-All The Roadrunning-
(Dire Straits; Emmylou Harris; Mark Knopfler)
The sun had already passed its zenith when Octavia woke to a house that was surprisingly empty, surprisingly dull. She didn't live a lavish existence, didn't collect fritter away her savings on oakwood end-tables or mahogany-backed mirrors. What furniture she had was simple, hard-wearing, and had been worn hard accordingly. On the top of her dressing-table, touched slightly by the afternoon sun, lay an unfinished letter of- what? Resignation? Protest? Apology? It seemed to veer from one to the other. She groaned even to think of it, rolled over to lay on her back and quiz the ceiling.
The situation, as it was- banished from the orchestra. On remand, technically, sitting out as penance for the crime of actually playing her best for once. Awaiting judgement at the end of a two-week decision making period, her fate held in the uncertain hooves of the board of directors- a board of directors still furiously trying to manage the damage she had caused. She had left the house to buy food, and to make some pitiful efforts at trimming her garden; that was all.
Very distantly, muffled by the closed windows, she could hear the sound of somepony hammering at her door.
"Octavia?" Vinyl's voice said, drifting at the very edge of the audible range. "Octavia? Tavi? We need to talk."
Grudgingly, she dragged herself from her bed and downstairs, nearly knocking over one of her flowerpots as she did so, and opened the door. Vinyl marched in without greeting, swept the room with her eyes. She was carrying saddlebags.
"Hello to you, too, Vinyl. How have you been?" Octavia yawned, all politeness and no content. Vinyl shot her a look, took in her appearance; her eyes were narrowed, flashing, calculating.
"Occupied. Making sure you still have a job at the end of next week. Your maestro's an idiot," Vinyl seethed, before scouring the room again and tossing her head at the collection of bottles on the kitchen counter. "How much did you drink?"
Octavia cast her mind back; the second day, crushing unemployment. A few bottles of wine along with her normal groceries, bought with her last paycheck. Peaceful blackness. "As much as I wanted to, and not a drop less," she hedged for lack of anything better. "I'm a grown mare, anyway. I can do as I like. What's this you say about the maestro?"
"We had words," Vinyl said darkly. Octavia was struck by the thought of her, cool and ruthless, cutting the maestro apart with poorly formed sentences and barely concealed malice.
"I told him that if he couldn't handle talent in his orchestra, we'd find somepony who could. Read these," Vinyl said, and took out a bundle of paper from her bags. "I identified eleven places you'd do well in. Pick three to audition for."
Octavia scanned the paper, eyes growing wider with each page. "Canterlot, Fillydelphia, Manehattan...Vinyl, these are all in different towns! I know that needs must if it comes to it, but to just pack up and leave Ponyville? I don't want to abandon everything I've build up here."
"You won't. You'll do three auditions to spread your name and back up the story. Then next week I'll tell the maestro you've been offered a position at the Canterlot Harmonics. The maestro there went to the same school as yours, and they despise each other. He's going to double your paycheck and whip the rest of the Ponyville orchestra into shape, just to spite Canterlot, and you're going to accept it and then play however you want," Vinyl said, shaking her head disdainfully as she rattled it off.
"We're manipulating him? But, Vinyl...That feels like cheating."
"Welcome to the music business," the unicorn snorted.
Just for a second, Octavia imagined a much younger Vinyl Scratch, extroverted, generous and wide-eyed, trying to make it on her own in the music industry.
"So. Do I get a thank you for saving your career?" Vinyl asked, her attention returning to the wine bottles. She was peering at the labels almost academically.
"Of course, Vinyl. I would kiss you, but I've got the most terrible morning breath. Why, pray tell, are you so interested in those wine bottles?" Octavia asked, looking a little more closely at the bundle of papers on the table.
"I like wine. Your taste is terrible," she said. "Invite me next time. I'll bring the good stuff."
"Oh, a connoisseur? Perhaps I should call you Vino. I'm afraid I was rather more interested in the quantity than the quality when I bought it," Octavia replied absently.
"You worried me. Shutting yourself up like this," Vinyl said quietly. Almost cautiously.
Octavia took a moment. Chewed over her thoughts. Honesty or tact, she wondered? How could she explain that, at first, she'd been angry- angry at herself for getting jealous and wanting those stupid glasses, angry at Vinyl for suggesting her 'condition' and ultimately getting her into this mess? But she wanted to avoid hurting her, since she'd gone to such lengths to fix the whole thing. Did she wanted to avoid that so badly that she would lie to her?
She realised, with a sinking feeling, that the answer was yes.
"Forgive me, Vinyl. I wasn't feeling myself. At least now you know how I felt when you pulled your little disappearing act."
"So I do," Vinyl shrugged. "Can I take a look around while you read? You've got a weird house."
"You mean 'interesting'. I see no harm in it, so long as you stay out of my bedroom. It's a little too much of a mess to warrant showing."
"That so? Fine," Vinyl said, and wandered off towards the stairs. A few seconds later, she came back wearing a smirk. "Just to warn you- if I ever get into your bedroom, I won't waste time looking at the carpet."
Octavia spluttered and felt her cheeks light up. "Very funny," she scowled. "Uncouth DJs these days..."
"Not as bad as boozy cellists," Vinyl finished. "...you look a bit more cheerful, anyway."
"So, the punishment for being gloomy is having to sit through your comedy routine?" Octavia snorted. "One of these days, Vinyl Scratch, I shall have to teach you how to make a joke without propositioning me."
"Not sure that's a skill I want to learn."
"Thanks, Vi. As bad as your jokes are, it's nice that you try," Octavia sighed.
"I'm 'Vi' now...? Fine by me. You finished picking?"
"Well...I probably ought to at least try out for Canterlot, since that's where we say I'm going. Beyond that, I could stand a trip to Manehattan, and my mother lives near Fillydelphia. I'd like to visit," she replied.
"I'll be going with you, you know. Live-in manager."
"All the more reason to visit my mother, then. I can introduce you."
Vinyl looked at her doubtfully. "You're either brave, or crazy."
"Crazy, I expect," Octavia replied. "But that's never stopped anypony."
"Cool with me. I'll try not to wreck your mom's house," Vinyl said with a shrug, and drew a glass of water from the sink. "Drink this."
"Duh. To get rid of your morning breath," Vinyl replied. "I'm collecting on that kiss."
A/N: Had to end with a little fluffy moment there. HAD to.