Originally posted on my account
In an Instant
Octavia wasn't much of a city mare. Not that she disliked the cities per se, after all the concert halls she performed in were almost always located in the center of a given city or town's more cultured wards. While the grey earth pony much preferred to do smaller venues like garden parties and rural ceremonies, the bulk of her pay always would come from playing at old formal concert halls with dozens of other talented musicians. And since Octavia liked to be paid, she had to at least like parts of city life.
The densely populated urban sprawls worked like a bakers mixing bowl, forcibly combining ponies of all types and cultures into one unique blend of life. The cellist couldn't help but marvel at the various ways this natural synthesis created new styles of art, cuisine, music, and style. Unicorn culinary bases with pegasus flair: earth pony music given new form with unicorn bravura. Even when the experiments failed, another pony would often latch on to the spirit of the idea and take it in a wholly new direction that in turn opened itself to a myriad of new possibilities. The whole effect was simply wondrous to Octavia.
That said there were other things about the city she would never feel comfortable with: the same densely packed population that sparked innovation, iteration, and exploration of the arts, sciences, and cultures also fed into old classism that dated to times long thought past. The fortunate few sequestered themselves away in carefully maintained boroughs, each of which took great care in maintaining their segregation from the plebian masses.
Far below them were hordes of ponies that had never caught their lucky break and instead spent their lives going day to day with few prospects for the future. The crowded streets were littered with refuse casually discarded by all types of ponies in their daily travels. The constant undulating throngs of moving bodies made Octavia feel claustrophobic on more then one occasion. Then there was the noise, untold thousands of ponies talking over each other while construction crews worked day and night on project after project in a never-ending battle for modernization.
Yet for all she disliked about the cities personally, she had learned to find a certain charm in the madness thanks in no small part to her marefriend Vinyl Scratch. The ivory-coated unicorn made her living in the city nightlife as a DJ. In her scene, Vinyl was simply the best, bar none. Her timing, her sense of rhythm, and her ability to read a crowd were nearly uncanny. Like Octavia, Vinyl made her money in the cities. Clubs paid far better than most private affairs did, the notable exception being a few weeks ago when Vinyl had been selected to DJ the wedding of Princess Cadence and Shining Armor.
Octavia had never been more proud of her marefriend than when she had received the job, and the cellist had nearly died of shock when only three days after the wedding. Vinyl had taken Octavia out for a lovely dinner and a concert with a band they both enjoyed before the normally enthusiastic and headstrong unicorn had nervously knelt down and asked for Octavia's hoof in marriage. Octavia was slightly less proud that she had nearly suffocated Vinyl in a bone-crushing hug whilst enthusiastically shouting yes. It was their impending union that had brought them to this district of Manehatten today.
"So, where are Lyra and Bon Bon meeting us?" Vinyl asked as she kept pace beside her fiancé.
"When I last spoke with Lyra, she said she had made reservations for us all at The White Rose for lunch, then we could see a show or spend the day shopping." The earth pony smiled, happy for every moment spent with Vinyl.
"White Rose, huh?" Vinyl looked contemplative, at least to Octavia. The purple tinted sunglasses that hid the DJ's eyes from the world would deceive most ponies, but Octavia had almost two years of practice with reading the subtleties of Vinyl's body language. The little ways her ears would twitch when she was intently focused on something, the small quirks of her lips and the way she sucked her cheeks in when she was thinking things over. Where most ponies saw Vinyl as an enigma, Octavia saw an open book.
"That's the really fancy place down the hill from the theater strip, right?" the unicorn tilted her head towards Octavia.
"Yes, it's wonderful food, although," the cellist blushed lightly "They can be a bit…expensive." She gasped lightly when Vinyl stopped her just long enough to gently kiss her between the eyes.
"Tavi, when it comes to you, there ain't no price I won't pay. Now show me that smile!" Vinyl exclaimed with the largest grin she could physically muster. Octavia laughed in spite of Vinyl's linguistic butchering.
"Remind me to get you a grammar tutor for a wedding present." Octavia teased playfully. Vinyl giggled and kissed her fiancé's nose before replying.
"Come on, let's get some hustle in our trot, it looks like it's gonna rain soon."
Octavia nodded as she continued forward, albeit at a slightly faster pace. A cursory glance up to the skies showed that the Manehatten weather teams were nearly done assembling the planned rain event for the day.
Far above the city hundreds of Pegasi flew to and fro, placing clouds in a puzzle that covered Celestia's great sky until it was nothing more than an ashy grey. Stray patches of blue were dwindling away as the weather teams slowly worked towards their goal. Octavia was glad she was an earth pony on days like this. She couldn't imagine just how many complaints the local weather crews received every time they had to cover an otherwise beautiful day with dismal cloud coverage.
"Did you tell Lyra the news?" Vinyl asked as they walked.
"Not yet, I thought we could do that together." Octavia smiled shyly, a light flush on her cheeks. Vinyl smiled.
"Sounds like fun. I can't wait to see their faces when we tell them!" Vinyl giggled.
"Be nice, dear." Octavia grinned as she elbowed Vinyl's ribs playfully, eliciting a melodramatic protest from the energetic mare. Their walk continued relatively peacefully until they reached the intersection across from their destination.
The restaurant itself was situated at the bottom of a steep hill on the corner of a four-way intersection of roads. The couple found themselves stalled at the crosswalk as a small convoy of stallions lugging construction carts moved up the hill. To their right, situated under a large awning was a display board that was full of posters for local DJ's and basement shows. Vinyl Started towards it to get a better look, but she didn't get more than a step before Octavia called out to her, the street finally clear enough for them to cross.
Vinyl took her place astride Octavia, the white fur on her side briefly meshing with the grey fur of her lover's. She felt the tiniest of shivers run down Octavia's body from the slight touch. Octavia leaned closer to Vinyl just long enough to steal a tender nuzzle before their contact was dissolved. The DJ would have been more disappointed if the droplets of cold rain that slowly began to fall from the greyed out sky had not absorbed her attention. Quickly fleeing from the street, the pair took shelter under the burgundy cloth awning of the restaurant.
"Well, shall we go see if they're already inside?" Octavia smiled to Vinyl, a hint of anxiety catching Vinyl's attention. Vinyl made a small show of puffing out her chest and looking suave as she moved to the door and pulled it open with her magic.
"Madam." She said in her most eloquent voice as she motioned Octavia inside. Octavia giggled and kissed Vinyl on the cheek as she passed her.
"Such a gentlemare."
Vinyl grinned proudly as she followed Octavia in.
The interior of The White Rose was what more refined ponies called intimate and less refined ponies, like Vinyl, called cramped. The restaurant was roughly broken into two sections. In the bar area benches and tables were expertly carved from fine rosewood that had been polished to a rich luster that accented the natural red. Light from the candles that provided most of the illumination in the building cast a golden glow from nearly every wooden surface. In the dining area each table was covered with a pristine white cloth while all the seating cushions were sewn from royal purple and trimmed by luxurious gold rope. Vinyl estimated that the place could only sit approximately seventy-five ponies at a time, and fit perhaps another twenty-five to thirty in the large bar space that Vinyl was impressed with.
Squinting behind her purple-tinted glasses, Vinyl grinned as she spotted Lyra waving at them from a booth on the far wall of the restaurant. Motioning to Octavia the two made their way over to the waiting table with Lyra and Bon Bon.
"Heya Lyra, Bonnie!" Vinyl grinned broadly as she took a seat across from the pastel green unicorn. "How the hay have you two been?"
"Rockin' and Rollin' Scratch," Lyra hoofbumped with Vinyl "How've you two been?"
Vinyl's grin faltered slightly as she turned to her smirking fiancé.
"You wanna tell 'em, Tavi?" Vinyl asked, eliciting a sudden blush from the grey earth pony.
"Oh dear, is something wrong?" Bon Bon spoke up nervously, her brow furrowed in concern that mirrored the look on Lyra's face.
"Hm? Oh! No, no, not at all actually!" Octavia shifted in her seat, nervously chewing her bottom lip until Vinyl's reassuring arm wrapped around her shoulders. She looked over at the smiling unicorn and returned the smile as she found her courage again.
"Vinyl and I are getting married." She stated with a broad smile. Lyra and Bon Bon both gasped before gleefully congratulating them.
"That is simply wonderful news, girls!" Bon Bon beamed. Lyra clapped her front hooves together excitedly as she contained a squeal.
"You gotta tell me which one popped the question!" Lyra demanded keeping her voice barely hushed so as to not disturb the other customers. "I'll bet it was you, Octavia. Scratch never could take a hint that was less subtle then a stampede."
"Hey!" Vinyl pouted melodramatically. Octavia stifled a giggle and gave Vinyl a kiss on the cheek.
"Actually, Vinyl proposed it to me. It was very romantic." Octavia leaned against her fiancé, taking an almost sadistic pleasure in the way Vinyl shivered and blushed from the contact. She didn't miss the unicorns very subtle promise of vengeance later.
"I'm very happy for you two," Bon Bon said as she gave Lyra a sidelong hug with one arm.
The four mares paused their conversation long enough to place their orders with their waiter. Octavia and Lyra discussed their music work while Bon Bon and Vinyl gossiped about city life. The conversations barely slowed as their food arrived and lasted well after their plates were emptied and a young unicorn colt removed their dishes. It wasn't until their bill arrived that the conversation shifted.
"Say, I got an idea!" Vinyl beamed at her friends and fiancé. "How about I go check out that show stand we passed and see what's playing tonight, then after we walk around for a while and do some shopping we can catch a show or two and get some drinks to celebrate!"
"That sounds like fun to me. How about you two?" Octavia looked to Lyra and Bon Bon. The two exchanged a brief glance before smiling and nodding.
"That sounds great to me." Lyra said
"Yeah, we haven't had a night out in a long time." Bon Bon grinned brightly.
"Alright then Vinyl, we'll meet you across the street at the stand as soon as we take care of the bill." Octavia smiled and kissed the pale unicorn's cheek. Vinyl giggled and saluted playfully before she trotted out the doors. Octavia put her and Vinyl's share of the bill on the table as Lyra and Bon Bon each added their own stack of bits. The waiter soon swooped by to collect their money with a smile and wishes for a pleasant day.
Lyra sipped at the last of her drink before the three stood to leave. Their casual walk to the door was interrupted as the heavy door swung violently open, a light grey pegasus stallion rushing in. His fur matted from the rain and his eyes wide.
"Octavia? Is there an Octavia in here?" he shouted frantically. Octavia felt her heart skip a beat as she stepped forward.
"I'm Octavia," she said. "Wha-"
"There's been an accident. Hurry!" he didn't wait for a response and darted back outside.
Octavia's eyes went wide as her world seemed to stall. Her hooves moved of their own accord, pushing her through the door, Lyra and Bon Bon following close behind.
"It's okay…It's okay…" she whispered to herself in a futile chant. Her heart stopped as she got outside. The pale pegasus who had come inside for her was standing at the edge of the sidewalk, looking back at Octavia uncomfortably.
Just over halfway across the road Vinyl lay crumpled on her left side, her cries of pain muffled by the cold rain. Several feet away was one of the construction carts, now upturned on its side with its payload of tools and wood scattered about the street. Octavia didn't hear the pegasus as he took flight in search of help.
"Vinyl!" Octavia shouted as she ran headlong across the street, skidding to a stop as she reached the unicorns side. "It's okay Vinyl! It's okay!" she sobbed as she took in the scene before her. Vinyl's trademark glasses were broken into several pieces around her and a large gash on her forehead flowed blood, freely, onto the street.
"T-Tavi! I c-can't move! Oh Celestia, I can't move!" Vinyl cried. Lyra skidded up beside Octavia, using her magic to press a handkerchief over the gushing wound.
"You're gonna be okay, Scratch," Lyra forced a smile as she kept the pressure on the wound. "Help is on the way."
Vinyl's eyes squeezed shut tightly as she gritted her teeth in pain.
"I don't wanna die." She wept. Octavia immediately leaned over to kiss Vinyl's forehead.
"You're not going to die Vinyl, I promise. Your going to be okay, we'll be okay. I love you Vinyl, everything will be alright!" She forced a smile, though her teary eyes betrayed her inner fear.
Bon Bon ran up to them along with the unicorn that had waited on them inside. In his magical grasp were several folded tablecloths. The cream coated earth pony did her best to smile reassuringly, though she couldn't bring herself to speak. The waiter lowered two of the tablecloths over Vinyl as makeshift blankets while he held the third aloft as a rain shield. Bon Bon sat beside Lyra and took Vinyl's limp hoof in her own, hoping to provide some small comfort.
Octavia barely noticed what happened around her as she focused entirely on Vinyl. The blood from the gash had nearly overwhelmed Lyra's handkerchief. Vinyl's crying had slowed from open sobs to quiet whimpers and gasps. Her jaw trembled and the pained look on her face was slackening. It terrified Octavia more then anything she had ever experienced in her life.
"Vinyl? Vinyl, open your eyes." Octavia pleaded as she stroked the crippled mare's cheek. "Please Vinyl?"
Vinyl complied, slowly forcing her ruby eyes open, red and puffy from crying. She focused on the grey mare staring down at her with tear-streaked cheeks and pained eyes. Vinyl wanted nothing more than to embrace Octavia, and her inability to even twitch a muscle brought a fresh wave of tears to her own eyes.
"Tavi…" Vinyl gasped for breath "I'm sorry Tavi…I'm so sorry." She choked out between tired wheezes.
"It's not your fault Vinyl. It's going to be okay." Octavia reassured her while trying to keep her own worries at bay. Vinyl's breathing was worrying her, as was the way that her words were starting to slur together. "Just keep talking to me Vinyl, we'll get through this, I promise."
Octavia, Lyra, and Bon Bon did their best to keep Vinyl talking, even as Vinyl's speech gradually became slower and less cogent with every passing minute. None of the mares felt much relief as a team of Pegasi landed beside them, pulling an enclosed chariot painted white as snow with a red cross on the side. Out of the chariot sprang four unicorns, each bearing the white uniform of the Manehatten Emergency Response Corps.
"Make some room please." A brown stallion said as he took Octavia's place, his blue-tinged magic taking over the compress on Vinyl's forehead "Miss I will take over that, thank you." Lyra nodded mutely as she stepped back.
"Please, I'm her Fiancé," Octavia interjected as she moved slightly out of the way. The stallion paused momentarily to look at her with an expression of genuine surprise.
"Alright ma'am, what's your name?"
"Alright Octavia, I need you to stay right where she can see you. You can help keep her talking to us and fill in the missing information while we get her situated." Octavia nodded as she took a position that was out of the EMT's way, but still where Vinyl could watch her.
"Good afternoon young filly, I'm Salve." The paramedic started, calmly, with a gentle smile "Can you tell me your name please?"
"V-Vinyl. Vinyl Scratch." She answered quietly.
Octavia felt helpless as she watched the unicorns work, helpless as they loaded Vinyl into the ambulance, and helpless as she sat in the cramped cabin while they worked diligently on her love. More then once she felt a lump forming in the back of her throat as the sting of tears threatened to escape her eyes. Each time she forced it away.
'I have no right to cry now.' she thought, angry with herself 'Vinyl needs me to be strong. I won't let her down.'
Numbness settled into her heart for the duration of the ride. She didn't have the slightest idea how long the flight had taken when they finally landed, nor when they escorted her to a private waiting room with only old magazines, a fake hibiscus plant designed to look as if it were eternally in bloom, and a cheap analogue clock mounted to the wall.
Octavia tried to process what had happened, where everything had gone wrong. Her mind flashed to thoughts of waking up, her first sight being Vinyl's face, relaxed and peaceful in a deep sleep; her electric blue mane draped across her eyes and her muzzle open as the mare snored lightly.
Octavia's thoughts were cut short when the door creaked open. Timidly, with their ears flat and their eyes red, Lyra and Bon Bon entered the room. There were no words, no hollow platitudes as they approached Octavia. The only sound came from the gentle clop of their steps across the worn tile floor.
Lyra quietly sat to her right; Bon Bon sat to her left. Together they wrapped her in a loving embrace. None of them spoke; there was nothing to say. Their loving warmth enveloped the grey mare. Octavia felt her throat tighten while a comforting hoof gently rubbed her back. Her vision blurred with unspent tears that pleaded for release and, finally, in the embrace of her friends her defenses crumbled to dust. With a shudder and a choked sob all her emotions poured free of her soul.
Time passed unnoticed by all three mares until a gentle knock on the door gave them all a startle. An ochre-coated unicorn mare with emerald eyes and a straw blonde mane quietly made her way into the room, the mark adorning her flank depicted a caduceus set in front of a heart. She smiled sympathetically at the distraught mares as she made her way over to them, a file held aloft beside her in a pale orange glow.
"I'm sorry for interrupting," she started softly. She had a motherly quality to her voice, a sort of reassuring undertone that seemed almost magically crafted to put ponies at ease, irrespective of their individual plights. "I am Dr. Grace. I work for the hospital's Social Services Department. If there's anything you need while you wait I will get it for you, be it coffee or information. Now, which one of you is Octavia?"
The cellist composed herself as best she could before she raised her hoof.
"I am, is Vinyl going to be alright?" she asked in a near pleading tone. Grace smiled lightly and sat across from the three mares.
"Currently Vinyl is stable, the doctors were just finishing stitching and bandaging the wound on her head. She is responsive and about as feisty as a mare can be after what she went through, which is good sign." The unicorn explained calmly. Octavia smiled a bit before a nagging thought returned her features to a nervous frown.
"But?" she asked, even as the prospect of an answer terrified her. Grace offered her a small look of sympathy as she decided how to phrase the information.
"She is doing very well overall, but at the moment she is paralyzed from the neck down." Bon Bon and Lyra gasped, the former covering her mouth with her hoof, both mares stared in disbelief at the unicorn before them. Octavia felt her world starting to crumble around her. Her lavender eyes stared blankly at the ochre mare as she tried to process the information. Grace continued to speak, but Octavia didn't hear a word of it. Voices reached her ears like faded sounds from a distant room, hollow and dull. The hooves of her friends that minutes earlier had provided some semblance of comfort and succor now felt of nothing but weight on her shoulders.
"Wi…Will…" the words escaped Octavia's throat in barely a whisper. She cleared her throat and took a shaky breath in an attempt to relax. Her jaw trembled as she blinked quickly in an attempt to control the moisture welling up again in her eyes. "Will she get better?"
Grace considered the question carefully, her mouth opening slightly as she decided how to phrase things. "Since Vinyl still has feeling in her extremities there is a good chance that she will walk again. We'll know more as things progress." She smiled and reached out with a reassuring hoof to Octavia's shoulder. "I'm going to go see how she is. I'll be back in a few minutes, I promise."
Octavia managed a nod. It was all she could do at the moment. The ochre mare smiled gently before she made her way out of the room. As the door softly clicked shut, Octavia put her head in her hooves and wept. Lyra spoke, but the words didn't reach her. How could they, really?
After a time, Grace returned, gentle smile firmly affixed upon her face. Octavia wiped her face dry on a tissue and managed to compose herself to at least an acceptable level.
"Ms. Octavia, if you'll follow me. She's ready now." Octavia nodded as she shakily stood and walked to the door.
"Will we be able to see her too?" Bon Bon asked meekly.
"The Doctor would prefer only one visitor at a time for tonight. As soon as Octavia is done I can take one of you back there, alright?" she offered an apologetic smile.
"Okay, thanks Ma'am." Lyra replied before turning to Octavia "Take your time, Tavi. We'll wait here." Octavia forced a small smile, nodding as she followed Grace out of the room.
The ochre unicorn led her down a dimly lit corridor, a large and bustling nurses station occupied the space to the left of them while the opposite wall was lined with rooms, each walled with shuttered glass. Few seemed to have the lights on, yet the five ponies that occupied the nurses station moved at a clipped pace, most of them seemingly occupied with several conversations simultaneously. Grace led her towards the end of the wing where she stopped outside of a darkened room.
"Here we are." She said as she turned to face Octavia "One last thing before you go in: Vinyl has a bit of a concussion, it's minor and shouldn't have any lasting effects, but for the time being it has made her a touch sensitive to light and sound for a while. So just keep the lights down and your voice soft. While you're in there, I'll go fetch the doctor so he can speak with you when you're ready. Okay?"
"Y-yes." Octavia stuttered her ears folding back nervously "Thank you for all your help." Octavia gasped in surprise as Grace pulled her into a gentle hug.
"It's what I'm here for Miss," she smiled again as she released the grey mare, "now go, she needs you."
Grace departed quickly, leaving a nervous Octavia to stand, alone, outside the glass door. She took a breath to steady her frayed nerves, before she pushed the door open and stepped inside. The room was dim, the few lights that were on cast a candle-like glow about the room. In the center of the room was the bed on which Vinyl rested.
She was laid on her back, neck held in place by a white medical brace. Wires connected her to various monitors and IV's playing an out-of-tune melody. A thick bandage was wrapped around her head, covering the gash that left her snowy fur tinted with blood. Octavia's heart felt like it was clamped in a vice as she took the sight in. Quietly she approached the bed, sitting beside her love.
"Vinyl?" She began softly, the unicorn's brow furrowed in discomfort momentarily before she opened her eyes. A genuine smile crossed Octavia's muzzle as she gazed into those ruby orbs.
"Tavi…" Vinyl greeted, her voice soft and raw.
"I'm here Vinyl, it's going to be alright now." Octavia reached up with a hoof, carefully running it through Vinyl's mane. She made a note to ask Lyra and Bon Bon if they could make a stop to an optometrist and get a replacement pair of glasses for Vinyl. The DJ was very nearsighted. The unicorn managed a small smile before tears welled up in her eyes.
"Tavi…I-I'm so sorry." She choked out "I'm so s-sorry Tavi. I-I ruined everything."
"W-what? No, no, Vinyl. It's all right; none of this is your fault! You did absolutely nothing wrong. It was just an accident. Just an accident." Octavia did her best to hug the weeping mare. "Everything will be alright."
"Tavi…I…If you don't want to marry me anymore…I'll understand…" Octavia recoiled from Vinyl like the unicorn had caught fire and grown spines. She stared at Vinyl, hoping she'd heard a sick joke, instead all she saw was the look of a broken mare.
"Tavi, I can't m-move," Vinyl stated as the tears flowed down her cheeks. "I can't walk, I can't DJ, I can't even twitch my tail." She grit her teeth in frustration. "I can't ask you to suffer for me…I can't do that to you…I can't burden you like that…" She squeezed her eyes shut as her voice began to break "I can't…" Vinyl's words faded into broken sobs. Octavia, in spite of the tears rolling down her own cheeks felt a smile forming on her lips and an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh. She wiped the tears from Vinyl's eyes.
"Vinyl, listen to me," she stated firmly, waiting for Vinyl to calm down enough to focus on her, "I, Octavia Philharmonica, take you Vinyl Scratch, to be my wife." She leaned in so her forehead gently pressed up against Vinyl's. "To have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; till death do us part."
Vinyl watched her with those ruby eyes, unblinking and full of fear and pain, but also love, pure and true. Octavia smiled as she gently pressed her lips to Vinyl's.
"I love you, Vinyl Scratch. You could never burden me, and I'll never leave you."