by Cranberry Muffin

Chapter 1: The air is...

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It was at the exact moment that the door swung shut after the departing customers that the stomping began in the little apartment up above the storefront.

Gingerbread rolled her eyes heavenward, completely unimpressed with the display of theatrics. It was something she’d witnessed a thousand times over the years, something that had only bothered her in the very beginning.

The first time she’d seen one of Gusty’s tantrums, she’d been appalled that anypony could act in such a way. The unicorn had gone clomping through the room as if she intended to bring down the floorboards, stomping her hooves, tail swishing angrily, her steely blue eyes narrowed to little slits. At the time, she’d been whining about something so trivial that Gingerbread couldn’t even remember what it was, though it had apparently been awfully important to Gusty herself. The earth pony had stepped away from her seething friend, eyes wide, heart pounding. She’d never seen anypony as angry as Gusty was at that moment.

It was the first of many such outbursts.

Gusty, Gingerbread had long since learned, had a hair-trigger temper. It didn’t take much to rile her or send her into a snit; she was an impatient, spoiled, stubborn mare with a deep-seated sense of entitlement. The littlest things rubbed her the wrong way and nopony could ever be certain what might set her off.

As a result, she wasn’t very popular around town.

The angry hoofsteps from above continued and Gingerbread shook her head, turning back to her work. At the moment, she wasn’t feeling much like Gusty’s biggest fan either.


In the cozy apartment upstairs, a certain unicorn was pacing, purposely stomping her hooves as hard as she could, hard enough to rattle the picture frames on a nearby end table. Her short mane bounced around her face, tail lashing as she moved, each step tense and tightly controlled.

She was annoyed. She was beyond annoyed. And it wasn’t even about the cookie any more. How dare Gingerbread embarrass her like that in front of other ponies, implying she couldn’t pay for things? It had been humiliating, the other mare talking to her in such a way. It was one thing when they were alone; when it was teasing and banter. But for Gingerbread to speak to her like that in front of others!

She was mortified.

Disgraced. Embarrassed. Shamed. Demeaned. Horribly, terribly, entirely…

She paused, one hoof still lifted in the air, poised to slam down on a particularly squeaky floorboard.

She was…

…Acting like a spoiled brat.


Gusty let her hoof fall quietly back to the floor, her shoulders drooping.


Gingerbread stepped out from behind her sales counter at the same time every evening. At precisely six o’clock, she turned the hoofmade “open” sign on the door and shut off the lights before ascending to her home above.

The last hour was usually occupied by tidying up, prepping some of the next day’s ingredients and mixing batches of her famous gingerbread batter to chill before she would roll and cut the cookies in the morning. Customers rarely entered during that twilight hour, leaving her able to take her time with the chores – Something she found remarkably perfect, given her love of an orderly, organized kitchen. She was a little bit finicky about her workspace; everything had to be just so.

Turning back from the now-locked door, she trotted back to the display case, looking over the remaining goods. Though she didn’t do as brisk a business as Sugarcube Corner did, the day’s sales had been good; only a few muffins, one loaf of zucchini bread, and a handful of cookies remained – She would sell those for half price the next day. There were always one or two ponies who came in sniffing around for a deal, looking to save a bit here or there and they would eagerly snap up the day-olds.

The door was secure, the lights shut off. Gingerbread rounded the counter again, wandering through the kitchen towards the back staircase.


Gusty was curled on the well-worn sofa, back to the room. Her two-toned tail hung limply, spilling over the side of the cushions in a teal and maroon waterfall. She didn’t look up when the other mare entered the room, nor did she speak.

Gingerbread passed her silently, uncertain as to whether or not the unicorn was even awake.

She made her way to the kitchen -thinking for a moment how she often abandoned one kitchen in favor of occupying another- and started making dinner.

Though both her cutie mark and special talent branded her a baker, she was a decent cook as well. And she honestly didn’t mind being the one to worry about all of their meals; Gusty was a disaster in the kitchen. Her few attempts at preparing food had been inedible and Gingerbread often found herself wondering how the unicorn had managed not to starve before they started living together.

She suspected that a lot of applebutter sandwiches had been involved.

Gingerbread was a simplistic cook; she never made anything elaborate. She didn’t have the skillset required for fancy cuisine, nor did she think her companion would even appreciate it, were she to put the effort into making something beyond the usual fare. Gusty, for all her faults and strange ideas about a unicorn’s place in the world, was surprisingly unrefined and rough around the edges.

Dinner was vegetable barley soup, made completely from produce purchased in the Ponyville marketplace. The baker prided herself on using only local ingredients, both in her shop and her home, and never ordered from a mass market supplier in a bigger city. Her parents –bakers themselves- had always taught her that the best ingredients were the ones grown with love.

She spent the next half-hour peeling and chopping, prepping all of the vegetables with the same methodical care she employed in her bakery. Everything was diced to precisely the same size to regulate the cooking time –it was no good if the potatoes went to mush while the carrots were still raw in the middle- and placed carefully in the pot full of broth. Gingerbread was an efficient worker, quickly slicing her way through the pile of vegetables and setting the pot of soup to simmer.

As the scent of spices and onions filled the air, she washed the prep dishes, humming mindlessly to herself. Compared to clean up in the bakery, a chopping board and a knife were nothing.

And now…with dinner started and Gusty napping, it was time for some peace and quiet.


When she turned away from the sink, there was Gusty, standing quietly in the doorway.


Gusty had never actually been asleep.

When Gingerbread had come upstairs, the unicorn had been entirely too embarrassed by her behavior to face the other mare and had thusly feigned sleep, forcing her breathing to a slow, shallow pace, squeezing her eyes shut, and praying that the other pony would just leave her alone for the time being.

And when Gingerbread did indeed glide right past her like a silent specter, she found herself simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

In her heart of hearts –in the deepest recesses of her soul- she had wished that the other mare would have sat beside her, brushed back her mane and just…been there. Gingerbread had a way of doing that; of just putting her soothing presence in place and working some bewitching magic without really even doing anything. It was probably because she was so calm and easy-going, the exact opposite of Gusty herself. That was what the unicorn suspected, in any case, and it was a sound enough theory for her not to question why or how it happened.

Willing away the disappointment, Gusty slid from the couch, pushing her messy bangs from her face. Once standing, she closed her eyes, taking a few deep breaths to center herself and chase off the last vestiges of her earlier annoyance.

It was when she opened her eyes again that she noticed the state of the livingroom; in her irritation, she had made a bit of a mess, completely disrupting the casual sense of order in which the room usually existed. Throw pillows were scattered about the room. A picture was overturned, face down on the floor. The area rug was bunched, tucked under itself. Everything looked a little windswept; pictures on the wall were crooked, the lampshade cockeyed.

Gusty knew better than to attempt using her horn to aid in the cleanup effort -- it would have only resulted in more mess. Her magic was useless in most situations; where the typical unicorn could envelop an item in their own particular magical aura and manipulate it, Gusty’s magic only blew things about. She had little to no control over her magical aura and almost anything wrapped in her silvery-blue shine went sailing through the air as if of its own accord.

Her ability was not seated in raw magic, like most others of her kind. It bore more resemblance to earth pony magic, though it flowed forth from her horn, rather than being channeled through her to the world around her. There was little she could do with her magic that was deemed acceptable by traditional unicorn standards; she was better suited for a job doing menial labor and working hoof-in-hoof with the weather service, a fact which drove her crazy.

And it didn’t help that, once upon a time in Canterlot, when her struggle to master her own magic had only begun, the other unicorns in magic school had teased her, laughing at her strange ability to manipulate the wind. There was nothing magical about her power, they said. There was nothing useful for her to do with her special talent, for what was a unicorn without proper magic? She had never learned to manipulate objects with her aura, or to perform spells, or to even do much beyond her failed attempts at the basics.

She could wink in and out with the best of them, but that was something every unicorn could do. And her inability to control her magic usually only caused problems for unsuspecting pegasi or made messes like the one she was currently dealing with in the livingroom.

By the time everything was back in place, the smell of food was wafting from the kitchen and her stomach rumbled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten since much, much earlier in the day.


When their eyes met from across the kitchen, Gingerbread offered a tentative smile, taking a few steps forwards to close the distance between them. Once the unusually forlorn unicorn was within reach, Gingerbread pressed close, nuzzling against her neck, offering the kind of quiet comfort she gave best. Gusty sighed, her entire body shuddering with the release of breath, as if she would shrivel away, her very life force escaping on the exhale. She leaned against the earth pony, shutting her eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

Her voice was a very un-Gusty-like whisper, thick and choked. She turned, pressing her face into Gingerbread’s multi-hued mane, hot tears leaking from her eyes. “I don’t know why you haven’t told me to get lost yet,” she mumbled, “but I am so glad you haven’t.”

Gingerbread didn’t say anything. What could she possibly say that would make it all better? Neither of them had a particular way with words; for Gusty, action said everything. And for Gingerbread…the whispers of her heart meant much more than mere spoken words ever could.

Rather than trying to put the sudden ache of her heart into words, she simply nudged the other mare towards the bedroom they shared.

Dinner could wait.


Gingerbread flopped back on the featherbed, pushing her matted bangs out of her face and peering up at the ceiling through unfocused eyes. She was trying desperately to calm herself; to slow the frantic pounding of her heart, to come back to herself and the world of rational thought, not that darkly wanton place of heat and passion that she had been sucked into by Gusty’s desperate need for assurance.

Beside her, Gusty had been reduced to a curled, shivering ball, her breathing ragged, her muzzle wet with her own tears. She unfurled, crawling shakily forward, and pillowed her head against Gingerbread’s chest, listening for the comforting beat of the other mare’s heart.

There was some cruel voice whispering in the back of her mind, telling her how this was right; that only an earth pony could love a failed unicorn like her. After all, hadn’t the old joke at school been ‘what do you call an earth pony with a horn? Gusty!’? No self-respecting unicorn –no unicorn from the world she had grown up in- would ever want a magical burnout as their special somepony.


But with Gingerbread running a hoof through her mane and down her back; with Gingerbread pressing a kiss to her forehead, right beside her useless horn…Gingerbread, who gave everything she had to everypony, but especially to Gusty, without expecting a single thing in return. Who put up with her terrible attitude, her tantrums, her snide remarks, and her slightly prejudicial tendencies towards pegasi and earth ponies.

Gingerbread, who loved her despite all the horrible things about her.

She felt her throat closing, fresh tears pooling in her eyes. And then she was crying again, sobbing into Gingerbread’s chest with abandon, clinging to the other mare as if she would disappear. Why? Why did Gingerbread love her? Why was she allowed to stay in this warm, wonderful place that she didn’t deserve?

“Gusty, it’s okay.” Gingerbread’s voice was soft, sad. She hated seeing Gusty so upset; the unicorn was usually a firecracker, all energy and emotion wrapped in a white coat. And though she was rough around the edges, the baker knew that all diamonds started out as coal; all gems started life housed in ugly rock. And Gusty was indeed a diamond buried beneath layers of grime – There were so many beautiful things inside of her, even when she was being ugly.

“It’s not okay.” Gusty whimpered, pawing behind her for a blanket, pulling it up and over her head so that she was completely hidden, words muffled. “It’s never gonna be okay and I don’t get why you love me at all.”

Gingerbread hugged her, blanket and all, smiling faintly, “And I can’t really tell you why I love you.” It was the same old song and dance; they’d had this conversation innumerable times before. Gusty was so insecure and all of her bluster was just a cover, a defensive wall she’d built to keep from being hurt. “I just know that you are the only pony to ever give me butterflies and fill up my heart. Because you need to be loved and I’m the one to love you. I know how to do it right.”

“You’re wasting your time.” Gusty rolled away, still wrapped in the blanket. She hated these moments more than her time at magic school, more than her failed attempts to harness her power and unlock the magic she knew flowed through her. She hated it, because Gingerbread deserved so much better than she could give. But mostly, she just hated herself. “Nothing changes. I haven’t changed at all.”

The other mare pushed herself up, her long mane cascading over her shoulder in a silky swirl of blues and pink. The ribbon that usually held her mane back was lost somewhere amongst the bedding, untied and cast aside by Gusty. “I don’t want you to change.” She lowered her head, mane curtaining and hiding her face.

When Gusty peeked out of the blanket, gazing up at Gingerbread through red-rimmed eyes, the other mare looked back at her, eyes lit with an unusual bleak desperation. “How could I love you, if you were to change?”


Gusty ate her dinner quietly, staring down at her bowl.

Other unicorns could manipulate a spoon with their magical aura. She didn’t have that ability and instead drank from the bowl like anypony else, lifting it carefully between her front hooves and taking a careful sip.

She had hated eating in front of other ponies while living in Canterlot; by her age, the typical unicorn had been dining in a more ‘civilized’ manner for years. The upper crust found her to be crass at the best of times; she was loud and opinionated, stubborn and impatient. Already those traits put her at a disadvantage, but she had been born into a good family and was given the benefit of the doubt – Until the snobby unicorns had seen her eating like a common earth pony and realized her magic was still sealed somewhere within her, never to come out.

It didn’t seem to matter anymore, and not just because of Gingerbread being mercilessly unconcerned with her lack of proper magic. There in Ponyville, all three types of pony intermingled, sharing and learning from one another in a blend of racial harmony. Nopony made fun of Gusty for her inability to wield her magic; most of them didn’t even notice it. She was just like anypony else, free to be herself and go about her business.

It was a thought that somehow offered very little comfort.


They cleaned up together, Gingerbread washing while Gusty toweled everything dry.


The aforementioned mare glanced up from scouring the sink, her brightly blue gaze questioning. The unicorn was toweling the last bowl, swiping it halfheartedly – She hated that kind of chore, but still helped anyway, because she knew it would make Gingerbread happy.

Gingerbread couldn’t stop the tender swell of emotions that washed over her at her companion’s uncertain tone. Seeing Gusty vulnerable always made her fiercely protective; she knew the other mare couldn’t help the way she was. She had known from the day they met that the unicorn was temperamental and brash and it was those imperfections that had caught her interest in the first place. “Yes?”

“I don’t say it enough…” Gusty looked away, a pale blush staining her white muzzle pink, that fluttery feeling that Gingerbread sometimes talked about rising up in the pit of her stomach. She was emotional, yes, but not overly sentimental, and had a difficult time talking about her feelings. “But…I love you.”

The earth pony’s expression softened, a smile spreading across her face. She knew other ponies wondered how she put up with Gusty, especially if they found themselves on the receiving end of her incredible temper. But what they saw was only the surface, the angry, sarcastic wall that Gusty had put in place to shield herself from the cruelties of the world.

They didn’t know that beneath all of that bluster was a pony who struggled every day; a pony who could not live freely until the well of magic was unlocked from within her. They saw her as a spoiled brat with little respect for anypony else. Gingerbread saw that, too, but beyond all that, she knew…

Gusty was a wild soul, always windswept and cool, her own enchantment left unrecognized by most. She could feel the change in seasons coming; knew what weather the currents would bring. But her talent was outdated; in a world of manufactured weather, Gusty struggled to find a place where her magical connection to the wind would be worthwhile and she could put her talents to use in the same way as other ponies.

Gingerbread never wished her companion could do more, no matter how much easier it would make their life. The true magic in Gusty was her connection to the world around them, though most other ponies wouldn’t be able to appreciate that. Unicorns relied so heavily on their magic to help them with the most mundane, basic tasks. Gusty had adapted as best she could, learning to do those things without the aid of magic, a remarkable feat, considering she had grown surrounded by others who looked down on her for having to get her hooves dirty.

The baker leaned in, taking the towel from Gusty and drying her hooves on it. “I know.” She nuzzled against the unicorn, pressing a kiss to her cheek, “You don’t have to say it for me to know.”

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