• Published 10th Apr 2020
  • 2,822 Views, 304 Comments

Hearts Beat - mushroompone



A chance encounter at a rave leads to Twilight making an unlikely friend

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Vulnerable

Things happen fast at a music festival.

Maybe this is merely my experience, being outrageously stressed out and easily overwhelmed. It felt like everything was sort of tumbling down a hill out of control, our brief rests at night the equivalent of hitting a rock and flying through the air, only to land harder than you took off.

Although, I have a feeling things were going fast for Vinyl, too. She also seemed stressed though in a different way; like she didn’t want to miss anything. Like she was carefully recording and photographing every moment in her own mind, so she could look back fondly upon the memories.

I have to admit, though… despite my fear that I would be robbed, punched, hollered at, or vomited on… I loved it.

It was like all of summer wrapped up in one package. There was friendship. There was love. There was music. There was watermelon and lemonade and barbeque. There was sunburn and yard games and endless laughter. Even in just one night, I felt like I had experienced enough summer for a whole month.

Our friends arrived a day after us. That was when things really sped up.

Friday morning, Vinyl and I were awoken by a frantic flurry of knocks at our hotel room door.

“Shit!” Vinyl shrieked, sitting up so fast out of a sound sleep that she immediately tumbled to the floor.

I sat forward, too, probably making an unintelligible sound.

“Twilight!” somepony from the other side of the door. “Twilight! I’m in the room next to you! How crazy is that!”

I could barely open my eyes. “Pinkie?” I mumbled.

Vinyl moaned softly from the floor of the hotel room.

The knocking continued. I laid back down on my pillow and rolled sideways, like a log, out of bed and onto my hooves.

"Twilight…" Pinkie was singing from behind the door, still knocking. "Come out, comt out, wherever you are…"

I slumped across the floor, tossing a glance at Vinyl's body sprawled beside the bed. She seemed fine, I decided.

I opened the door as far as the latch would allow. "Pinkie, what?"

"I just wanted to say good morning!" she exclaimed, beaming at me. "The rest of the girls are still checking in downstairs."

I sighed. My eyes were barely open. "How did you know I was here?"

"Pinkie Sense!"

"I thought that was just for--"

"The nature of Pinkie Sense should not be questioned, Twilight!" she scolded, tapping the tip of my snout through the door.

I recoiled. “I’ll meet everypony downstairs, okay? Once I’m awake.”

Pinkie giggled. “You are awake, silly!”

“Not by anypony’s standards but yours,” I muttered. “Just… please give me and Vinyl twenty minutes to get ready. We’ll meet you all in the lobby.”

Pinkie drew in a large gasp. “You spent the night with Vinyl?!”

I closed the door gently, but insistently, in her face.

Vinyl was still sprawled out across the floor. I could picture the chalk outline now…

I nudged her with one hoof. “Vi.”

She moaned.

“Did you hit your head?”

“No…”

“Do you wanna get up?”

“N-no…”

I sighed deeply, then smiled to myself. There was something special about waking up next to the pony that you lo-- er, liked. Liked a lot. Even in these less-than-perfect circumstances, it was kinda magical.

I kicked the blanket out of the way and got down on the floor beside her. “Wanna do-over?”

Vinyl nodded.

I rolled onto my side and scooted close to Vinyl, wrapping my foreleg around her barrel. Vinyl snuggled back into me. Her mane tickled my throat and jaw, but I buried my face in it anyway. She smelled like the beach.

There’s nothing quite like feeling the breathing of another pony while you sleep. They’re just so… vulnerable and open to you. Giving you every ounce of their trust, allowing you to wrap them up in your embrace and just be held. It was a promise; a promise to keep each other safe and warm and comforted. Every time she breathed, every time I felt the resistance against my leg as her chest expanded, I was reminded of that promise I’d made.

After a momentary cuddle, I murmured “Good morning.”

Vinyl sighed happily. “Good morning, Twi.”

“My friends are here.”

Vinyl laughed groggily. “I heard.”

“Do you wanna go with them for breakfast?” I asked. “I’m sure they’d love to have you.”

Vinyl made a sound between a moan and a sigh, and rolled onto her back to look up at me. “Five more minutes?”

I leaned down and kissed her, my hoof tracing the outline of her lowest rib. Her own hoof reached up and grazed my collarbone.

I pulled back. “Come on. It’ll be fun, I promise.”

“Ugh.” Vinyl’s head hit the carpet again, and she stared up at the ceiling wistfully. “Of course it’ll be fun. But do I want it more than I want sleep?”

I furrowed my brows and stared down at her. She stroked her chin, lost in fake musing.

“Vinyl…” I warned.

“I have an idea,” Vinyl said. “Let’s both get back in bed. No sleeping required.” She flashed me a cheesy grin.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I muttered.

I got to my hooves quickly and trotted to the bathroom, smirking all the way.

Even from the bathroom, I could hear Vinyl scramble to her hooves. “Twi? Twi, I was kidding! Twi!”


The girls were spread out across two of the couches in the lobby, all chatting eagerly.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash were wearing matching bandanas, which was probably the most affectionate thing I’d seen the two of them do. Period. Just imagining the conversation that led to that fashion choice was enough to prove their devotion to one another in my eyes.

Rarity and Fluttershy were desperately trying to calm down a revved-up PInkie Pie, with little success. I have absolutely no idea what energy she was running on, exactly; as far as I knew, nopony had eaten yet. My best guess was that she’d gone for the complementary coffee atop the minifridge in her hotel room. Whoever left her that was going to pay the price, that’s for sure.

“Hey, look who it is!” Applejack called. “Star of the show!”

I grinned and nudged Vinyl.

“Wha-- me?” She pointed to herself.

“You’re playing this thing, aren’t you?” Rainbow Dash asked. “That sounds like star material to me.”

Vinyl made some sort of sound between a scoff and a snort, waving her hoof dismissively at Rainbow and Applejack.

“Ohmigosh!” Pinkie zipped over between us in the blink of an eye, drawing me and Vinyl into a group hug. “Now I know two famous ponies!”

“I’d think that the whole group of us would qualify as famous,” Rarity said. “Wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t like that thought,” Fluttershy commented, pulling her mane up to her face and peering over it carefully. “Famous means that other ponies watch you, right? I don’t like other ponies looking at me.”

I looked over at Vinyl. “Have any ideas about breakfast?”

“Oh!” Vinyl stomped her hooves excitedly. “There’s this one stallion who has a crepe cart. He always sets up near the Canterlot Gardens. We should go there!”

Rarity sighed. “A food cart? I was hoping we could have a sit-down meal.”

“You’ve clearly never been to a music festival before, Rares,” Rainbow said, rolling her eyes. “Next you’ll say you wanna eat at the hotel restaurant.”

“Oh!” Rarity’s eyes lit up. “There’s a hotel restaurant?”

Applejack clucked her tongue. “Now look what you’ve done.”

“Come on, girls!” I said, fluffing my wings up a bit. “This is Vinyl’s home turf, let’s do it her way.” I threw her a small smile.

Vinyl looked shocked. “Aw, n-no. We don’t have to--”

Pinkie whooped excitedly. And loudly. “Let’s do it! Crepe cart guy!”

“Crepes sound nice,” Fluttershy commented. “Do you think he’ll have blackberries?”

“Let’s go find out,” Applejack said.

The girls spoke their ascent in unison, then moved towards the doors in a small gaggle.

I hung back with Vinyl. “Excited?”

Vinyl sighed lightly in disbelief. “It’s so crazy that I get to do this with the Elements of Harmony.”

I smiled. “We’re so happy to be a part of this!”

Vinyl smiled back.

“Lead the way, Vi!” I said.

With only a moment’s hesitation, she grabbed my hoof in hers and pulled me towards the doors.

If I’d thought Canterlot had been crowded last night, that was nothing at all compared to today. Apparently last night had been a sort of “soft opening” for the festival, if you will; a day for participants to check in and acclimate themselves to the area, not so much a day for actual festivities.

Today… was a horse of a different color.

Had it not been for Pinkie’s magnificently tall mane, we may have already lost our friends in the crowd. There were ponies absolutely everywhere, on every square inch of sidewalk and cobblestone, packed in like sardines and moving about in hypnotic patterns. As the heat of the summer sun hit me full force, there was only one thought in my head: holy shit, please let the sun go down early today.

Vinyl seemed to sense my trepidation. Perhaps it was the way my legs locked up when I saw the crowd.

“Hey,” she said softly. “Just stick with me, okay? If you get claustrophobic, fly up for a little air.”

I nodded, and swallowed hard.

“Twi?”

“What?”

“Thanks for doing this,” Vinyl said. “Coming with me. I know it’s not your scene.”

I laughed nervously. “Sure wish you had something like those ear plugs for my whole body right now!”

“Do you wanna go back up to the room?” Vinyl asked. “I can bring you a crepe.”

I closed my eyes. Deep breath in… hold it… let it out slow. Just like Cadance taught you. “No. I wanna do this. WIth you.”

Vinyl leaned her head against my neck. “It’s not as scary as it looks. Promise.”

Walking down into the crowd was like entering a giant game of pinball, only you couldn’t quite tell where the bumpers were until you ran into them. Sometimes you could glide along with the crowd, but every once in a while you needed to turn into the flow of traffic, and it felt like plunging headfirst into a breaking wave.

Okay, not exactly like that. But making awkward eye contact with dozens of ponies as I accidentally cut them off was the worst.

Over it all, though, was music. Music from all over the city, from a great variety of stages and artists. I held onto Vinyl tightly and tried to think only of the music… let the magic of it guide me through the crowds.

First, on the left, a rock group playing on the tiny Sunburn Stage. Their lyrics were incomprehensible from this distance, and their voices a little pitchy, but altogether wonderful just the same.

Then, on the right, a singer backed only by a string quartet, belting her heart out on a song I could almost recognize. The banner over their heads read “Summer Nights Stage”, in letters that were softer than most other promotional materials I had seen.

Right in front of us as we turned off to the gardens was Canterlot Plaza. It was probably the largest gathering place in the city. I knew it as the stage for several protests, as the central location of the Summer Sun Celebration. But it was hardly recognizable now; just a sea of ponies’ heads, leading down to a massive stage. I could hardly believe it had been erected in a day.

There were large, hanging banners on every light post from here to the stage, proudly proclaiming “Main Stage” in bold, stylized letters.

I gasped audibly. “Vinyl, you’re playing there?!”

Vinyl looked at me, then off where my eyes were pointing. She chuckled. “You betcha, Twi.”

“But it’s huge!”

“It’s the main stage!” Vinyl explained, though the explanation meant little to me. “Of course it’s huge!”

“But--”

“Come on!” Vinyl said, tugging me along. “You’ll see it plenty, trust me!”

At last, the group of girls ahead of us seemed to pop out the side of the massive crowd. The ponies thinned considerably on the way to the garden. I let out a massive sigh of relief and picked up my pace.

Vinyl pulled me out of the crowd as if she were pulling me through the side of a balloon. I shot out at her with some momentum and smashed into her side, nearly knocking her down.

“Wow! I guess the crepes aren’t so popular, huh?” Rainbow commented. “There’s nopony down this way.”

Vinyl shrugged. “The wristbands get you free egg sandwiches somewhere back there. Not worth it, though. Soggy eggs.”

Rainbow stuck her tongue out in disgust.

“Good lookin’ out, Vinyl,” Applejack commented. Her tail swished against Rainbow’s, and Rainbow returned the flick.

“Oh, get a room, you fiends!” Rarity commented sarcastically. “Nopony wants to see such egregious tail-swishing in public!”

Rainbow blushed fiercely and tucked her tail between her legs.

Applejack merely rolled her eyes. “You’re just jealous.” She slung a foreleg around Rainbow’s shoulders and pulled her in for a side-hug. Rainbow blushed harder.

Rarity winked at Pinkie, who giggled far-too obviously.

Vinyl nudged me. "You alright?"

I nodded.

"The music helps, right?" Vinyl said. "This would all suck without music, lemme tell ya. Total waste of time."

I chuckled. "Not totally."

Vinyl looked a little surprised. Happy surprised. Impressed surprised.

"Some us the crepes, Vinyl!" Pinkie called, somehow managing to sound very distant from only a few strides ahead of us.

Vinyl laughed. "You got it, Pinkie!"

She gave me a look, and the two of us trotted to the head of the group.

Vinyl led us around the outer edge of the Canterlot Gardens with purpose. She was scanning every side street and alleyway for this mysterious food cart.

Rarity, Fluttershy, and I seemed fascinated by the gardens themselves. This was a lovely time to see them-- everything in full bloom, smelling fragrant and sweet.

Pinkie Pie was teasing Rainbow and Applejack mercilessly. She seemed to be dating the two of them to be more and more affectionate with one another, and they were giving in brilliantly.

All of this was backed by the distant sounds of folk music, sung loudly and fiercely, lilting over the city's buildings and down to us. Two voices, singing together in perfect harmony, strumming guitars in unison. Even deeper than those sounds were the backing instruments, only heard in snippets; tambourine, toms, banjo, fiddle, harmonica.

It made me want to dance, to sing, to leap atop Vinyl and tackle her into the depths of the gardens, laying in the cool greenery long into the night. Only the music and the sounds of stomping applause to mark the time.

"Ooh! There he is!" Vinyl said excitedly. She broke into a brisk trot, and I followed closely behind.

The heavenly scent of delicate crepe batter and freshly-hulled strawberries lifted me from the ground like a cloud of pure joy.

We crowded about the cart like a flock of hungry seagulls. The stallion behind it seemed overwhelmed by the sudden familiar faces which appeared before him.

"Uh… wh-what can I get you girls?" he asked cautiously, mustache bristling with each syllable. "A-and Princess, of course."

*Ooh! Ooh!" Pinkie was bouncing eagerly up and down. "Do you have anything chocolate-y?"

The stallion took a hesitant step away from his own cart, just to put some distance between himself and Pinkie. "Uh, sure do. I can get you a--"

"Oh, no, wait! Something caramel-y?" Pinkie suggested.

The stallion blinked. "Sure. I have some caramel sauce right--"

"Ooh! Ooh! Wait!"

"Pinkie!" Rarity scolded. "Please!"

I laughed. "We'll come back with our orders in a moment."

The group of us drifted reluctantly away from the cart, Pinkie still craning her neck to see the possible ingredients beyond the glass.

I squeezed and eyes shut and conjured a quill and parchment. "Okay, what does everypony want?"

The group clamored to shout out the things they wanted. Applejack: apples, of course. Rarity: berries and chocolate. Pinkie: just chocolate. Fluttershy: just berries. Rainbow Dash: a bunch of whipped cream, nothing else.

Vinyl watched the whole thing like it was a tennis match, her eyes flicking between my quill and the mouths of my friends. I think, to her, there was still something very mysterious about the way our group operated. Mysteriously entertaining, at least.

"Viny/?" I asked at last.

Vinyl snatched the parchment out of my grasp. "I got this, princess. Why don't you and your friends find a place to sit in the garden?"

I smiled. "Thanks, Vi."

"Lemme guess-- you want something savory?" Vinyl arched her brows at me. "Probably something weird like… lentils?"

My smile grew. "How'd you know?"

*Oh, I just know you're always gonna ask for something super weird, that's all," Vinyl said, winking at me. "I'll get you something good. Go find a shady spot, okay?"

"You got it," I agreed.

Vinyl gave me a quick peck on the cheek and scooted off to the crepe cart.

"You two are gettin' pretty close, huh?" Applejack commented.

I shrugged, disguising a blush. "Oh, I dunno."

"Tsk, not as close as you and Rainbow Dash," Rarity complained loudly.

Pinkie suppressed a giggle again as she made sneaky eye contact with Rarity.

I furrowed my brows in their direction. Rarity shrugged.

Applejack reached over to pull Rainbow Dash into her side. "And what of it? Can't handle seeing a couple this good lookin'?"

"AJ, come on…" Rainbow tucked her head into her marefriend's neck to hide her smile.

"Can we maybe try to find a seat?" Fluttershy asked. "The sun's getting a little hot for me…"

"Good idea, Fluttershy," I said. "Come on, everypony! Let's find a place to sit."

We ambled together into the Canterlot Gardens.

I had not spent as much time in the gardens as perhaps I should have. They were lush, quiet, and filled with comfortable seating. The perfect place to study, nearly year-round thanks to the greenhouse at the center.

But it was certainly too hot for the greenhouse now.

We wandered along the broken-stone pathways, at last coming upon a small clearing under a willow tree.The music from the festival was still reaching us, but it was now a mere suggestion of music; the hint of a strum, the sailing sound of a held note, now supported by the rustling of the leaves instead of the shake of a tambourine.

“I can’t believe nopony else is here,” Fluttershy commented. “It’s so much nicer than those crowds.”

Rainbow Dash scoffed, evidently over her embarrassment. “Yeah, but you can’t hear shit from here. Ponies pay for the music, Shy.”

“I’d pay just to sit under this nice tree,” Fluttershy said, smiling warmly.

“You don’t have to pay to sit here, though,” Rainbow argued. “It’s free.”

“Oh, but I’d still pay.”

“But, you can’t--”

“The ponies who tend the plants deserve a nice wage, Rainbow.” Fluttershy’s face was stony and sincere.

“Well, but--” Rainbow looked up at Applejack for support.

Applejack closed her eyes and shook her head. Not worth it, RD.

Rainbow sighed in frustration. “Yeah. You’re right.”

I chuckled to myself. It was little moments like these that would stay in my mind for years to come, I was convinced. The details of our battles and triumphs were like a flurry of adrenaline, nothing more than dark smudges of feeling. But times like these were filed away in perfect clarity.

I breathed in deeply once again. The particular notes of the summer air would forever exist in my memory, as well.

“Did you girls look at the performance list?” I asked.

Rarity looked at me. “Did you? That thing was enormous! Far too much to read closely.”

“That’s why you gotta master speed-reading,” Rainbow said. “Get the goods and get out.”

Applejack chuckled knowingly, though what she knew was a mystery. She was laying in the grass, one hoff crossed over the other, looking utterly natural there in the dappled sunlight.

Rainbow rolled over so that she was leaning against her marefriend. “What’s that laugh for?”

“Ah, nothin’,” Applejack said.

Rainbow made a face of frustration and flicked her tail, but she only succeeded in looking like a frustrated foal.

Pinkie giggled.

Everypony was acting… odd, I noticed. Like some of them were keeping a secret, and doing it rather poorly. Normally, that would stress me out, but I had learned to trust my friends. I could take it. I’m sure everything was fine.

My stomach, however, did not agree.

The sound of approaching laughter broke me out of my thoughts.

“Oh, don’t tell me somepony has found our spot already?” Rarity murmured. “I don’t feel like sharing.”

Something about the voices was very familiar, though. Familiar in a way that made all my fur stand on end.

The willow branches parted, and there stood the four ponies I had hoped not to see: Lyra Heartstrings, BonBon Sweetiedrops, and DItzy Doo, led by the incomparable Octavia Melody.

“Oh.” Octavia sighed. “I see Vinyl told you about this spot, did she?”

The mention of Vinyl seemed to answer everypony’s unasked questions. A palpable ripple of discomfort ran through the whole group.

I blinked. “Vinyl didn’t-- we found it ourselves,” I said.

Octavia looked taken aback. “Well, the two of you really are twins, aren’t you?”

Applejack opened her mouth, no doubt to say something truly scathing based on the furrow in her brows.

“Mind if we join you?” Octavia asked.

I opened my mouth. Closed it again.

BonBon looked antsy. “We can find somewhere else. It’s no trouble.”

“No!” I blurted.

I could feel all of my friends’ eyes burning into the side of my head.

“No, don’t be silly!” I said, snorting in fake laughter. “That’s fine! Good, even!”

Lyra rolled her eyes.

Ditzy grinned. “Cool!”

The four ponies made themselves comfortable in their own little circle beside ours. Ditzy bumped into Fluttershy as she made herself comfortable, eliciting a look of outright discomfort from my friend.

All of my friends, in fact, seemed to be communicating thoughts to me via eye contact alone. It was like a psychic overload; too many messages bombarding my brain at once. All I could feel was eyes, staring at me, boring into me.

“Twi?”

Everypony under the tree swiveled to look at the latest arrival: poor Vinyl, laden with crepes.

“Ah, Vinyl!” Octavia said. “I was wondering when I’d see you again.”

Vinyl blinked. “Uh… hello.”

I stood up. “Let me help you with those!”

I rushed to Vinyl’s side, leaning in close as I took a few of the crepes out of Vinyl’s magical field.

“What’s happening?” Vinyl hissed out of the corner of her mouth.

“I don’t know!” I replied, just as quiet. “They all just came and sat down!”

“You know, we should all sit together!” Octavia suggested.

Vinyl and I looked at her. It was hard to tell if she was serious… was she serious?

“Uh…” Vinyl’s mouth hung open. “Why?”

Octavia laughed haughtily. “Oh, Vinyl. You’re here with the Princess of Friendship, for goodness’ sake. Don’t you think we ought to be friendly?”

I could see the gears of Vinyl’s mind grinding against one another, trying desperately to think of a response. Or even just determine the validity of the statement. She was utterly stuck, however.

So was I. But I talked anyway.

“Sure!” I said.

“What?!” Vinyl hissed.

“Oh, how lovely!” Octavia said, beaming.

Octavia and her crew got to their hooves and began to sprinkle themselves into our group. Lyra did so with a bored, somewhat annoyed expression, plopping onto the grass beside Rainbow and Applejack. Octavia chose her spot carefully, easing herself down into the grass between Rarity and my own position.

BonBon and Ditzy looked wholly uncomfortable with the idea, and chose to sit together near Fluttershy, likely because she appeared to be the least confrontational.

I laughed. I didn’t mean to laugh, but I did. I slapped a hoof over my mouth and returned to reviewing the crepes.

Vinyl and myself passed out breakfast silently.

Everypony was silent. Just exchanging weird looks and half-smiles, not knowing what to do or how to respond.

At last, Rainbow coughed. “So… who are you guys?”

“Us?” Ditzy asked. “W-we’re, uh… we’re Vinyl’s friends.”

Rainbow nodded. “Cool.”

Vinyl cleared her throat. “That’s, uh, BonBon, Lyra, Ditzy, and Oc-Octavia.”

“Oh,” Rainbow said. Her tone and the look on her face said everything else she was thinking.

Applejack nudged her.

Rainbow’s eyes went wide, and she swallowed hard.

Was this a normal music festival thing? Soul-sucking awkwardness and long silences? Was this just another thing I had missed out on being a shut-in?

Boy… I was starting to think maybe I’d been living life right back then.

“We shouldn’t have intruded,” BonBon said, getting to her hooves. “Sorry. We just wanted to congratulate Vinyl.”

Vinyl looked up. “Thanks, guys.” She smiled a little.

BonBon smiled back, then looked to Lyra. “Come on. Let’s go.”

Vinyl looked down at her hooves. It wasn’t hard to see what she was thinking.

I had done this. I had put her in a fight between her old friends and her new ones-- no, worse, a fight between old marefriends and new marefriends.

I don’t really know which is worst, to be honest.

And-- gosh, that meant she was doing this for me? Choosing me? Staying silent, letting her friends walk away… for me?

It was like the Princess part of my brain flicked on.

Nopony was giving up friendships on my watch.

“Wait!” I said, standing up quickly. BonBon looked over at me. “Don’t go. We’re all here for the same thing, right?”

Everypony gave me blank looks.

“Uh… w-we can get along for a few days,” I continued. “It’s a festival. Let’s just be friends for a while, okay?”

More blank looks.

I sighed. “Did anypony look at the performance schedule? We were having some trouble finding stuff we wanted to see.”

Ditzy looked up at me. “Oh! There’s an Acapella group performing at the Margarita Stage in about an hour. We could all go see them together?” The sentence slipped out hesitatingly, sounding more like a question than anything.

Rainbow Dash and Lyra rolled their eyes. Then, in unison: “I hate Acapella.”

The two of them looked at each other as if they were twins separated at birth. This elicited some light laughter from the group.

Rarity clucked her tongue. “Well, I love Acapella.”

“Ooh! Me too!” Fluttershy agreed.

Ditzy smiled. “Awesome!”

“Does Margarita Stage mean they’ll be serving margarita nearby, by any chance?” Rarity muttered.

BonBon laughed. “If you want alcohol, we should head down to the beer garden.”

“Beer garden?!” Rainbow repeated. “Oh, me and AJ are so there.”

I watched carefully from the sidelines, waiting for the tension to rear its ugly head once again. But, amazingly, the conversation rolled along easily from there. Two very different groups of ponies coming together over music… how funny.

Vinyl nudged me gently.

I looked over at her. “What is it?”

Vinyl smiled softly. “Thanks, Twi.”

I smiled back. “Hey. It’s my job, y’know.”

Vinyl chuckled to herself, then shoved over onto her side and pressed into mine. I wrapped my wing around her and squeezed gently.


Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Lyra, and BonBon had become quite the drunken foursome, stumbling about and singing songs at the top of their lungs. This, of course, bothered nopony, since music and alcohol were basically the only overriding theme to any of this.

It turned out the Ditzy had a very similar taste in music to Rarity and Fluttershy, and the three of them spent the day hopping from stage to stage.

Pinkie Pie was totally in her element, and just ran about on her own, bringing joy and shock to everypony in attendance.

Vinyl and I, of course, were stuck together like glue. Not just because I didn’t want to find myself alone at an event like this… Vinyl’s mood had improved tenfold since the moment in the garden. She was energetic, unconcerned, just blissfully happy to be here. She waved to so many ponies I lost count. She high-hooved every one of her friends as we happened to pass them in the crowds.

The energy was contagious. I felt myself becoming more and more caught up in the festival’s atmosphere, felt my inhibitions slipping away… the music. The laughter. The friendship. The love. It just fills you up, doesn’t it?

Of course, there’s a downside to the energy.

Another thing about music festivals: they wipe you out. Totally and completely

“Come on, push!” Vinyl encouraged me, laughing wildly.

I moaned. “I can’t… these doors are gigantic…”

“Use your magic, Twi!” Her laughter continued. I would have called it drunken laughter, but I knew she hadn’t had a drop.

“No,” I whined. “Too much effort…”

Vinyl at last managed to come to my side, helping me open the massive door into the hotel lobby.

I sighed loudly. “Thank you.”

“No problem, Princess,” Vinyl replied, the echoes of laughter still on her tongue.

“Ugh. I need a shower,” I said. “Do I smell?”

Vinyl stretched up to bury her snout in my mane, breathing deeply. “Like a fresh summer’s day.”

I giggled and waved her away.

We managed to make it to the elevator, ricocheting off one another like pool balls the whole way. We reached for the button at the same moment, then both drew away giggling, then both went for it a second time.

The ghost of Rarity floated above us, commanding us to get a room.

“Well?” Vinyl asked.

“Well, what?”

“Did you like it?” she asked. She was kind of serious.

I smiled. “I loved it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tired, though.”

Vinyl laughed in agreement. “If you’re not tired, you’re not doing it right!”

The elevator pinged, and the doors eased open. Vinyl and I piled in eagerly.

I slumped against the wall. “Are we gonna have to fight over who gets the shower first?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Vinyl said. “But there is an easy solution.”

I rolled my eyes, though it did nothing to disguise my blush.

Vinyl arched her eyebrows. “I’m not hearing a no…”

“Well!” I said, not intending to finish the thought.

Vinyl chuckled to herself, then nuzzled against my neck.

The elevator came to a gentle stop on our floor, and the doors slid open once again. Our room was straight ahead down the hall.

There was a familiar earth pony waiting outside our door.

Vinyl sighed. “That’s our door, isn’t it?”

I squinted. “No, it can’t be.”

Octavia turned to look at us. Her eyes met Vinyl’s. A look of sadness passed over her face.

“Shit.” Vinyl caught the elevator door with her hoof just as it was starting to close. “I’m sorry, Twi, I--”

“Don’t be,” I said.

Vinyl nodded at me, and walked down the hall.

I hung back as far as I could. The beginning of their conversation was a mystery to me, as would most of it continue to be. It was only as I walked down the hall towards my marefriend and her ex that I realized Octavia had disappeared completely after the garden. She hadn’t paired up with anypony to enjoy the festival. I hadn’t even spotted her in a crowd.

The thought put a pit in my stomach.

“You abandoned me.” Octavia’s voice was entirely calm and even, to the point of it being utterly terrifying. “All day. You took my friends and left me alone. This was meant to be my triumph, too, Vinyl.”

“You think I did that on purpose?” Vinyl asked. “Come on, Tavi! I’m doing everything I can, here!”

“I don’t want them seeing you anymore.”

What?!”

Octavia set her jaw. “You chose Twilight, didn’t you? Spend time with her. You don’t need us.”

It was like being shot through the heart. “Hey, I--”

Vinyl turned to me. “Twilight, you didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t apologize to her.”

“I--” I took a deep breath in, let it out. “I think you two need to hash things out.”

Octavia scowled at me. “‘Hash’ what out, exactly?”

“Come on, guys,” I said. “You clearly have a lot to work out. It doesn’t take a Princess to see that.”

Vinyl stole a glance at Octavia, then looked back at me. “I can’t do that to you.”

“Well, then do it for me,” I said.

Vinyl stared at me for a long time. It was clear that she had never been trusted the way I trusted her… the idea of being encouraged to speak to an ex was so foreign that she thought she was going mad.

But she smiled. Tersely. Sadly. “Alright.”

“Excuse me?” Octavia said.

“Come on, Tavi,” Vinyl said, unlocking the hotel room door. “Let’s have it out.”

Octavia allowed herself to be led into the hotel room, and the door clicked shut behind. I could hear their muffled voices start to talk.

The weight on my chest got a little lighter.

Pinkie was staying next door, right? I could hang with her for a while. That might be nice.

I walked over to the door beside us and knocked politely. “Pinkie?”

There was no answer. Not even a snore.

She was probably still about gallivanting about at the festival, I thought. Things hadn’t totally shut down, after all-- there were some strange musical acts left to come, and plenty of food and drink still being served.

I found a nice spot of wall between my room and Pinkie’s, and slumped down against it.

“You never got angry!” Vinyl was saying. “How could you not be angry?”

“You were never angry, either.”

“Because you weren’t angry!”

I closed my eyes and rolled my head back against the wall. This could very well be a long night.

If I had any idea where my other friends were staying, I might have gone to look for them. If I knew they were still out and about, I might have gone down to the lobby and waited to catch them coming back.

But I had no idea.

And the carpet was pretty soft.

And you never really spend time in hotel hallways. Somepony should.

I stayed here for a quite a while. I ran my hooves in circles over the carpet until they lost feeling. I rolled my head back and forth against the wall until my mane was imprinted in it. I hummed some songs to myself.

Then, as if the night couldn’t get any worse…

“Hey.”

My eyes snapped open. “Huh?” Had I been asleep?

I looked to my left. Nopony there.

“Over here,” the voice said.

I looked to my right.

“Oh, fuck,” I muttered burying my face in my hooves.

“Very flattering,” Flash said. “What are you doing in the hallway, Princess?”

“Please go away,” I said.

Flash laughed. “Did you forget your keycard? ‘Cause I can take you down to the lobby to get a new one.”

“No,” I said.

“Do you feel sick?” Flash asked. He came and sat next to me.

“No. I’m fine,” I said.

“Well, then what’s going on here?” Flash asked. “Come on. I’m a royal guard. It’s my job.”

I scoffed. “Sure.”

“Do you have anything better to do?” Flash asked.

I opened my mouth. Then closed it. Then opened it again.

“You look like a fish.”

“Thanks a lot!” I blurted.

Flash seemed shocked.

I sighed. “It’s just a long story,” I said.

“I can do long stories,” Flash said. “I’ve got the time.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be defending the honor of Countess Coloratura?”

“Not while she’s asleep, you weirdo.”

I grumbled something to myself.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.”

“Okay.” Flash sat back against the wall, much in the way I had a moment ago. He closed his eyes. He started humming to himself.

I stared at him. Who did he think he was? Why did he think that, after years of masterfully pretending we had never dated, now was a good time to talk to me? Did I look accessible? Did I look ready to talk?

“What are you still doing here?” I asked.

Flash shrugged, but did not open his eyes. “Free hallway.”

I growled to myself, then sat back against the wall, folding my forelegs across my chest.

“Why does Lyra’s opinion matter?” Vinyl asked.

“She’s my friend!” Octavia replied.

“She’s my friend, too!” Vinyl argued back.

Flash cracked an eye open. “Does… that have something to do with you being in the hallway?”

I set my jaw. “None of your business, Flash.”

“Alright. Just figured, y’know, if it was… you might need somepony to talk to about it.”

I was ready to really give it to him, but… he was kinda right.

Plus, what kind of hypocrite would I be for shutting him out? An eye for an eye, right? An ex for an ex?

“My marefriend is in there,” I said.

“Oh?”

I nodded. “She’s… trying to make up with one of her exes.”

Flash sat up straight. “Interesting. Why?”

“What do you mean, why?” I said. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Flash looked me up and down, taking in the wings, the horn, the whole Princess vibe. “Hm. Right.”

“And I don’t know where my friends are,” I said. “So I’m just waiting around.”

“Gee. Sounds fun.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Which one is your marefriend?” Flash asked.

I sighed. “Vinyl.”

Flash nodded.

“If it wasn’t Twilight, it would’ve been somepony else!” Octavia shouted.

“Right back attcha, Tavi!”

I cringed.

“Sounds complicated,” Flash commented astutely.

I scoffed. “No shit.”

“You’ll be okay, though,” Flash said. “You’re tough.”

I shook my head. “I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about Vinyl.”

Flash looked over his shoulder at the wall, as if he would catch a glimpse of Vinyl through it. “I dunno. She seems pretty independent to me.”

“I guess so,” I said. “She’s just… she’s not really vulnerable. I’m worried that she won’t tell me if she’s hurting, y’know?”

Flash nodded. “Of course. I can see where that would be worrying.”

I glanced sidelong at him. “Yeah, well. Like I said, not really your business.”

“Oh, but, isn’t it?” Flash said.

I whipped my head over to look at him. He was… leaning in towards me. His eyes were sort of half-lidded, his lips puckered ever so slightly. Somehow, the picture didn’t register fully.

“Wh-what?” I stuttered, leaning away from him.

“You wanna go back to my room?” Flash Asked softly.

What?!” I shrieked, rocketing to my hooves.

Flash looked surprised, frozen in place where he had been leaning in to kiss me. “Was this not… did I misread something?”

“Yes!” I shouted, stomping my hoof.

Flash jumped a bit when I did. “Oh.”

“What is wrong with you?” I asked exasperatedly.

“Well!” Flash got to his hooves, too. “Why else would you be trying to get your marefriend and her ex to make up?”

I flared my wings open. “Because I’m the Princess of Friendship, asshole!”

Flash put a hoof on his chest very delicately, looking only moderately offended. “Wow. That seems uncalled for.” He shook his head slightly. “Why would you wanna stay with somepony who needs that much friendship help, anyway? Wouldn’t you rather have somepony who doesn’t put you to work?”

“She didn’t put me to work!” I argued.

“Seems like she did,” Flash said. “Why else would you do it?”

“Because!” I shouted.

Flash gave me a look, indicating that he clearly didn’t understand.

“I-- I love her, you idiot!” I shouted.

Flash went completely mute, staring at me blankly.

Oh my gosh.

Had I said that before? Had I said I loved her?

Flash was still staring at me. No… not at me. Past me.

Shit.

I whirled about-- there stood Vinyl and Octavia, looking equally surprised as Flash and myself.

Octavia opened her mouth, and said, haltingly, “We heard shouting, so we… we came…”

Vinyl was only looking at me. “Did you say… you loved me?”

I swallowed. “I…”

Octavia was staring at me, too. But not the way I thought she would. Just a slight cock of the head. More curiosity than anything, I think. Perhaps concern.

Maybe it was just me, but there was something different there. The spark between them had changed in hue.

“Twilight?” Vinyl murmured.

“Yes,” I said.

Vinyl breathed out slowly. “Did you mean it?”

I blinked. “Yes.”

Vinyl took a few slow steps forward, then ran to me. She embraced me tightly, burying her face in my neck. “I love you, too.”

I hugged Vinyl back, as tightly as I could. I felt like crying. And laughing.

Octavia smiled. A little sad. But a little happy, too.

Her friend had found love, after all.

What’s not to be happy about?


One more thing happened at the festival. I know this chapter of our relationship is getting a little long in the tooth, but this last bit is important.

Fast forward to Saturday night. The whole lot of us--Octavia included--had spent the day together. It had been a little awkward, a little clumsy. But we’d traded about, meeting and loving one another’s company. Even Lyra seemed to be warming up to me.

At long last, It was time.

Saturday night.

Vinyl and Octavia’s time to shine.

We all crowded to the front of the audience, chattering eagerly, more than a few of us literally jumping up and down in excitement.

The bluegrass band completed their set just as we reached the front.

“Ah, come on!” Applejack called from the back of the group. “No fair! Princesses oughta stay in the back!”

I looked over my shoulder at her. “It’s my marefriend, AJ!”

Applejack rolled her eyes.

“Hey, I’ll lift you up!” Rainbow suggested, already in the air and tucking her front hooves under Applejack’s legs.

“Oh, please, girls!” Rarity said. There was a funny cadence to her voice, as if she had carefully rehearsed these precise words. “We get it-- you’re in love!”

Pinkie stuffed both of her front hooves over her mouth to stifle laughter.

Applejack’s face broke into a gigantic grin, hanging there from her marefriend’s grasp. “It sure don’t seem like you get it, Rarity!”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, what will you do next?” Rarity asked, her face breaking open into a smile. “Propose?”

My heart stopped.

Pinkie looked as if she might explode.

Fluttershy was biting down on her lip, fighting back a smile.

I looked up at Rainbow Dash. She opened her mouth to respond to Rarity, but froze, and looked down at the mare in her hooves.

Applejack looked up at her marefriend, still grinning. “Would that be so crazy?”

Rainbow dropped her marefriend in surprise.

Applejack hit the ground with a loud sound of discomfort.

I hate to admit it, but I was already tearing up.

Applejack pushed up off the ground. She took her hat off her head, and held it over her heart. From the hat, she produced a ring on a long chain, and held it up for Rainbow to see. The way she looked up at Rainbow Dash said it all.

Rainbow landed on the ground, her eyes trained on Applejack.

“Rainbow Dash?” Applejack asked. “Will you--”

“Yes!” Rainbow shouted, tackling Applejack to the ground.

The two of them stayed on the ground for a moment. Applejack slipped the necklace over her marefriend’s-- well, her fiance's head.

The rest of us couldn’t wait. We rushed in to lift them up, gathering the both of them in an enormous hug.

The crowd around us wasn’t paying attention, of course, but for that one moment, it felt like all of Canterlot was celebrating us.Like all of this energy, all of the warmth and love and friendship and happiness, it was all right here.

“Ladies and gentlecolts…”

The crowd cheered harder.

“DJ P0N-3!”

“Oh!” I looked up. “It’s starting! It’s starting!”

We stayed in our hug, watching as Vinyl strode out onto the stage with ease. She looked down at us, a momentary confusion dawning on her face.

Rainbow held up the necklace. The lights glinted off its charm.

Vinyl broke into an enormous grin, then grabbed the microphone. “This set goes out to the Elements of Harmony. I love every one of you.”

I laughed, though it came out more like a small sob.

As Vinyl began to play, hitting chords on her keyboard and spinning records with impressive coordination, the crowd burst into a thunderous applause.

I caught a glimpse of Octavia waiting backstage. Nopony was stomping harder than she was.

Author's Note:

Whew
It's not perfect, but I had to get it posted before I ran out the night!
Hope this has been the catharsis you were waiting for :twilightsmile: