”

“Because I would not want you to unfairly accuse Mister Labcoat of something he did not do.” Celestia’s face was calm, but her eyes were intense. “I do not think that is fair.”

Vinyl frowned harder. “I—”

“It’s not! It’s not fair in the least.” Octavia looked a Vinyl. “You could say Mister Labcoat is exactly as guilty as Bon Bon! They were both following orders, yes?”

“Somehow I feel he wasn’t exactly going through emotional turmoil when he put our life in danger, Octavia.”

“Well, yes, but he’s trying to be good! You should give him a chance.” Octavia looked at herself, and then at Vinyl. “Also! I’m happy you would choose to rely on me for protection, instead of selling your soul to Hell as soon as a threat appears?”

Vinyl grumbled under her breath. “One time…”

“We both know that’s a lie!” Octavia moved to the side so Vinyl would stop hiding behind her. “And the fact that you’re using me as a shield is slightly disturbing. Understandable! But still disturbing.”

Vinyl cringed away from the dragon, and felt her breath quicken a little—but then Octavia grabbed her hoof.

“There’s no danger!” she said, smiling at Vinyl.

So Vinyl took a deep breath, and looked at Labcoat. “Right,” she said. “I suppose I—you’re not going to use us to experiment on friendship again, right?”

No.” Then Labcoat, frowned, and looked at Luna. “No?

Luna shook her head. “No.”

Right. No. I will not.

“Okay.” Vinyl swallowed, and inched closer to Octavia so she could feel her against her side. “Then I guess I can—forgive you? Stop treating you like a monster, seeing how you apologized and this wasn’t even your idea. We, uh.” She squinted. “We cool?”

Yes. We are cool.

And they bumped hoof and fist. Vinyl still flinched a little, but Octavia was by her side, so she was somewhat calm—and Labcoat was smiling.

Luna looked at all this with unmitigated pride, but then she looked out the window, and blinked. “Sister,” she said, turning to Celestia. “Time is running out. Duty calls.”

“Ah, yes.” Celestia looked out the window too, and frowned. “I must lower the sun soon. Vinyl Scratch, Octavia Pianissimo—it was good to see you. I apologize again for dragging you on an adventure against your will, and I wish you the best. Mister Labcoat, Luna, we should go.”

And with that, they all said their goodbyes, and left. However, before Celestia could leave—

“Princess?”

Vinyl stopped her.

Celestia nodded, as if she’d been waiting for this. “Go without me,” she told Luna and Labcoat, and then she closed the door behind them and turned to Vinyl and Octavia. “Yes, Vinyl Scratch?”

“I…” Vinyl felt Octavia leaning on her shoulder, and smiled at that. Then she looked at Celestia. “How is Twilight Sparkle doing?”

Celestia smiled. “She is fine. She will leave for Ponyville tomorrow—nothing more than a sprained ankle, and some bruises, I have been told. There is no reason to worry. Her friends are staying with her, in a room very much like this one.” Pause. Celestia looked around. “With more beds, however, I hope.”

“That’s not what I—”

“I know that is not what you meant,” Celestia said, before closing her eyes. “I had a talk with her. I explained everything that had happened—and exactly how much of it was my fault. I also told her why I did it.”

“Oh.”

“Sounds like a pleasant conversation!” Octavia said.

“In a way, it was,” Celestia said. “But while Twilight did appreciate my efforts to try to protect her, she did not like me doing it behind her back. She is not a little filly anymore, and she can take care of her own problems. She made sure to remind me of that.”

“That sounds like her!” Octavia said.

“Yes. She said she understood me, but still. She graduated long ago, when I sent her to Ponyville. It is time I learn to be comfortable with her making decisions that I do not approve of.” Celestia took a deep breath, and opened her eyes again. “We all learn something every day, no matter how old we are.”

“But then—what do we do?” Vinyl frowned, and rubbed her forearm. While doing so, she grazed the bandages that covered her side—they barely hurt anymore, but they were still there. “Destiny is still going to force her to save the world whenever I refuse the call. And if my memory is erased…”

“Twilight Sparkle is a very capable pony,” Celestia said. “And there are ways to solve this issue. She has been thinking about taking some more students of her own, under her wing. Somepony that could help lighten the load. Searching for more Chosen Ones. Somepony that is not you.”

“But—”

“It is her choice to make, Vinyl Scratch,” Celestia said, taking a step forward. “As well as yours. If your memories are modified, you will be less likely to return and save the world. But at this point?” And she looked at them like a mother looks to her children. “I believe you have earned it. You went above and beyond the call of duty, Vinyl Scratch, and saved my city. I cannot thank you enough for that.”

“Plus, it’ll be convenient! Never forget that.” Octavia said, causing Vinyl to chuckle.

“That, too,” Celestia said. “Vinyl Scratch, I believe our true Destiny is the one we build ourselves. You were willing to sacrifice yourself for the cause, even after meeting somepony,” and here Celestia looked at Octavia, “who made you wish to stay alive as long as possible. A somewhat easier life from now on is more than well-deserved.”

“…I wanted to talk about that,” Vinyl said, frowning. “Actually. When Octavia and I met Twilight in the kitchens, she told us that Destiny wanted us to rediscover the meaning of friendship.”

Celestia arched an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Yeah. That’s what Applejack and Rainbow Dash were fighting about. But then we figured—Octavia and I weren’t rediscovering anything. We had just met.”

“I remember that!” Octavia said. “We thought we were dodging Destiny quite well! And then the hydragon came anyway and almost killed us.”

“Yes, but—right after that,” Vinyl said. “We met Daring Do.”

“Ah.” Celestia’s eyes went wide. “I see where you are going, Vinyl Scratch.”

Vinyl nodded. “Destiny wanted an act of friendship, and we used it to kill the hydragon. And I thought that’d be me sacrificing myself for Octavia, but it wasn’t, right? Because we weren’t rediscovering anything.”

“No,” Celestia said. “The true act of friendship was that of Daring Do. Chasing you to hell, forgiving and asking for forgiveness. All for the sake of a friend that she did not know loved her anymore.”

“She also fought a demon,” Vinyl said.

“She used one of the most powerful artefacts of all time,” Celestia said, “to fight a demon to save you, indeed. That was the true act of friendship.”

“Right. And that’s why we met her right after we realized that we couldn’t become friends and follow Destiny like that—because that’s when Destiny figured it out, too.” Vinyl frowned. “But that’s what bothers me, Princess.”

“Yes?”

“It’s too… elegant? Too clean. Was it really a coincidence that Daring Do was here to begin with?”

“She said she was looking for the Can of Wyrms!” Octavia said.

“Yes, but—I know you said she was not part of your plan, Princess,” Vinyl said. “Back at the Ballroom—that she had nothing to do with anything. But I keep coming back to what she said, that with your plans nothing makes sense until they do. And…”

Celestia nodded. “I understand your worries. But that was not part of my plan. I did not manipulate you or Daring Do, Vinyl Scratch—I simply gave Daring Do the Can of Wyrms, and hoped for the best.”

That made Vinyl stop, and blink. “Oh.”

“Indeed.” Celestia looked up, at her crown. It was complete again—big gemstone included. “Sometimes, when Destiny gets involved, everything tends to happen in a very specific order, Vinyl Scratch. But I was saying the truth when I told Daring Do that I had not taken her into account.”

“So the plan was simply to have us eaten?” Octavia asked. “Sounds terrible!”

“Not entirely. I asked you to find me, because I knew the hydragon would follow you.” Celestia sighed. “I expected you to become friends, and to come to the Ballroom. There, the hydragon would fall into the trap, and try to eat you—and one of you would willingly try to sacrifice herself for the sake of the other. That would be the act of friendship.” Celestia looked at them. “And I would be there to teleport both of you out, to safety.”

“So pretty much what happened,” Vinyl said.

“But simpler!” Octavia said. “And we still get eaten, and you still sell your soul to Hell.”

“I guess.”

“I don’t like that plan.”

“Me neither,” Celestia said. “I was not lying, either, when I told you I had learned my lesson. After our little…” She looked to the side. “Our little conversation at the Ballroom, I realized it was not right of me to force you to sacrifice yourselves like that. That is why I tried to fight the hydragon on my own. Many times.”

It clicked, then. Vinyl opened her eyes. “Ah. We were the last card under your sleeve,” she said. “But then—”

“Then Twilight Sparkle got hurt, yes.”

Silence fell.

Vinyl and Celestia both looked down. Octavia patted Vinyl on the back, silently.

“She was right next to me,” Celestia said. “Under my watchful eye, and following my commands. And she still got hurt. It was nothing too extreme, simply a sprained ankle, but—”

“But it still got us eaten,” Octavia finished.

“I had promised Daring Do that I would not underestimate her ever again,” Celestia said. “And I made the right call. I could not leave Twilight’s side anymore, and I did not know what else to do.” She smiled again, and she looked vulnerable. Smaller. “It was not wise on my part, or responsible—but some day, I feel, you might understand.”

“If we ever have children of our own,” Vinyl said. “Right?”

“It will be refreshing to adopt! A member of my family who does not look exactly like me? Such a novel concept.” Octavia said, looking at Vinyl. “I am sure our family painters will appreciate the challenge!”

“Subtle, Octavia.”

“I know!”

“Destiny makes fools of us all, sometimes,” Celestia muttered to herself. But she did it with warmth in her voice. “But I am glad everything ended well. Daring Do is a very capable hero, and I do believe, her and Agent Sweetie Drops deserve the praise for this victory.”

“Agreed,” Vinyl said.

“I helped a lot too! But I am humble enough to let them have this.”

“And, Vinyl Scratch?” Celestia flashed her horn and opened the door, but gave them a last look before leaving. “Our national security is…” she frowned. “Notoriously flawed. So, in spite of whatever Agent Sweetie Drops might have told you, the possibility of you keeping your memories still exist. That is, unless you remind the Secret Service yourself.”

Vinyl looked at Octavia, and then at Celestia. “Right.”

“I personally recommend you choose to free yourself of that particular burden,” Celestia said. “And Twilight Sparkle recommends it, too, so we make sure you never need to save the world again. But ultimately, the choice is yours. Good night.”

And Celestia left, and closed the door behind her, leaving them alone.


The next day, they were still on the bed—Vinyl, laying down; Octavia, sitting, playing with Vinyl’s mane.

“It’s truly remarkable! No matter what I do, it just keeps looking like this! Your mane is beyond amazing, Vinyl.”

Vinyl was not wearing her glasses, so it was really obvious how she was staring at Octavia. “You’re never gonna tire of saying that, are you,” she said.

“Probably not! Honestly, I’m almost starting to like it. Almost!

“Pff.” But Vinyl was smiling as she said this. “Hey, come here a second.”

“Oh?”

Vinyl beckoned, and then rested her head against Octavia’s chest. Octavia sat right up so Vinyl could be more comfortable, and hugged her from behind.

“So,” Vinyl said once they were ready. “Something I’ve been meaning to bring up for a while, now.”

Octavia looked at her, hugging her too. “Yes?”

“You know how my friends keep bringing up that this,” she pointed at themselves and the hug, “is weird?”

“I do! I do know.”

“Right, so—they’re not exaggerating? I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re kind of dumb, they’re my friends. But they do have a point.” Vinyl frowned, and looked to the side. “I’m not a particularly touchy pony when you get to it? I’m just not really used to physical displays of—HNNNG.

Octavia stopped nuzzling her, grinning. “You really are not! This will literally never get old.”

“Gggh.” Vinyl shook her head. “Okay, I guess I haven’t been exactly subtle about this, have I.”

“You have not!”

“Great. But yeah, that’s the point.” Vinyl relaxed, and leaned a bit more against Octavia. “I’m not a pony to show affection just like that, so this whole thing, y’know.” She looked up, at Octavia. “Means a lot to me. Like, I don’t do it lightly?”

“I know!” Octavia smiled at her, and gave her a little squeeze. “I don’t do it lightly either,” she said. “It’s just really nice!”

“Yeah, that’s another point.” Vinyl turned around and faced Octavia, still leaning against her. “Subtle, you aren’t, exactly? And I’m pretty sure you’re doing it on purpose.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, you super do. All that talk about children, and lifting your tail…? Come on, you stopped with the innuendo when you noticed I was into it.” Vinyl wagged her tail left and right and she closed her eyes. Octavia’s chest was pretty comfy. “You know, I’m thinking about what Princess Celestia said yesterday.”

“Yes?”

“I think I’ll ask Bon Bon to change my memories after all. It’ll be easier, and I deserve some rest. They’re right. I feel a little bit guilty for Twilight, but—”

“There’s no need.” Octavia didn’t chirp the words, she spoke them softly. She started caressing Vinyl’s mane. “This is what we do, we’re decadent together. Yes?”

“You’re a terrible influence, too.” Vinyl half opened an eye, and crawled up, to get closer to Octavia’s face. “Say,” she whispered.

Octavia smiled, and moved closer to her. “Yes?”

“You know, going to Hell and trying to sell my soul was stupid?”

Octavia blinked, and her voice returned to normal. “Yes!” she said. “Yes, it was! It—”

“Octavia, don’t bring the mood down, let me finish.”

And Octavia shook her head, and gave Vinyl the bedroom eyes again. “Of course,” she whispered, voice full of spice and chocolate. “Go on.”

“Mmm.” Vinyl got even closer. They were face to face now, inches away from each other. “So, going to Hell for you—it was stupid? And it wouldn’t have worked. I was thinking of that yesterday.”

“Yes?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t an act of friendship.”

They kissed.

Vinyl closed her eyes and hugged Octavia by the neck. Octavia reciprocated, and pressed Vinyl closer, cocking her head to the side to lean into the kiss.

It lasted just a moment, and then they split apart and looked at each other in the eye. Vinyl inched closer again, and kissed Octavia twice, on the cheek and the neck. Kiss, kiss.

Octavia hugged Vinyl under her arms even more tightly, rolled over, and pinned her against the bed. Vinyl hugged Octavia by the neck again, and they kissed a second time in the lips—opening their mouths this time, going deeper, and deeper. This kiss lasted much longer. Vinyl ran a hoof down Octavia’s back, Octavia caressed Vinyl’s cheek.

The door opened.

“Vinyl!” Bon Bon said. “Octavia! Sorry for coming in so early, but I think I forgot my saddlebags here yesterday? I’ve been looking for them all—oh wow you’re making out. You’re making out?”

Octavia and Vinyl paid her no mind. They only stopped to catch their breaths once, and then they leaned into each other again. Their tails interlocked.

“You’re making out in front of me. Wow.” Then Bon Bon nodded. “Right, so—‘best friends’ my hoof. Hah! Wait till I tell Lyra, she’s going to love this.” Then she reached for her saddlebags. “Well then! I mean, feel free to stop any moment now, I’ve got nowhere to—”

“BON BON! WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

“Oh my gosh. No.” Bon Bon turned around, terror in her eyes, at the mare glaring at her outside the door. “Rarity, I—what are you even doing here? Look, this is not what it looks like—”

HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO TELL YOU.

“No, look, I forgot my saddlebags!” Bon Bon grabbed them from the floor. “See? I forgot my saddlebags! It was an accident! It was an—OH MY GOSH NO NOT THE EAR.”

COME HERE THIS VERY SECOND.”

NOT THE EAR NOT THE EAR NOT THE—

The door closed behind them.

Vinyl and Octavia broke the kiss, finally. They were both panting. Vinyl reached up and kissed Octavia on the neck—and Octavia moaned, but then pushed Vinyl away, slightly.

“Wait,” she said. “Did you hear something?”

“What?” Vinyl blinked, looked around. “Uh, no?”

“I’m fairly sure I did!”

They both shut up, and perked up their ears. In the distance, they could hear something echoing through the hospital corridors—Rarity, screaming bloody murder.

Vinyl arched an eyebrow, and looked at Octavia. “Sounds like not our problem?” she said.

“I agree!”

They kissed again.

And the door opened. “Good morning, girls!” Pinkie Pie said, carrying a tray of pancakes. “Doctor Bandaid told me you were leaving today, too! So I brought you some special breakfast to—aand you’re kissing! Hahah.” Pinkie stopped in her tracks and looked at them, grin on her face. “Aaaah. Rarity is gonna kill me.”

PINKAMENA DIANE PIE!

“OH MY GOSH RARITY NO IT WAS AN ACCIDENT IT WAS AN ACCI—”

Author's Note:
  • I met Undome Tinwe in a small Hungarian forest back in 1945. The winter had been rough that year, and food was scarce—so, late one night, I ventured out to find wild berries. Undome Tinwe mistook me for a deer and shot me in the leg. Noticing I was human-shaped, he stopped in a panic, and asked who I was. I told him, and Undome Tinwe immediately shot me five more times in the head and then beat me with the butt of his rifle until it broke.
  • Jeffb and I fought together against a beast from behind the stars. After stabbing its black rotten heart, I asked hey are you gonna f**k that? Jeffb said excuse me, what? I said I mean, I’ve been pretty lonely since I lost my wife. He asked are you talking about the putrid corpse of the Old God? Are you going to f**k the putrid corpse of an Old God because you lost your wife. I said look I didn’t come here to be judged, I just think it’d be a waste not to. He said you're my blood brother and the first thing you tell me after we save the world is that you want to shove the putrid corpse of an Old God up your OH GOD YOU’RE DOING IT AT LEAST WAIT TILL I’M DONE JESUS.
  • Emlyn Costilov received an invitation to my private island in 2012, and accepted without hesitation, saying they’d been aching for a real challenge for a while. I welcomed them with a morbid spectacle: a human-sized chess board, where the pieces were the chained members of Emlyn’s family. I said, every time a piece dies, the human dies! So far, nobody has managed to beat me. Will you? And Emlyn smiled, and said, I can’t. But he can. Then they stepped to the side, and out the cage came Undome Tinwe and he said I BOUGHT A NEW GUN, and I replied OH GOD NO NOT YOU AGAIN and he beat the living shit out of me with the butt of his rifle.

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Comments ( 48 )

9418528
You're a madman.

How are you not dead!?

How am I not dead!?

Did you know that Aragorn's fics are a great way of taking the edge off of having your ankle in a cast?

Majin Syeekoh
Story Approver

9418545
Aragorn, son of Arathorn

Holy carp. :twilightoops:

Almost anybody but you doing this would get a hard pass... but... damn. Onto the kindle in the #2 slot it goes.

Now that's an A+ description if I ever did saw one.

Ri2

9419023
Better life? They're in a dystopian autocracy with no clue how awful things really are. Also one of their supreme leaders is a terrifying sociopath.

9419035
Yeh but it's like, played for laughs. So they're all happy n shit. Look at em go all chipper and cute.

“We’re not going to do that!” Octavia chirped, right before taking a third sip. “Oh wow this really is the worst coffee I’ve ever had.”

So why do you drink it?

“Right. Right.” Joe nodded again, took the bill out of his breast pocket, and placed it on the bedside table next to the other two cups of coffee. “I’m just going to leave.”

Wise.

“Say,” Vinyl said once they were left alone again. “I heard his coffee machine got busted during the hydra invasion? I was afraid that his coffee would get better with the new one.” She flashed her horn, and one of the cups went floating towards her. She took a sniff, and her entire face crumpled. “I’m glad to see he hasn’t lost his touch.”

Why DO You drink it if it's so awful?

“Vinyl, I am angry, not stupid.”

Eh...

“We have a corrupt government?”

Apparently.

Bon Bon frowned. She wasn’t wearing her suit or her sunglasses—although she was carrying saddlebags with her. “It’s not that easy.”

It really is.

“I used the Can of Wyrms to cauterize it.” Pause. Daring Do looked to the side. “Kind of. It’ll be okay—I can take care of it on the road; Sugar Song’s got first aid training.”

You're insane.

“It would, but that kind of thing goes to your head. I’d rather do things the old fashioned way and not risk going mad, with power.”

Fair.

“I’m a musician!” Octavia said, pointing at her flank. “And I have been teaching Vinyl how to be decadent! The first step is to never work, ever.”

I see.

“Right,” Daring Do said. “The inbreeding, I take.”

Yes.

Octavia arched an eyebrow, and looking at Vinyl. “That sounds awfully stupid,” she said.

That hasn't stopped her before.

Octavia licked her lips to get the last drops of coffee off her muzzle, and then she nudged Vinyl with her head until the later gave up and opened her arms. Once Octavia was comfortable—resting her back on Vinyl’s chest, Vinyl hugging her from behind and resting her chin on Octavia’s head—she talked. “Is this Lyra not a secret agent?” she asked.

She is not.

“Merchant family! Petite bourgeoise. I only like them when they stay in their lane.”

I, see.

And Bon Bon sighed. “I need to erase your memories. Anything related to the Secret Service, and Hell, and so on.”

Fair.

“I’ll stop feeling guilty about leaving the Service,” Vinyl said, frowning at her shades. “It feels a bit like cheating.”

Take it.

“It’s convenient!” Octavia repeated. “I don’t think you will forget the trauma, but it’ll probably be easier on you if you just thought you were volunteering, yes?”

Probably?

That is how hugs react to murder and wanton violence so far.

NO!

Vinyl was going to say something more, but Celestia interrupted them with a light laugh, one that brightened up the room. “Do not worry, Vinyl Scratch,” she said when she saw Vinyl looking at her and Octavia with confusion in her eyes. “It is refreshing, to know that some ponies are not scared of showing open hostility towards me. I should be held accountable for my actions, just like anypony else.”

I suppose that's fair.

I did not know that.” Labcoat nodded, writing something down. “Pony hugs are more powerful than I expected. I wanted to thank you. You have taught me valuable things about friendship.

Really?

Yes. We dragons have been suspicious of friendship for a long while. Since it kills us.” There was a weird glint in Labcoat’s eye as he looked at Vinyl and Octavia. “But you have taught me it can be used to kill many other things. Bigger things. Powerful things.” Labcoat stopped writing and closed his notebook again. “There is no need to study friendship through murder and violence. Friendship is murder and violence.

I, that is technically correct.

“Because I would not want you to unfairly accuse Mister Labcoat of something he did not do.” Celestia’s face was calm, but her eyes were intense. “I do not think that is fair.”

Hm.

“In a way, it was,” Celestia said. “But while Twilight did appreciate my efforts to try to protect her, she did not like me doing it behind her back. She is not a little filly anymore, and she can take care of her own problems. She made sure to remind me of that.”

Best that can be hoped for.

“It’s too… elegant? Too clean. Was it really a coincidence that Daring Do was here to begin with?”

I choose to believe no.

“Indeed.” Celestia looked up, at her crown. It was complete again—big gemstone included. “Sometimes, when Destiny gets involved, everything tends to happen in a very specific order, Vinyl Scratch. But I was saying the truth when I told Daring Do that I had not taken her into account.”

You scare me.

“Gggh.” Vinyl shook her head. “Okay, I guess I haven’t been exactly subtle about this, have I.”

No.

They both shut up, and perked up their ears. In the distance, they could hear something echoing through the hospital corridors—Rarity, screaming bloody murder.

So, nothing new.

Ri2

9419038
Isn't that because their souls are stripped from them to erase their memories?

I absolutely adore this story. Aragon keeps knocking them out of the park.

9419122
No— well, no because somepony else's soul is getting sacrificed— but also that's not the point. It's an absurdist comedy. It's like complaining about how dysfunctional Malcolm in the Middle is or getting freaked out by the M&M commercials where they eat other M&M's. If you don't like it that's fine, but it's a built-in part of the genre, not an objective problem.

Ri2

9419308
Wait, M&M's eat each other?!

9419324
Sometimes. Ms. Brown set Red up to be eaten by a Celeb, Red threw Yellow under a bus, the Patric Warburton has them eating the non-talking varients... there's some weird stuff out there.

reads description
Well, that sounds like a nice and silly little one-shot.

goes to read it

90k story.

O.o

9419225
Was it? I might've gotten it mixed up (edited this a lot; and eventually you stop seeing mistakes, especially when it's so long) but checking the previous chapter, I see a mention of Daring Do favoring her left side, implying she's hurt on the right.

For the record, both Vinyl and Daring Do get hurt -- Vinyl on the left, Daring Do on the right. If you or anybody catches a case where I accidentally say otherwise, please tell me! I am very dumb.


9419043
Not gonna lie -- while I appreciate and admire (and fear) the way you saw a 90k words long story and went 'fuck it, I'm going to read it in one go', and then proceeded to do that and comment on every chapter, and I think that's great? Having super long comments where you literally just quote a line or two and react with 'Hm' or 'what?' or 'Yeah' or other monosyllables is...

It's very, very spammy. Like I'm glad you liked it enough to do that. but I woke up to seven super long comments that make the comment section hard to navigate, and they say absolutely nothing. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I won't delete this because fuck having 9 deleted comments in a row, but this is super spammy, dude. Next time, quote only one or two things and try to say something, please? A simple 'I really liked this chapter! This bit was funny' or 'I didn't like this chapter as much! This bit was confusing' is much easier on everybody, including other commenters.

9419699

Ah, my bad, sorry, it's, I guess you could call it a force of habit. I'll try to stick to actual snark and commentary instead of monosyllabism (not sure if that's a word) next time.

Not gonna lie, I absolutely loved these characterizations. The story is epic and amazing and had that absolutely godawful pun in the dungeons and it's the best thing I've read for ages.

It super is.

Ri2

9420096
In a recent comic, as part of the IDW 20/20 thing, there were some feline ambassadors visiting Canterlot and Rainbow performed a Sonic Rainboom during a thunderstorm. And everyone was wearing their Elements for some reason. The girls got flung back in time and met their past selves immediately after getting their Cutie Marks. All 12 of them met up in Ponyville and searched for the Elements so they could open a portal back to the present, and along the way the kid versions of the girls all became friends. When the adult versions left, Celestia suppressed the children's memories of the adventure to avoid a paradox, and set it so they wouldn't remember until just after they got back to their own time.

Holy crap the title is a pun.

Also, you have five hundred and one individual views and over forty likes. If that's your version of a bomb then I wish I could fail like you.

Welp, that's another story on the keep forever shelf. The only thing I'm still wondering is when do they decomission the agency if this has nothing to do with it, or is bon bon just a liar in episode 100 and the agency's still going strong.

Amazing. Like one of Celestia's plans or the Can of Wyrms, it's a pile of utter nonsense until it suddenly all comes together into something incredible. Thank you for one heck of an adventure that explores an Equestria that simultaneously feels nothing like the show and yet perfectly encapsulates it.

9420424

Ah, did she? I kept thinking of the story happening during s5 so I kinda brushed that to the side. In any case, it's not really a big deal -- while I was thinking of Starlight when I wrote that, I was also thinking on the general School of Friendship thing, and how seasons 6-8 have shown Twilight moving from student to teacher?

So it was more in the sense of 'yeah she's going to start recruiting more folks', plural, than a strict particular case of 'this is about Starlight'. Trixie, the Young Six, etc? Changed the wording of that bit a little in any case, to avoid further confusion. But yeah, not as much a mistake as me wording something wrong, tbh.

9420935

Just so we're all clear, are you saying they were covered in saliva the first time the hydra tried to eat them? As in, before they were in its mouth?

Nah, narration explains that this 'had been going for a while' by the time Pinkie appears -- the saliva is there just from all the times prior to Pinkie opening the door where it's tried to eat those two already.

yay i went through that in one go and now i'm sad again

Ri2

9421202
What's a dacha?

Ri2

9421213
That's...a good question. Where DID the hydragon come from?

Im saying this with my utmost and sincere appreciation: I love your works, sense of humor and eccentricities, but you are fricking insane.

I feel as though I have just glimpsed into the world of Aragon, where the many facets of Aragon run amok; and for the brief time that I bore witness to it, it was glorious.
Mayhap it was the straining PG filter that managed to contain the insanity to levels safe for other humans?
Regardless, I thank you for allowing me to bask in your magnificence.

There are so many things I want to say about this, (this is my new favorite octascratch story, this particular Octavia is my new waifu, I want my own soft-in-the-right-places Octavia to cuddle with now) but I think the most important thing is, this fic proves why you are, and always will be, one of the best writers on this website. Have a like, a favorite, a̶n̶d̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶s̶o̶u̶l̶.

*looks at description*
Okay, should be a short, funny story. :pinkiesmile:

*looks at +90,000 word count*

:twilightoops::applejackconfused:

*slowly backs away*
I'll be back when I have the time!

*disappears*

R5h

Thanks for making this story - it was fun!

This was a beautiful and ungodly trip and a half. Metaphors involving rollercoasters shan't do it justice. Your sense of humour's on full display, and consistently elicited squeaky cackles throughout the reading. The dramatic moments, as and when they arose, were well-earned and suitably triumphant. You juggled not so much Chekov's Guns but rather a whole Chekov's Armament with aplomb. It shouldn't have worked. It somehow did.

This was a delight. Nae bad at all.

Ok, I really enjoyed that.

Not completely certain why, ‘cause I’m very what right now.

Well done, sir.

This was absolutely hilarious. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a good laugh.

Okay let preface everything I am about to say with this simple statement: This was an amazing story.

I loved everything about this, the dialogue was on point and extremely witty, the jokes were repeatable, but not stale and still remained funny each time, the story was simple yet expansive human yet so absurd, I loved it.

I hope you continue to write stories like this as this was a blessing to read this entire series and I enjoyed it so much.

Octavia in this story has hints of her Pizzicato and Philharmonica iterations. Daring Do and Celestia are straight out of Fly Hard/Evil is Easy, and Luna is Mad, With Power. A bit of a Hell of a Time slips into Luna too. The Mane 6 feel a lot like their Crime and Funishment counterparts, and Pinkie Pie is very much her A Gay Old Time version, and the idea of solving monster attacks with friendship lasers on a weekly basis and the ensuing PTSD that results from it also harkens back to that fic. Octavia and Vinyl's dialogue feel similar to Rarity's bantering in the Rariquadrilogy (Love is in Doom, In Hindsight, Why She Looks So Good, Petty Please), and the discussion of Fate and Destiny gives me distinct Sunsettle/Hear The Baby Laugh, with the acceptance of The Call and facing down an Eldritch/Demonic being akin to Fridge Horror (the conversation between Daring and Vinyl with Forneas in the background is also similar to Fridge Horror). The whole bomb thing and the demon Forneas reminds me of Let It RIP.

And yet, none of it feels like rehash or you lacking creativity. It feels like a celebration, a culmination of everything you've written on this site. Evil is Easy may have been the tightest fic you've ever written, but this felt like the purest expression of your unique style, which I think has also improved since then. I'm very glad to have read this, and I look forward to seeing where you go from here.

And I'll be sure to have my new rifle ready and polished.

And here we go a great conclusion to a great story, I enjoyed rereading every bit of this story as much (if not more) than I did the first time, the characters, the dialogue, the scenes, the action, the structure, the techniques, the ending, all came together to create this cohesive real story in the most surreal way possible and I loved it. So thank you for writing one of the best stories on fimfiction that I have read and thank you for continuing to write.

9421598
Well you see, when a momma hydra and a daddy dragon really love each other-

Okay, when a dragon and hydra have been in a super-long argument, and they're both tired and not thinking straight and each has seen the other at their most powerful, muscles taut and hide rippling with exertion, etc. but neither have become the victor and there's all this tension that just needs some way to be expressed and oh my gosh-

I have the like!

You magnificent bastard. That was what, 3? 4? running gags? Holy shit how are you so good at juggling.

This was awesome and well worth the read. Hilarious and surprising. It's times like these that I find that I don't regret one bit following you. Do count on me to read the next monstrosity of a story you publish, for I know I won't regret it either :twilightsmile:

Not your best work, but your stories still never fail to have me clutch my gut so hard I have to stop reading for a moment or two. And considering most authors only get me chuckling at most, that means even when your stories are just good rather than great the comedy is leagues better than pretty much anything else I read. Seriously, the only reason I feel the story is merely good rather than great was it gave a sense of being pulled in three different directions at once by the various adventure, comedy, and romance elements.

Still a fun read, though, and I can’t wait for whatever you write next.

Fan f@$*ing gastric work.

My favorite line of this chapter: “Oppression time! Here comes the aristocrat!”

I love the recurring gags like the way Octavia replied in the same chipper way with the same type of reply all the time, it never got old for me.

Only problem I saw was how you kept ending statements with question marks, and sometimes even ended questions with periods, but it wasn’t too jarring or confusing.

Simply amazing. Also I love how Pinkie sees it coming at the end but Bon doesn’t.

Well, that was fun!

Very Fun. Reading this all right before Christmas was super great.

10049849
Ah, alright. Fair enough. I do still feel like it hurts readibility, though. Bad grammar, even intentional ones, is still bad grammar.

Some others are typos tho, so I fixed those.

Awesome! Thanks!

1. Four hour power outage
2. Bingreading 22,000 words of this fic.

Time well spent.

You must be the god of brick jokes.

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