• Published 10th Apr 2020
  • 2,695 Views, 298 Comments

Hearts Beat - mushroompone



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

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Holiday

It has been four-and-a-half weeks since The Game Night Incident.

Another incident to add to my list.

I'd like to say that I spent all that time doing something really amazing and romantic, or maybe out meeting other ponies and getting over… whatever it was I in, I guess. And, if I couldn't say that, I'd like to say that time stopped, and I watched the weeks go by from my window, weary and lovesick.

But time waits for nopony.

Life went back to normal. I stopped seeing Vinyl cold turkey after that. Didn't feel right about dropping by like I'd gotten used to doing. And she didn't reach out to me to try to remedy that, so I figured that was what she wanted. I went back to doing princess-y things and tried to be myself.

It worked for a while. I was helping other ponies. It was nice.

But now it was winter. It had snowed last night, and the world looked like it was all tucked in under a warm, fluffy blanket. A part of me wishes I had just gone ahead and burrowed underground after game night. Then I could still be snoozing peacefully under all this snow. A nice, drama-free hibernation.

More importantly, the holidays were right around the corner. And now I was snowed in.

Distractionless.

Destitute.

"Spike?" I called, the lethargy seeping into my voice perhaps more than I intended. "Where are you?"

"Study room!" Spike replied. His voice echoed down the long, cavernous halls of the castle.

I moaned softly. A long walk. Too long in the cold.

I pulled my quilt up over my face and slid deeper into my cocoon. Nopony could find me here! I was safe and warm in the dark. No Hearth's Warming. No kisses. No marefriends of ex-marefriends or homewreckers or weirdness. Just darkness; cozy, warm, and soft…

Ugh. Even the thought of hiding away made me feel sick. The curse of being a fixer, I suppose.

I peeked a hesitant eye out from under the covers. I'm not totally sure what I thought I would see, but I determined the coast to be clear and sat up.

It was cold. Cold and stoney. It even smelled cold and stoney. I hated living in this place sometimes. Cold in this castle was a totally different monster than cold in the tree.

My hooves fell into my lap. I stared at the wall for a while, trying to let my body acclimate to the cold, but still feeling wholly uncomfortable. My eyelids drooped. My wings dropped. I felt… droopy.

"Twilight, did you want something, or…?"

"Oh!" I tugged my blankets back up to my neck. "Spike, I'm sorry. I was going to come to you."

Spike looked me up and down. "Right. What do you want?"

I sighed. "I need to do something in the spirit of the season, Spike. I haven't been feeling very… festive this year."

"Mm-hm."

"What can we do around the castle today?" I asked.

Spike's eyes lit up. "Oh! We could put up lights outside!"

"Outside?" I repeated. "But it's so cold!"

Spike rolled his eyes. "We could put up lights inside."

I sighed. "I don't like having lights up inside. Then at night I have to run all around the castle and turn all the lights off. I usually forget, though, and then I wake up in the middle of the night thinking everything is going to burn down and--"

"Twilight!" Spike stopped my rambling. "What do you want to do today?"

I thought about it. What other holiday things were there to do? Cocoa-drinking? Tree-trimming? Gift-giving? Carol-singing?

Gifts!

"Oh! We should plan out gifts for the girls!" I smiled. "I think I have a good start on a few of them, but I may need to call around for ideas… will you help?"

Spike folded his claws behind his back. "Can I put my name on the gift tag?" he asked.

I chuckled. "Sure."

Spike grinned. "Then, sure! I can help you brainstorm. I was thinking something big and really sparkly for Rarity."

I smiled. "I'm sure she'd love that." I rolled out of bed. My joints clicked and popped like a bowl of rice cereal. "Come on, Spike; let's go to my office."

Spike jogged behind me on the way down the hall.

This would be good.

Do something nice, something selfless.

Buy your friends some gifts.

I skidded to a halt. Spike bumped into my back leg.

He took a step back, rubbing his head. "Hey, what's the hold up, Twi?"

"It's Hearth's Warming," was all I could say, my voice breathless and paper-thin.

"Really? I hadn't noticed," Spike grumbled.

I turned to look at Spike. "Vinyl!"

"Oh, Celestia, not this again…" Spike put a claw to his forehead.

"Again?!" I repeated. "I haven't thought about this once! This is-- this is-- I dunno what it is!"

"Can we talk about it in your office?" Spike asked.

"Do I get her a gift?" I asked myself aloud. "This could be the perfect opportunity to make up for… everything. Or should I leave her alone? We haven't spoken in weeks, would it be creepy? If I don't get her something, will that end it all for good? Will she think that I hate her?"

Spike tapped his chin with one claw. "Oh! You know who'd be super helpful?"

"Who?" I asked, perhaps a little too excitedly.

"Princess Cadance!" Spike replied. His voice had the familiar timbre of a game show host; fake excitement, double-dipped in crowd-pleasing niceness. "The Princess of Friendship and the Princess of Love? This has you two written all over it!"

I couldn't help but feel condescended to. But I didn't care!

"Spike, you're a genius!" I rubbed the top of his head with one hoof.

"You can thank me later."

Spike's suave grin and dismissive claw wave were all the goodbye I got. I guess with Rarity off the table he had just lost interest.

No time to be hurt! Gotta call Cadance!

I galloped down the hall towards the pool room. Cadance was always there for me when I needed her. So was Shining Armor, of course… but his presence didn't necessarily make a problem any more solved than it had been before. He was mostly just good for a hug and some words of encouragement, no matter what the problem was.

Around the corner and into the pool room, my hooves flew over the shimmering floors. I leapt into my seat, skimmed a feather over the water's surface, and began to think of Cadance.

Those big, kind eyes. Hey warm voice, telling me not to worry, telling me to stay calm and focused. The way she embraced me with her wings from time to time…

The water glowed green.

I wiggled in anticipation, every word of my problem resting on the tip of my tongue. I was more than a little worried that I'd be incapable of comprehensible speech when she picked up.

The water was still green.

And yet, no Cadance.

I let out a breath that I hadn't known I was holding. Unavailable.

"Shoot!"

Well, nothing to do but wait!

Wait a few minutes, then try again.

I leaned back into the couch cushions.

How could I possibly explain it all to her?

Did she know anything about Vinyl, other than the fact that I'd once asked for her name? I couldn't remember bringing her up in front of Cadance or Shining Armor… so, unless the Princess was fond of tabloids, I doubt she'd caught wind of anything.

I'd better practice. Get all the words right for the next time she picks up.

I tried to conjure something forth. Anything. But the thoughts were like a tangled-up stormcloud of feelings without words attached to them. Just shapes and colors and faces and specific, pointed types of pain and torment. If I could just push the cloud over Cadance's head, just for a second, maybe she'd understand.

Did it start in the club?

No. That was clearly friendship.

With the letter, then?

No, no. More like… awe. She had treated me like a celebrity.

The speakeasy?

Definitely not. That was very clearly two friends enjoying some coffee together. A very friend-y thing to do.

Was it when I'd come to her house?

No, right?

Game night, then?

It couldn't have been… that was all for friends, just friends.

I closed my eyes, trying to divide my thoughts into a nice, neat Venn diagram.

Alright. "Friends" on the left, "Romance" on the right, mysteries in the middle.

The night in the club. Plenty of ponies go to clubs because they like the music and the drinks. But… plenty of ponies also go to the club looking for a one-night stand. Vinyl was nice to me. Not crazy nice, but more than just "I ran into you at the club" nice.

I'll just put the club in the middle part.

The letter. Definitely a normal, friendly thing to do! Even more normal when you consider that I've become a bit of a celebrity, and some ponies will always try to shoot their shot at fame if a famous pony is around. That said, many ponies also got celebrity crushes. In fact, it could be argued that more ponies have celebrity crushes than would ever want to be famous themselves.

Another for the middle section.

The speakeasy.

Oh, boy…

As I was thinking it over, the room was suddenly bathed in an unmistakable blue light. The quiet tinkling of magic bounced off every wall.

"Cadance?" I asked hopefully.

“Twilight! I thought it must have been you who called,” Cadance said. I could almost see her smile. “How are you?”

“I’m-- I’m okay!” I said. “Are you snowed in there?”

“Snowed into the city,” Cadance said. “But I’ve got a spell up to keep it from getting too wintry inside city limits. The market’s in its last two weeks, so we need to make sure it stays open.”

“Oh.”

“But you are, huh?” Cadance asked.

I took a deep breath, intending to respond, but instead let out a long and tortured sigh.

“Uh-oh. I know that sound.” Her voice had dropped in pitch, but was still just as warm and loving. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s… hard to explain,” I said. I breathed in. Breathed out. I ran my hoof along the cushion’s stitching. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately. About… I dunno.”

Cadance giggled. “Okay…”

I sighed again, sliding down low in my seat. “Do you think we’re a lot alike?” I asked.

“I think that depends what you mean,” Cadance said.

I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see it. “A lot of ponies say it. That we’re very similar.”

Cadance was quiet for a moment. “I can see why they would say that. I think we both have a tendency to put the needs of others before ourselves. We were definitely very similar when we were young… which wasn’t always a good thing.” She laughed. “I think we both made life a little harder on ourselves than it needed to be as foals.”

I giggled. “Maybe a little.”

“And, of course, there’s the obvious,” Cadance said. “Princess stuff.”

“Yeah, princess stuff,” I agreed.

We were quiet for a while. I could hear soft sounds of snuffling and motion from the other end of the phone.

“Alright, be honest: what’s this about?” Cadance asked. “You sound more worried than usual. I promise Shining isn’t in the room, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I… did something I’m not proud of. And I have a friend that… well, I’m just not sure where we stand, now. But, with the holidays coming up…”

“I see,” Cadance said. Her princess voice was sneaking in a bit. “A friend, you said?”

“Maybe a friend,” I said. “Maybe… something else.”

Cadance was quiet. “Right.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I think those other ponies are definitely right.”

“What do you mean?”

Cadance chuckled. “When they say you and I are a lot alike. Friendship, love… it can get tangled up sometimes, can’t it?”

I didn’t say anything.

“One truth that I have always held onto is that love, real love, is always built upon friendship.” Cadance cleared her throat. “If you aren’t friends with your partner, then… well, I don’t know how you could live that way, to be frank. The number one thing you should have in common is that you like each other. That you like each other’s company. That you’re always happy to see them come home.”

“Yeah…” I murmured wistfully.

“So, if you don’t know where you stand… maybe you should do something to tell them,” Cadance suggested. “This might be your chance.”

I shifted in my seat. “That’s what you did with Shining Armor, right?”

Cadance laughed. “Wow, you’ve got a good memory! Yes, I don’t think Shining Armor ever would have gotten up the courage to ask me out on his own. But don’t tell him I said that.”

I giggled. “Deal.”

“I think other ponies tend to think of us as… unobtainable. Something to do with the horn and the wings, I’ll bet.”

“Princess stuff?”

“Princess stuff. Definitely princess stuff.”

I sighed. “Okay. I think I know what I have to do.”

“Yeah?”

I smiled. “Yeah. Thanks, Caddy.”

“Promise to update me?” Cadance begged.

I chuckled. “Pinkie promise.”

“Bye, Twilight.”

“Bye.”

The light from the pool faded slowly, and I was left alone in the darkened room.

I knew exactly what I had to do: tell Vinyl that I had no idea what to do.

It was only fair. I was confused and alone and new to all of this; I just wanted to know what was going on inside her head! But, as long as she wasn’t talking to me, that couldn’t happen.

I got up from the couch and to the door, closing it softly behind me.

I knew next to nothing about music.

That’s important. I like to sing, sure! Who doesn’t? But as far as actually writing music, or… or understanding music, I was very far behind what Vinyl might expect.

But that didn’t matter. What mattered is that I liked music. And she liked music.

I honestly don’t even know why I had a keyboard. Lucky coincidence, I guess. The thing was tucked between my desk and the wall, its top edge covered with dust, its keys likely never pressed.

I played a note.

The tone was… poor. I doubt the keyboard was in the best shape after sitting unplayed for so long.

And yet…

I played a simple chord.

It reminded me of her. Stable. Bright.

Another. What was that I’d read so long ago? One, four, five, six? One, six, four, five? Something about chords or progressions or notes or--

Bright, low, question, answer. I could hear it in my mind, the way the chords tangled into one another. A song in and of itself, right there: warm, dark, seeking, finding. One, six, five, four. Hope, defeat, tension, resolution. One, six, five, four. One, six, five, four.

And the words bubbled up from inside me before I knew it, whispered gently. “It’s like writing a song… where the lyrics are wrong…”

Right there. Had always been there.

Like magic.

In a panic, I began to dig through my desk drawers, singing all the while.

“The tune is a mess…”

It was here somewhere!

“A work in progress…”

Ah-ha!

I slammed the tape recorder down on my desk. A new favorite of mine for taking notes-- how perfect was that?

I hit record.

And the music came.

You're a super cool pony
With a winning smile
And I wanna let you know
That I've missed you a while

I don't think I'll ever get it right
Much to my dismay
What the right thing is to do
Or say

It's like writing a song
Where the lyrics are wrong
And the tune is a mess
Just a work in progress

I can't make it rhyme
No matter how hard I try
I keep screwing up
I just can't measure up
To you

I stopped the recording and sat back in my chair, trying desperately to catch my breath from my solo. The energy was still coursing through me, but the music was there. Was there forever. A kind of permanent magic.

It wasn’t perfect.

But, then, neither was I.

Author's Note:

Sorry the update took so long today, but I actually have a really good reason (headphones required) :raritywink: