• Published 3rd Dec 2017
  • 3,934 Views, 130 Comments

Heart of the Force - fluttershyfan17

In the midst of Order 66, Jedi Knight Kaleb Taymar is transported to Equestria. Starting a new life, he becomes friends with the Main 6. However, the Force has awakened in Equestra, and their lives will never be the same.

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Chapter 11: Hearth's Warming in Cloudsdale

There was a nervous tapping that echoed throughout the library, specifically coming from Spike at the moment. He would glance down at the chess board to see that Kaleb had taken out most of his pawns and found his king exposed as both his queen and rook had been taken out. The lights of the Hearth’s Warming Tree reflected around the room in the early afternoon as the curtains were closed. Twilight and Spike were leaving in the evening to spend the holiday at her parent’s house, so the library was currently closed.

Spike gulped nervously. “Knight to Four G.” Nodding, Kaleb waved his right hand and the figure moved to the position right into the trap that he had set up.

“Checkmate,” Kaleb said, rubbing his hands before starting to put away the pieces. “You did really well, you know. I didn’t expect that move with your bishops.”

Spike nodded, still looking disappointed. “Thanks. Honestly, I don’t know why I keep falling for those tricks.”

“It’s a matter of experience. The more times you play, the better you will become at recognizing the traps and avoiding them.” Kaleb looked at him with a curious expression. “Still, I don’t know why you had me move all of the pieces with the Force.”

Spike chuckled. “It’s part of this comic book series that I’ve been getting into recently where two wizards use their magic to play chess. It’s wizard’s chess. By the way, I can lend it to you if you want to borrow it.”

“Thank you, I’ll have to take up that offer sometime,” Kaleb replied. “It’s been great being here for the past few days. Are you looking forward to going to Twilight’s parents for Hearth’s Warming?”

Spike nodded enthusiastically. “Definitely! Her parents are so nice and they make the best gemstone cookies. So, are you nervous about meeting Fluttershy’s family?”

Kaleb thought for a second before replying. “A little, but when you’re meeting your marefriend’s family for the first time, there’s always some. I have no idea how I’m walking on the clouds, though.”

As Spike was about to reply, the door to the basement sprang open and Twilight rushed out of the basement with Fluttershy following her slowly after a few moments later. “I’ve figured it out!”

Kaleb accepted the two bottles from her with a confused expression. “Thank you, Twilight. I’m assuming these are some kinds of potions?”

Twilight nodded. “Exactly. The white potion is for walking on the clouds, and one sip will last you twelve hours. The blue potion is a little more complicated. Pegasi anatomy is different from any other ponies, specifically in the larger lunges that allows them to breath normally at high altitudes. This should allow your lunges to adjust to the altitude and it will also last 12 hours per sip.”

Fluttershy looked at the clock on the wall. “We should probably be going if we’re going to make the hot air balloon flight.” She turned towards Twilight and Spike with a joyous expression. “Have a wonderful Hearth’s Warming.”

Kaleb nodded, standing up to put on his blue winter coat over his red sweater Taking the small suitcase he borrowed from Twilight, he carried it over to the door. “I hope you guys have a great Hearth’s Warming.” He waved awkwardly as Fluttershy trotted out the door and he followed, closing it behind him.

It took them a few minutes to make it to town square, but luckily the winds had died down so that the snow wasn’t blowing in their faces. For Kaleb, this was a nice time to reflect and think, but there was an edge of anxiety in his thoughts. Faust, I’m tired. Hopefully, I can see Lyra soon; they’ve only gotten worse since coming back here. Twilight and Spike didn’t say anything, so maybe I didn’t wake them up? I just hope that I’m able to make it through this trip without…

“Hey, are you doing alright?” Kaleb snapped out of his thoughts to find Fluttershy gazing at him with a concerned expression. “You seem a little tense.”

He shook the thoughts from his mind to wake up. “I’m fine, just a little bit tired I guess. Also, probably anxious about the balloon ride. It’s just that there’s no protection in case something goes wrong and it’s exposed out in the open.”

“I can understand that,” Fluttershy replied, looking at him with sympathy. “My family would take me on balloon rides around Cloudsdale when I was too young to fly, and it would terrify me. There are a bunch of options in case the balloon fails. Besides, I could probably catch you in case you fall.”

Kaleb chuckled. “I have full faith in you in case that happens. I’m looking forward to meeting your family, I guess I’m just a little nervous about how they’ll react to me being human. What if they don’t approve, or…”

She took him aside underneath one of the awnings to readjust her winter hat. “Kaleb, you have nothing to worry about. They already know, and my parents are the nicest ponies you can ever meet,” Fluttershy said quietly, her compassionate gaze staring at him. “Besides, the only thing you have to worry about is Zephyr, but I’ll handle him. There’s something else that I wanted to talk to you about before we go. My family’s house is really small, and we don’t exactly have any spare bedrooms…”

“I can sleep anywhere, really,” he started, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ve slept on the ground before, but that was a long time ago. I could probably sleep on a couch if I need too…”

“The couch would be pretty small for you, and also my mom has a rule about not laying down on it,” Fluttershy explained. “Zephyr is pretty loud at night, and I can’t imagine that’s good for your PTSD”

Kaleb nodded. “That’s a good point, but I’m still not sure where I’m going to sleep.”

“I have an idea, actually, please hear me out.” Fluttershy said in a whisper like voice. “I have a trundle bed in my room, it was originally for sleepovers but I never had any. Maybe you could take the bed underneath?”

Kaleb looked at her thankfully, but also had an edge of uncertainty in his voice. “Thank you, Fluttershy. That sounds nice, but I’m just uncertain about your parents. I don’t want my time as Equestria’s first human to be cut short because your father throws me over the edge of Cloudsdale for sleeping in the same room and nearly the same bed.” His right hand moved upward slightly, and spiraled down to illustrate the point.

Fluttershy had a slightly mortified look. “Oh, no it’s not like that, it was my mom’s suggestion, actually. They don’t really care about that, I wanted you to feel…”

“I’m sorry about that, I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that I’m new to relationships and I don’t know what’s normal for Equestria’s culture,” Kaleb apologized, looking guilty. “I just want to be the best coltfriend that I can, and there’s just so much to learn.”

Fluttershy gave him a hug. “It’s okay, apology accepted. I know this is new for the both of us, but we’ll learn together.” She released him, still holding on to his hand. “Is the trundle bed okay with you?”

Kaleb nodded. Hopefully, they’ll hold off for the trip. It is in a more relaxing location. Maybe I can tell her something indirectly. “Just to give you a heads up, I’ve been a bit of a light sleeper these past few weeks. If I get up in the middle of the night, I’m just stretching before trying to get back to sleep.”

Fluttershy nodded and they walked the rest of the remaining way to the balloon flight. As the pilot began to prepare for takeoff, she gave Kaleb a small grin. “First time?” He nodded, not taking his eyes off her. “It’s always an adjustment to get used to. Trust me, in my twenty years doing this, I’ve never had a flight go wrong.”

Kaleb gave her a small nod of reassurance, but turned back to Fluttershy with a nervous smile. “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this, or that this is the most dangerous part of the trip”

She returned an expression of amusement. “I thought you would say meeting the parents was the dangerous part, but you do have a point.” She chuckled a bit at her own joke, and Kaleb rolled his eyes slightly while also chuckling. As the balloon began to float slightly before the pilot cut the sandbags holding it down, Fluttershy and Kaleb both grabbed onto the rope that secured them both. Fluttershy turned to Kaleb and gave him a quick kiss on the lips that left him surprised. “For luck,” she explained, blushing slightly.

Kaleb chuckled. “I’m going to need all the luck I can get.” He took a sip of the blue potion, and there was a slight lurch as the balloon went up into the sky.

The ride was quiet for the most part, with Kaleb trying not to look down and keeping his hands close to the rope inside the basket. Once in a while, the winds would take them in an unusual direction, but the pilot guided the balloon steady and true. It was late in the afternoon when they landed in Cloudsdale, with the snow surrounding the clouds reflecting in the rainbows that went straight down. He looked around with awe and amazement at the sight, and braced himself for the landing.

The pilot secured the balloon, and opened the door to the basket. “Well, here goes nothing.” Kaleb cracked nervously as he took a sip of the white potion. Stepping forward slowly, he made his way onto the cloud, putting one foot on it to test it before going completely. Seeing as the cloud held, he bounded forward and took several large steps.

It was unlike anything he had felt, with the clouds feeling like a soft grass that made his boots shrink slightly into the ground. He held his hands out in front of him, trying not to lose his footing. Fluttershy walked up, extending a wing to help steady him. “It takes some getting used to, but it’s pretty easy once you have a handle on it. Luckily, the winds aren’t too bad right now.”

“I definitely see what you mean,” Kaleb replied, extending his arms out to keep balance. “It’s going to take some practice.” The two of them began to walk and take in the sight that was Cloudsdale. There was a stadium off in the distance, and he could hear the roaring of the crowd over the wind. “I’m assuming that flying is a popular sport around here.”

Fluttershy nodded. “They have races year-round. This is the Hearth’s Warming Tournament, which is really popular. Flight is a huge part of the culture here, and there’s a lot of pride and tensions.” As they walked into the town, the view of the weather factory overlooked the shops, the whistling of the wind constant over the sounds of Hearth’s Warming Carols. “The factory must be producing the winter clouds. They are transported all over Equestria, and a lot of the time the spare snow makes its way to here.”

That explains the snow on the clouds, Kaleb thought, looking at the snow falling to the ground. “The view during the night must be incredible. There’s nothing to cover the stars.”

“It really is. On occasion, astronomical events happen like meteor showers and we have to move to keep from being struck.” Fluttershy pointed up a small street. “It’s right up here, near the end of the lane.”

Together, they walked up the lane and came up to the house where she indicated. It was a small house, made from purple concrete and brick with a rainbow fence. The roof had cloud ornamentations as well that gave it a rich feel. Kaleb took a deep breath, and looked at Fluttershy, “Shall we?”

“Yes, let’s go in,” She replied. They walked up to the door and she knocked on the door timidly. There was some frantic scurrying on inside, and the door opened to reveal Fluttershy’s mom. “Mom!”

“Fluttershy! It’s great to see you,” Mrs. Shy exclaimed hugging her daughter. “It’s been too long since we’ve seen you.” She let go and took a look at them. “And you must be Kaleb. You two look so cute as a couple.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Shy, thank you for inviting me for Hearth’s Warming,” Kaleb greeted, accepting the warm hug she gave him. “Now I see where Fluttershy gets her good looks.”

Mrs. Shy chuckled. “Flattery certainly earns you points with the parents. Anyway, please come in. My husband will be back shortly, he’s bringing dinner.”

Fluttershy went in first, with Kaleb going in behind her. As the door closed, Kaleb could smell the scents of cinnamon and ginger, as music played in the background. She indicated where he could put his luggage, which was a small pile by the stairs. Taking off his coat, he moved it to a small rack and strode into the living room. The beige wallpaper with cloud ornamentations paired nicely with the tree in the corner, decorated with homemade ornaments. On the wall were family pictures, each showing a snapshot into the past. They both sat down on the couch, which Kaleb noted was small as she had mentioned. “I love this house already. You must have a lot of memories here.”

She nodded. “This was my sanctuary away from the teasing. My brother and I would have fun, playing board games or reading books. I can’t wait to show you my music collection upstairs.”

Mrs. Shy came back into the living room, with a tray with mugs of tea. She set the tray down on the table before moving to the green chair opposite the couch. “I know that you two have had a long day. Don’t worry, the interrogation won’t begin for a while. Kaleb, may I ask how you and my daughter met?”

Kaleb looked at Fluttershy, and she gave him an encouraging nod. “It was a few months ago. We were both trying to save the songbirds from these cookies which were flying towards their nest, and we caught the platter at the same time. From there, I guess you can say it was love at first sight.”

“He helped me out with the animals around the cottage, and it was at the Gala when I knew,” Fluttershy elaborated, squeezing his hand. “It’s been a difficult journey for the both of us, but there’s no one I would rather be with.”

A clapping was heard coming from the stairs, getting louder as it was coming down. “Bravo, bravo indeed. What a great story! Though not as great as my adventures throughout Equestria. I’m telling you that this coffee place is going to be the next big thing.” A pegasus with a five o'clock shadow came down the stairs, his hair in a shaggy mane the curled down, and had eyes that reeked of enthusiasm. He sprinted down the stairs and rushed towards the pair. “The name’s Zephyr, Flutter’s one and only brother and you must be the lucky-wait, I thought you where a pony? What are you and where are you from, I want to know all the way about you.” The way that he rushed up to him and pounded him with questions loudly made Kaleb’s pulse beat faster, panic beginning to rise up in his chest.

Fluttershy took notice of this and gave her brother a hard stare. “Zephyr! Please don’t ever do that to Kaleb again! He’s my coltfriend, not sompony looking to be gawked at. Apologize, now.”

The gaze seemed to have somewhat of an effect on him, with him having more of a look of exasperation. “Okay, okay yeesh. Sorry Kaleb, I didn’t mean rush you like that. So…apology accepted?”

Kaleb tried to keep his voice neutral as the annoyance started to rise. “Apology accepted.” He offered Zephyr a hand, and was given a hoofshake that was a little too enthusiastic. Zephyr went to set the table, and Mrs. Shy had a slightly uncomfortable look on her face as she followed.

“Sorry about that, he’s usually like this during the holidays,” Fluttershy said with an apologetic shrug. “This should keep him at bay for most of the holiday, but just let me know if he bothers you like that again.”

Kaleb gazed at the pictures. “I don’t understand, you two looked so happy together in those pictures. What happened to that happiness?”

“We grew apart, as some siblings do. He’s been like this ever since he left for Manehattan a few years ago. It’s unfortunate, but it can happen,” she sighed with sadness with a hint of acceptance. “Are you okay? I know that must have been unpleasant.”

Kaleb looked at her with sympathy. “I’m okay, just a little shaken. I’m sure that somewhere deep down, your brother is the same pony you knew. You just need to be patient, that’s all. Though I admit, I was very close to using the Mind Trick on him.”

“Thanks for the advice, and to be honest, I wouldn’t mind if you did,” she replied. “I guess my stare is just as effective. My dad should be home soon. He’s always home at the top of the hour.”

With that, the grandfather clock in the corner tolled seven and the sound of the door opening, caught both of their attention. The door closed, and a pegasus with a mint green coat and a graying mane and mustache entered with in a bag his mouth. Setting it down on the floor below, he shivered slightly. “Now that’s a chilly day, perfect for Hearth’s Warming. Ah, Fluttershy!”

She rushed over to her father, giving him a hug as well. “Dad, it’s nice to see you again. There’s someone I want you to meet. This is my coltfriend, Kaleb.”

Kaleb stood up, standing at attention, as he walked over to her father. Mr. Shy surveyed him with a look, and he tried his best to appear not to be nervous. It was difficult with the semi-tough voice. “So, you’re the coltfriend I’ve been hearing so much about?” He nodded, seeing that the piercing gaze of the father was working. Mr. Shy began to laugh. “Well, he really is a keeper Fluttershy. It’s good to meet you, Kaleb. I’m Mr. Shy.” Holding out a hoof, Kaleb accepted it and gave a firm handshake.

“It’s good to meet you as well, Mr. Shy. That was certainly an impressive look.”

“Thanks, Kaleb. I taught my daughter a thing or two about the stare, so I would watch out if I were you. Anyway, I got to get the dinner to the table.” He waved slightly, and carried the bag to the kitchen with his mouth.

Kaleb looked at her with an interested expression. “Well, I now see where you got the stare from. Remind me never to double cross you.”

She laughed slightly, giving him a sly grin. “Oh, trust me, you’ll know. So, shall we enter the kitchen for the dinner interrogation. Though, I have a feeling that it will be slightly less of one than I thought.” Taking her hoof, he followed her into the kitchen.

The dinner was fabulous, with Mr. Shy bringing in leftovers from the Hearth’s Warming lunch at the cloud factory. It was filled with conversation, with Mr. and Mrs. Shy filling in Fluttershy on their hobbies and telling Kaleb about life in Cloudsdale. Although, Zephyr kept his volume at an appropriate level, and seemed slightly interested in Kaleb’s time in Equestria. Not once did the topic of Kaleb’s past came up, and he was slightly relieved. After dinner, they went to the living room and began watching an old Hearth’s Warming movie on a film reel. It was longer than Kaleb had expected but a good one, filled with mystery and intrigue. Fluttershy’s parents were the first one to retire, followed by Zephyr at the beginning of the third act. As the credits, rolled, Fluttershy got up and began to put the film reel away.

“That was a fantastic movie. Though, I admit that the song about a White Hearth’s Warming is certainly an earworm. That’s going to be stuck inside my head for days.” Kaleb rubbed his forehead.

“Trust me, it’s nothing compared to the hundreds of songs you’re going to hear tomorrow,” Fluttershy said, putting the film reel away in the box and wheeling the stand that the projector was on aside. “They all play this time of year. So, it looks like we’re the last two downstairs.”

Kaleb nodded. “It seems like tomorrow is going to be a long day. Do you want to go upstairs now?”

“Sure, but just to warn you, my room hasn’t changed much since I was young,” Fluttershy answered hesitantly. “I’ll lead the way, we just have to be quiet on the stairs. The bathroom is near my room on the left end of the hallway in case you need to wash up.”

She began to trot upstairs quietly, and Kaleb followed her up the stairs. Taking a left, she moved to the end of the hallway and opened the door, turning on a small lamp as Kaleb entered. It was a room with a soft blue painted wall, with bookcases full of books and records. The trundle bed was in the center of the room against the wall, with a dresser and closet on the opposite wall. There was a record player on top of the shorter bookshelf, with a small set of speakers set beside it.

However, what caught Kaleb’s eye wasn’t the bookshelves or the record player, but a poster on the wall. It featured a pony with a spiked red mane in a light blue suit and a multicolored necktie of red, white, and silver with blue ornamentations. The eye shadow and makeup created an eye-catching look, and a signature could be seen slightly through the frame. “Who is this? He looks slightly familiar.”

Fluttershy blushed. “That’s a musician who I had a crush on when I was younger. He always creates a different persona with his albums, and I really liked this one. My favorite album of his is one where he’s a creature from space who falls to the planet we’re on and enlightens the world.”

Kaleb chuckled. “It sounds very similar to my situation. Perhaps, you have an attraction to strange creatures who fall from space.”

Fluttershy rolled her eyes slightly, chuckling as she blushed. “Maybe I do, and he’s very handsome and caring. I’ll have to play the album for you sometime, it really is interesting to listen to.”

“I’m going to wash up really quick, I’ll be right back,” he announced as he moved out of the room and into the bathroom. He changed into his pajamas quickly, choosing a pair of red and grey plaid pants with a white shirt. Taking his toiletries out of their case, he brushed his teeth and flossed before looking into the mirror. I can’t let these dreams take over, not with her family here, Kaleb thought, slowing his breathing to calm himself down. This is a new location, slightly unfamiliar but comforting. Maybe the long journey will keep them from occurring. He went out of the bathroom, and entered the room to find Fluttershy in a pair of turquoise pajamas with a pink robe. Kaleb moved over to the bottom bed, which had been taken out and kneeled down to adjust the pillows, with Fluttershy moving down to help him adjust the mattress.

“Thank you for giving me this bed. It should be really comfortable.” Kaleb said quietly, rubbing his hands through his hair awkwardly. “You look really nice in those pajamas.”

Fluttershy looked at him with compassion. “Thank you, Kaleb. You look nice too.” She didn’t know what to say now, but her eyes and movements indicated what was going to happen.

They kissed, and Kaleb ran his fingers through her mane, and her wings pulled them closer together. After a few long moments, they separated. Kaleb looked at her with care, and spoke in a quiet tone. “I love you, Fluttershy.”

She blushed and gave him a mischievous grin. “I know. You know, we should probably get to bed before my parents come in here.”

Kaleb immediately jumped into bed, and Fluttershy laughed quietly. “I’m going to turn off the light when you’re ready. Just tell me when.” He said the word, and the light from the lamp went out.

The winds of Cloudsdale whipped around Kaleb and Fluttershy’s parents as they went towards the main street. Various stores were open during the day for Hearth’s Warming Eve, and Kaleb was still pondering what to get for Fluttershy. The both of them agreed beforehand to both put their names on gifts that Fluttershy got for her family. I wonder, maybe a piece of jewelry. No, too cliched, perhaps a book will do? He shook his head, looking uncertain.

Mrs. Shy looked at him. “Still deciding what to get Fluttershy?” He nodded. “It’s always nerve-wracking, trying to find the right gift for your special somepony, especially for Hearth’s Warming. But I’m sure you’ll find something she loves.”
“Thank you, it’s just there are so many options out there. She’s probably been to all of these stores, and seen everything that’s in them. I honestly don’t know how you manage to do it.”

“Too many options indeed. You should have seen our first Hearth’s Warming,” Mr. Shy exclaimed, looking back at his wife. “It was in our first year together as coltfriend and marefriend. I had almost forgotten to get her a present because they gave me so many shifts at the factory. At the last minute, on Hearth’s Warming Eve, no less, I was frantically looking for a gift to buy but all the stores were closed. I grabbed a piece of cloud the was close to freezing over and wrote her name and mine in it just before it did. Above the name, I put a small crystal rainbow, which froze over just as I put it in. After sealing it tightly in a jar, I sprinted back to her apartment, and the clock rang out as I rushed in.”

She looked at him with amusement. “I swear, it was the most impressive thing I’ve seen. Although the gift was simple, I loved rainbows and seeing us both under the rainbow together made me realize he was the one. We got married under a rainbow, and you probably saw the rainbows on the wall near the stairs.” She saw Kaleb’s eyes widen. “No pressure, Kaleb. I know that you’ll find the right gift.”

Kaleb nodded, noticing a small store with a tinsel tree in the window. “What’s that store? It seems to be tucked away a little bit, from the other stores.”

Mr. Shy thought for a moment before responding. “That’s my old friend’s store, her name is Ruby Stonecloud. It’s been a while since I stopped in, but I can tell you Fluttershy never went in there.”

Eyeing the store with interest, Kaleb turned back towards them. “I’m going to take a look inside. I’ll be a few minutes, and I need to make a few adjustments to a part of my gift. I may need to rush back to the house.”

They both nodded., with Mrs. Shy following her husband. “Don’t rush on our account. We still have a lot of shopping to do.”

Kaleb opened the door to the shop, and moved inside, letting the door swing shut. Although the room was small, the lighting made up for it with string lights creating a comforting atmosphere. There were a bunch of on one side of the shop, and on the other side were a variety of books, scarves, and knickknacks cluttered around on various shelves and hooks on the wall. The glass counter showed a variety of jewelry and artwork that hanged on the wall. A pegasus with a blond mane with gray highlights and red-orange fur walked from a room behind the counter, and gave him a curious expression. “Welcome to Ruby’s Antiques and Gifts, where you’ll be sure to find the perfect gift for the holidays. I’ve never seen a creature like you before, so pardon my staring.”

“It’s okay, I understand,” Kaleb replied, looking around the shop. “I’m the first human in Equestria, my name’s Kaleb. You wouldn’t happen to know a Mr. Shy, would you?”

Ruby’s eyes lit up with recognition. “I do, he was a classmate of mine. I see him every so often at the market. You know, I was the one who introduced him to Mrs. Shy, when he was getting ready to go work at the cloud factory. I used to babysit Zephyr and Fluttershy when they were young. Anyway, what can I do for you Kaleb?”

His hand ruffled his hair. “I’m Fluttershy’s coltfriend, and I’m looking for a Hearth’s Warming gift for her. It’s our first Hearth’s Warming together, so I want to make it special.”

She smiled, as she opened up some sliding doors behind the counter. “A first Hearth’s Warming is always a memorable experience. It’s not about how many bits you spend or how elaborate or fancy the gift is, but it’s the heart and thought that counts. I know that Fluttershy enjoys animals; do you know what else she enjoys?”

“She loves to knit and crochet; in general, she loves crafting and nature. Especially stargazing,” Kaleb answered, rubbing his forehead with his hand. “I’m kind of pressed for bits, so it can’t be too expensive. We both agreed on a spending limit beforehand.”

Ruby’s eyes lit up. “I think I have just the thing.” She rummaged through the shelves built into the counter, and took out a small wooden jewelry box made from maple. Inscriptions of the constellations were carved into the wood and outlined with white paint. “This box was made by my sister, who specializes in woodworking. The constellations carved in can be seen from Ponyville.”

“It’s wonderful!” Kaleb exclaimed, marveling at the simple yet elegant design. “Your sister did a great job. I’ll take it, and I have an idea of what to put inside. How much is it?”

“Sixty bits,” Ruby offered, as Kaleb eyes widened. “But I’m open to a little bargaining.”

He nodded, thinking of a counteroffer. “There’s a limit of fifty bits, and I already spent some on what I plan to put inside. Can you do forty?”

Ruby countered his offer quickly. “How about forty-five? That’s the best I can do. Also, you get to tell me what’s on your mind. Something’s clearly troubling you.”

Kaleb hesitated at first then sighed. “You have a deal.” They shook and went to the register to ring up the purchase. Kaleb pulled out a bag and gave the bits to her. “How did you know?”

“You seem wary, like a traveler who yearns for the simple solitude of rest. But the road is always dark ahead, and the sense of anxiousness rests upon your shoulders.”

He sat down on a stool by the counter. “I’ve been through a lot, and even with Fluttershy there’s still this sense of anxiety. My experience haunts me, and although things have gotten better, I’m still having to try and put on a brave face. Nightmares can be a way back to there.”

Ruby’s expression was one of hesitant curiosity and sympathy. “I have something that might help. It’s lavender oil, an essential oil that can help with sleep. It’s all natural and healthy for anyone.” She reached to one of the shelves and took a small bottle with a dropper on the side. “A few drops on the pillow or sheets should be good. You can have it for free.”

Kaleb took the bottle, reading the label before giving her a thankful expression. “Thank you. I’ve heard my therapist talk a little bit about these oils but she never went into detail. I hope you have a great Hearth’s Warming.”

Ruby waved as Kaleb left the shop. “Tell Fluttershy I said hello. “Moving forward into the street, Kaleb walked briskly back to the house, carrying the wrapped box close to his chest.

The rest of the afternoon had been a whirlwind of cooking and baking, with Kaleb helping in any way that he could. The dinner had taken plenty of time to prepare, with the raviolis being made fresh with dough and ricotta cheese bought from the market. He wore an apron over his green sweater as he cut the pieces of dough, putting it through the machine to create the ravioli. Fluttershy worked along beside him, prepping the ricotta to be placed inside. The movements were synchronized, and stopped together as the last of the pasta was placed into a clear bowl.

“I never thought creating ravioli could be as exhausting as this,” Kaleb exclaimed, wiping his floured hands on the white apron.

Fluttershy nodded. “It’s a challenge, but it will all be worth it in the end. My dad’s sauce is fantastic, he uses tomatoes from the market.” She indicated to the pot on the stove that had been simmering. “The ravioli doesn’t take long to cook. How was your afternoon shopping?”

“It was good, Cloudsdale has a fascinating history,” Kaleb remembered, looking back at the town square and all of the plaques. “I didn’t get much of a chance to read all of the signs, but the buildings seemed older. Did you wrap the presents for your family?”

“The gifts are all wrapped; they’re in my closet. I know that Zephyr is going to love the mane styling book; it includes an entry exam guide for cosmetology school. I guess I’m a little worried about my parent’s gift. What if the weather isn’t good, or they don’t like the selection there…”

Kaleb returned her worried look with one of reassurance. “They’re going to love it, I know they will. Do you know how long until dinner is ready to be served?”

She thought for a moment before responding. “It shouldn’t be long now that the ravioli is made; it doesn’t take long to boil. I would say probably half an hour to forty-five minutes. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I still have to put the finishing touches on my gift for you. Whatever you do, don’t come upstairs.” He warned before dashing away quickly, moving upstairs.

The dinner was fabulous, with a meal of raviolis in a homemade tomato sauce and cheese. Zephyer seemed to have calmed down since his last interaction with Kaleb, and tried to keep his voice down to an acceptable level. Mr. Shy explained Cloudsdale's history to him, along with a brief verbal tour of the weather factory. Kaleb looked and he saw a group of ponies, whose bonds were tighter than ever before.

Yet, at the same time his mind began to snowball as thoughts began to race through his head like snow flurries. So, this is a family, Kaleb thought as he tried to listen to Zephyr’s story about Manehattan. It’s been so long since I’ve seen one. I’ve almost forgot what it was like…

An image flashed through Kaleb’s head, one that moved and had the familiar sound to it. At that same table, he saw Master Johanna and Rogue, eating together as they shared a moment of laughter. Kaleb felt himself sitting down among them, chuckling quietly at the joke that Rogue had made. He smiled, looking at the two calmly. He breathed a sigh of relief. His family was reunited once again.

Then, he saw a mist going down, obscuring Master Johanna and Rogue, as their voices became quieter. There was almost a physical distance between them, a barrier that could not be broken. Kaleb outstretched his arm, trying to break the barrier. What’s happening, why is this…

The mist quickly turned red, as he saw both their shadows collapse onto the table in sync with the sound of a lightsaber igniting. Before he could react, the noise of a blaster reloading was heard, the click echoing before a few moments of silence. Then, the blaster fired, the noise reverberating in his head.

Kaleb jerked, shaking the table as he saw where he was in reality. Mr. and Mrs. Shy along with Zephyr were staring back at him, looking confused. Fluttershy had a look of concern, as she grabbed the table to stop it from collapsing over. All of the dishes had been eaten. Kaleb coughed quickly. “Sorry, I must have dozed off for a second. It must be the altitude. Anyway, do you need help clearing up?”

Mrs. Shy responded quickly. “Yes, that’s very nice of you Kaleb. If you can grab the plates and silverware, I can grab the serving dishes and glasses.” They both moved quickly, clearing the dishes with no effort.

Mr. Shy clapped his hooves. “Okay, I am going to get the star chart from the living room and make sure that it is set up currently. Fluttershy, Zephyr, can you please grab the telescope from the study?”

They both nodded and went upstairs to the study. As Kaleb finished clearing the dishes, he took out the bottle of blue potion from his pocket. He took a sip before stashing it away. He turned to both of Fluttershy’s parents. “Again, I’m really sorry about that. The altitude has been messing with my sleep patterns.” This was a lie, but he needed not let slip what had happened.

Mrs. Shy gave him a gentle look. “It’s okay, it can be difficult to get used to.” Mr. Shy returned with a reassuring nod before going to help with the telescope. With an indication, Kaleb sat down with her at the table. “I have not seen my daughter this happy and wonderous in a long time. She really cares about you.”

Kaleb nodded, smiling. “She does, and I care about her as well. It’s been an amazing experience, being here in Equestria. It hasn’t always been easy, but the journey has been worth it.” He looked at the pictures on the wall. “To be honest, I was worried that you wouldn’t approve of our relationship.”

“Fluttershy’s happiness has always been important to us, as long as she is happy that’s all that matters,” She reassured. “I’m just going to tell you to please be careful. A new relationship is like a flower: it needs nourishment to prosper and grow. Both me and my husband trust you, it’s just that we have seen other relationships writher and die because of little to no honesty and communication. You two have something truly special, emotional compassion for each other. I would hate to see it go to waste.”

A twinge of guilt raced through Kaleb as he remembered the lie he had told to Fluttershy. Forcing a smile, he spoke in a promising voice. “You have my word that we will both try to make this relationship work.”

Mr. Shy’s voice called to them as Zephyr and Fluttershy carried the telescope outside. “Hang on, I need to take the cloud potion.” Mrs. Shy nodded and trotted off to join her husband.

Kaleb took out the white potion and took a sip. He sighed as he looked at the empty kitchen. What I’m doing is wrong, I know that. But I have to keep this up for them, for Fluttershy. It’s only one more night, there shouldn’t be any more nightmares. The flashback was just one time, one isolated incident. I just hope I can keep it together. He jogged to the front door and closed it behind him.

Catching up to them in the darkness, he saw that there was a small observation deck at the end of the street. They had set up the telescope facing the edge. Kaleb gasped at the sight. It was truly an endless night, with stars stretching for miles, all shining brightly. Being up in the clouds gave the best vantage point it seemed. “I certainly see why the stargazing in Cloudsdale is so popular.”

Fluttershy nodded. “There are laws restricting the amount of light within the city, to preserve this sight. Stargazing has always been a sacred tradition, and many officials wanted to keep it that way.” She handed him a travel mug with hot chocolate. “This was what was set up on the stove near the end of the meal. It’s an old family recipe.”

“Okay, family, if you please may point your attention to the night sky, you’ll see a magnificent story,” Mr. Shy announced, a blaze of confidence in his eyes as he went on his monologue. He lifted one of his wings. “If you follow my wing upward, tracing it to that star up there, that is the Northern Star. It extends out to the northern Celestial pole. No relation to the Princess. Look to the left of it, you will see what constellation.”

Zephyr raised a hoof. “That would be the great Pegasus and the Celestial Magica , right?”

“Correct. The great Pegasus was named for Private Pansy, the pegasus who helped warm the thaw from the Windigos. However, you can see that it resembles a Windigo, so it also served as a military statement as well. The Celestial Magica is named for Princess Celestia. It is not visible where Cloudsdale is this time of year, but the Lunar Magica is named for what pony, Kaleb!” The name was spoken like a drill sergeant.

Kaleb jumped to attention. “That would be Princess Luna, general, I mean sir, I mean Mr. Shy.” He did not expect to be put on the spot so quickly. Fluttershy had a look of amusement, trying not to laugh at his demise.

Mr. Shy gave a beaming look of enthusiasm. “Correct, great job Kaleb! Don’t worry, by the end of the night, I’ll make a stargazer out of you yet!” Kaleb looked sheepish, nudging Fluttershy gently as he saw her amusement. “To the west, you can see the outline of two rare but existing creatures in Equestria. The great and lesser bears. Fluttershy, what are their proper names?”

She wasted no time thinking as she answered. “Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, they make up what is known as the Little and Big Dipper.”

“That is right! There are creatures in Equestria that go by the name Ursa Major and Ursa minor, giant bears whose fur glows like the night sky, with their respective constellations indicated by the glowing patches of fur that represent each star. The Ursa Major is the mother to the Ursa minor. It’s just a minor fact.”

He mimed the symbol crash of the drum set, doing the noise as well. The rest of the family rolled their eyes a little, and Kaleb chuckled at the joke. “Thank you, Kaleb! At least someone in this family appreciates my sense of humor. You are now my favorite possible son-in-law. No pressure you two.”

At the same time, both Kaleb and Fluttershy coughed as they felt the hot chocolate going down the wrong pipe. Blushing furiously, they tried not to exchange eye contact.

“Now then, for the final set of constellations for the evening. Dear, will you tell me what constellation is at slightly left of my wing tip, just where the tip of the sword is at.”

“That would be Orion, the great hunter. It is significant because it is one of the most viable constellations marking the beginning of winter, and there are three distant nebulas can be seen without a telescope.”

Mr. Shy clapped his hooves. “That is correct! Those three nebulas are classified by the names M-42, M-43, and M-78 according to the Astronomical Congress of Cloudsdale. There are a few others, including one above M-42 known as the Running Man complex. That is why I ran towards you when I proposed under Orion, with the flowers and ring in hand, along with a thermometer.”

Mrs. Shy had blushed with a look of nostalgia turning into amusement. “As I distinctly remember, you fell flat on your face right when you ran in front of me. As you got up, you said and I quote ‘It was subzero temperatures when I met you, now it is plain zero when I ask you to marry me. You have melted my heart.’” She turned to Kaleb. “We were on a plain near Appleoosa on a stargazing trip when he proposed. It was certainly an elaborate yet cheesy pun, but I married him for it.”

Kaleb smiled. “That’s certainly a sweet story. The most unexpected moments can have the biggest impact in our lives.”
Mr. Shy rubbed his neck. “Well… this concludes our stargazing tour for tonight. Please feel free to stay out as long as you want.” He chuckled to himself, and he helped Zephyr move the telescope, carrying it back to the house.

Mrs. Shy handed Fluttershy the blanket where the telescope had been set on. “I’ll leave you two be. On the bright side, at least you got a free comedy show with the stargazing.” She chuckled along with Fluttershy, who hugged her mother quickly. Mrs. Shy wandered back down the street, leaving them alone.

Kaleb spoke first. “Well, that was an unexpected surprise. Your father definitely has the passion for stargazing, and the sharp tongue of a stand-up comic. Is this how it goes every year?”

Fluttershy nodded, chuckling slightly. “Pretty much. We all love him for it, even at our own expense.” She moved closer to Kaleb, as they cuddled under the blanket looking at the stars. “At dinner, that wasn’t because of the altitude was it?”
Kaleb shook his head. “I had another flashback. It was brief, I don’t remember a lot of it now. All I can tell you was that it had that same fogginess. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to happen.”

She looked at him with care. “It’s okay, these things can happen. It’s normal, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.” She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “Anyway, I think you can see why I mentioned this was so similar to the Luminescent Gardens.”

He nodded. “It’s a beautiful sight. I have flown near nebulas, when I was in deep space. Sometimes, Master Johanna would take a shortcut through them for a little bit, since the shield on the ship could withstand the corrosive effects of the gas for only a short time. The colors were magnificent.”

“Just don’t tell my father that, otherwise he’ll interrogate you for the rest of the visit.” Fluttershy joked. Kaleb laughed with her, and they both turned as they heard the bell toll midnight. Once the final tone had rung, they both gazed up at the stars.

“Merry Hearth’s Warming, Kaleb.” Fluttershy said quietly, gazing at him. He responded by wrapping his arms around her under the blanket, and kissed her gently. They laid back to look at the stars for a few more moments before heading back to the house.

It was in the early hours of the morning, and everything had been quiet. Fluttershy and Kaleb were both asleep, as the winds outside breezed gently. The only sound other than the gentle breathing was the grandfather clock, its ticking echoing throughout the house. Kaleb’s breathing began to increase as he began to writhe in the bed, sweat beginning to form on his head. The muffled sounds of his voice began quietly at first, increased slowly. His head twitched with every tick of the clock, and his body became rigid as it struggled to control the spasms. The bed began to shake slightly, as Fluttershy stirred.

“NOOOOO!” Kaleb screamed as awoke, his eyes darting around the room. The bottom bed collapsed from the tremors, and hit the ground with a dull thud. Gulping for air, he to clear his eyes only to find tears flowing down as the thundering of explosions was present in his mind, along with the screaming of civilians. The pieces of the nightmare were starting to fit together like a puzzle as he remembered the event.

As quickly as this occurred, the light from the lamp went on, and Fluttershy rushed out of bed, moving towards Kaleb as she held his hand. He followed her breathing for a few minutes, indicating that it was okay to touch him. Hugging him lightly, she looked at him with an expression of sympathy and sadness. “You’re going to be alright; you’re with me now. Nothing can hurt you here.” She repeated those words like a mantra, before letting go. “I know that must have been scary. What was it? You can tell me only if you feel comfortable.” Kaleb’s eyes glanced to the door, worried that anyone might be listening. “My parents and brother are still asleep. You didn’t wake them up. Nobody can hear this but me, Kaleb.”

Nodding, he shuddered as he tried to find his voice, the words croaking out. “Nightmares. They’ve been more persistent since coming back to Ponyville. I couldn’t tell Twilight or Spike, and…” The words got caught in his throat. “I couldn’t tell you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you….” He buried his face in his hands as the secret came out.

Fluttershy looked sympathetic, but her voice was once of concern. “Why didn’t you feel you couldn’t tell me? I know that some things need to remain private with the PTSD, but we’re in a relationship. Honesty and communication are essential. I’m not angry, but I feel confused.”

“Because I have to put on a brave face for your family!” Kaleb exclaimed quietly. He sighed and looked at her with honesty. “At the time, I didn’t feel that I could tell you because I was trying to be this perfect, idealized version of myself. Someone who had to put on a mask and become a perfect coltfriend that your family would approve of. I was wrong to do that, I’m sorry. “

She held his hand as she thought of what to say. “I didn’t fall in love with you because you were perfect, Kaleb. I love you because of who you are. Everyone has flaws, and that’s okay as long as we’re honest with each other. My family loves and accepts you for the way that you are. Why did you feel that they wouldn’t accept you?”

He paused before answering. “Your mom told me that they accepted me, but I thought at the time I had to protect them. At the table, I felt something that I haven’t felt in a long time. There were times when Master Johanna and Rogue would eat dinner together with me. It was a bright light in a war of darkness, the jokes and small stories that were shared. We had a rule of no discussions about the war, it was just a chance to escape even for an hour. Rogue would share the greatest of jokes, putting in a little bit of political commentary from the Senate while Master Johanna would find small bits of trivia that we would debate. It often ended in a draw, but we kept a tally of who won. We all seemed to be an equal match for each other.”

Fluttershy nodded, looking with interest. “I would have loved to meet them. They seem really lively and fun.”

Kaleb’s voice darkened. “They were. As the image went on, things became clouded, mist had descended to cover them. It muffled their voices, and all of a sudden it turned red. I heard the ignition of a lightsaber and the reloading of a blaster. The noise from the first shot was what caused me to seize up, going back to reality. It started as a flashback but turned into something worse. The first thing I saw was your family.”

Tears began to form in his eyes as he breathed, trying to calm them down. “Do you know what I dreamed about over the past week? There was a group on Mandalore called Death Watch, who raged a war of terror upon their government and civilians. Their attacks were devastating, occurring in public places aimed for maximum casualties, especially for large families. Even now, there’s part of me that feels unsafe.” Pausing for a few seconds, he continued in a smaller voice. “I already lost a mother and brother because of the war. I can’t lose another family.”

Fluttershy hugged him tightly as tears rolled down her eyes. “My family is your family, and you are not going to lose them. Family accepts that everyone is not perfect and can overlook that. We both need to be honest with each other, promise me you’ll try Kaleb.”

He nodded, doing the motions of the Pinkie Promise as she followed. “I will always try to be honest with you. The nightmares are the one thing that the medication hasn’t been able to help with.” Pulling out the lavender oil from a small bag, he held it in his hand. “Ruby gave me this lavender oil; I heard about it from Lyra a little bit about how essential oils can help sleep, along with PTSD. I’m not sure what it can do with nightmares.” He swore silently as he realized the bottom bed had been broken. “Sorry about the bed.”

“It’s okay, it was an accident,” Fluttershy said, thinking of what to do. “It was old anyway and the bottom bed was ready to give in at any moment.” She paused and blushed slightly before proceeding. “We could both share my bed, you can use the lavender oil on the sheets. Maybe, we can snuggle, if that’s what you want?” Her voice trailed off into a slight whisper at the last sentence, and let off a small eep as she realized what she had said.

Kaleb’s eyes widened, and he coughed slightly before smiling. “Yes, I will snuggle with you, Fluttershy. It’s certainly daring considering the house we are in, but I think the judges would give us points for taking risks.”

She rolled her eyes slightly while smiling to herself, seeing that his sense of humor was coming back. As she began to redo the comforter’s position, Kaleb placed a few drops of lavender oil onto the pillows and sheets. After that, Fluttershy brought the lamp down to its lowest setting, so that only a dim glow emerged from the lamp cover. “Is it okay with you to keep a little bit of light on?”

“Yes, that’s good. Just don’t hold on too tight. It can make me feel claustrophobic.” He climbed into bed, and Fluttershy wrapped her legs around him as her wings enclosed them both. Kaleb kissed her cheek. “Goodnight, Fluttershy.”
She smiled as he closed his eyes, returning the kiss. “Goodnight Kaleb. You’re safe with me.”

The sound of music poured in as Fluttershy and Kaleb began to stir, realizing that it was Hearth’s Warming Day. Stretching silently, Kaleb moved down the stairs to find a small amount of presents under the tree.

Mr. Shy was pouring out the last of the pancake batter onto the griddle, as Mrs. Shy was putting various berries in a bowl. “Merry Hearth’s Warming, Kaleb!” Mrs. Shy greeted as he sat down at the table. “Breakfast should be ready in just a moment. We have butter along with real maple syrup and powdered sugar in the small cup over there. Also, I took the liberty of making you a traditional doll.” She pointed out a stuffed toy that had a striking resemblance to him.

He smiled. “Thank you, it looks wonderful. If I remember correctly, these go onto the mantle. I’ll go put it on there.” He walked into the living room and carefully set the doll onto the mantlepiece next to Fluttershy’s. He heard quiet hoof steps walking towards him and turned towards Fluttershy, who yawned silently as she hugged him. “Good morning, Fluttershy. Happy Hearth’s Warming. You know, I’ve never seen you sleep in this late.”

She chuckled. “Well, Zephyr is the one in the family who sleeps in. I tend to on occasion sleep in, usually when I’m really tired.” She lowered her voice slightly. “How was last night? I mean after we went to sleep.”

Kaleb thought for a second before replying. “It was really good, certainly the best sleep that I’ve had for a while. Honestly, I feel refreshed, to use the word. Anyway, we should get to the table. Lest your parents overhear.”

She rolled her eyes slightly, with a blush on her face as they both went to the kitchen and sat down at the table. “Good morning, Fluttershy,” Mr. Shy greeted, hugging his daughter as he set a platter of pancakes down on the table.

“Good morning, dad, morning mom,” Fluttershy greeted, stretching her wings as she sat down next to Kaleb. “These pancakes look wonderful, don’t they Kaleb?”

He nodded. “They smell so good. Is that a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon I smell?”

Mr. Shy chuckled. “An old family secret that isn’t much of a secret I guess. Anyway, Zephyer should be coming down in five, four three, two…”

On the count of one, Zephyr came running in, sitting down at the table. “Sorry, I was putting the finishing touch on your presents. I can assure you that they are all fabulous! Shall we eat?”

Everyone nodded and began to dig into the meal. The pancakes were indeed delicious, and the applesauce, powdered sugar, and berries paired well with pancakes. Kaleb had never had such a delicious meal, eaten in leisure. “Fantastic job on the pancakes, is this meal traditional for Hearth’s Warming Day?”

Mr. Shy responded. “Thank you. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily traditional for all of Equestria, but it is part of our family tradition. Along with the raising of the Hearth’s Warming Flag, which Zephyr raised last night.”

Kaleb looked curious. “I didn’t know there was a Hearth’s Warming flag. What are the origins on that?”

“It was originally sown by Nimble Thimble, I’m not sure when but it’s been a part of many Equestrian households ever since,” Mrs. Shy answered, passing the berries to Fluttershy. “You know, I don’t think you ever mentioned what you did before you arrived to Equestria.”

Fluttershy look mortified, and was about to say something but Kaleb answered her. “Well, that’s a little bit complicated. I was a part of an organization that helped a lot of creatures. We provided food, water, medical aid, and security for many who could not afford it. We worked in coordination with the government and helped served as ambassadors as well.”
Kaleb gave a reassuring nod to Fluttershy who relaxed a little bit. “Our core mission was to spread the values of peace and harmony, and always help those who need it. I was a part of it since I was young.”

All of Fluttershy’s family looked with interest. “How young were you when you started, and was there some type of training?” Zephyr asked.

Kaleb thought for a second before responding, continuing to eat. “I was probably nine or ten when I started, I know that seems young but it was pretty normal. I had a mentor who I would travel with. I had been training with her since I was younger, and she was like a mother to me.” He remembered Master Johanna, trying to keep tears from forming in his eyes. “There was a holiday where I was from very similar to this one called Life Day. We would help pass meals for both the Eve and the Day, and give presents to children. That day was always a fun time.”

Fluttershy smiled and held his hand under the table. “I can only imagine, Kaleb.” She looked at the clock. “I don’t mean to rush things on Hearth’s Warming Day, but our balloon leaves at 1:00. We should probably open presents and put on the Hearth’s Warming Special.”

Mr. Shy nodded. “I certainly don’t want you two to miss your flight. I know how busy the landing platform can get on holidays. I’ll clear the table, while everyone else goes into the living room and relax. The film reel should be in the box by the tree.”

Everyone leisurely went to their tasks, finishing their breakfast quickly before moving to the living room. Zephyr and Kaleb helped to set up the projector while Fluttershy and Mrs. Shy pulled down the screen. Zephyr heaved a sigh of relief as the heavy projector was set on the ground. “This was a special that Fluttershy and I would watch when I was younger. The animation is very low budget, but it’s still nostalgic.”

Kaleb nodded. “There was this special that a lot of children would watch for Life Day. It was interesting to say the least. It was a special kind of bad, where it’s actually pretty funny to watch. People would randomly burst into song, and the production value was pretty low. There was barely a plot at all, things would just randomly happen. It’s rumored that the creator hated it and wanted to destroy every copy to keep it from being seen. The cartoon in the middle of it was somewhat better, though.”

Zephyr laughed, which was the first time Kaleb had heard him laugh. “Now that must be seen to believed.” He set the reel on he projector and began to play the special, lowering the volume so that everyone could hear. “Now then, it’s time for presents!”

Mr. Shy walked in and went to the tree to pass out presents. Fluttershy and Kaleb sat next to each other on the couch with Zephyr on the other end. Mrs. Shy sat in the armchair and Mr. Shy pulled up a chair from the kitchen. He passed out presents to Mrs. Shy, Fluttershy, and Zephyr. “This is to you from me, dear. Zephyr this is from Fluttershy and Kaleb. Fluttershy, this is from me and your mother.”

Zephyr opened his present first and exclaimed with joy. “Thank you both! I’ve been looking forward to going to a cosmetology school for a while and this is just what I needed.”

Mrs. Shy opened her gift and found a very nice set of carving tools. “Thank you dear, I’ve been needing new ones. These will help me with that birthday project for the nursing home.” They smiled as Fluttershy began to open her gift.

She smiled softly as she found a nice pair of green socks, with stripes showing the different shades. They were particularly fuzzy and looked like they were homemade. “Thanks Mom and Dad! It always gets really cold in my cottage and these will be really warm!”

Mr. Shy went to get the next round of presents and handed them out to Zephyr, himself, and Kaleb. “Zephyr, this is from the both of us. Mine is from your mother, and Kaleb this is from the both of us. “

Zephyr opened his gift and found a set of tools for cosmetology. “Wow, these are amazing! I’ve only seen these in the high-quality stores in Manehattan. Thank you so much, I love you both.”

“You’re welcome, Zephyr,” Mr. Shy replied warmly. He opened his own gift to find a sharp red tie. “Thank you! This will go great with the new lab coat that I got a few weeks ago.”

Kaleb coughed into his sleeve before opening his gift. He smiled as he felt a fuzzy scarf made from crochet knitting. It was a nice shade of red. “Wow, thank you both! This knitting is wonderful, and I can’t wait to wear it in Ponyville.”

Mrs. Shy went to get the final round and presents and handed them out to Fluttershy, Mrs. Shy, and Kaleb. “Fluttershy and Kaleb, those are your presents to each other. And it looks like this is for me and your dad from the both of you.”
Kaleb and Fluttershy looked at each other, with Fluttershy speaking. “You can open your present first.”

Mrs. Shy opened the package, and gasped along with her husband. “Thank you! I don’t know what to say. These tickets are going to be amazing, there’s going to be so much.”

“The Equestrian Craft Festival is one of the most celebrated crafting festivals in Equestria. I can’t wait to go in June, the weather will be so nice.” Mr. Shy added, hugging his wife in excitement.

Fluttershy turned to Kaleb. “You can go first, if you want.” She blushed. Kaleb opened his gift and gasped. It was a small golden locket in the shape of a circle, with the word Home engraved on the front. It was what he found inside that brought tears to his eyes. He found a picture of the Mane 6 with Spike, The Cutie Mark Crusaders, and the Apple Family on the left side. On the right side, there was a small painting of the Jedi symbol, the blue showing well on the metallic gold background. She whispered to him. “I know it’s difficult, feeling torn about two different places you call home. This way, you will always know where home is.”

Kaleb hugged Fluttershy and let the silent tears flow. Fluttershy hugged him back, wrapping her wings around him. After a few seconds, he let go, wiping the tears with his sleeve. “Thank you, Fluttershy. You can go ahead and open your gift.”

She opened her gift and gazed in astonishment at the detailed jewelry box. “Thank you, Kaleb, this is beautiful.”
Kaleb smiled mysteriously. “I think there’s something in there. You might want to look.”

Fluttershy opened the box and gasped. Inside, there was a drawing of Fluttershy on a hill gazing at butterflies with Angel by her side. The colored pencils added in the dimension of color, particularly in Fluttershy’s eyes and mane. It was a sunny day, and the blue sky blended well with the light greens of the Everfree. She hugged Kaleb, kissing him on the cheek. “I don’t know what to say…how did you do this?”

“Dr. Bluejay talked about how drawing and coloring could be therapeutic as well,” Kaleb explained. “I spent a few weeks planning the drawing with sketches. I was going to give it to you the night of the play, but the layout wasn’t where I wanted it to be”

They smiled and laughed along with the family when the Holiday Special interrupted them. Mr. Shy clapped his hooves and looked at his wife. “Another fantastic Hearth’s Warming. Kaleb, me and Mrs. Shy want you to know that you will always be a part of this family. Please feel free to come by any time.” He looked at the clock and gasped slightly. “You two should be going quickly now. Dad’s lesson for today is to never underestimate holiday traffic.”

Fluttershy turned to Kaleb. “I’ll get the suitcases.” She dashed up the stairs quickly. Kaleb helped Zephyr clean up all of the wrapping paper and put it in the garbage bag. He took a swig of both potions from his pocket. Going into the kitchen, Mrs. Shy handed him a plastic travel case of ravioli, with the sauce in small travel cups.

“Rule number one of being part of the family: nobody leaves without leftovers.” Kaleb chuckled softly, thanking her for the delicious ravioli. Fluttershy arrived down with the suitcases, and Kaleb walked towards her. Putting on his coat, he held his suitcase in one hand and the leftovers in the other. Each member of the family hugged them quickly and Mrs. Shy opened the door. “Have a great flight, you two.” They walked out the door and it closed behind him.

Fluttershy and Kaleb walked down the lane in silence at first, with her speaking first. “What a wonderful Hearth’s Warming, Kaleb. I had a great time.”

Kaleb nodded. “I did as well. Your family are some of the most kind and entertaining ponies that I have ever met.” He paused. “You’re probably wondering why I talked about the Jedi with your family.”

“I was wondering why you did,” She responded. “I thought it would be too painful for you.”

Kaleb gathered his thoughts for a few seconds before responding. “For the war, it would still be too painful. However, it wasn’t all war and death. That was only for three years before I arrived here. Before then, there were actually a lot of positive memories with Master Johanna. Traveling around the galaxy with the right mix of adventure and bonding, it was a lot of fun sometimes with a little bit of danger. It felt good to share with it, to remember what the Jedi were before then.”

Fluttershy smiled. “I would love to hear more of those stories sometime. How are you feeling about what happened last night?”

“It did happen, and I promise that I will be more open with you about my PTSD,” Kaleb promised. “Waking up this morning, I felt more refreshed than I have in the past few days. I’m not sure whether it was the lavender oil or sleeping together, but I felt safe and secure.”

“I’m glad to hear that, I felt safe and sound as well,” Fluttershy said quietly. She blushed and added something. “Maybe, a few nights a week, you could come over to the cottage and sleep over. It should help with the nightmares and I really did enjoy it.”

Kaleb smiled. “I would love that, I enjoyed it as well.” He added something quietly as well. “Maybe next time you could wear those socks when we do. I would love to snuggle with you in them”

Fluttershy chuckled and hit him softly in the shoulder with her wing. “Take it easy there, Kaleb. We’re still in public.” The young couple laughed and headed towards the landing platform.

The tree in Carousel Boutique was shining with tinsel and various ornaments that added to the sparkle. Rarity and her parents were chatting, while Sweetie Belle was playing with Opal. She tossed the ball of yarn to the cat, who batted it playfully in kind. Bored, she looked outside to the window, seeing the snow falling outside.

“Rarity, is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes?” Sweetie Belle asked, her eyes gazing out at the wonderous winter display.

“You can, just be sure to bundle up. It’s cold outside.” Rarity responded, giving her a compassionate look.

Sweetie Belle jumped up to her hooves with excitement and pulled on her winter jacket and scarf. Opening the door, she went outside, walking into the wind blowing gently. She closed the door and walked slowly enjoying the sight.

Winter in Ponyville has always been a wonderous sight, with so many snowflakes falling through the air and icicles hanging from rooftops. She walked over the bridge to the other side of town, over towards Sweet Apple Acres. Taking in the sights, Sweetie Belle greeted everypony warmly, humming to the various songs that make up Hearth’s Warming Celebrations.

A few minutes later, she found her way to the edge of Sweet Apple Acres, the trees filled with snow instead of the normal apples that populate the orchard. She entered the woods, looking around at the various apple trees.

I’ve never noticed how nice the trees are here, Sweetie Belle thought. They are really nice. She began to move forward, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the orchard.

In that moment of silence, Sweetie Belle began to hear a stream, the running water flowing gently. She looked around, and found no stream to be found. That’s strange, I swore that I heard something…

The sound of the stream became a stream of thoughts, voices and heartbeats from every form of life around her. “Who’s there… Who’s doing this…Please stop….” She begged quietly, looking around and trying to block out the noise by plugging her ears and lying on her stomach as she did so. Her mind began to race with her own thoughts of anxiety, panic, and distress. Tears started to form in her eyes.

All of a sudden, the voices, thoughts, and heartbeats stopped. Sweetie Belle looked up, shaking as she got up. A feeling of warmth, comfort and calm filled her, and she felt a presence inside her mind, bringing strength back to her limbs to stop them from shaking

“Who are you?” Sweetie Belle asked, looking with wonder and a hint of fear in her voice. “What just happened to me”

A voice responded to her, the voice of a colt with wisdom and experience in his voice. “Do not be afraid, Sweetie Belle. These are your first steps.”

The voice faded and the sounds of the orchard went back to normal as if nothing happened. She continued to wander into the forest. My first steps…what does he mean?

Author's Note:

Hello everyone! It has been a long time since I have uploaded, and for that I apologize. Life can sometimes get in the way, and things got really busy later in the summer and into the fall. My favorite part of this chapter was writing the character interactions; it allowed for a lot of creativity and humor while trying to balance it with the right amount of drama. I took a cue from Starlight's room for the ponified Ziggy Stardust. I wonder what other David Bowie memorabilia she has hidden...but that's a story for another time.

Ironically, I'm currently taking an astronomy course so this was the perfect review for my final next week. Also, for those of you who are familiar with the "Life Day Special" Kaleb was talking about, I applaud and respect you. As for Sweetie Belle, I can tell you that I am excited to write the next chapter. As always, May the Force be with You!

Edited by Mine Menace