How Sweet It Is

by Cranberry Muffin

Maple Candy

Winter fell and the first snowfall of the season was put into effect shortly before Derpy’s scheduled week to bring snack.

She liked winter, in some ways. It was a time of rest for most citizens of Ponyville, and with the weather expected to be somewhat dreary and grey, the Weather Crew had more time off than usual.

And the attic room was sometimes drafty in the cold of winter, which meant she was invited to spend more time downstairs than the rest of the year. And those nights, spent in the warmth of the sitting room, playing board games with Thunderlane and Rumble, telling stories, or just relaxing…She treasured those nights, because it felt almost like having a family again.

She had a lot of stories to tell; a lot to say – Not that many ponies would listen. Derpy was adventurous, despite her limitations and shortcomings. She never let her mishaps bring her down and when she crashed, she simply picked herself up, dusted herself off and plowed on to the next thing.

She’d experienced a lot in her young life.

A lot, which she enjoyed talking about and Rumble -who had never before left Ponyville- enjoyed hearing about it.

It was the first such night of the new winter and Derpy was in the middle of a long, disjointed story about some casual acquaintance who got her tongue stuck to a snowflake machine because she couldn’t resist a dare.

Rumble was listening in rapt attention, wide-eyed and dazzled by the mare’s descriptions of Cloudsdale and the Weather Factory. It didn’t bother him –it never did- that her story jumped all over the place, straggling off into rambling tangents before she remembered the point and got back on topic. It was in part her ability to tell ten stories all at once that somehow tied together that made listening to her enjoyable.

Thunderlane was only half-listening, munching on caramel corn and leafing through a storm chasing enthusiast’s magazine. He’d heard the main part of the story before, but a digression involving a bowl of honey spilling in the snowflake room and freezing caught his attention, his ears perking as he swiveled his gaze to look at Derpy.

This new little bit of the tale had given him an excellent idea.


“Where are we going?”

It was the following morning and Thunderlane was nudging Derpy out the door after hastily bundling her into her boots and scarf. He was clearly excited and therefore too impatient to let her fumble with her outerwear herself. He’d been practically trotting in place as she stuffed her hooves into the boots and when the scarf wound up tangled in her mane, he’d haphazardly unwound it and wrapped it around her neck.

“I have an idea…An idea for your snack!” He started off in a brisk trot, expecting her to follow along.

She hurried to keep up, nearly tripping over her own hooves several times as she attempted to match his pace. “But…Where are we going?” She asked again, her breath puffing out in little clouds.

“To the market; we’ve got to get there before all the lazy ponies taking advantage of the weather decide they want to get up and make pancakes.” He glanced over his shoulder at her, grinning. He wasn’t going to tell her yet what the plan was –it was so simple it was positively brilliant- and the anticipation was killing him.

Despite the early morning sunshine, it was a frigid day, windy and brisk. A few snowflakes swirled here and there, settling in their manes and sparkling in the sun. Though they’d only been outside a moment or two, Derpy’s cheeks were rosy, her eyes dancing at the excitement of a surprise shopping expedition even as she stumbled into a snow drift on the side of the path.

She looked happy, and Thunderlane realized -as he helped her from the drift and dusted her off- that he really liked seeing her happy.

And it struck him then, in the cold, early hours of the morning, as she gave herself a little shake, her lazy eye lolling off in some odd direction, as he retrieved her scarf that the wind had snatched away…He just liked her.

She flicked a clump of snow out of her tail, oblivious to his sudden revelation, and reoriented herself in the direction of town. “C’mon, Thunderlane…You’re the one who knows where we’re going.”

“…Right.” He tucked aside the question of what to do with his newly discovered feelings for later consideration, and gave his wings a flap. “It’ll probably be faster if we fly.”


She had, when they left the house, thought they would be embarking on some sort of epic shopping quest and it therefore left her a little less than impressed when the single purchase of the morning was a lone jug of maple syrup.

“How are we going to make something with just that?” She cocked her head, looking at the jug with one eye and him with the other. She knew –even with her limited cooking capabilities- that no matter what a pony was cooking, they needed more than one ingredient.

“You’ll see.” They were in the kitchen and Thunderlane was rummaging in one of the cabinets. After a moment, he came up with a wide, shallow pan likely used for baking cakes. “Here, take this outside and fill it with snow, will you?”

Derpy blinked, looking from the jug of syrup to the pan, still not comprehending what his plan was.

Thunderlane smiled again; he’d hardly stopped smiling all morning. It may have just been because he knew what was going on, but he figured he was more excited about this project than Derpy was. “I promise; it’ll make sense in a minute. Just go get the snow, okay?”

She shrugged, dragging the pan outside and heaping snow into it. She did it quickly, pausing only briefly to stamp her hooves against the cold – In a hurry to see what Thunderlane had planned, she hadn’t bothered to bundle up to go out.

With the snow-filled pan safely back in the kitchen –somehow, she’d managed to cart it back in without stumbling or spilling, even in a rush- Thunderlane uncorked the syrup. “Give me a minute…” He paused for a second, smoothing down the top of the snow heap so it was level, then carefully poured a little whorl of maple syrup over the snow.

Derpy watched both his face and the pan of snow simultaneously, still uncertain what he was making. She’d never seen anything like it! Her parents had been too busy to cook for or with her on a regular basis and she had never learned much beyond the basics herself. “But…what is it?”

“Try it!” With the tip of a hoof, Thunderlane slid the then-hardened swirl of maple syrup from the snow, offering it to the perplexed mare.

She took it, popping it in her mouth whole. What had once been maple syrup had frozen into a little twist of crunch with a chewy inside that melted in her mouth. She closed her eyes, savoring the taste that reminded her of autumn; of sunshine and bright colors. This whatever-it-was that Thunderlane had made…It was like a little bit of heaven.

Oh yes.

This was going to be a hit.

Thunderlane watched her face carefully, his heartbeat quickening as her eyes slid shut and an utterly blissful expression softened her already childish features. She was cute, though most ponies probably didn’t notice, because they were too busy snickering about her wonky eyes and clumsy gait. But Thunderlane, who had lived in the same house as her for the past two years and had spent more time with her in the months since the snack rotation had been put in place, was able to look beyond those things that made Derpy Derpy only on the surface.

And beneath her awkwardness, she was a pony with a warm, welcoming heart, who tried her hardest and didn’t deserve to be picked on when she fell short.

“What do you think?” He asked quietly, already knowing she’d be onboard with the plan. Her expression said it all; but he had to break the silence, for fear of doing something that would only scare them both, like kissing her while her eyes were closed.

“I think,” She opened her eyes again, for once focused and looking directly at Thunderlane, “that nopony will make fun of me if I bring that for snack.”


Two nights later, Rainbow Dash found Derpy alone in the Weather Crew Cloudhouse, pulling things out of her saddlebags and arranging them on a table.

The weekly meeting wouldn’t be beginning for another half-hour. Derpy was notoriously late, rushing in to things at the last minute. It therefore took Rainbow Dash a moment to figure out what she was doing there, then she remembered – It was Derpy’s night to bring snack.

In a rather impressive show of self-restraint, the blue pegasus remained silent, watching from the doorway as Derpy set several small serving platters on the table, arranging them just so. That task completed –and remarkably disaster-free- she lifted a snowflake motif tin onto the table and pried the lid off.

Rainbow hadn’t been sure what to expect –other than something utterly inedible- and the little brown lumps Derpy was cheerfully arranging on the platters were not encouraging her to believe otherwise.

“Oh!” And when Derpy turned, she stopped short at the sight of Rainbow Dash standing just across the threshold, brow furrowed as she peered beyond Derpy at the table. “Um, hi Rainbow Dash.” She tried to sound cheerful, but…Rainbow had a habit of being very blunt in her opinions. “I brought snack.” That much was obvious, but she wasn’t sure what else to say.

Rainbow trotted further into the room, peering at the small spread on the table. “…What is it?” She asked, one eyebrow quirking upwards, a small frown crossing her face. The plates were full of brownish lumps, unidentifiable and strange-looking, exactly as she expected.

“Um…” Derpy swallowed her nervousness, trying not to shuffle awkwardly. Individually, they looked okay; kind of pretty even, comprised of random swirls and whorls. But piled up on the plate…They looked like one giant cowpie. And what if the rest of the crew didn’t think they tasted as good as she did? What if this was all just some mistake? “It’s maple candy.”

“Maple candy, huh?” Rainbow strode forward that final step, reaching to take one off the plate for a taste. She was stopped by a gentle tug on her tail and turned, her frown deepening as she glowered at Derpy.

But the grey pony just looked her in the eye, a small frown crossing her own face. “Nuh-uh.” It took a lot for her to stand up to Rainbow Dash, even on an issue as minute as this. “You gotta wait until later, just like everypony else.”

The other pony’s mouth opened, then shut again. Rainbow had been about to argue that being the boss, she deserved a sneak preview of the snack, but Derpy was looking right at her, mouth drawn in a thin line, a sure sign that she would brook no argument. And given that her usual expression was one of cheerful obliviousness, not this blend of anxiety, tension, and tightly controlled…fear?

Rainbow Dash knew when to back down.

“…Right.” She stepped back from the table, smiling awkwardly, “I’ll wait for the meeting to start.”


It was torture, waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive and the meeting to begin. Derpy had been so worried about arriving late that she had gotten there too early and she knew it. The twenty minutes between her exchange with Rainbow Dash and the start of the meeting had been the longest of her life and she spent the time pacing in front of the table, bumping it occasionally, and even once feeling like she wanted to crawl under it and hide.

Though she inadvertently drew attention to herself with all of her disasters and accidents, Derpy was actually not fond of being in the spotlight. She knew that when other ponies noticed her, it was usually for all the wrong reasons.

And though she’d spent all that time worrying, the maple candy was met with a rousing success.

Derpy couldn’t have told anypony what had been discussed at that night’s meeting. If it weren’t for the parchment with her assignments for the week scrawled on it, she wouldn’t have a clue what she was supposed to be doing in the coming days. All she would remember of that night was the fact that she had done something successful; something that she hadn’t thought she could do and yet…She had!

And it was all thanks to Thunderlane.

She had hardly forgotten that fact.


The night was crisp and clear, Luna’s moon shining brightly in the sky.

Derpy was prancing along, still riding high on the wave of pride that came with a job well done. Her hooves barely touched the ground, despite the fact that she was walking rather than flying, and a grin was plastered on her face, her head held high.

And beside her, again, Thunderlane was trotting, easily keeping pace with the smaller mare. “I told you we’d figure it out.” He said jovially, a hint of pride creeping into his voice. It had been his idea, after all, and he was proud of himself for coming up with it; proud of her for pulling it off. She had worked hard and done a great job and the end results? They had been awesome.

“You did.” Suddenly, she stopped, turning to look at Thunderlane as he slowed, peering up at him through the moonlight. “And you really helped me a lot…”

Though she was still smiling happily, she was shivering a little –it was cold- and he took a daring step closer, pressing their flanks together for extra warmth. “Yeah.” He ducked his head a little, still shy at the thought of anypony really giving him special attention, “It was nothing…”

“No!” She shook her head vehemently, the word coming out on a little puff of breath, “It means a lot to me, because nopony’s ever tried to help me like that. You really, you know, encouraged me and kept me from getting too worried and messing up even more.” She shifted a little, unintentionally pressing their bodies closer together, “Um, and I have something for you…Kind of like a thank you present.”

Then she stepped back away, flipping open one of her saddlebags and tugging out a small package wrapped in plain brown paper. She offered it to him, looking in two other directions at once, but not at him. “So…thanks.”

He took it, gingerly removing the wrapping to see what small treasure lay within. It was a maple candy – likely the last one from the batch. But unlike the rest, it wasn’t a curlicue, or a swirl, or even a squiggle. For a moment, he thought it was just a coincidence, but when he glanced up at Derpy and saw –even in the faded light of the moon- the blush blossoming across the bridge of her muzzle, he knew the lopsided heart shape of the candy was deliberate.

As he looked back down at the candy resting in his hoof, she lowered her head, unable to look at him, but smiling hopefully down at the snowy ground.

It came then as a surprise when he pressed a soft kiss against her cheek, and her head rose again, only for their eyes to meet.

He smiled -“I’ll save it for later.”- and tucked one of his wings snugly around her shoulders. “Let’s go home.”

She nestled against his side, suddenly unaware of how cold it was; unaware of anything other than the fact that Thunderlane had just kissed her and her heart was threatening to pound its way out of her chest.

Maybe she would remember something about the night besides just the candy after all.