Cafe Harmony

by River Shy

Magic and Herd

Cloud Arch was a filly who saw herself as a protector. She stood up to bullies, colt and mare alike. Her favourite element bearer was Rainbow Dash. Unlike her twin sister Chinook Wind she tended to eschew touchy feely stuff. So once the threat was scared away, the poor filly had no clue what to do.

Katie lay unconscious near the river, she was scratched all over but breathing. Cloud trotted up to her and nudged her with a hoof gently, “You ok?” naturally there was no answer. She mumbled to herself trying to figure out what to do next. She couldn’t leave the girl here, nor could she fly her unconscious body above the trees. Lowering herself she slid her front hooves between the girl’s arms and lifted. Cloud hesitated upon discovering deep painful scratch’s on her back. It was clear to the filly Katie had fallen on the rocks near the river bank. Shaking off her upset, Cloud decided to fly the girl slowly down the path she came. “Spear, follow me please.” Cloud began the long process of little flying hops though the forest.

"But is she going to be ok?" Strawberry asked in panic. Doctor Kindly Heart was looking at the new scans he had taken. Could Arch managed to get the girl to safety, dragging her seemingly lifeless body into the middle of the party. Strawberry rushed Katie to the clinic, while Rocky went out to find Kindly.

"I think so? Look Strawberry, if little Cloud Arch is correct and Katie was trying to cast magic, and it did what I think it did, this might be serious," he replied gravely.

"What do you think happened?"

"Well Katie does not have a magic system per sae, nothing to conduct or channel it, no horn you see. When she tried to cast a spell her body didn't know what to do, and the magic didn't know what to do, it seems to me that it might of used her nervous system in lieu of a magic system. So in order to cast that magic bubble, all her nerves were firing." The doctor examined the scans his head turned to Strawberry. "We just need to hope there is no serious nerve damage."

Rocky sat quietly in the medical room beside the bed Katie was laying on. The massive bed made the fragile being seem even smaller and more vulnerable. Placing his hoof on the bed he adjusted Solid Spear so he was laying beside the girl. The stallion spoke softly to no pony, "You sure know how to crash a party little bit. I hope you are ok."

There was no permanent damage eventually Katie was discharged to Strawberry's care. Rocky refused to leave the mare's side the whole time. He took up residence in the spare room Katie had slept in, while Katie, still unconscious, was placed in Strawberry's room. The mare secretly hoped putting the girl in her room would ease her suffering somehow. Katie swam in a dream state, not really aware, dreaming on occasion. Strawberry crawled into bed curled around the girl much like a mother would with a new foal, and gently rested her head across her body falling asleep.

I stood alone in the middle of my elementary school playground. Wood equipment towered and twisted around. The dusty, chalky gravel crunched underfoot. Everything was quiet, the sky was cloudless though a small breeze lifted and swirled under my childhood dress. How did I get here? I began to take small steps towards a climbing apparatus.

After a few steps I heard a small noise behind me, glancing over my shoulder there was the monster again. Shrubs sprouting out and around solid coloured malevolent eyes. It drooled in anticipation. I turned around and started walking backwards arms up in a placating manner. This had to be a dream, I thought vaguely. The beast rushed me and the terrifying maw came clamping down on my right arm. My own internal screaming started me awake.

I awoke unsure of where I was and panicked. Everything was dark, a large but not to heavy weight pressed down on me. I pushed at it heart hammering, my breath coming out heavy and laboured. The weight shifted a little and Strawberry’s kind voice filled my ears. “Relax love, you're safe.” Her words did not reach me. This world has monsters, honest to goodness monsters! My movements became urgent. Suddenly the weight shifted, and I was being handled gently. Turned and held firmly in place. The confinement had an oddly relaxing effect on me. A removal of agency, to my shock was something I really needed at this time. It created a sense of safety, from the world, from myself, all that was expected of me was to stop fighting, and accept the comfort, which I did. The fur was warm and soft, but strong and weighted, everything smelt of her. Things settled, my mind started to pull itself back together. I felt the cool calming sensation of Strawberry’s tongue between my shoulder blades and in-between each sensation she whispered comfort. It felt heavenly on the cuts and scrapes. Relaxing my muscles I fell back into sleep.

Sunshine danced into the kitchen bouncing off surfaces where Strawberry was cooking. Rocky White was sitting at the table, coffee steaming in front of him, he looked tired. He watched the pink coloured mare with a small enigmatic smile. “So what do you think Straws?”

Strawberry put down a spatula she was holding in her mouth. “I think Katie might take it wrong. That little filly is a proud one. Approach this the wrong way and we’ll be in trouble.”

“How can it be bad, I mean we just tell her you and I will be her Equestrian parents.”

“Did you think perhaps she doesn’t want parents?”

“What little filly wouldn’t want wonderful parents like you and I?” Rocky smiled impishly. He liked the idea of looking after a little filly.

Rocky and Strawberry had talked a long time while Katie slept. Doctor Kindly was adamant, the girl should not be put in a situation where magic was needed. Her overall heath demanded it, further attempts would damage her, things were not utterly bleak though, Kindly did find that the girl was adapting. The scans showed clear development, so though magic now was out of the question he could not say for certain it always would be. This lead the two to discuss how best to help the girl. Rocky insisted he take part, that Strawberry couldn’t do this kind of work alone. Rocky was moving in. This was a long time coming, even without the human accelerating the process. Both wanted it, and both saw this as an opportunity to grow closer.

“You know that filly hasn’t had much guidance from what I can tell,” Strawberry replied simply watching the pancakes.

“Of course I know that, I see it too,” Rocky replied a little more sharply than he’d have liked, he was not a morning pony. Just as he finished speaking Katie appeared. She was half dressed at the threshold to the kitchen holding the pony doll tightly. Slowly she made her way to the table putting down the doll she looked at the kitchen chair as if lost.

“Here let me help.” Strawberry trotted over, sealed the garment and lifted the girl into the chair.

"Thank you," Katie whispered quietly.

"How are you feeling?" Rocky asked gently.

"Shaky, I don't remember much," Katie replied, looking at the coffee mug with large devouring eyes. "Can I have some of that?" she added hopefully. Strawberry would never give her coffee and right now it was all she wanted.

"Sure," the stallion slid the mug across the table to the girl.

"Rocky? I don't know if that is a good idea," Strawberry chided.

"Relax Straws it's only a drink, won't hurt her," Rocky replied in good nature.

Katie carefully grabbed the mug with the her fabric covered hands. The mug was much bigger than she was accustomed to, having no grip the awkwardness was apparent. Strawberry suddenly realizing breakfast still needed attention, stopped hovering over the girl and moved back to the pancakes. Katie took a sip. For coffee it was odd, not like the coffee at home, it had none of the bitterness or richness she wanted, instead it tasted somewhat grassy. Her taste buds did not enjoy the experience and her face showed it. Putting the mug down she pushed it away.

"Don't like it?" Rocky reached back over for the mug.

"No, it doesn't taste like coffee at all," Katie replied sadly.

"It grows on you," Rocky remarked as Strawberry brought over breakfast plates balanced on her back. Placing three plates down she took a seat. The three began to eat. Katie was the first to speak. "What happened?" she asked simply.

Strawberry took a moment to finish the food in her mouth and explained in short simple words everything that had happened. From Cloud Arch following and saving her, to Katie's magic casting. She even included doctor Kindly Heart's advice, including the potential damage to her nervous system if she tried to cast magic without the proper magic system developed.

Katie took it all in and didn't reply right away as if weighing her words, after a prolonged silence she spoke, "I didn't mean to cast that spell, I have no idea how I did it. How am I to not do it again? I am the only human being on an alien world, everything is threatening and different."

"Me and Straws think we have a solution for that," Rocky spoke up.

Neither Rocky or Strawberry wanted to be the pony that brought the idea up. So instead of saying anything the two kind of looked at each other. Katie watched and waited until she couldn’t take the atmosphere anymore.

“Well? What is the solution?” the girl coaxed.

Strawberry a pony to never shy away from a tough conversation was the first pony to speak. “Well you see Rocky and I have an idea which might sound crazy. But hear it out and don’t dismiss it out of hoof. So Rocky is moving into the house with us.”

“He is?” Katie added a bit surprised at the suddenness of the move. She wasn’t privy to their history so to her it seemed surprising.

“Yes, and we are going to be kind of a herd, and we think it would be good if you’d agree to be part of it. Given how strange this world is to you, how ‘threatening’ you feel it to be, Rocky and I figured you’d need adults, you know ponies to guide you and help make you feel safer here. We’d be more than willing to be those ponies for you, if you’d let us.”

"Wait." There was a pause as Katie stopped eating and looked at both ponies. "Herd? Is that like a family? Are you asking me to be your foal?"

"Look at it not as us asking you to be a foal, look at it as us asking to be your Equestrian parents," Rocky added from the end of the table.

"But I'm an adult, I... couldn't... it's not fair to you two," Katie replied.

Strawberry sighed inwardly, we are back here again and this is going to be a hard conversation, she thought to herself. The mare had been dancing around this topic with the girl for weeks, just in different words. Strawberry knew there was some serious hang up here, the girl had real trouble accepting care from others. Up to this point she had been gentle, but given everything that had happened Strawberry was more inclined at this moment to a direct confrontation. "Katie, why do you think being a foal is so bad?"

"It's not bad in itself ok? Look," she grabbed the bridge of her nose in a very human gesture of frustration. "I just can't, it's just something I can't do, I'm not allowed."

"Not allowed, what do you mean, who is forbidding you?" Rocky questioned genuinely confused.

Katie was beginning to feel a bit cornered and unable to escape the conversation. The magic was pressing down on her in a threatening way, like it was going to force her to do something she'd regret. When she spoke it was very heavy with emotion and honest. "I just, some....ponies," she struggled getting the right moniker, "are adults ok, and some are foals. That is just how it is. Being a pony and acting like a foal is burdening others, and I can't burden others in that way, I know what that feels like, to be burdened like that."

"Now little bit that isn't fair. Strawberry and I get to decide what is burdensome or not, you are making that decision for us, we are asking you to let us care for you. You don't get to decide what or how Strawberry or I feel about it," Rocky replied, "Sounds like you had quite a lot on your plate back home, could that perhaps be clouding your judgement?"

"Can we not talk about my life back home?" Katie asked suddenly looking to take a modicum of control over the conversation.

Strawberry ever present to the undercurrents of the conversation verbally stepped between the two. "Ok we don't have to talk about your past if you don't want to. But Katie, this is something Rocky and myself want to do, we want to help you. Can you at least think about it? I mean we are not going to force anything on you, we can negotiate, this isn't as either or as you seem to think it is."

"I don't know," Katie hesitated.

"Do you trust us little bit?" Rocky asked.

"Yes." There was a pause. "You have both been so kind to me. How could I not trust you?" Katie replied smiling a little.

"Well, we are asking you to take that trust just a little bit further, you think you can do that?" Rocky picked up his coffee and took a drink.

"If I agree what does this mean?" Katie asked.

"Well we don't have to decide that right now," Strawberry added taking her plate off the table and putting it into the sink. "Luckily this is something we can all work out together, cause you know that is what herds do."