Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

The Darkest Hour · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Time Enough For Wub
Vinyl Scratch gazed up through the high windows of the cleared-out Manehattan warehouse, raising her glasses for a moment, and soaking up the sight of the rising sun. She grinned, feeling the surge of adrenaline that dawn always brought her, which in this case was augmented by whatever had been circulating in the pungent haze the club goers had left behind. She then turned to watch as a few straggling ponies still staggered their way toward the warehouse’s exit.

Her eyes turned back to her turntables and mixers, and she frowned. “Hey bro,” she called to a black-shirted worker dodging among the nearby cables and amplifiers. The earth pony looked back at her. “Do you need me to clean up, or…?”

He shrugged. “We’re closed ‘til mid-week. You can pack it up or leave it for your next show; I don’t think management cares.”

“Sweet,” Vinyl said, giving him a toothy grin.

She stepped off the platform and tailed the last few ravers at a distance. She hoofed on her headphones, then hoofed through her music player, choosing something with an airy, sweet, pulsing intro.

The bass dropped right as she stepped through the door. Her head bobbed with it on instinct, and the corners of her mouth tightened into a half-smile. Light hit her coat, warming her from without, even as the sick beats of the music warmed her from within.

“Dang, hungry,” she said to nopony.

Vinyl turned down an alley that led back out to the main street. She could see hoof traffic and taxi-carts rolling by, even at such an early hour. But as she watched, and let the music move her, she envisioned the tall buildings of the city rise and fall around her like thick waveforms, dwarfing her, and leaving her to gaze in wonder.

A muffled sound intruded through her music. Vinyl paused, finding herself at the intersection of another alley.

There, in the middle of the alley, lay a unicorn.

Vinyl blinked, raised her glasses, and looked closer. By size and mouth-shape, she guessed it was a stallion. His singed and dirtied coat had probably once been light blue. His long mane and mass of facial hair were in even worse condition, likely having started as white, but now looking scorched, dingy, and bedraggled.

After a moment of staring, she realized that his eyes were open and his mouth was moving. She fumbled as she hoofed the headphones off.

“—me, please,” he breathed. His voice was weak, but deep, and sounded heavy with age.

Vinyl fidgeted. “Dude… are you all right?”

He tried to raise himself on his forelegs, but they gave out, and his teeth clacked as his jaw hit the ground again. “Please… it's terribly important…”

She looked toward the end of the alley. “Uh… do you want me to… hail you a cab or something?”

“No!” He looked at her with intense golden eyes, and a firm set to his jaw. Then he winced again, and hoofed at his head. “No, I don’t remember who, but I need to find… someone.”

Vinyl took a single tentative step away from him. “Okay, well… good luck with that?”

“Wait, please.” He struggled to his hooves, this time succeeding, and staggered toward her slowly. Vinyl drew back a few steps, but then paused as she noticed the scorch marks on the spot where he had lain. She looked from side to side in the alley, noticing how the trash cans, bits of rubble, and other junk, had all pushed away from the scorched spot.

She pointed a hoof toward some of the nearby stuff. “Were you… like, doing something in here?”

The stallion slowed his advance, and held a hoof to his temple. “I remember casting a spell.” He panted with exertion. “I’m sorry, that’s all I remember.”

Vinyl tensed, but forced herself to laugh. “Bad trip, eh?”

He closed his eyes and stiffened, faltering on one of his legs. “I need…” He gritted his teeth. “I need somewhere to rest, to think things through…”

Vinyl noticed as the music coming from her headphones changed, even though they were just hanging around her neck. The sound was harsh and full of modulation, but the bass thudded hard enough to make the coat on the back of her neck bristle with excitement.

Vinyl smiled. “Hey, why not, the night’s been epic, and my place ain’t far. I got couch space if you wanna crash!”

Vinyl jolted awake to the sight of hot, burning sunlight trying to blast its way through her eyelids. She squinted her still-closed eyes and tried to bat it away, eventually hoofing toward her nightstand for her glasses.

They weren’t there. She muttered a curse, and hoofed around the bed, growing more frustrated… before touching her head, and realizing they were there. She cursed again as she lowered them into place, then sat up, blinking. Her tiny bedroom was disheveled chaos, just as she liked it; she noticed the clock, and figured she was waking with sundown, also just as she liked it; but something was wrong. She couldn’t place the feeling, but down deep, she knew things weren’t as they should be.

A scent wafted by, intense and savory. She sniffed. Her mouth watered, and she dimly recalled forgetting to grab something to eat after work the previous night—

That was when she noticed the chair she'd propped-up underneath her doorknob, and the night’s details came back to her.

Vinyl stepped down the short, bare hallway slowly, wincing at every strange clink and scrape she heard coming from the front room of her apartment. As she made her way past the bathroom, she jumped at the sound of a loud bang. It was followed by a muffled curse, and then the faint sparkling sound of a unicorn’s horn coming alight.

She peeked around the corner to her tiny kitchen, and saw the stallion. He was bent over and wiping at a large spill on the red, tiled floor. He looked different, though; Vinyl noticed he was free of dirt, his mane and tail were cut much shorter, and his facial hair had been groomed down into a trim goatee. She took a long breath, trying not to think of him as handsome, and trying instead to think of what she was going to do with the weird street pony who she’d taken into her home.

He looked up, spotted her, and smiled. The corners of his eyes crinkled a bit with age, but there was warmth in them.

“And I thought I was tired,” he said, his deep voice carrying a sense of amusement.

Vinyl blushed as she stepped out from around the corner. “Heh. Yeah, I work nights.”

He nodded, then looked down at the mess at his hooves. “Well, for my sake, I’m glad you do, miss—?”

“Vinyl Scratch,” she said, striking a pose. “Also known as DJ-P0N3, also known as the sickest DJ ever to lay waste to a Manehattan dance floor!”

“I see.” He started mopping things up again, working the hoof towel back and forth in his magic. “And what exactly are you sick with, if you don’t mind my asking?”

She blinked at him. “Oh, sorry bro. No, it’s just a figure of speech. It’s…” She looked over at the small bar-top next to the kitchen, and her eyes settled on a plate of cooked haybacon sandwiches between two glasses of dark wine. Then she spotted the open bottle, and her pulse quickened as she stared at the simple lettering on its brown label.

The stallion smiled again. “I thought that making you a meal was the least I could do, to thank you for helping me in when I was so… lost. And for the use of your grooming implements, as well as your quite remarkable in-home showering device…”

“Dude,” she interrupted. “Why’d you open Octy’s bottle?!”

He cocked his head, then looked over at the bar. “Oh, I’m sorry… I thought wine would be appropriate, considering?”

Vinyl stomped toward him. “Well you thought wrong, dipstick! Octy’s bottle is…” She glanced at the bar, and cringed. “...Was… important. Maybe the most important thing I have! ...Or, had.”

He took a step back. “I’m sorry. I… don’t understand.”

She hung her head for a moment, then took one of the glasses in her magic, and drained it in a single gulp. A moment later, she stuck her tongue out, gagging. “Celestia’s beard, it’s just like her! Disgusting, awful… blech!”

“This ‘Octy’ must be quite the interesting pony,” he said slowly.

“What? No! I don’t mean that she’s disgusting, I just… have you tried this stuff?”

His lips pursed into a smile. “I’ll confess to giving it a tiny sip. I thought it wasn’t bad.”

Vinyl shook her head, then lit her horn, refilled her glass, and drained it again. The bitter taste made her shiver. “Ugh. Yeah, she gave it to me when… I moved here. Said that I should drink it if I ever… wanted to.”

He furrowed his brow. “I suppose one does wish to have some wine from time to time…”

She threw her head back in frustration. “Yeah, but that wasn’t what she meant! It never was the words she said; it was the way she said them.” Vinyl poured from the bottle again, this time only managing to get a half-glass out of it. She stared for a moment at the dark liquid, rendered darker by her violet sunglasses. “All right, well, now you know who I am, and you know what Octy’s bottle was; but I don’t know who you are. Who are you, bro?”

The stallion’s smile turned sad, and he sighed. “I wish I could tell you.”

“What, you on the lam or something?”

“I don’t remember who I am,” he said, his tone exasperated. “In fact, I don’t remember much of anything from before you found me.”

Vinyl clacked her teeth together, shrugged, and finished off her wine.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, but with all due respect, how can you just do that?”

“How can I not,” she said, hanging her head again. “It’s Octy’s bottle. Now it’s open, and I have to drink it, before it’s all just… gone.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. His tone seemed genuine, even though the words themselves sounded dull and overplayed to her ears.

“Mmm. Yeah.” She shook her head. “So what do you think you were on if you ended up in a burned-out alley and forgot your name? More than wine, if you ask me.”

He chuckled. “I told you, I think it was a spell. I was looking for something. Something important.”

“Must not be that important if you forgot about it.”

“Yes, but forgetting who I am, on top of it?” He paused, then gestured toward his flank. “What do you make of this?”

She looked, and blushed, and levitated her empty glass back over to the bar. “I’d give it a five, maybe a six, tops. I dunno. I could go seven, if it’s just that you look kinda old, but you’re not actually, like super-old.”

His jaw worked its way open. “...Excuse me?”

Vinyl rolled her eyes. “Five, then; obviously way too old.”

“...I meant the cutie mark.”

“Oh.” Her blush intensified, and her eyes refocused on the sinuous line of grey that spiraled over a field of twinkling lights. “Heh, kinda looks the way a song does on a visualizer. Like stars going nova while you ride out on the beat.”

A look of concern touched his eyes. “The stars… going nova?”

“Yeah.” She shrugged. “How ‘bout we call you ‘Nova’ ‘til you remember more?”

He nodded. “Sure. Just… something that you said there…”

She raised his glass in her magic. “Uh, you gonna finish this, bro?”

He laughed. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

It wasn’t long before Vinyl’s stomach asserted its need for food in no uncertain terms. The better part of an hour was lost to Nova fussing in the kitchen, either preparing food from Vinyl’s dubious reserves, or cleaning up after another of the succession of items she craved. For her part, when she wasn’t devouring his latest creation, she was sitting heavily upon the stool, sprawling her forelegs across the bar, and staring off into nothing.

“I drank the bottle,” Vinyl said, dropping the statement like a beat into the silence.

“I noticed,” Nova said, scrubbing at a plate in the sink.

She raised her head and tried to fix her gaze on him. “You don’t get it. With the bottle gone, it’s over. Now I can’t go back. Not even if I wanted to.” She snorted. “Like I’d want to.”

Nova looked at her. “You seem to say things like that quite a lot. If I didn’t know better, which I don’t, I’d say you were trying to convince yourself of it, more than me.”

“Why should I go back? I’ve got…” She raised her hooves, gesturing indistinctly. “You know… the job of my dreams, this sweet apartment…” A laugh broke out in her midsection, but it faltered, and she started coughing. “Random old dudes crashing in my pad...“

“I know you keep saying that, but I’m not that old,” Nova said, first smiling, then frowning. “At least, I’m pretty sure I’m not.”

Vinyl shrugged. “Hey, whatever, bro. You seem all right. Last dude I had over was more of a jerk, and didn't make me any food.”

Nova’s frown deepened. “I’m sure this won’t make me sound any less old, but… I hope you're being careful with the company you keep? Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for your hospitality, but not everypony is who they seem to be.”

“Pssh, now you even sound like Octy; boringness personified.” She waved a hoof at him. “Go on, tell me something interesting about yourself. Anything you can remember. Doesn’t matter what.”

He set a plate down in the sink, then washed and dried his forehooves, visibly stalling for time. He looked at her with uncertainty. “I think I came here to look for somepony. I think… I’m mad at them. I mean, I don’t just feel mad sitting here, of course, but I think they did something worth being mad about.”

Vinyl grinned. “So you’re some kinda private investigator, eh? Maybe you got too close to someone you were tailing, and they jumped you.”

He shook his head. “That doesn’t sound right. Not that I can’t pick out the wrong bits, of course. Just… whoever it is, they’re powerful. Dangerous, even. And… I have to stop them.”

Silence fell upon the conversation.

“I’m sorry,” he said, looking away from her. “Whatever I’m mixed up in, it doesn’t have to be your problem. I can just go.”

“No way, bro. You opened the bottle. This is bigger than both of us now.”

Nova chuckled. “You can be a bit impulsive, you know.”

Vinyl shrugged. “I don’t see you complaining.”

He gave her a warm smile. “I suppose not. No, I’m very, very lucky that you found me, and that you’ve taken me even a little bit seriously.” He laughed. “And that you didn’t try to kill me when I opened your bottle.”

“Octy’s bottle,” Vinyl said automatically.

“Of course.”

The wine wore off sometime in the early morning hours. Vinyl slumped even harder in her seat, cradling her head and groaning.

“That can happen when you overdo it, you know,” Nova said.

Vinyl gave him an obscene gesture with her forelegs. “Thanks for the advice, dad.”

She felt pressure on the sides of her head. Confusion overtook her as Nova used his forehooves to bring her head up to his eye level. She studied his eyes, and blushed a bit from the close distance. They were nice eyes, she decided; maybe she could go as high as a seven just for those.

He tilted his head back and forth, looking deep into her eyes. “I don’t remember much, but I do think I was pretty good with magic, and I think I know something to help with this, if you trust me.”

“Lay it on me,” she said, grinning.

Nova rolled his eyes, but smiled. He lit his horn. Sparks of power surged and danced around it.

Vinyl’s mouth went slack from surprise. “Uh, bro… what are you—?”

He leaned his head forward, and an arc of white light jumped between their horns.

Vinyl jerked back, going rigid. A sensation like cold fire danced across her brain. She overbalanced on her seat, but Nova’s grip on her head kept her from falling.

When it ended, she slumped forward again, panting. She looked up at him, prepared to tell him off, but paused, realizing that she could think clearly. Instead, she smiled, and cuffed him with a forehoof. “Dude, that’s awesome! You gotta teach me that one. I could use that!”

Nova laughed and set his forehooves down. “Well, don’t get too impressed; I’m pretty sure the effects of that spell are temporary. The real cure for too much wine is a mix of getting some food—which you’ve done—and some water, followed by a lot of coffee. Which I don’t think that you have? Or at least, I couldn’t find any.”

Vinyl stuck her tongue out. “I used to make it myself, but it never came out how I like it. I figure, why bother trying when I can just buy it at the place a few streets over, and they’re open all night anyway, and it always tastes good?”

“It probably won’t make me sound less old if I guess it costs a lot more to go buy it each time than to make it yourself, will it?”

“Not even a chance,” she said, laughing.

They set out for the coffee shop amid the morning’s early street-lit hours. Vinyl led them on a well-known route, which let her focus on watching Nova’s reaction to the city around them. He stared upward with wide eyes and a muzzle that was scrunched tight.

“First time in the city, pops?”

He blinked, shaking his head. “I’ve seen cities before, but this... “

She laughed. “Heh, some private investigator. You must be from someplace like Ponyville if you ain’t seen a big city before.”

Nova stopped. “What did you say?”

Vinyl stopped as well, and turned to face him. “I said you must be from some nowhere town if you—”

“No. No, the name you said.”

She furrowed her brow. “What, do you mean Ponyville?”

An unreadable look crossed his face. “That name sounds familiar.”

“Well, yeah, how couldn’t it? Everything these last few years with Nightmare Moon, and Princess Twilight, and the Elements, and bugbears, and even the new girl… I tell ya, Octy said that I was crazy to leave, but I think she’s the crazy one, staying.”

Nova’s eyes narrowed. “New girl?”

“Twilight’s student, Starlight Glimmer.” Vinyl shook her head. “Real piece of work, that one.”

Nova blinked. His breathing deepened. His stance widened, and he looked down at the ground, eventually holding a hoof up to his head.

“What’d I say?” Vinyl asked.

“It’s all right,” Nova said, wincing. “I just... “ He met Vinyl’s eyes, and his hard expression softened. “Don’t we still need to get you some coffee?”

She pointed a hoof at him. “Don’t do that.”


“That.” She frowned. “Not telling me. Just looking at me like I’m some doofus who can’t handle whatever it is. Because I can!”

“I’m sorry.” He raised a hoof toward her shoulder, but stopped and set it back down. “There’s still so much I don’t remember, but I’m quite sure it’s a lead.” He frowned. “Please, let’s get some coffee. I need to clear my head.”

They walked in silence for a few moments, but then Vinyl groaned in frustration. “Bro, whatever’s going on, you need to relax and open up about it.” She lit her horn, raised her headphones from her neck, and floated them over to him. “Here, put this on. I’ll play ya some sick stuff I like with when things are down.”

Nova looked at the headphones with uncertainty, but then lit his horn and put them on. “All right, what do I—”

She flicked them on with her magic, and he startled. Vinyl grinned, and bobbed her head instinctively, reliving in her mind the experience of listening to the track she’d put on for him. It started out with rapid-fire chugs on a guitar before a heavy, funky beat kicked in.

Nova looked at her with furrowed brows. “Is it supposed to be this loud?” he shouted.

Vinyl nodded, and set off toward the coffee shop again.

Nova started to bob his head a little. “This is interesting,” he said, following her. “It’s so… chaotic. Powerful. Destructive.”

Vinyl laughed. “I like listening to stuff that amplifies my feeling, even when I’m on the down and out. Just feel it to the full, you know?”

Nova stopped. He stared at seemingly nothing. Vinyl came up next to him, studying the hardness in his eyes, and the way his nostrils flared.

He started sweating.

Vinyl lit her horn and turned the headphones off. He slowly raised a hoof, removed them, and gave them back to her. “Sorry, Vinyl. I don’t think that’s my kind of music.”

“Yeah right,” she said, setting the headphones back down around her neck. “You remembered something.”

He nodded.

“Something… big?”

“Not everything.” He looked at her, and gave her a small smile. “Just bits and pieces. Bigger ones, though.”

“Okay, cool…”

He looked her in the eyes. “I think I have to go now.”

Vinyl’s jaw fell. “Wait, you… what?”

He said, looked away. “I need to go somewhere, and…” He shook his head. “I don’t think you’d want to follow.”

“No.” She stamped a hoof and frowned at him. “No, no, you don’t just get to drop into my life, and open Octy’s bottle, and then run out, and leave me wondering what it was all about.”

A look of sadness came over him. “I agree,” he said. “It’s not the way that you deserve to be paid back for your kindness. Especially if I've opened up old wounds.” He looked down the street toward the one lit-up building. “The life you have here is… amazing, though. You don’t deserve to have that jeopardized.”

“What in the actual buck are you talking about?!”

“I need to get to Ponyville.”

Vinyl took a step back. “Why Ponyville?”

He sighed. “I’m working on that, but one of the pieces I saw… something unthinkable is going to happen, and I think the only way to stop it is to find Starlight Glimmer.”

“And when you find her, what are you going to do?”

Nova’s look was equal parts determined and plaintive. “I don’t know.”

Vinyl poked him with a hoof. “How come you think I wouldn’t want to go?”

He shrugged. “From everything you’ve said about this ‘Octy,’ I assumed…”

“You don’t know anything.” She frowned. “The bottle’s gone now. It’s not gonna sit there staring at me when I get home too late, or if I forget to clean stuff up, or…” She waved her hoof, wracking her brain for another example. “I dunno. It’s really over now! Like, really for real!" She shrugged. "I can do whatever I want now.”

Nova raised a hoof toward her, but hesitated. “I’m so sorry…”

She grimaced. “Would you just bucking touch me if you’re going to?!”

He drew back with momentary surprise, but then composed himself, and draped a foreleg over her shoulder. “All right, then, Vinyl. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me too,” she said, savoring his warmth for a moment before rising up and grabbing him in a vise-like hug.

They caught a cab that took them to the train station, where they bought tickets for the first train in the morning.

Grey dawn had only just begun to creep over Manehattan as they boarded. Vinyl sprung for a good sleeping car, which cleared out most of the bits she had on her, but which neither of them regretted as they slept through the whole day-long trip to Ponyville.

Dusk was thick upon the town as the pair stepped off the train. Nova looked out at it with a mix of curiosity and trepidation. “And you’re sure that you can get us a meeting with Starlight Glimmer?”

Vinyl smiled. “I know a friend of hers. Used to call me up at odd hours to book gigs at the last minute, and paid in candy half the time. I figure she owes me one.”

“Sounds like a plan. And… ‘Octy?’”

“No,” Vinyl said quickly. “One pony’s damage at a time, and you're up first.”

Vinyl knew a good inn with a second floor overlook that gave a view of the town square, and she left Nova sitting staring out at it as she made a brief trip over to Sugarcube Corner. It took some persuading to keep Pinkie from throwing her a “Welcome-back-a-versary” party on the spot, but Vinyl eventually got through to her.

“Sure, no problem!” Pinkie beamed. She leaned in for a cartoonishly conspiratorial wink. “So I guess you’re coming back to patch things up with you-know-who, eh?”

“No, and if you tell her that I’m here, I swear I’m suddenly not going to have an open spot on my gig schedule for the next year.”

“Well played Scratchie. Well played.” Pinkie gave her a narrow-eyed look, then raised a hoof to her eyes, and pointed back at Vinyl. “I’ll go talk to Starlight now. She’ll see you bright and early!”

Nova was still there when she returned, just sitting on his haunches, staring over the inn’s wooden railing railing at the dark, lamp-lit town.

“Did it go well?”

“Yeah.” She sat down at his side, and draped a hoof around him. “But I know that look. You had another memory come back.”

He closed his eyes. “I did.”

She followed his gaze out over the town, unsure what he was really looking at. “So, does that mean you remember what you’re here for?”


She frowned. “Okay then… do you remember how you got here?”

He took a deep breath. “I can make an educated guess.”

Vinyl raised her other forehoof to his muzzle, and turned him toward her gently. “No more twenty-questions, Nova. If it’s that big, why don’t—”

“It was my name. Well, really… who I am.”

Vinyl’s heart thumped harder than a bass drop. She let go of his muzzle. “Yeah?”

He shook his head.

She huffed, then slugged him in the chest. “You jagweed! After all this, you just roll in and drop something like that, but you still won’t level with me?”

“It would change things,” he said, rubbing the spot where she hit him.

“That’s right, it would! And what’s so bad about that?”

He took another breath. “It’s possible that you would recognize it.”

She sighed, then groaned, and took her sunglasses off. “Look, ‘Nova,’ I don’t care. Whatever it is, whoever you really are… I already see somepony I like. You’re intense. Life doesn’t just happen to you; you go happen to it. And I dig that about you.”

She touched a hoof to his goatee. He looked at her with a wan smile. “I would never want you to stop wearing the glasses entirely,” he said. “But you have lovely eyes. They’re warm, and clever, just like you. And they twinkle when you’re thinking about doing something mad.” He laughed. “Which does seem to be most of the time.”

Heat rose in Vinyl’s cheeks. “Are they doing it now?”

Nova smiled.

Her eyes searched his. “Tell me your name,” she said, tightening her grip on his goatee. “Because I wanna do something, but I don’t wanna do it if you won’t even give me that. Know what I mean?”

He signed. “Vinyl, if I could—”

She pushed him away. “No! That means you’re either going to make me ride this feeling that you’re giving me on faith—blind faith—or it means you’re going to make me stop here, where I am. And I don’t like stopping!”

“I’m not making you do anything,” he said quietly.

“Not true. You’ve dangled this whole big, mysterious, sexy… thing all out in front of me, and now you’re asking whether I really want to know where it’s going? Pssh, like that’s some kind of choice.”

His eyebrows climbed above a smile. “You think I’m sexy?”

Vinyl pointed a hoof at him. “Don’t change the subject. You’re maybe a six out here in the lamplight. More like a four, when you’re being a pain in the flank. Which is most of the time!”

Nova’s features softened. “Vinyl, do you trust me?”

She threw her forelegs out wide. “I came with you to Ponyville, didn’t I? I went and got you your stupid meeting with Starbad Glimglam, right?” She shook her head. “And yeah, I didn’t kill you when you opened Octy’s bottle. I mean, that would’ve been the time to do it.”

He placed his forehooves on her shoulders. “You’ve been far better to me than I deserve, for what I’ve offered in return. And so I’d ask you to believe me now… because the truth, the real truth… is that it’s better if you don’t know who I am.”

Vinyl swatted his forehooves away, and headed for the door. “Definitely a four,” she called back toward him. “Maybe even a two or three!”

“I promise that you’ll know after the meeting,” he said.

She froze for a moment, but then continued stomping off.

They met outside the inn early the next morning. A chill wind raised the hairs on the back of Vinyl’s neck as she waited for him. It was nearly as chilly as the look that Vinyl gave “Nova” as he approached her.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Is it?”

He looked at the ground. The expression on his face seemed uncertain; maybe a little bit sad. “Did you sleep well?”

She fixed him with a glare. “And what would you know about how I slept last night?”

“Okay,” he said, meeting her eyes. “I deserved that.”

Vinyl shook her head. “This all better be worth it.”

He hesitated. “I hope so, too.”

They found Pinkie waiting for them at the entrance to the Crystal Castle. Vinyl took pains to deflect her myriad questions about Nova, eventually resorting to more threats about her availability. Pinkie relented, and led them through its gates, and down its great central corridor. Every surface glinted in the light of the still-rising sun.

Vinyl kept her eyes fixed on Nova, whose slack-jawed expression was unflattering. “Have you really not seen pictures of this?” she asked, as they ascended a staircase.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “The amount of latent magical energy flowing through this place is unprecedented, outside of the Elements themselves. I mean, this surface looks like crystal, but if you cast a spell to take a closer look at its refractive index…”

She gave him a withering look. He quieted. “Sorry. Force of habit.”

“Here we are, you two!” Pinkie shouted. “Have a good meeting!”

Vinyl watched her bounce off, then glanced at Nova. “Look, before we go in there… are you gonna tell me what this is all about?”

He hesitated, but then shook his head.

“But you’re remembering it, aren’t you?”

He gave her the most intense stare she’d yet seen from him. “You should go, now.” He raised a hoof and knocked at the door. “I will protect you if you don’t, but it would be safest—”

The door opened, and Starlight’s pale pink head poked out.

The effect on Nova was electric. Literally, as his horn began to spark.

Vinyl looked at him. “Dude…”

His horn-glow grew more intense. “I’m sorry,” he said, magically amplifying his voice. A breeze began to stir the room as he focused on the other mare. “Starlight Glimmer, through the magic of time-scrying, I have witnessed your destabilization of all space-time.”

Starlight drew back with surprise and fear. “Excuse me?! Who are you?!”

Vinyl put a hoof on his shoulder. “Nova, please…”

He looked at her with glowing eyes. “I promised I would tell you, and the time has come.” He looked back at Starlight, and his horn surged with power. “My name is Starswirl the Bearded, and Starlight Glimmer, I have come to stop you. Vinyl—run!”

What happened next was largely a blur to Vinyl’s overstimulated mind.

She remembered a huge barrier of force rising all around her.

She remembered seeing—sometimes feeling—massive bolts of power that shot back and forth across the Crystal Castle.

At one point, she remembered seeing Nova—Starswirl—stop firing, and start listening, as Princess Twilight descended on the fray.

But she stood as if concussed, just watching it all, and trying to process what she’d heard.

Starswirl the Bearded, an ancient wizard, in her apartment. Sharing a train car with her. Now surrendering himself to the Princess, and letting himself be arrested.

And still—maybe—earning a nine while doing it.

A week passed before Vinyl heard a knock on her apartment door.

She looked up from her makeshift breakfast of chips and cheap beer, and glanced at the clock. It was late by any other pony’s standards, and almost time for her to get ready for her next gig.

“Vinyl?” called a voice that made her stomach wobble.

With a deep breath, she heaved herself up from the bar stool, walked to the door… and paused. Her heart, mind, and stomach warred against each other, like some kind of sick remix gone wrong.

Long moments passed in silence. Then another few knocks told her he was still there.

She squeezed her eyes shut, undid the chain, and opened the door.

“Hello, Vinyl.”

When she opened her eyes, the flowers were the first thing that she noticed. It was a nice bouquet; big enough, but not too big; full of variety, but still showcasing a few well-placed red roses.

Then she looked up at his face, studying the gentle smile on his muzzle, and the faint lines at the corners of his eyes, and the way his goatee seemed a fair bit longer than she would expect for only a week of growth.

He chuckled, and raised a hoof to his jaw. “‘The Bearded,’ you know. Never have been able to get rid of it.”

An awkward silence fell over them. The only sounds were of their breathing, and of the crinkling cellophane that the flowers were wrapped in.

“Well… come on in,” Vinyl said at length. “You’re looking… pretty good, for a walking, talking historical figure.”

He smiled, and entered, setting the flowers down on the bar. “Thanks?”

She shut the door, and took a breath. “The guards went easy on me. I told them what you told me, and they cast something to make sure that I hadn’t left anything out. I just… didn’t know how long they’d keep you.”

Starswirl nodded. “Understandable. I’m sure this sort of thing doesn’t come up all that often.”

Vinyl shrugged. “I dunno, there was more than one reason why I left Ponyville.” She took another long, deep breath. “And before you ask, you ought to know: I did end up talking to Octy.”

“Oh.” Starswirl’s smile stayed fixed, but his expression became heavy with unspoken questions.

Vinyl nodded. “Yeah, I told her I was taking up with homeless old dudes now. She said that my life choices were ‘disappointing, but not surprising.’”

Starswirl snorted, then broke out into a laugh. “Okay, you had me for a second there.”

She grinned, but only for a moment. “I actually told her about the bottle. How I kept it, and I never, ever thought of opening it, until some doofus came and opened it for me. Octy seemed down with that. She’s doing good. And for the record, she was glad to see me spending time with somepony who was ‘mature, albeit a bit murder-y.’” Vinyl paused. “She actually did say that one.”

He smiled. “I’m glad that you could talk with her again.”

Vinyl shrugged. “Eh, things are never gonna be perfect with an ex, I guess. I got to say some things I needed to, though. I told her she was right; I move way too fast when I move, and I don’t always think things through enough. And that I regretted letting that… do what it did to us.”

“Self-reflection is a hard thing,” Starswirl said. “But you’re a mare of many good qualities. Generous, warm-hearted—”

“Says the guy who nearly killed somepony.”

Starswirl sighed. “Yes, well, it turns out that time travel can be hazardous and inexact when applied over long distances. I couldn’t have known that what my time-scrying showed me was just one possible future of many that Starlight Glimmer’s actions could have created.”

Their eyes met. “I regret the way things turned out. I overshot the time when I could have made any real difference… and I lost my memories from the intensity of the jump… and I threatened somepony who’s already become a positive influence in Equestria.”

“You don’t really regret it, though,” Vinyl said.

“I don’t regret trying to stop the end of the world, no. And I don’t regret meeting you. Though I do regret the way you looked at me when I…”

She rolled her eyes. “Pssh, come on, I get it. You went off half-cocked. You straightened it out before you did any real damage though, right?”

“Something like that.”

“And now it’s all done, isn’t it?” She looked over at the flowers. “Don’t get me wrong, those look tasty, and it’s good of you to come back to tie up loose ends. But… you’ll probably be moving on now, right? I mean, you’ve gotta do your whole… legendary-historical-figure thing.”

He gave her a deep smile. “Yes, well, that’s the great thing about being a time-travelling legendary-historical-figure, isn’t it? I don’t have to go back today; I just have to go back eventually.”

Vinyl’s pulse pounded. “You’re serious.”

Starswirl shrugged. “I liked the music that you played me. Maybe you can show me how you… ‘lay waste to a dance floor’ sometime?”

She smiled. “You sound like an idiot when you say that.”

“Come on, go easy on me. None of this exists, where I’m from.”

“....I still think you’re kinda sexy,” she blurted.

The two of them blushed, and Vinyl looked away. “I mean… I dunno…”

She felt a gentle touch on her chin, and looked up into his eyes. “I feel the same,” he breathed.

Vinyl stole a glance at the clock, frowning. “Aw, dude, this timing sucks… I’ve got a gig…”

He moved his hoof over her lips, and smiled. “Yes, but time travel is pretty safe over short distances, remember?”

Vinyl stood still for a moment, blinking. Then a tingling sensation began to work its way through her chest, and a huge grin plastered itself across her face.

Any further thoughts were soon lost in a warm, insistent kiss, which both of them committed to with passion.

Author's note:
With apologies and credit to horizon
« Prev   11   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Okay, lemme see:

Slow cooking Romance: Check.
Time Travel: Check.
Wacky Hijinks: Check.
Misunderstandings that lead to potentially fatal results: Check

Yeah, this is tailor made for me. Excellent work, author. While some of the negative aspects can be chalked off to the time and length constraints, you still managed to deliver an endearing and believeable love story in just under 7k words.

I feel this could be easily be adapted into a longer story where Vinyl and, uh, Nova's interactions are more subdued and we get a more natural progression to the development of their romantic feelings, as well as dwelling on the mystery of Nova's past.

As it stands, I think you did a remarkable job at delivering a solid romance, even if the actual mystery and resolution were a bit rushed over. But rest assured, this is definitely going to be amongst the top stories in my ranking.
#2 · 2
· · >>FanOfMostEverything >>horizon >>CoffeeMinion
With apologies and credit to horizon

Yeah, nice try, horizon. We know it's you. Recycling an old premise and trying to publicly play it off? Pshaw. Welp, you're out of contention. Now the rest of us jagweeds all bump up a step in the rankings.

I do like that word. "Jagweed."

Liked this a lot. I love the perspective; I love how you have an epic time-travel adventure story told from an outsider's point of view. Vinyl feels like a witness, not a participant, in this little time-spanning drama, and that's the story's greatest strength, I think. There's so much going on that's left untold, or unelaborated upon, and while that would usually bother me, it doesn't here, because of how limited Vinyl's understanding of the full scope of the events has to be. It feels like there's more story simmering under the surface, and my curiosity (and slight frustration over being kept in the dark) is the same that Vinyl feels. In short, you do a good job of creating a shared experience between the protagonist and the reader.

And can I just say how much I love the use of the bottle throughout the story? As a symbol, as well as a storytelling device?

Three criticisms, and I'll leave it at that. The first is the frequent scene breaks; they felt unnecessary, especially since so many of the individual scenes seemed to feed right into one another. The scene with Pinkie Pie broke up the story's pacing and felt like it could have been cut to no ill-effect. And there are some exchanges of dialogue that are, frankly, kind of awkward. Like this one.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Is it?”

He looked at the ground. The expression on his face seemed uncertain; maybe a little bit sad. “Did you sleep well?”

She fixed him with a glare. “And what would you know about how I slept last night?”

“Okay,” he said, meeting her eyes. “I deserved that.”

Uh. He wouldn't. That's why he's asking. He's asking because he wouldn't know how you slept, Vinyl. I realize you're blue-balling here, but c'mon. Focus.

Are we still not allowed to say "well-written?"
#3 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Is this going to be Vinyl Scratch as Lazarus Long? Because I’d be completely okay with that.

Oh. Or a Starswirl/Vinyl buddy fic. I can work with that.

Or a slow-building shipfic with a side of misadventure. I can also work with that.

In all, this was a lot of fun. I’m a huge sucker for uncommon character pairings, and they don’t get much more uncommon than this. This can only benefit from expansion, but even as is, it’s fantastic. Thank you for it. I look forward to seeing it on Fimfiction.

Are we still not allowed to say "well-written?"
I've never let that stop me. :P
#4 · 3
· · >>horizon >>CoffeeMinion >>CoffeeMinion
All my free time is spoken for this week, but I'm at work. That means I can post ponies, right? >.>

Author's note:
With apologies and credit to horizon

There's pretty much no way for me not to skip my slate and read this first. (In fact, that's what happened. I snuck it in last night as pleasure reading before I did my review. I'm just coming back now to type this up.) And I'm flattered! No apologies necessary. :D

(On rereading this review I'm realizing that it doesn't communicate the full depths of my glee at having inspired this — imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. So before I go on, I'm just going to spend a few moments undignifiedly squeeing.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :D)

It seems pretty clear to me this started out with the joke of the title pun and sprang out into a full story from there, and I am totally okay with that. Vinyl/Starswirl is more or less crackfic material, but crackfics played straight are like my favorite thing ever. The bottle is a great plot and character element, the reasoning for Starswirl's appearance feels pretty solid, and the slow burn of the romance is both a nice touch on the homage front and a good pacing choice. On the whole I quite enjoyed this.

She sighed, then groaned, and took her sunglasses off. “Look, ‘Nova,’ I don’t care. Whatever it is, whoever you really are… I already see somepony I like. You’re intense. Life doesn’t just happen to you; you go happen to it. And I dig that about you.”

She touched a hoof to his goatee. He looked at her with a wan smile. “I would never want you to stop wearing the glasses entirely,” he said. “But you have lovely eyes. They’re warm, and clever, just like you. And they twinkle when you’re thinking about doing something mad.” He laughed. “Which does seem to be most of the time.”

And I appreciate that this passes the Bookplayer Test: showing us why the characters love each other rather than simply protesting how much they do. (Technically, the Bookplayer Test is to give us "a conversation that shows me that the characters love and enjoy each other that is not about how much they love and enjoy each other", but the point is to establish where their chemistry comes from, and this does that in both the large and the small.)

That said, I've got suggestions. Both Time Enough For Love and this story use tight third-person limited, but here I think it's holding you back because there's a fundamental information asymmetry causing problems: viewpoint character Vinyl's just not in on the things that drive the plot. I might have been biased by spoilers, but I'm pretty sure that having a white-bearded unicorn stallion appear out of nowhere after casting a spell all but screams "STAR SWIRL", and yet large chunks of the story are trying to pull tension out of her not knowing his identity — and then he suddenly gets his memories back and straight-up doesn't tell her, and then tells her to stay away when he goes off to his confrontation. We, the readers, are left out in the cold like she is. And that just feels like it's taking such a huge amount of agency away from one of your two protagonists (her only real choice is whether to dump him for his secrecy or not) as well as keeping some of your most climactic moments off-screen.

(In that way it's kind of an interesting deconstruction of TEFL, because in both cases the time-traveler acts selfishly, but here we get to see it from the outside instead of the inside. But that doesn't make it more satisfying to read.)

And the themes of TEFL and TEFW are different enough that I don't think that works for you in the same way. Clover's relationship with Celestia over the years is a meditation on discontinuous relationships and struggling to stay in love with someone as they change; Star Swirl and Vinyl have a very traditionally linear relationship that we follow in real time, so all the time we see him keeping her at an emotional distance is, well, time at which they're at an emotional distance, so you're not brewing chemistry for a satisfying romance. That can work as a contrast if we see them developing closely together and then he pulls away. Arguably it does here? But, I don't know, to me it didn't feel like they really were getting close at all if after all that he can want her not to get involved. Telling your partner secrets, asking for their trust, can be a really intimate act. Refusing to do so is a pretty big statement. Given that the core arc here is a romance, I think that making that statement needs to be handled more delicately.

I think this would be well served by going off in its own direction from TEFL more — kick away some of the original story's asymmetry, and let's see more of Vinyl and Star Swirl together, both physically and emotionally. The slow pace of the romance was fine, but it left me feeling like I never really got to see them both being awesome together, and there's plenty of room for that with Equestria's greatest mage and a manic wub pixie sidekick. This is a fun story on simmer, and it would be amazing on boil.

Tier: Strong

Yeah, nice try, horizon. We know it's you.

I'm just going to stay out of this and watch you and >>Morning Sun fight. *grabs popcorn*
#5 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
Speaking of Time Enough For Love, by the way … that's my high-priority current editing project which is sideburnered as I'm going through the current hump, and Nadnerb is keeping me honest about staying on-track with that (because he wants to post the cover art he made for it, and it's beautiful so I don't blame him). It will be posted to FIMFiction soon. I'm gonna do everything I can do post it by the end of this Writeoff so TEFW doesn't beat me to publication.

The edited version is split up into three sections. Chapter 1 is ready for posting; Chapter 2 needs a new scene; and Chapter 3 needs a new scene and some tightening. But it's happening!
#6 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian >>Posh >>Morning Sun >>CoffeeMinion
So big coincidence--this was the first story I grabbed from the gallery yesterday morning (for obvious reasons), but things worked out for me, cause it's also the first story on my slate. :P

Okay, first off, I just want to say that I formed my own thoughts about this one before any reviews were posted, and they actually seem to disagree with most of what I'm reading right now. Which is super surprising to me, because I tend to take the opinion of virtually all these folks very seriously. (The one exception being Posh, simply because I don't think we've actually shared a Writeoff yet. But he's a medalist, so I'm certain he knows what he's talking about.)

That being said, I'm not going to water down my review. You might find a minority report useful, after all.

... Wow, that's a lot of preamble. Let's actually get started:

The idea here is novel and intriguing, and that title is absolutely guaranteed to pique interest in this audience. This all adds up to doing a great job setting up the hook and getting the reader interested fast.And the way you set up your stakes make it really easy to stay hooked on. IMO, about 50% of any story's effectiveness is purely how well it makes readers want to read, and you've done a stellar job at it.

Something of mild-to-moderate concern is the prose. For instance, your word choice comes off as a bit spotty at times. The word "hoof" is used as a verb about six times in the first nine hundred or so words, but then it's never used like that again throughout the rest of the story. You do a good job of keeping the prose invisible and non-telly, but it's also bland, which makes certain passages (like entire 2nd scene + first few paragraphs of the next scene) hard to pay attention to.

My biggest concern about the story, however, is that it felt really plain to me. I know I'm in the minority here, but I totally bounced off the bottle metaphor. It came across as obvious and cheap to me, to have an object literally embody Vinyl's emotional baggage like that. As a result, it was kind of hard to get invested in the character development, since almost every moment of character-building involved bringing up the bottle in some way. It ended up feeling like thinly-coded message that we're going to start talking about the next stage of Vinyl moving past her breakup.

Another way the story feels plain to me is how if you really think about it, not much actually happens. Our two characters spend most of the story walking around and talking about how Nova suddenly appeared in Vinyl's life and has changed it. The main sources of tension are the mystery about Nova's identity and the knowledge that some kind of confrontation is going to go down in Ponyville. The first isn't really that much of a mystery, and the second hardly even happens on-screen. The little hundred-word penultimate scene is the climax, and it isn't much at all. Besides this, the closest thing we get to a character conflict is when Vinyl stomps away, only to make things up with him a handful of paragraphs later.

In the end, this story had a great set-up and a great idea, but I think it doesn't quite manage to capitalize on them. To steal a metaphor from horizon, you've got the stew on the stovetop, but you're not actually cooking anything yet. Turn the heat up! What you've got here isn't bad, but frankly there's a much better story hiding in the ideas of this one that needs some coaxing to come out.
#7 · 1
Cannot wait. Publish now, plz.


Holy crap, that might be the longest review I've ever written. I swear to god, it looked a lot more concise in the comment box.
#8 · 1
Okay, first off, I just want to say that I formed my own thoughts about this one before any reviews were posted, and they actually seem to disagree with most of what I'm reading right now. Which is super surprising to me, because I tend to take the opinion of virtually all these folks very seriously. (The one exception being Posh, simply because I don't think we've actually shared a Writeoff yet.



But he's a medalist, so I'm certain he knows what he's talking about.)


Well, never mind then. Carry on.
#9 ·
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Genre: Crackshipping done right

Thoughts: This is a fun one to have show up on the slate. I remember Time Enough for Love being pretty good, and this obviously draws a lot of inspiration from that, what with the whole time travel romance thing, not to mention who Nova turns out to be. This is a very different kind of story, though, and in many ways more limited than Love; >>horizon probably expresses it best by calling it more traditional and linear. Nevertheless, it still manages to be fun overall and effective as a romance. The ending in particular delivered a strong emotional payoff for everything that had built over the course of the story, which IMO was essential here, because the bits immediately before that (really everything once they left Manehattan) felt noticeably weaker and more rushed than what came before. But you manged to save it, author, by making all the pieces fall into place at the very end. Kudos to you for pulling that off.

As others have noted, one thing that would help immensely is giving the characters more time together doing things other than delving into Nova's past to lay the groundwork for the romantic elements that show up at various points in the story. E.g., by the time Nova gets to the point where he chooses not to tell Vinyl who he is, she's clearly ready to take the relationship further, but there doesn't seem to be much basis for her to do that apart from her apparent physical attraction to him. (Well, that and the bottle thing, which had kind of hit-or-miss effectiveness for me.) Although I'll grant that this could be intentional, as Vinyl's character is written as... perhaps not shallow, but certainly taking a very different approach to a romantic relationship than what I can relate to. Sometimes (IMO) her character got to be a bit grating, as her voice dipped into saying things like "bro" a lot. But even if the voice wasn't my personal cup of tea, I'll give it credit for keeping that voice largely consistent throughout, as it added to the picture of who she was.

But I kind of keep dumping on this, and I don't really mean to, because I think it ultimately succeeds at being the story it was trying to be. Love may be more "classic" in some ways, but it's not in contention here, and frankly this one is pretty darn good. I won't put it in my top-tier, but I might nudge it pretty high in my one below.

Tier: Strong
#10 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
You're not alone. I was curious about the mystery but I had myself barking up a wrong tree the entire time because I thought Clover had flung himself far, far into the future to come see Celestia again, somehow, and so it took a while before it clicked 'Oh, this ain't him'.

I mean I was always going 'Maybe Starswirl' but, y'know, it wasn't my focus.

The bottle metaphor makes sense now that you've laid it out; before I figured it was just a 'I left my friend behind and don't want to get rid of her last gift' but it being her baggage makes way more sense.

Anyhow - this is decent for me, but not a favorite; I just never quite really invested in either character to be drawn into their budding romance. There's lots of little enjoyable bits and pieces, but well -

1. I feel Starswirl should be more time-disjointed. I mean, he's seen cities, but Manehattan is a CITY. We should see more elements of 'What the buck' from him.

2. Things dragged a bit for me here and there; not sure why, to be honest, just that I didn't get captivated like TEFL did to me; I think in part because Celestia in TEFL comes across way more deeply even from Clover's PoV than Starswirl does here.

3. There's a lot of teasing of 'Why is he in the future', but, well, it felt more maddening than satisfying.

Anyhoo, enough of being critical, it was still a solid entry, just not one that wowed me strongly.
#11 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny >>CoffeeMinion
So the whole thing with Starlight was all just... a mistake?



That kinda rubs me the wrong way, to have something that's built up as such a big plot-point just dropped and waved away. I do appreciate a romance with a bit more than just 'and now kiss', and the character interactions are interesting and developed, but the actual plot seems a bit weak outside of that.

You've done a pretty good job with pacing this; the bite-sized scenes keep things moving and change stuff up often enough that you're not spending too long in one place, but you put enough in each one that I felt comfortable with them.

I think the bottle, from the amount of use it gets, could use a bit more attention before the meaning of it being open is brought in?

Pretty interesting overall, and a fun read. I wish the plot held up the same way the character interaction does, but I definitely enjoyed it.
#12 · 2
· · >>Posh >>CoffeeMinion
And I'll go:

The opposite way of >>Not_A_Hat and say how much I enjoyed the way the whole adventure plot turned out to be a Macguffin. I'd even vote for more scenes between Vinyl and Starswirl moving around Canterlot trying to jog his memory before it starts returning. Heck, put in some false leads even, some adventures they have when things trigger Starswirl's swiss-cheesed memory--a "Quantum Leap" reference? Really?--that relate to other things he's done throughout history. I guess what I'm saying is: turn the thing into an adventure/romance novel so I'll be able to read it. Thanks!

#13 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion
>>Baal Bunny

The opposite way of >>Not_A_Hat and say how much I enjoyed the way the whole adventure plot turned out to be a Macguffin.

Yeah, personally, I thought this was the strongest element of the story: the fact that there was a grand, time-spanning adventure story behind it that was completely outside of Vinyl's understanding or ability to fully comprehend.
#14 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Time Enough For Wub — A+ — Ok, bonus points for the title. No real hook, just a smooth transition into the story, so minor ding there. Vinyl does seem to be the type to pick up homeless amnesiacs and give them couch space to crash, and it’s done well. The story weaves itself out after that with the various elements tying to each other quite well, but I found the confrontation with SG to be rather jerky and the resolution afterwards to be rough and in need of smoothing out (I lost track of who was who for a bit). Still, darned good and worthy.
#15 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion
I am so glad that I found the time to read this story before finals ended. I love a good crackfic, and this is one of the best. My biggest complaint is that I find it hard to believe that Twilight would let Starswirl go so easily. I'd expect her to grill him for a few months, at least.
But seriously, this is great and I love it.
#16 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
The Great

There are some super good dialogue beats in this story. Just some clean, natural, and amusing conversation. Strong characterization on Vinyl right out the gates too.

The overall concept is intriguing. Of all the stories I've read thus far, I feel this is among the best to expand into a fuller, longer story.

I really like the ultimate punchline with Starlight. It flows well out of the story and keeps the focus on the relationship, which is really the heart of things.

The Rough

This is anti-TaviScratch and thus I must hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

This needs a pass or two. There are a lot of cases where I feel sentences would benefit from being restructured and having words removed from them. For example:

As she made her way past the bathroom, she jumped at the sound of a loud bang. It was followed by a muffled curse, and then the faint sparkling sound of a unicorn’s horn coming alight.

The phrase "at the sound of" is sort of redundant, since the reader should inherently understand "a loud bang" as a sound. A little removing and rephrasing would make the sentence read better, and cases like that crop up throughout the story.

I think the story needed a bit more time in general, particularly to build the relationship. The arc starts nice and smooth, but I think the strength of Vinyl's emotions at the end are kind of unearned? Like, I don't mind her liking him or even wanting to jump him, but that feels like some pretty heavy "love" at the end there. I'd buy it a little more if either they distinctly had more time hanging out or it ended more on a pure "let's get a drink" note. The voice making her stomach wobble is just too much.

Given Vinyl is the viewpoint character and how obsessed she is with Octy, it is really weird for the conversation to occur entirely off-screen.

Starswirl should have told her before the final confrontation. Not only is it irresponsible and stupid to bring her into the situation blind, but Vinyl -choosing- to come with him despite obvious danger is a stronger commitment (while remaining distinctly in character) from her rather than her just coming along because she's annoyed he won't tell her. I honestly can't think of any real benefit he gets out of not telling her.

This is super nitpicky, but the verb "hoofing" caused problems for me. I don't mind adapting pony language, but that particular word just... feels weird? I can sorta get what it meant in context, but I couldn't really define it if I tried. Further, since it was a bit weird, it stood out massively when it was used in rapid succession.
#17 · 5
Time Enough For A Time Enough For Wub Retrospective: A Retrospective

First of all, thank you to everyone for reading, commenting, and voting on this. It took me a year of trying, but I finally landed a Writeoff medal! This was doubtlessly aided by Pascoite's thrashing feedback on my initial outline on Friday night, as well as the huge coattails that horizon left for me to ride on.

And yes, as >>horizon suspected, this started as a random intrusive thought about punning the title of Time Enough For Love, but it rapidly took on a life of its own... kind of literally. I'm sure everyone has had the experience of a story that grabs you and demands to be written; this was that story for me. Even when I entered the second day with nothing more than a (friggin' long) outline and little-to-no clearly defined writing time that I could count on during the day, there was this feeling in the back of my head that this had to get written. When I got into the third day and I was nowhere near finished and I could tell I would have to pull a (darn near almost) all-nighter to get it there... the story stayed there in the back of my head, and simply would not let go. So if you want to know why it got choppy once it hit Ponyville, it's because the story itself insisted I keep barreling onward through the final night.

I blame my work/life situation right now. I'm busy with lots of good things, but recently I've had very little time to relax. So of course my brain decided it needed to relax by TOTALLY OVERCOMPENSATING and WRITING THE HELL OUT OF a fun little story SO HARD!!! XD

>>Zaid Val'Roa
Glad this worked for you! :-) I agree they could have had more time to settle into their attraction a bit more naturally. The one thing I really wanted to do differently, but didn't have time to change, was have them make it to the friggin' coffee shop. I think I could've squeezed a lot of mileage out of just having that in there.

What up, jagweed?! :-p No, seriously, I loved your comment. I felt that the bottle was a bit contrived myself, and it had only been a small throwaway note in my outline, but then the blasted thing took on all kinds of significance once it showed up on the page. This was good early confirmation that it wasn't so contrived as to lose the whole audience. I also agree that the Pinkie scene could be cut... and I came really close to cutting it, but by that point it was like 3am-4am and I could tell my decision-making powers were pretty badly compromised, so I left it.

Thank you, and it will get there!

This was of course my favorite comment because how could it not be. :-p I'm glad to receive your blessing for this riff on your (let's be honest) stronger and less conventional tale. But speaking of things that could have been stronger:

to me it didn't feel like they really were getting close at all if after all that he can want her not to get involved. Telling your partner secrets, asking for their trust, can be a really intimate act. Refusing to do so is a pretty big statement. Given that the core arc here is a romance, I think that making that statement needs to be handled more delicately.

Y'know what? You're absolutely right. I've given this a lot of thought, and I think what I might do is keep the scene where he doesn't tell her (because it's too drama-licious not to keep), but then I'll have him open up about everything when they get together the next morning, and I'll have him basically use what you articulated as the reason why he changed his mind. That should let me build the relationship a bit more (because he's decided to go to that level of intimacy), and give Vinyl a bit of agency back (because now she's choosing to follow him with a fuller understanding of what he's up to), while still letting me save the big kissy happy stuff for the end (because it's not as satisfying if they get to do that earlier, ja?).

Oh, and don't worry, of course I'll hold off on publishing this until TEFL is posted. No joust, bro! :-p

Curses, you've seen through my B.S.! D:

...No seriously, I get where you're coming from, and I can't disagree with any of it. You've voiced many of my internal doubts about the story, but also some of the things that it relies on that can't easily be shifted. Plot-and-theme-wise, it's kind of a hot mess, and there are some definite learning experiences in here.

lol, my own complaint about Vinyl's character voice. :-p I haven't read many stories with her in a speaking role, so I was operating with only a dim recollection of some Nowacking videos on Youtube, and what little I could tease out of a discussion of her character in a group forum on FimFiction. I seriously worried that people would find it abrasive. I came super close to word-replacing out all the instances of "bro", and it was only with discomfort that I kept her references to numerical attractiveness scores, as I feared it would be overtly offensive. (I.e., consider if it was coming from a guy to a girl instead of a girl to a guy... it's an equally backward view of the value of a person either way, but I seem to think guy-to-girl is viewed as more gauche due to its ties to male sexism, which does seem to be more prevalent.)

Oh well. I rolled the dice!

>>Morning Sun
Thank you; these are things that could bear to be tightened-up.

I agree it would be good to bring the bottle in sooner. As I said above, it wasn't ever intended to be such a big thing; hence the lack of setup for it.

I don't yet know how to shoehorn a mention of it into the opening club-and-Starswirl scene, but it seems worth doing...

>>Baal Bunny
I loved these, thank you guys. :-) Yep, the whole adventure was a Macguffin in the end. The only bad thing is that I don't think this could turn into a much longer work... I know there's some stuff that needs reworking/expansion, but I don't know if developing the Macguffin-ness of the Macguffin too much more would actually help. Perhaps we'll see.

Great things to work on here, thank you!

I totally wanted him to mention Twilight!! Sadly, I forgot to work it in until the scene was already written and it was too late for me to find a good place to insert that. But yes of course she'd want to keep him for as long as she could. Thank you for calling that out, and thank you for your praise!

Lots of great stuff here. ^^

I'd buy it a little more if either they distinctly had more time hanging out or it ended more on a pure "let's get a drink" note.

Absolutely. As of right now, I like the ending too much to want to overhaul it, so I want to give them more time and/or more connection earlier in the story. I think that's doable...

Given Vinyl is the viewpoint character and how obsessed she is with Octy, it is really weird for the conversation to occur entirely off-screen.

This was something that I knew was a risk. All of my outlines had a conversation between them. But then I wrote the final scene, and I summarized the conversation in a couple of lines, and... at that point I didn't have time to go back and insert the conversation anyway, but honestly, I thought the story might stand well enough without it. I might have to try drafting it and seeing if it fits. But in the end, much as I respect the wish to get a stronger resolution of that part of the story, I see this as a story about Vinyl moving on, and I don't know if actually putting Octavia in it would confuse that.

Starswirl should have told her before the final confrontation. Not only is it irresponsible and stupid to bring her into the situation blind, but Vinyl -choosing- to come with him despite obvious danger is a stronger commitment (while remaining distinctly in character) from her rather than her just coming along because she's annoyed he won't tell her. I honestly can't think of any real benefit he gets out of not telling her.

I'd already pretty much decided to change this based on horizon's earlier comment, but hearing this again was good confirmation. I agree, and consider it done!

Thanks again, folks! Who knew I could crank out ~6500 words in ~9 hours and not have them suck?!