• Published 6th Apr 2019
  • 1,161 Views, 588 Comments

Distant Reflections - David Silver

Equestria and Everglow have brushed against one another through the course of their histories, each time fleeting, but memorable to those involved. Many many years later, the unaging Twilight captains a space vessel to explore the universe.

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20 - Making Music

"Just like that," breathlessly urged Octavia. "I've never worked with someone with... fingers before."

"I'm doing the best I can." Remi had her eyes mostly closed, moving her hands as Octavia taught her. "Does that feel right?"

"Perfect," she agreed, a small smile spreading on her face. "Just like that... Firmer, get your fingers in there."

Remi suddenly burst into laughter. "Alright, now you're doing it on purpose."

"Doing what?" Octavia sat up straight, ears askew.

"There are only a few ways to take 'get your fingers in there' when discussing many things." She rolled her eyes as she let the flute in her hand fall to her side, dangling from one of her hands.

"A few ways, such as proper finger placement to play an instrument?" prompted Octavia. "Which you are doing. Now, are you ready to resume?"

"Yeah yeah." She lifted it back to her lips. "Now tell me how to use my lips."

Octavia hiked a brow softly. "Rest your lips against the base of the, yes, that." She nodded with returning easiness. "Are you certain you have not played this before?"

"Maybe once," demurred Remi as she placed her lips where they belonged. "But it was a long long time ago, and I forgot more than I knew, so since you were open to a little refresher, shall we?" She blew a single reedy note from the instrument, altering as she pressed her fingers to various holes, making it raise and fall dramatically.

"That is hardly what I would call a proper scale." Octavia unfolded her wings just to fidget them back into place, ruffling. "Let us start there. Understanding the notes is vital to assembling music." With a glowing horn, a picture appeared before them, showing the musical scale and a picture of the same flute.

As she pointed to each note, the image of the flute updated, some of its holes turning red instead of black to display which ones the fingers should be covering. "As an earth pony, which is still how I play, it was an intense exercise in visualization. Having fingers, you will not use magic, arcane or innate. You will rely on dexterity."

"My specialty." She wriggled her fingers over the flute, covering holes at random.

"Not like that." She moved her hoof to the first note and the diagram updated with it. "Begin here." Her eyes were locked on the flute as Remington's fingers slowly assumed the correct position. "There we are, now blow."

"At your command." She smirked softly, but it calmed down to blow gently across the instrument's aperture, drawing out a note.

And so it went, from one note to the next and back, working on the scales tirelessly, at least until Remi was tired of doing that. She casually put the flute down as Octavia was changing the magic slides. "For the next step, we'll..." she trailed off as she turned back around to see Remi not holding the flute. "Did I miss something?"

"All music and no play can only go for so long." Remi rolled her shoulders. "I'm done."

"Giving up?" She frowned at the idea. "Ah well, many students are discouraged when they realize how much actual work is in--"

Remi rest her pointer finger right on Octavia's nose, making it wrinkle. "Darling, I'm not giving up on making sweet music with you, but I want a break, and you need one too. Work-life balance, a skill you do not have."

"You are leaving then?" She glanced towards the door. "Very well. I'll be here when--"

Remi trailed her finger down to Octavia's lips. "I just said you needed a break too. I'm not leaving you in here to practice your music, or your magic, or just kind of stare at a wall."

Octavia drew her head away with an equine snort. "What are you proposing? I have other activities than those." She didn't argue that those were the most likely choices from among them.

The same finger ran down across Octavia's chin. "You have detached yourself so hard you haven't complained about what I'm doing. Or you just like me enough to put up with it. I guess that would be alright..."

Octavia's left ear went off to the side, eyes following Remi's finger. "I am not used to... physical contact."

"Then you should be complaining more, not less." Remi worked right along Octavia's chin back along her snout to her throat. "I am intruding on your personal space. Don't you have an opinion?"

"I have many..." Octavia swallowed, her throat flexing against the finger on it. "But I am also trying to be polite."

"Sometimes being polite means speaking your mind." She scratched gently with her vulpine claws through the soft fur of Octavia's throat and neck. "If you like this, say so. If you don't, say that. I'll tell you I'm enjoying it, but it's losing its charm. I don't want to tease a statue."

"I am not a statue," she huffed, leaning forward suddenly and throwing Remi off balance a moment. "I just don't know how to deal with you. You're trying to be nice, I can see that... But you also are hoping to get something out of me, this much seems abundantly clear."

"I'm hoping to get a lot of things out of you," Remi admitted shamelessly. "Friendship, company, maybe more if you're into that kind of thing." She waggled her brows suggestively. "But that's a step only you can take. Teasing you is one thing, the other is between, you know, consenting adults, or you make it awkward as all hell."

"And I haven't done that."

"I'm not sure you can do that, is more my worry. Even if you threw me to the ground and had your way with me, I'd be worrying in the back of my head that you're doing it for me, not you, and that I just pulled off a stunning reverse nonconsent that I didn't even imagine was possible until I met you." She leaned forward, touching nose to nose with Octavia, gazing into her eyes. "You are alive."

"Yes, this is true..." Octavia inclined her head faintly, noses still touching. "Was that in doubt?"

"You breathe, eat, and I'm going to guess go to the bathroom when appropriate, but a person in a coma can do all those things." She rolled a furry hand softly. "Now, when you showed up when we told you not to? That was something, a glimmer of hope. I want more of that."

"You want me to be disrespectful of the chain of command." She hiked a fine brow.

"Not that, well, you can do that if you want." Remi shrugged lightly as she flopped down next to Octavia, her side against the musician mage. "Thinking for yourself. You are more than a source of music, or a service that happens to be alive as a second thought. Now tell me to stop snuggling up to you if it's bothering you."

"What if it isn't... bothering me? What... if it's frightening me?"

Remi blinked at that. "That is not what I expected. Why is this scary? I promise I won't laugh." She held a hand to her chest over her heart in solemn gesture.

There was silence. They sat side by side, and no words came. Octavia sat perfectly straight. Remi was leaning against her, and the two just sat, no words shared. Remi did not prod her further, the silence extending onwards.

A soft chime announced the passing of the time from one hour to the next. "I..." Octavia ran her tongue over her lips. "Thank you, for being patient. I... feel certain you very much wanted to say something."

"I really really did..." Remi chuckled softly as she nestled in against Octavia. "But I said I'm listening, so I'll wait until you're ready."

The silence returned. There was nothing in the room to really watch but a virtual window of space outside. It visibly moved with the incredible rate that the ship was moving in, in defiance of old thoughts, the limits of light a thing of the past.

Remi started as she felt something touch her. Octavia's wing was gently curling around her, wrapping her in warm feathery touches that drew her closer. "Can..." Octavia swallowed thickly. "Can you promise you won't die?"

Remit went rigid, a harsh breath rattling through her teeth. "Oh.... oh... you know I can't promise that."

"I... do not want that pain." The wing slowly withdrew. "Never again. I appreciate your... willingness to care, about me, but I just don't want that. You don't understand."

Remi flipped up to her feet suddenly, grabbing Octavia's shoulder as she went to throw down her other hand on the other shoulder, facing Octavia directly with a scowl. "Try me. You think I never had someone I care about die before? How young do I look? No, really, compliment me."

Octavia slowly blinked at the rapid turnabout. "You appear to be... a mature but still leaning towards the youngside of adult, but I do not know the lifespan of your species, nor its maturation and senescence rate."

"That was the fanciest way to avoid that question I've heard." Remi leaned forward, bonking her forehead against Octavia's in a narrow missing of prodding herself on the alicorn's alicorn. "I've had friends die. Disease, violence, drinking habits that went far enough and deep enough that they never pulled themselves free and instead buried themselves in a soggy grave or so drugged out of their skulls they didn't even realize when their body quit out on them."

She shook the sizable pony lightly. "I know what death is. That's part of why I enjoy life as much as I do. One day I'll be there. One day you will be there. Don't think being unaging is the cure to it, because it isn't. One day something will go just the right kind of wrong, and poof, dead. If this ship just decided to go nova on us, we'd both be equally dust."

"If... you have done as you said, how has it not ripped you apart?" A soft frown began to develop on Octavia's face. "Was your kinship to your friends so... shallow that their passing meant no--"

A sharp slap echoed through the room. Octavia raised a hoof to where her cheek burned a bright red. Remi had a hand raised in the final motion of the slap she had delivered, heaving for breath. "That... was over the line. You don't get to tell me they didn't mean the world, the universe to me. Some of those... were... maybe more than that. Just because I know how to finish the grieving process doesn't diminish how brightly their memory lives on inside me, or how much I value the time we did have together."

"I... may have erred in phrasing." She gently rubbed over the sore spot of her cheek. "That was an uncouth way of noting it."

"I'm sorry." She held up her hands. "But you went right over that line and danced on my friends' graves. How would you feel if someone made fun of your friend?" She gestured at the device attached to Octavia's right leg. "Or your connection to them? Would you ever let anyone get away with that?"

Octavia's eyes darted to the technological marvel, her thoughts going to how her friend had originally obtained it, casually stealing it from people that had already been willing to give it to her, had she but asked and been patient. It had been a perfectly Vinyl moment... Perfectly...

Her head sagged forward, her vision blurring as a few tears spilled to the ground. "I... would probably have reacted even more poorly, I confess. I will forgive you, but on one condition."

Remi's brows went up together, surprise naked on her face. "That is?"

"That you sit back down, with me... and we continue this conversation. It may be uncomfortable, for you, and I, but... please?"

Remi slowly did sink back down at her side, keeping one hand on her far shoulder and sliding it down to draw her in.

"I'm still listening."

Author's Note:

Emotions. This chapter is all about them. Two people have seen death, but their reactions are very different.

Have you faced this before? If you feel comfortable sharing, how did it leave you?

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