Octavia Philharmonica and Vinyl Scratch — known to her fans as DJ PON-3 — had been dating for three years and today was their anniversary. Though not normally a particularly romantic marefriend, Vinyl had spared no expense for this occasion. The interior of their loft was immaculate, candlelit, and precisely the right temperature that her finicky lover constantly complained about.
Vinyl snorted back to consciousness and canted her head to meet Octavia’s pleading purple gaze. She couldn’t pinpoint the precise moment when she became the stallion in the relationship, but she was a good sport and took it in stride. She rolled off their bed and half-stumbled, half-cantered out of the bedroom and to the thermostat in the living room. Her horn illuminated the dark as her magic manipulated the switch. After mucking with it a bit, the apathetic unicorn returned and collapsed against her marefriend, who kissed her appreciatively and tried to get comfortable knowing that she’d soon be nice and cool.
Octavia spent the following evening in Ponyville General with an IV in her hip, suffering from heat cramps. Vinyl was emphatically apologetic but also quick to remind her that one shouldn’t ask a unicorn to use magic when they’re partially asleep.
A series of widely spaced thumps against the exterior staircase alerted Vinyl that it was time for the show to begin. She picked up a long-stem rose with her teeth and fell back into an alluring supine position; a moment later, the door was bucked open, and an aggravated and dead-tired Octavia dragged her rugged cello case into the apartment. She collapsed onto her back and for a few moments, only the sound of her own ragged breathing could be heard.
She then became aware of the state of her apartment and that she was laying on something crunchy. She pulled one of the objects out from underneath her flank and examined it with a crooked eyebrow, then looked back, noticing her marefriend a few feet behind her. Vinyl was in a similarly compromising position and looking very much amused by the whole situation.
“Why is there foliage on our carpet?”
Vinyl sighed through a smile. If there was one thing that could take her mind off of a bad day, it was the sound of Octavia’s sophisticated Britmane accent, but being that she had been absolutely elated from dawn until now, her mind was carried in an entirely too lewd direction.
Vinyl waggled her eyebrows but the still distracted and tired Octavia didn’t put the pieces together in her mind. It was only after she also noticed the rose clutched between Vinyl’s teeth and the steaming flatware on the living room table did the proverbial light bulb click.
“OH MY CELESTIA, IT’S OUR ANNIVERSARY!”
“And the last pony crosses the finish line,” Vinyl chuckled.
Octavia rolled over and scooped her lover into a hug, who happily reciprocated. “I forgot! Oh Vinyl, what you must think of me!”
“I think you’re sexy,” Vinyl quipped, licking Octavia’s muzzle. “And that you’ve had a rough day. I can tell by the scuff marks on your case and that tic in your left eye. You always get that when you’re stressed.”
On cue, Octavia’s eye involuntarily twitched and she groused. She didn’t enjoy being mocked or having her flaws “put on blast” as her cosmopolitan lover would say, but Vinyl knew she was the only one who could not just get away with it, but spin it in such a way that the evening would end with them in the throes of passion.
“You don’t have to worry about a thing. I’ve cleaned, I’ve cooked, and I even bathed. I know how much you like it when I do that.”
Octavia rolled her eyes. “It is a sorry state of affairs when you consider personal hygiene a ‘special occasion’.”
“You’ve stopped flipping out. Does that mean you’re going to sit down and celebrate with me?”
Despite how utterly foalish she felt, Octavia nodded and kissed her lover on the cheek. The two mares walked hoof-in-hoof and sat opposite one another in the living room. They did not own a proper dining table, so they typically ate their meals on the couch and in front of the television. Tonight, however, Vinyl had moved the furniture and set up two cushions, perfectly placed so the two could stare longingly into one another’s eyes.
“Vinyl… this is all too much. Why is this year so special? On our last anniversary you took me to Chuck E. Cheese’s and spent half of the evening in the arcade.”
Vinyl’s magic secured both her and Octavia’s napkin around their necks, though her previously chipper demeanor fell a bit. “Yeah, I know I did and… I feel like an idiot too. I know you like romantic things and I’ve been droppin’ the ball something fierce. I’m gonna try to make it up too you, starting tonight.”
The silver dome covering Octavia’s dish levitated away, Vinyl’s following closely thereafter. “But I am not mad about that, if that is what you think. I will admit that, at first, I was a bit…”
“Angry? Annoyed? Pissed off?” Vinyl helpfully contributed.
“Put off,” Octavia finished. “But I love you, Vinyl. You don’t have to change on my account.”
“Well, maybe I like doing fancy crap every once in awhile,” she grinned. “Speaking of fancy but light on the crap—” Vinyl’s hoof swept across Octavia’s food, presenting it for her eating pleasure. “Steamed vegetables in… er…” Vinyl fumbled around under the table until hastily grabbing hold of her strategically placed cheat sheet, which her magenta eyes scanned. “Manure sauce.”
Octavia threw her head back and laughed heartily. She pounded the table twice before wiping a tear away and beckoning her lover in for a kiss. “That’s ‘meuniere’, love.”
“Too damn fancy…” Vinyl grumbled sunk back into her seat, kicking the paper back from whence it came. “Bah-hoo-tah corn salad,” which Vinyl helpfully pointed out. Octavia decided not to correct her this time, smiling throughout the presentation. “And sweet potato fries with… this stuff.” Vinyl removed the lid from a small dish filled with a yellow dipping oil. “I just know it’s spicy.”
“It looks delicious,” Octavia smiled and took a bite, which Vinyl carefully observed, looking for any sign of dislike or revulsion. Instead her marefriend exhaled happily and took another bite. “And it tastes even better! Everything is cooked to perfection.” A pause. “Now who made it?”
“Plum Bistro,” she replied, taking a bite herself. “But I put it on the plates.”
“And a wonderful job you did,” Octavia ate another fork-full. “Dare I ask how much it cost?”
Vinyl coughed and looked away. “Y’know, you’re better off just thinking of it as a ‘gift’,” the last word was punctuated by air quotations, made by Vinyl’s forehooves bending twice before returning to the underside of the table.
Silence. Cold, oppressive silence. Normally Octavia was wonderful dinner company; she was social, outgoing, and possessed a wealth of information from everything ranging to musical theory to trigonometry, and though one could say that she might be a tad too educated for casual conversation, no pony could say she was boring. Vinyl looked up and expected to see a quiet mare enjoying her meal. Instead she saw a grey pony with a brow furrowed so far it appeared that she would eat it instead of the salad.
“What. Was. That?” Each word was careful, deliberate, and filled with enough venom to poison a snake.
“W-What was what?”
“That motion. What was it?”
“Motion?” Vinyl was well and truly confused now, and more than a little bit afraid. Octavia was very slow to anger and she’d only successfully accomplished getting her marefriend to not speak to her once, and it had only lasted an hour, after which they had shared some of the best sex of their relationship. “What motion? I’ve just been sitting here.”
“Before that!” Octavia snapped. “You did it when you said ‘gift’.”
The hamster in Vinyl’s head hopped back on the wheel long enough to give it one good spin before tripping and chipping its tooth. “The… the air quotes? This?” Vinyl’s hooves lifted, in preparation to do it again.
“STOP!” Octavia reached over the spread, grabbed Vinyl’s right hoof, and slammed it down on the oak tabletop. Vinyl winced and backed away from her suddenly insane lover, cradling her sore limb against her chest.
“Octy! What the hay?! You just smashed my hoof over mother-buckin’ air quotes!”
“It is infuriating! I can understand the context of your words by the inflection! I don’t need an insipid visual aid!”
“Really?” Vinyl once had a hair-trigger temper, but since she and Octavia had begun dating, she liked to think the posh mare suppressed that, and for the better. But the sheer absurdity of this conversation on top of being accosted was rapidly drawing out her long-lost ire. “We’re fighting over this? Not the time I nearly killed you with the thermostat, or hollowed out the couch so I could make a fort? Air quotes?”
“I have told you before how much I dislike air quotes, but you do it anyway! You are mocking me!”
“You’ve told me a lot of things I don’t remember Octy, but I think I would have remembered if you told me you got violent over air quotes!”
“… I didn’t tell you?”
“NO, you didn’t tell me!”
Octavia sat back on her haunches and looked at her lover with fear and worry. “I-I-I’m sorry Vinyl, I thought I brought it u—”
“I would have remembered that! If only to laugh at. I certainly would have told Pinkie that the mare I loved was crazy-neurotic over the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen!”
“Vinyl, please. Let’s talk about this over dinner.”
“Eat it yourself! I’ll be in the bathroom putting ice on my hoof.”
Vinyl kicked the table leg as she stormed off, eliciting another round of swearing and limping. From a quadruped that needed all four limbs to walk, Vinyl looked quite silly trying to angrily walk away on only two.
But Octavia couldn’t bring herself to laugh. She had just ruined the best relationship she’d ever had over an admittedly ridiculous pet peeve. Some of her childhood friends knew of her disdain for air quotations, as did her parents, so that she had never told her marefriend made her feel both silly and immensely regretful. If she lost Vinyl over this, she would undoubtedly become the recluse her family always jokingly said she would.
She sat in silence for a few minutes before pulling off the napkin and gingerly crept toward the bathroom, which she found to be locked. Octavia saw the light under the frame and heard indistinct sounds coming from inside, which she hoped were Vinyl simply venting a bit of steam and not struggling with a legitimate injury.
“Vinyl, please. Let me apologize.”
“You already did,” came a gruff response.
“I can do better.” The sensuality and compassion was evident. Vinyl might have been in the dark about a few of Octavia’s foibles, but she knew everything there was to know about the town DJ.
After a few tense seconds, she heard the door unlock. She opened it to see a basin full of cold water and a miserable white unicorn sitting on the toilet. Her hoof wasn’t so much as bruised, but knowing her outburst hadn’t actually harmed Vinyl did little to ease her mind from the fact that she had lashed out in the first place. She took a seat on the floor and looked up at her, desperate for a reconciliation.
“What I did,” Octavia began, her eyes misting over almost immediately. “Was inexcusable. I never considered that a… homosexual couple… could be subject to abuse but… I-I was wrong. It is my eternal shame knowing that I laid a hoof on you in anger, my love.”
Vinyl said nothing throughout, merely focused on Octavia’s eyes, as if searching for even the barest glimmer of insincerity.
“I don’t expect you to forgive me right away… if ever. If you want me to leave I understand completely.” She choked on the last words, but was quickly consoled by her equally teary-eyed partner.
“I don’t want you to leave. I forgive you.”
“I don’t deserve it,” Octavia hiccupped and buried her face into Vinyl’s withers.
“I’ve done enough boneheaded things to know when a little bit of forgiveness is needed. Let’s just… not bring it up again, okay? It never happened.”
“We cannot just ignore it, Vinyl!” Octavia’s countenance hardened and she glanced around the bathroom, as if suspecting somepony of eavesdropping. Her next words were whispered and oozed clandestine. “They’re still out there.”
“… You’re not seriously talking about air quotes, are you?”
“Yes! And don’t you poke fun, Vinyl Winifred Scratch! This is serious! The fact that I accosted you is evidence of that enough!”
“Octy…” Vinyl stopped herself and sighed, rubbing her hooves in a circular pattern around her suddenly exhausted and exasperated temples. “I’ll never use air quotes again. I promise. If you have some other completely bullshit, crazy, borderline autistic head-problem, please let me know now and I’ll never do that thing either.”
“That is not good enough! I have had to tolerate the tyrannical regime of air quotes my entire life! On the subway, or just walking down the street! I had a business brunch at The Happy Cow last week and some… uncouth scoundrel used air quotes not thirty feet from my table!” Octavia scoffed and visibly shuttered, thinking back to that day. “It took every ounce of willpower I had to not crush his windpipe.”
Usually the joker of the two, Vinyl was well and truly at a loss for words for how utterly unpredictable this evening had been. She expected dinner, pleasant small talk, and then sweaty, neighbor-enraging sex, not a relationship-breaking neurosis over maybe the most ignorable and forgettable gesture known to ponykind. Octavia was, however, staring at her now, shaking Vinyl out of her stupor and demanding that she say something to appease her lover. She was clearly distressed, after all.
“… Let’s go kill air quotes.”
Now it was Octavia’s turn to look confused. “Excuse me, what?”
“Air quotes. Let’s kill ‘em dead. I’ll sit on air quote’s chest and you swing your cello at its head or something.”
“Vinyl, as much as I appreciate the sentiment, air quotes are not a physical thing.”
She shrugged, clearly undeterred. “They had to begin somewhere, right? Some inconsiderate asshole invented air quotes and now the plague has afflicted my marefriend. Octy—” Vinyl grasped Octavia’s hooves in her own and sat on the ground with her, a fire alight behind those magenta orbs comparable only to the glee she saw when Vinyl mixed a new track. It was infectious and Octavia was beginning to believe in this completely irrational scenario. “—I vow you will never live another day in fear of air quotes.”
Octavia was unsure of how to reply. After all, discussing how one would murder a concept was even sillier than becoming violent over that concept in the first place. Still, she smiled and kissed her lover, endlessly appreciative not just of the pony who was surely her soul mate, but how easily she was swayed to assist with such a complicated problem.
“All right, let’s do it. Let’s kill air quotations.”
“That’s the spirit, Octy! And I can think of no better place to start than Twilight’s library!”
“In the morning. First, we have food to finish, lest it get cold.”
“And then?” Vinyl’s eyebrows danced, earning a giggle.
“And then I’ll show you just how sorry I can be.”