• Published 10th Jan 2017
  • 1,318 Views, 16 Comments

To Warm a Mare's Heart in Two Hours - Timaeus



A tree in her living room and an intruder in her kitchen—Hurricane has a lot of explaining to do this Hearth's Warming. He only has two hours, and Platinum is counting down every second. Tick tock, Hurricane.

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Tick

Princess Platinum trudged down the cobblestone street. A throbbing in her head accompanied each crunch of her hooves in the snow. The pain focused on a spot between her eyes, and she muttered dark thoughts under her breath while the wind whistled by around her. With it came a creeping, biting cold that blew through her cloak and bit down through her well-groomed coat. Her teeth clattered, but she marched forwards, homeward bound.

She knew that her mane, an elegant, smooth set of peach-pink locks, would be wet and ruined by the time she reached the comfort of her hearth. She shook her head, pushing such thoughts aside, likewise ignoring the fact that, with every step, her hooficure spoiled a little bit more. Pausing only to draw her hood over her head and wrap her cloak tight against her frame, she turned her gaze skywards.

Snow.

Hadn’t ponies of all kinds had enough of snow for one eternity?

Alas, despite the outcry from a small, but vocal, group of unicorns, the pegasi insisted that the world simply needed snow. Even the earth ponies conceded that winter needed to happen for spring to follow, and what was winter without snow?

Commander Hurricane, in all of his boastful, blustering, passionate, infuriating glory was particularly strident. Though some time ago she may have been loathe to admit it, now Platinum could more easily appreciate how he took command of the situation when the matter came before the Inter-Council Tribunal. His voice rose above that of pegasi, unicorns, and earth ponies alike. When his hooves slammed on the meeting table, sending tremors down from the polished wood surface to the base of her spine, all eyes turned to him.

Anypony could respect the way he towered above everypony else in the room. With his wings spread wide, rising and falling gently with each heave of his chest, he was a sight to behold.

Then again, to make a display of oneself was the pegasus way.

Snorting, Platinum lit her horn, securing her scarf around her neck in the emerald glow of her magic. An agreement may have been made thanks to Hurricane, but that did not mean ponies were satisfied.

A shout from further down the street carried over the winter wind. Flicking her ear, she turned in time to witness a unicorn stallion snap his bushy, auburn tail to the side as he pulled his scarf out of the way of his walnut brown muzzle.

“Snow!” He snarled, his glare as cold and icy as the icicles hanging from the gutters above. Its target, a green pegasus, half-perched on a cloud that shook snowflakes free every time she moved, wrinkled her snout. “What in Arcanus’ name made you pegasi think that this was a good idea? Haven’t we suffered from this enough? We almost lost everything to winter!”

“Listen, we all know how bad that was,” the pegasus said, flicking the tips of her primaries, “but that doesn’t mean we can do away with winter!”

“Says who?”

“Says pretty much every pegasus and earth pony from here to the new village! Look, I know you unicorns can be a bit prissy about your hooves sometimes—”

“Watch it, featherhead!”

“—but how about you stick to your job and let me do mine? And watch the insults, pal, otherwise I might just accidentally dump all the snow in this cloud here right on your pointed head!”

Platinum sighed and turned the street corner, folding her ears back against her mane to drown out their voices. How many times had she heard that argument, now?

Unification, it would seem, was harder to achieve than anypony thought. Even the good Chancellor Puddinghead with her endless font of jokes and her never-ending smile, stooped from time to time to the kind of senseless bickering that drove them from their homes a little over a year ago.

Granted, when one of her fellow unicorn representatives called her ‘Chancellor Poopyhead,’ a certain level of immaturity could only be expected in turn.

If it wasn’t snow that had the United Tribes of Equestria bickering like schoolfillies, then surely something else would suffice. From food, to weather, to stray feathers from pegasi flying by overhead, to even smell, Platinum was comfortably certain that all ponies—her ponies—had fought about it, complained about it before the tribunal, or muttered about to each other as they trotted through town.

A cool breeze rolled down the street, picking up loose, fresh snow from the ground, making her shiver as small flames winked into existence every block. Scowling, Platinum ducked her head against the snow and wind and picked up her pace. If the streetlamps started to light, then sundown must have been fast approaching.

The most powerful of the unicorn nobility would be gathering in their observatory, then, joining their magic to reach out to the sun and guide it over the horizon. Soon, the moon would take its place, much to the chagrin of many. Given that a blanket of grey covered the sky for the last hoofful of days, how much could there be to complain about, really? Their world might darken, but it was not as if anypony could even see the sun setting behind the mountains to the west.

“Welcome to Equestria,” Platinum said into her scarf. “Land of harmony, snow, and cold, dark nights.”

Oh, yes. If ponies had to withstand snow and cold, then they should at least have longer days with more sun to compensate, or so some thought. Such individuals keenly made such thoughts known tribunal gatherings. Much like Hurricane with the weather, Platinum found herself having to explain the subtle nuances of balance and the harmony of day and night.

And, as with her feathered friend, those select individuals were not pleased to hear what she had to say.

Platinum’s head throbbed, and she shook herself of those memories before her headache could make the final leap into migraine territory. She focused on anything and everything else, from the chill setting in her bones, making her legs stiff and cold, to the numbness starting to spread over her snout.

Perhaps walking home was not the best idea. Perhaps Clover was right, and perhaps the restaurant was a bit too far, after all. Perhaps the frigid evening air was not as good for clearing her head as she thought.

Though, with the streets nearly empty and with ponies gathered around their hearths, perhaps no one would see what was most likely mucous collecting and dripping down her nose.

As she rounded a corner, she dared to allow herself a small smile. There, at the end of the road, was a manor, by Equestria’s standards. Quite large for a settlement that emphasized practicality over splendor, something many of the wealthier unicorns still struggled to grasp, it stood two stories high, roughly three times the size of a standard cottage shared by a family.

An excess of space, to be certain, but deemed appropriate by her subjects for their princess. The earth ponies and pegasi supported the notion, but only if their leaders could live in the same extravagancy.

Platinum trotted along, hooves plodding over the snow at a steady gait. While she neared her home, motivated by the promise of a warm fire and dry, cozy blankets, a thought took root, slowing her steps.

A year since Equestria was founded, a year since she was saved by the warmth of the friendship kindled between Clover the Clever, Smart Cookie, and Private Pansy, and how does she spend the second Hearth’s Warming in Equestrian history?

She shivered where she stood. Her tail curled around her hind leg in a poor attempt to keep the cold, now settled deep in her chest, at bay.

She then squawked when something hit her in the side of the head.

Stumbling to the side, she reached for her head and blinked when her hoof met something powdery and cold. She blinked again when she looked at the snow in her hoof. “A snowball?”

“That wasn’t funny, Saffron!” A foal’s whine reached Platinum, making her ear flick. “You could’ve hit me!”

A second, higher-pitched voice giggled. “That’s the point, Zippy! It was a snowball, you dork! We’re having a snowball fight! Didn’t you ever have snowball fights up in the clouds with the other foals?”

Platinum looked to the side as a young, unicorn filly trotted up to a pale blue colt. The tips of his wings poked out in alarm from underneath the layers of scarves and coats bundled around him. A small shock of sky-blue mane stuck out from under his toque as the filly, dressed only in a scarf, hat, and boots, booped his nose. “And I told you, dummy, it’s Saffy. We’re friends, now! Friends call each other nicknames!”

“It’s not that foals didn’t play in the snow,” the colt, Zippy, said. His tiny wings shook as he shifted his weight. “I just don’t like it. It’s cold! Why are we out here? Can’t we go play inside?”

“And listen to our parents talk?” Saffron stuck out her tongue and blanched. “No, thank you! Come on, we can build a snowpony before dinner’s ready! It’ll be fun! But first,” she said, crouching lower to the ground, “we have to get Hazel before she gets us.”

“Gets us?” The little bundle of a foal shook. “Where did she go?”

“Who knows? She could be anywhere, waiting to pounce!” In the light of the streetlamps, the little filly’s eyes gleamed with mischief. How very peculiar to see in a unicorn, and not in the eyes of a certain, troublemaking pegasus.

When Saffron’s gaze found Platinum, however, the mischief winked out. Her eyes widened and her ears pinned back. “Oh, um, hi, Princess Platinum!”

Zippy spun around, his own eyes widening and then filling with dread. “You hit her with your snowball! I knew you were going to get us in trouble, Saffron!”

“No, no, it’s quite all right. No harm was—”

The rest of what Platinum had to say was cut off when a small, brown-coated earth pony filly erupted from a snowbank behind the two foals. With a piercing battle cry, she pounced on the other two, bringing them down with her to the snow.

While their laughter and shrieks filled the air, Platinum found herself smiling. Laughing softly to herself, she shook her head and started back for home, leaving the foals to their games.

“Well,” she mused out loud, eyeing the closed-curtain windows of her year-old home, “an earth pony, a pegasus, and a unicorn. Friends. At least there’s hope for the foals.”

A wave of warmth rolled out from her door once she turned the lock and pulled the latch, drawing a content sigh from her lips. She slipped inside, letting out as little heat as possible, before she collapsed on her welcome mat. Her horn hummed with magic as she locked up from her spot on the floor. She closed her eyes, waiting for some of the feeling to seep back into her hooves and for the throbbing in her head to wane to a dull ache.

As she lay there, she set about unfastening the cloak from around her shoulders and unwinding the scarf from around her neck, shivering as her body adjusted. With her winter gear peeled off of her frigid coat and hovering above her in her magic, she groaned and forced herself to her hooves.

Clover was perhaps right about many things, including the need for proper, winter boots.

“First thing’s first, Platinum,” she said, willing her teeth not to chatter. “Start a fire, hang these up to dry, then worry about finding glamorous and cozy boots.”

Yes, a fire sounded exactly like what she needed to shake this cold from her bones. Before she took a step, however, something on her welcome mat caught her eye.

Platinum, like many unicorns, prided herself on maintaining neat and tidy living conditions, so much so that she made certain to pay her butler and maid very well for cleaning every speck of dust from her home.

A pine needle, green and garish against her auburn welcome matt, most definitely did not belong.

Her eye twitched once as she plucked the needle, holding it aloft just in front of her snout. A second look down revealed another not far away, and then a few more trailing down through the foyer and into her living room.

Scrunching up her muzzle, Platinum grumbled under her breath as she trod across her hardwood floor, gathering each stray needle in her magic until she had a smile pile. The frown tugging at her lips deepened when a peculiar scent reached nose, wafting in from deeper in the manor. It smelled sweet and of sugar and ginger.

Somepony was making cookies in her kitchen.

She flared her nostrils. Her maid and butler would have long gone home to be with their families. Theoretically, her house should be empty. But then, who would be so daring as to enter her home without her permission?

A small, nagging voice in the back of her mind told her that she already had a good idea. Images of a wide, cheeky smile accompanied by eyes like the sky after a storm were conjured, and she flicked her tail to the side.

He knew the price. If he intruded upon her home, he would have to pay it.

Stepping into the living room, she set about hanging her winter clothes up by the hearth to dry, only to freeze mid-step. Her magic fizzled out, dropping her cloak and pine needles to the floor before the already-burning fire, and her lips parted in surprise at the sight that greeted her.

Somepony had put up a tree in her living room. A pine tree, the source of the needles in her foyer, similar to the ones in the forests north of the Equestrian settlement, to be precise.

Worse than that, somepony had planted this tree in her home and decorated it. Baubles and glass trinkets hung from the branches, spaced out evenly along with dozens of glowing, glass orbs that spilled shadows of green, red, blue, and yellow across the floor and along the nearest walls.

“B-but—” Platinum sputtered and gaped as she inched towards the tree. She stopped close enough to reach out and poke one of the glowing glass orbs. “Who?”

Something small and grey caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. It was a feather, the same shade of grey as the overcast sky outside. Platinum ground her teeth as she lifted it and twirled it in her magic.

This specific type of feather was not unknown to her. She had seen this feather, and many others like it, many a time, ruffling against its owner’s thunderhead-black armor, reaching out to catch the wind beneath it, or stretching out to tickle the side of the poor soul next to it.

Oftentimes, that poor soul was her.

“Come on, Platty!” he would say, eyes alight with mischievous delight while the tips of his wing danced down her side. “You can’t blame me for wanting to hear the pretty princess squeal like the filly she is!”

Eyes narrowing to slits, Platinum looked from the feather in her grasp, to the tree in her living room, to the pine needles on the floor.

No amount of fast-talking or handsome, coltish smiles could get him out of this one.

Hurricane!

From the kitchen, something shattered. A few seconds later, the pounding of hooves heralded Hurricane’s arrival before he stuck his head in through the living room entryway. It took a force of will not to laugh at the state of the pegasus commander, but Platinum persevered.

“Platinum!” A too-wide, toothy smile stretched over Hurricane’s muzzle. Flour stained the tip of his snout and spotted in places down his neck to the apron he wore in place of his armor. Any other time, Platinum might have taken a second to appreciate how little padding went into filling out his chestplate. She was only a mare, after all, but watching the pegasus buckle under her glare was, for the time being, a much more satisfying sight.

“Hurricane,” she said, smiling inwardly when the subtlest of flinches shook his frame. “What are you doing in my house?”

“Uh, you’re back a little early, aren’t you?” His teal eyes, bright in the light of the fire, shifted from side to side as he ran a hoof through his messy, navy blue mane. “I mean, I thought you and Clover were going out to dinner after today’s council meeting?”

“We did, but the three chefs who operated the restaurant we went to, recommended to dear Clover by somepony, fought endlessly.”

“Oh. Yes, well, I can see how that could spoil dinner.” Hurricane cleared his throat. “And Clover didn’t offer to take you somewhere else?”

Platinum narrowed her eyes further. “Why, in fact, she did, but I was so put out from the experience that I told her I wanted to go home.” Though Hurricane may have stood nearly a head taller than she did, she stomped up to him and prodded his chest. “You wouldn’t have happened to put the notion in her head so that you could intrude on my home, make a mess of it, and then break my property when I catch you in the act, hmm?”

“Um.” A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead while his wings twitched by his sides. “No?”

“Wrong.” Flicking his nose, Platinum sat back on her haunches and crossed her forelegs over her chest. “What did you break, Hurricane?”

Hurricane winced. His ears folded back and he rubbed his snout where Platinum flicked him. “A bowl. It’s fine, though! It wasn’t one of your nice ones, just a regular, old bowl. I’ll get you a new one.”

A wicked little grin threatened to split her lips, and Platinum had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her composure. Oh, what a sight. The fabled commander of all pegasi, caught like the colt he was with his hoof in the cookie jar.

She raised an eyebrow. “A new one?”

“A better one,” Hurricane said. “One with sapphires encrusted around the rim?”

The other brow arched.

He swallowed. “Sapphires and rubies?”

Even on the coldest of winter days, nopony could have stood firm against the bashful, hopeful smile that appeared on his muzzle or the cow eyes he stared up at her with. Platinum sighed and rubbed a spot by the base of her horn. “Oh, very well. I accept your apology.”

In an instant, the pitiful look washed away from Hurricane’s expression in favour of a cocky, coltish smirk—the same one he wore whenever he was up to something. “Knew you couldn’t stay mad at me.”

“That remains to be seen, little stallion.” Platinum refixed her glare, but his smirk only grew in response. “I may have forgiven you for breaking my cookware, but you are far from out of the woods.”

“Oh, really?” Hurricane wiggled his ears. “And why’s that, Princess Platty?”

The corner of Platinum’s eye twitched. “I’ve had a long day, Hurricane, as you well know. It’s hideous outside, and we unicorns aren’t gifted with your insulation from the cold. I’m frozen, I’m tired, and I’m quite close to personally plucking your feathers to stuff my pillow.”

The smirk that danced over Hurricane’s face softened into something more caring and, if Platinum didn’t know him better, worried. “I know.”

“So, I’m going to give you all of five seconds to explain why you are here, what you are doing in my kitchen, and why you put this tree in my living room.”

“Only five seconds?”

This time, Platinum let the wicked grin worm its way over her face. “I think it’s quite fair, given your thorough breach of my privacy. Didn’t we pass a law against breaking and entering not too long ago?”

Scrunching his muzzle up, he shook his head. “That won’t be nearly enough time to explain anything.”

“Then I suggest you talk fast and stop whining. You’ve already gone and wasted two of your precious seconds. There goes the third, and now—”

“Hearth’s Warming.”

Platinum blinked. “Hearth’s Warming?”

The smirk returned. “Hearth’s Warming.”

To Hurricane’s credit, he held Platinum’s stare without giving an inch. After several long, silent seconds passed, she frowned. “Very well, Hurricane,” she said. “Five minutes. The floor, as they say, is yours.”

“A bit better, but still not nearly enough time to properly explain.” There was something to Hurricane’s smile that Platinum couldn’t quite place. A mischievous gleam twinkled in his eyes to be certain, against a fleeting backdrop of warmth that caught her off guard as he swept up next to her and guided her towards the fire. “Why don’t you relax on the couch while I fetch you a plate of cookies? You said you were frozen.”

“And then you’ll tell me exactly why you’ve been making cookies in my kitchen?” Platinum eyed him as he led her to the couch, trying not to shiver at the warmth that bled off from him. It was only when she slipped on to the sofa, made toasty warm by the crackling fire, that she realized how cold she still was. Her teeth chattered as she tucked a cushion under her chest. “And are you sure now is the proper time to be feeding me sweets? The clock is ticking.”

“Trust me,” he said, grinning around a blanket gripped between his teeth. Platinum exhaled when he pulled it over her torso. Evidently, it had also been warmed by the fire. “The cookies are a crucial part of the explanation.”

Finding herself without the strength to argue, Platinum settled for mumbling her assent while Hurricane skedaddled from the room. Her eyelids, growing heavier as warmth seeped into her, shaking the deep-seated cold from her bones, fell shut. A slow, lazy smile spread over her muzzle as she listened to the snapping and popping of wood on the fire.

It seemed only a moment had passed before somepony cleared their throat, drawing her from a doze she was ready to accept with open hooves. “Now, now, Platinum,” Hurricane’s voice said, low and soothing. “I can’t explain anything if you fall asleep on me.”

She felt his hoof gently push the bangs out of her face, and she grunted. “You know,” she mumbled, cracking one eye open, “I’m feeling quite generous tonight, Hurricane. I shall allow you to leave now unscathed to return and explain yourself in the morning.”

“There’s no fun in that,” he said, slipping a small, metal tray from his back to the coffee table. Then, with a little flutter of his wings, he perched himself on the sofa close enough that Platinum had to bend her neck to meet his eyes and not get an eyeful of his flank. “The explanation is only good now. Besides, I worked hard on these cookies. The least you could do is eat one.”

Platinum huffed into her pillow before pushing herself up. “Fine, fine. I hope you realize that your time is running out as it is. Are you sure you want me to eat a cookie when you could be saving your skin?”

“I am,” he said, nudging the tray closer with an outstretched wing. “Everything will be clear when you have one. It’s one of Smart Cookie’s family recipes.”

“Really, now?” Ears perked, Platinum turned to the tray. Half a dozen cookies lay on it next to a glass of milk. Lighting her horn, she plucked one and brought it to her muzzle. The cookie itself was a simple thing, round, brown, and smooth, but when she sniffed, she couldn’t help but smile. How often had her father sent for tins of similar cookies when she was a foal? “Well, they do smell awfully good.”

“Gingerbread. Cookie recommends dipping them in milk,” Hurricane said, poking another cookie with the tip of his wing. “She makes them in pony shapes and decorates them with icing. I’m not that good at baking, but hey, at least they’re not burned. Had to get Cookie to help me make a couple batches with her first, though.”

“I appreciate the gesture, and I’m sure they’re delicious, but why go to all the trouble?” Eyebrow raised, Platinum bit into the cookie. Then, she blinked and hummed as she chewed. “Oh, goodness. These are good. You made these from scratch?”

Once more, that mysterious something danced behind Hurricane’s eyes. “I thought it might bring a smile instead of a scowl. Scowling isn’t very becoming of a princess, you know.”

A tittering giggle built up from Platinum’s chest as she dunked her cookie in the milk. “Well, consider this a rousing success, Commander.” She smiled, holding the cookie aloft in her magic, basking in the warmth that covered her and the taste of gingerbread fresh on her tongue. “You’ve certainly put me in a much better mood. Why, I think my headache is gone.”

“That’s good. I like seeing you smile,” he said, picking a cookie up for himself from tray. He fiddled with it between his hooves, looking up at the tree. “It’s a shame my time will be up in about thirty seconds. There was so much more to explain.”

Platinum watched him out of the corner of her eye while she nibbled on her cookie. “Oh?”

“Most definitely,” Hurricane said, catching her gaze with a smirk. The tips of his primaries rustled and flicked, something Platinum recognized from enough tribunal meetings to make the fur on the back of her neck stand on end.

Very well. He let her have her games, so she would let him have his. “I suppose I can grant you some more time.”

Smirk stretching across his muzzle, he likewise stretched his wing out towards her side. “How much more time?”

Platinum snorted and swatted at his prodding wing, fighting down the smile that tugged on the corner of her lips. “Well, you have cheered me up considerably. It was very thoughtful of you to make me these cookies just to cheer me up, and I do rather enjoy your company.”

Hurricane’s ears wiggled. “Knew it. You love me.”

“When you’re not being annoying, at least,” Platinum said, lifting her nose to the air. “So, I have decided to grant you another half-hour to fully explain yourself. That should be ample time, yes?”

Hurricane hummed while he bit into his own cookie, fluffing his feathers as he let his gaze roam around the room. “I don’t know, Platty. A half-hour, huh?”

“Oh, will you stop using that dreadful nickname?” Though Platinum shot him a glare, she still found herself forcing her lips down to a neutral line while reaching for another cookie. “The last thing I need is for that to become popular around court.”

“I think it’s cute,” Hurricane said, chuckling from deep in his chest. It was a low, bassy sound that made Platinum’s ears twitch. “Princesses do cute, don’t they?”

“When they are foals, perhaps. I’m no foal, Commander,” Platinum said, brushing her curled bangs from her forehead. “I am a mare, and fully grown princesses are beautiful. Not cute.”

That strange something flashed behind Hurricane’s eyes again, flooding them with a warmth as she felt his gaze on her, travelling down the contours of her face. “I’ll say,” he murmured, turning back to the decorated tree and the baubles of glowing red, green, yellow, and blue light hung on its branches. “So, would a beautiful princess such as yourself trust her dashing stallion companion if he asked her for more time?”

Platinum watched him carefully, noting how the foalish energy she had come to associate with the pegasus seemed to have vanished. Neither was he wearing the mask of the stalwart and fearless commander that he crafted for his role. There was something else to his expression, something deeper.

Whatever it was, Platinum could not place it, and that fact alone made her frown. “Mayhaps. How much time would you need?”

“Is your evening schedule clear?” he asked, looking back to her with eyes that caught and shone in the firelight. “Do you have any prior engagements?”

“Oh, um, well,” Platinum started, dropping her gaze to her hooves. She blinked when she found one of them patting the end of her mane and shook her head. “It is Hearth’s Warming Eve. So, no. Why? Are you suggesting that it would take you all night to explain?”

Fluttering his wings, Hurricane slid off of the couch. His shadow, cast by the fireplace, spilled over Platinum and demanded her attention. “Are you suggesting you won’t be giving me the time to explain in full?”

“How very presumptuous of you.” The golden glow of firelight silhouetted his frame, drawing her eye away from his face and down along his muscled frame. Scrunching her muzzle, she forced her gaze to the dancing tongues of flame rolling over the crackling log in the hearth and stretched out over the sofa. “Perhaps I wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t you?” Hurricane slipped by her, flicking the tip of her snout with his tail. “Come on, now, my beautiful princess, you know you can’t resist.”

Platinum arched her brow in response. “Is that so?” Tugging her blanket further up her back, she snuggled her way deeper into the couch cushion. “You aren’t as irresistible as you like to think you are, Hurricane. I’m very capable of ignoring you and falling asleep this instant.”

“You could, but it wouldn’t last for very long.” Though he shrugged, his eyes danced with glee. “I know you, Platinum. The curiosity would eat away at you. What could I possibly have planned? What other delights could I have had in store for you?”

Platinum’s ear flicked and she lay her head down in her hooves.

Hurricane chuckled in that same, deep baritone. “The cookies were just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one doozy of an explanation.” The puff of his breath against her ear made it flick again. “And you’ll wonder exactly how much you would have loved it, too.”

A long, low sigh pushed its way out of Platinum’s mouth. “Two hours,” she said, lifting her head and bringing herself snout-to-snout with the stallion. “I will give you two hours of my time, and not a second more.”

A grin so smug that it could have been spread over toast split Hurricane’s muzzle. “Again, that’s a start. We’ll see what kind of tune you’re singing in two hours.” He perked his ears up and flicked his eyes to the window. “And what timing! It sounds like the next part of my explanation is here.”

Brow furrowed, Platinum lifted her head and tilted it to the side. At first, she heard nothing save for the fire, but as the seconds dragged on, she heard something else.

Somewhere outside was a collection of voices, singing out into the early night despite the cold wind blowing and snow underhoof. Her eyes widened as the voices grew louder, carrying with them a familiar tune, one sung by unicorns for generations. “Those can’t be.”

“Carolers, you mean?” Showing his teeth in a wolfish smile, Hurricane pranced towards the foyer. “They can be, and they are.”

“But how? Why?” Blinking owlishly, Platinum rose from her nest on the sofa and crept over to the window. With her blanket wrapped around her shoulders and trailing across the floor, she lifted the corner of the curtains with her magic and peered out.

There, gathered on her doorstep, was a small crowd of ponies. Donned as they were in their coats, scarfs, and hats, distinguishing them from each other was a task near impossible. Yet, despite that, Platinum gasped.

Unicorn horns, as expected, poked out from under toques, but on some ponies she saw wings flutter in the cold or holding a loved one close as they raised their voices to the sky. More ponies, she noted, didn’t appear to have wings or horns, but they sang all the same—songs that she knew from her foalhood, songs that she sang every year at the Winter Solstice.

“They sound pretty good, don’t they?” Hurricane asked, appearing at her side.

“Ponies from all tribes? Singing together?” Magic fizzling out, Platinum’s blanket spilled down to the floor in a heap as she gawked at Hurricane. “But that’s a unicorn tradition!”

The pegasus, for his part, simply smiled warmly at the window. When he turned that smile to her, she felt a tingle travel down the length of her spine, multiplied by the brushing of his wing against her side as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder. “You’ve got an extra coat, don’t you?”

Platinum nodded, finding her tongue heavy. “Yes, of course.”

In an instant, his eyes brightened as he nudged her. “Then what are we waiting for? Are you ready for the rest of your explanation, Princess?” He tightened the deep blue scarf wrapped around his neck and jerked his head towards the door. “I promise you won’t regret it.”

Taking a deep breath to school herself, Platinum stepped around her friend and stepped her way out of the living room. Her magic wreathed around her horn and, a few scarce seconds later, her other coat and scarf came floating out of her closet. “I did promise you I’d play along with your little game, didn’t I?”

“You did,” he said, clearing the distance between them in a single pump of his powerful wings, “but this is one game where everypony wins, especially you.”

“Before we go galavanting off, I do have one condition.”

Hurricane halted in the entryway, his head cocked to the side. “And what might that be?”

Adjusting her scarf, Platinum waved her hoof at the tree standing in her living room. “I demand an explanation for why that’s here. Unless you plan to have those carolers sing me the answer, you’re going to give it or I am going to bed.”

“That?” Hurricane smirked. “That’s a Hearth’s Warming tree, Platty. They’re supposed to help bring some cheer and warmth to ponies for tonight.”

“Oh. And why, pray tell, did you think it was acceptable to bring one into my home?”

Chuckling, Hurricane trotted in from the foyer and fiddled with the collar of Platinum’s cloak. “I already told you,” he said, lowering his head to eye-level. They filled her vision, basking her in something she still couldn’t quite place. Whatever it was, though, made her tail twitch behind her. “I like seeing you smile.”

“Oh. Well, um, shall we?”

He grinned and stepped to the side. “Yes, I think we shall.”