Vinyl finally managed to dislodge the treacherous treat from her trachea with a fit of heaving coughs, aided by Bonbon's frantic hoof patting her back to help her along. She had to admit, she was glad the cupcake had been ejected before somepony started the Hooflich Maneuver on her. Her normally porcelain-white face was blushing a similar shade to her eyes, and her heart was fighting against her rib cage as if it wanted to escape before the whole respiration thing got a little ugly.
Bonbon leaned back from her vigorous back patting, glancing at the tray before setting it out of both their reaches. "No problem at all. Sorry if I shocked you."
Her breathing had improved, but the blushing only increased. "Shocked? I'm not shocked, I'm cool with fiillyfo-with being with mares and all, it's okay. Just that yeh, I didn't know you could actually marry another mare."
Bonbon giggled into her hoof, her beige cheeks lighting up slightly. She was especially quick to blush. "Oh, it isn't officially, but me and Lyra don't care all that much. We have each other and our vows, that's all that matters. It's a New Lunar law that's been brought in, though Celestia's against it for the time being. I'm surprised you and Octavia haven't heard about it."
"What makes you think me and Octavia would have heard about it...we're not fussed about being with mares, not that there's anything wrong with it."
"Oh, sorry, I just thought you two were..." Bonbon let the sentence hang, allowing Vinyl to work out the implications. Sadly, Vinyl's increased cranial blood flow hadn't helped her uptake on the matter any further.
"We were what?" Bonbon felt either Vinyl was a master poker player, or simply not a clever pony.
In the absence of another cupcake to make an attempt on her life, Vinyl found the air itself attempting to throttle her. The episode was much shorter this time, only a few surprised coughs and another apology. She waved a hoof at Bonbon, chuckling lightly.
"Me and Octavia aren't like that, Bonbon. We're just...not really friends, we're..."
"So if you don't like each other, why are you still hanging around each other. And why is it that even when Octavia leaves you to prepare for her set, you stand by the buffet and watch her?"
"What, I wasn't...I was watching her argue...it's funny."
Bonbon smiled, an infuriatingly benevolent smile that practically sang 'I know exactly what you're thinking!'
Bonbon gazed out at the stage, not really focusing on the pianist currently playing, simply staring up and away from him. "It's not my business to pry, you can stay in the stable as long as you want. I know it took months for me and Lyra to tell anypony." She returned her gaze to Vinyl, who she could tell was simmering in an awkward stew of emotions and thoughts. "Just that when we did tell our friends and parents, they were much more supportive than we expected....Pity Lyra's agent wasn't so accepting."
Vinyl opened her mouth to respond, but all that came out was a low, baritone 'urr' sound. Bonbon smiled, she could read this mare like a book. A book that had been scribbled over by a schoolfilly, but just as legible nonetheless. "Don't worry, Vinyl. Your fillyfriend's up next."
Bonbon had to admit, the little scrunched face Vinyl made when she realised she was being teased was fairly adorable. She hoped that this mare might prompt Octavia to pull the stick out of her rump. Though the thought of that reminded her of a night when her and Lyra had gotten steaming drunk and-.
The rattling of hooves on the floor snapped her out of her memories as the pianist left the stage. An elderly pony rose from the midst of the judging panel, and the pianist bowed as low as equine anatomy would allow, before silently making his way off-stage.
Bonbon remembered Lyra gushing about the pony being some sort of musical genius and the like, however, his name had slipped her memory. Lyra was always the musician anyway, so Bonbon had often sat and watched her little tirades and rants on the business. There was something so enchanting about the passion in her eyes as she did so.
The old pony waved at a small, plump colt waiting at the wings. "Do bring the next candidate through, Usher."
The colt nodded, making his swift but composed way towards the candidates' waiting room. He returned in mere seconds with Octavia in tow, her cello carried carefully in her forelegs.
She set up the piece, once more unifying herself with the instrument in their mutual balancing act. She took a deep breath, the first of several, and looked up at her idol, her inspiration...her judge.
"Miss Octavia Philharmonica the second, I presume?"
"Yes, sir." Octavia swore she could hear laughter from the audience, but couldn't get line of sight on the source.
"And your instrument is a...double bass?"
"A custom piece, sir. Closer to a cello, though with bass-like elements."
"Indeed. Very well, Ms Philharmonica." The phantom howl of laughter once more resumed. "I've heard much talk but little play about yourself, I hope you can justify the lavished praise you have received."
Octavia nodded, spacing her hooves, breathing deeply. The balance perfected to the weight of a tailhair, she began. Her eyes didn't register or focus, her entire mind and heart poured into the song. A song she had composed recently, not the usual powerful, sombre, emotional pieces she was famed for...no. Something struck her one night to write something...happier, a jovial, heart-warming beat. She supposed it was the fact she was performing for the Gala, but that being the case, why were her supposedly unfocused, undirected eyes listing lazily towards a pair of crimson jewels in the audience?
She played on, the qualms in her mind the most timid whisper, the faintest distraction like a breeze on a Manehatten skyscraper. Her bow scissored across the strings, fervently striking each note with the most delicate timing. Part of the reason she often played slower pieces was also a handicap she was born with. The awkward manner she held the bow made active ankle and hoof movements at high speed both difficult and slightly painful. She held it well tonight, surrounding and corralling thoughts of her discomfort to the murky edges of her mind. She was simply an extension of the instrument, a vessel for its will to be played.
The piece extended on, she even braved some spiccato. Considered somewhat amateurish by the high-society, but she felt such erratic play could compliment the feel of the piece. After a short time she pulled in the instrument for a light crescendo, ending on a high note as she raised her bow in triumph, bowing to her audience while maintaining her precarious grip on the cello.
There were murmurs amongst the judges, before Mr Zimmer rose once more.
"Of the string instruments we have seen beforehoof, we have no doubt yours is the most elegantly played piece. Especially given the light, almost fiddle-like manner of play. It must be asked, what inspired the piece?"
Octavia gazed out to the audience. Two little rubies stared back at her. "I'm not sure, Sir. I just...felt it was appropriate."
"More appropriate than required, Ms Philharmonica. You may take your leave and rest, we will see the last candidate now."
Vinyl turned to Bonbon, who was wearing the most irritatingly invasive grin she had ever seen.
"You happy cos your wifey's coming on-stage then?"
Bonbon chuckled, turning towards the stage as the mint-green unicorn made her way onto it, lyre levitating beside her. "Oh no, just something amusing I noticed."
"What?! There's not something in my mane, is there?"
Bonbon shook her head, before looking towards the little, grey pony leaving the stage. "Fifteen-minute classical orchestral piece, and you never once took your eyes off her."