• Published 31st Dec 2017
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Stranger In The Forest: Christmas Special - TrixterCat



Hearth's Warming is coming to Ponyville, and Scruffy is planning to liven it up with some human traditions.

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Hearth’s Warming Christmas

“Hearth's Warming?” Scruffy asked, pulling his head out of the book he was reading. Snow was gently falling from thick clouds outside the library, as Equestria’s only human whiled away hours together with Twilight and Rainbow, each of them engrossed in their respective books.

It had already been several weeks since the snow had started to fall, and winter had officially begun in Equestria. Scruffy had been amazed to learn that all of it had been planned by the ponies and winter wouldn’t occur naturally without their aid. The ponies, in contrast, had been horrified by the prospect of having a random snowstorm blow its way in to their town and getting covered in a cold, albeit pretty, blanket of snow.

“Yes. It is, perhaps, the most important holiday in Equestria, as it is intimately tied to how our nation came to be and how the different pony races started to work together,” Twilight explained.

“But what’s extra cool about it is that you get presents,” Rainbow piped up somewhere from within the rafters where she had escaped to read her Daring Do books while Scruffy and Twilight focused on their ‘egghead’ literature. Both Scruffy and Twilight had quirked an eyebrow when Rainbow used the word literature. “There’s also a huge Hearth's Warming play they hold in Canterlot each year, and that’s pretty cool too. We got to be the leads last year!”

“Really now?” Scruffy hummed good heartedly.

“Mmhm. It was an incredible honor that Princess Celestia chose us to be in the main roles, and it was a wonderful experience, even if I was a bit nervous before getting to the stage,” Twilight explained.

“Aww pssh! We did great, no problem at all!” Rainbow said, lazily floating down from the rafters and polishing a hoof against her barrel.

“Are you going to take part in it this year?” Scruffy inquired.

Twilight answered. “No. We are staying in Ponyville and joining the celebration here. Besides, there are many others who’d want to be in one of the biggest plays in Equestria. It would be selfish for us to hog the roles for ourselves.”

“I wouldn’t mind hogging all that attention,” Rainbow quietly muttered, admiring her reflection in her now polished hoof. Apparently not quietly enough, as Twilight’s ear twitched with a flash of annoyance. Scruffy’s smile widened a notch.

“Do you have winter time celebrations where you are from, Scruffy?” Twilight asked, not bothering to argue with Rainbow. Rainbow landed at attention, also curious.

“We do, it’s called... -Christmas-,” Scruffy said, turning off his magical amulet for a moment to speak in his own language.

“Kh-kh-khiiistmats…?” Twilight attempted to pronounce the word, but the smiles on her friends faces told her that she hadn’t quite gotten it right.

“I think I have some pictures on my device, perhaps you’d like to see those,” Scruffy announced, searching his pockets for his phone while the ponies anxiously waited. “Ah, here it is. Now, let’s see…” After a few more moments, a man appeared on the screen in a bright red suit with fluffy white lining and sporting a great, white beard.

“Woah. That’s one awesome beard,” Rainbow chuckled. Any pony having such a beard would be in danger of planting their muzzle in the floor whenever they took a step.

“Is that some kind of traditional clothing you wear during kh-kh-kh...y-you know,” Twilight asked, her mind immediately going for something new to learn.

“Hmm, yes and no. It is a traditional suit, but not everypony wears it. The hat is commonly worn by itself. That is me in the picture, by the way. I was just wearing a fake beard.” Scruffy flicked his finger across the screen, and the image changed to another. Unfortunately for him, he had forgotten about the existence of this one.

“You?!” both ponies asked simultaneously. Scruffy, without his fake beard, was again pictured, but the ponies had to do a double take. Even without the fake one, his beard was longer and bushier than it was now, and his facial hair seemed to have more luster. Scruffy appeared to effortlessly heft a large, heavy looking sack with one hand, but more impressive was the muscular abdomen showing through his open jacket which would have made most minotaurs envious. When the ponies turned to look at him, he had a strained, awkward smile on his face.

“Yes, well, ermh...I uh, was younger then,” Scruffy said, bashful from the attention. “Anyway, you wanted to know about our holiday, right?” he asked, steering the focus away from himself. The question snapped both ponies out of again staring at the picture, practically having pressed their noses against the screen.

“O-oh! Yes, uh, that’s right. Just allow me to get a piece of parchment and we can get started,” Twilight happily chirped.

********************

Several weeks later, the Hearth’s Warming preparations were well under way, as ponies busied themselves in each part of the town, either carrying decorations or attaching the various bits and bobs to everything one could imagine.

“A little bit to the right. No, left. How about up?” Pinkie Pie instructed a rather bored and annoyed looking Rainbow as she nudged a decorative star back and forth accordingly. They had been at this for the past five minutes. “More to the right! Maybe we should spin it around…”

“Pinkie!”

“It’s perfect!” she immediately called out, a wide smile on her face. Rainbow just shook her head and landed.

“Geez, this is ridiculous,” she motioned, looking at all the lights, wreaths, and everything else.

“No it’s not. It’s Hearth’s Warming!”

“That’s not what I-...! Uuurgh, nevermind...” Rainbow’s head drooped as she pondered just flopping to the ground. Pinkie’s antics were starting to get the best of her. Pinkie’s response was to giggle merrily and lean against her friend.

“Aww, come on Dashie! Have some holiday spirit!” Pinkie cheered and proceeded to produce a mug of spiced eggnog. “I think it’s super duper neat that we have so many things in every corner of the town! It’s all so lovely and pretty.”

“Well yeah, but isn’t it a bit too much?” Rainbow asked, sipping the ‘nog. “I’ve never seen Ponyville going all out like this.”

“But this is Scruffy’s first Hearth’s Warming! We have to go all out,” Pinkie emphasized. “And I heard Twilight already muttering to herself about the Princesses’ visit, and there’s still two more days to go before the actual festival, so it’s probably better to just go for it.” Rainbow sighed and ran a hoof down her face.

“Doesn’t that mare ever learn…”

“Doesn’t who learn what?” Applejack asked as she trotted in to view.

“It’s nothing,” Rainbow quickly answered before Pinkie managed to open her mouth.

Applejack whistled, taking in the sights, “Seems like you have done a mighty fine job with all the decorations on this side of town.”

“Oh oh oh!” Pinkie excitedly hopped up and down, “Is Rarity’s boutique finished and all sparkly now?”

“Yes, it-” Applejack started, unable to finish her sentence as the pink pony charged away, leaving with a glimpse of her billowing tail disappearing around a corner. “Anywho, what’s gotten your face so sour? Don’t got any holiday spirit since we ain’t in the big roles this time?” Applejack asked, a knowing grin on her face. She was fully aware how much Dash wouldn’t have complained one bit if they got to be in the Canterlot play again.

“According to Pinkie, my holiday ‘spirit’ is right here,” Rainbow dryly stated and shook the half empty mug, eliciting Applejack’s chuckle. “I just think we’ve gone a bit crazy with all of this. I like Hearth’s Warming and all, but I’m not sure if I recognize half the buildings anymore.”

“I...do get the same feeling a bit,” Applejack admitted, embarrassed by the overabundance of holiday embellishments. “But I think it all feels very festive. I’m sure the Princesses and Scruffy will like it.”

“Where is he anyway? I don’t think I have seen Scruffy anywhere all day.”

“Oh? Hmm… Now that you mention it, I don’t think I have seen him all day long either. Maybe he’s in some other part of town, helping somepony else? Like Fluttershy?” Applejack suggested, shrugging.

“Oh, of course you would suggest that he’s with her, so that we have an excuse to go see her,” Rainbow teased, wiggling her eyebrows.

“I reckon I don’t know what you’re talking ‘bout,” Applejack said, but the way she looked away told Rainbow everything she needed to know.

“Well anyway, let’s go and find him. We spent all day decorating, and there’s no way I’m not hearing what Scruffy thinks after all the trouble we went through.”

********************

“What?”

“S-sorry, I haven’t seen Scruffy all day. I thought he might be with you, decorating the town?” Fluttershy asked. The three of them were gathered outside of Fluttershy’s cottage, where she and a few other ponies had prepared a small area for all of Fluttershy’s animal friends to have their very own Hearth’s Warming.

“No, we haven’t seen him at all,” Applejack shook her head. The ponies helping Fluttershy also shrugged, indicating none of them had seen him either.

“Has he even come to Ponyville today? He isn’t usually this hard to find,” Rainbow pondered. “Actually...now that I think about it… Did he visit yesterday either?” Both Applejack’s and Fluttershy’s faces scrunched up a bit as they thought.

“Wasn’t he helping Pinkie with the baking?” Applejack offered.

“No, Twilight was helping with those.” Fluttershy gently corrected.

“Oh, my bad,” Applejack said, adjusting her hat. Fluttershy offered a small smile, while Rainbow turned away and stuck her tongue out at the sweetness of it all, making everypony else giggle behind their hooves.

“Didn’t he work with Rarity to make some holiday clothes based on his kind’s fashion at some point?” Rainbow asked when she turned towards her friends again.

“That was four days ago,” Applejack said.

“Right, so he was here last Sunday at least.”

“I haven’t seen him at all this week…” Fluttershy said sadly.

“Well, where is he then?” Rainbow stomped her hoof to the snow.

“Maybe we should go ask the other’s if they have seen him?” Fluttershy suggested, and the group headed back to the town, leaving the rest to do the finishing touches.

********************

“So none of us have seen him for three days?” Twilight asked, all six friends having gathered in Sugarcube Corner. A series of nods was the answer. “Hmm, that’s odd…”

“Maybe he knows how busy we have been and didn’t want to distract us?” Spike offered.

“I don’t think that’s the case, Spiky darling. I got the impression that he was very eager to experience what our holiday is like, and that he had something in mind for the Hearth’s Warming day,” Rarity countered.

“Like what?” Pinkie and Applejack chimed in unison.

“Hmm, I’m not sure. He kept asking me questions, in an overly nonchalant way. For instance, he asked about the schedule and how the celebration would start and end on the Hearth’s Warming day. He seemed almost...evasive.”

“Well that’s a bit weird. Unless he was just really worried that he’d miss out on something, and wanted to be super duper sure,” Pinkie offered an answer while bouncing up and down. In hindsight, allowing her to have four cups of hot chocolate might have been a mistake.

“Maybe he has some kind of secret planned. Maybe he wants to prank the town?” Rainbow said, bringing her own two bits in to the conversation.

“He’s not like you Rainbow,” Applejack rebuked with a flat look, bordering on amused.

“Oh no,” Fluttershy suddenly interjected.

“What?” They all turned towards her.

“What if he got a cold, walking here everyday?”

The group stared at Fluttershy, wondering what had caused her to think that, before their heads snapped towards the window in unison. A cold wind wheezed past the window, carrying a cloud of snowflakes as it went.

“Oh no,” Twilight and Pinkie both agreed.

“Shoot, she might be right,” Applejack followed. Scruffy had been coming to Ponyville almost every day before this week.

“What do we do?” Rainbow asked.

“We should go and check that he’s all right,” Twilight declared.

“Oh poor Scruffy,” Fluttershy bemoaned by herself, looking like she was about to burst in to tears.

“Wait wait wait, what about all the preparations around the town?” Spike shot out, causing the mares to stop in their tracks. “Aren’t you all still really busy? I mean, the Princesses’ are visiting tomorrow. And if he does have a cold, what if you catch it too while visiting him?”

“That would be really uncool,” Rainbow admitted. “I don’t want to spend my Hearth’s Warming in a bed.”

“And there’s still so much to do. If we deviate from the schedule, we’ll be late!” Twilight exclaimed, sinking in to her seat. “But we can’t just not do anything! What if Scruffy is really sick?”

“Well… I could go and check up on him. Since I’m a dragon, I don’t get colds so easily. And then, if he is sick, I can send you a letter, or just come back if there’s nothing wrong.”

“Whoa there pardner. Are you suggesting that you’d go walking through the Everfree, when it’s already getting kinda dark, alone?” Applejack objected, holding a hoof to his shoulder.

“So? I know the way there. He showed it to us after all. And if he can do it, so can I.”

“Applejack’s right, it’s too dange-” Twilight started, but Spike stopped her.

“Twilight! I’m not a baby dragon anymore, I can take care of myself. He hasn’t ever had any trouble coming here, so I’m sure I’ll be fine too.”

“But-”

“No buts! You girls still have lots to do, and we need someone to check what’s going on with Scruffy, and I can do that.” The mares exchanged looks across the table.

“Wow, that was pretty awesome, Spike,” Rainbow said, giving him a hoof bump.

“If Spike thinks he can do it, I say we’ll leave it to him,” Pinkie joined. “But! If Scruffy needs our help, you better send that letter right away, so that we can nurse him back to health, so that he won’t miss his first Hearth’s Warming!”

“I reckon that Spike is more than capable of doing this too,” Applejack continued.

“...Are you sure?” Twilight asked her brother.

“Yup. Don’t you worry about it Twilight.”

“Okay” Twilight reluctantly, yet with a proud smile, agreed.

“Oh, my Spikey Wikey is so brave,” Rarity fake cried, dabbing away nonexistent tears with the end of her scarf. Spike’s reaction was to blush slightly, and cross his arms in indignation, causing giggles to burst from the mares.

“We’ll leave him in your capable claws then, Spike,” Rarity continued, with the other mares nodding.

“You can count on me!”

********************

“You can...gulp...count on me…” Spike reassured himself, as he peered in ot the forest before him. The prospect of going to see Scruffy hadn’t seemed so scary in the safety of Sugarcube Corner. “Focus! You promised them you’d check up on Scruffy…t-they are counting on you.”

Howling wind echoed in the forest, causing a chill to run down Spike’s spine. He gulped loudly again, but marched forward regardless in to the depths of the forest. In theory, getting to Scruffy’s house wasn’t all that difficult. You followed the edge of the wood for a little while, until you encountered a landmark and moved deeper into the forest. After about a half an hour more walking, you’ll find a pond, and then it’s just a little bit further until you arrive to his house.

Of course, what Spike hadn’t taken in to consideration, was that everything was covered in snow, including the pond. When Scruffy had showed them the path, it had been during summer. When Spike didn’t find the pond after what seemed like an hour of walking, he started to get worried. And with the constant snow falling from the sky, his footprints were also slowly getting erased, making backtracking more difficult by the minute.

“Oh no, what do I do now?” Spike moaned, shivering as a freezing wind blew past him. He breathed a few gouts of green fire, making himself feel warmer.

Eventually, he decided that none of the surrounding landscape looked familiar, and he must have gone past the pond. He turned around, following his footsteps as long as he could, hoping to go back to the previous landmark and try again.

“-Spike?-” A voice came from some ways away, causing Spike to yelp in surprise and jump in a snowbank, sinking out of sight. Scruffy quickly strode to the snowdrift, pulling Spike out of it.

“O-o-oh, it’s just you,” Spike sighed in relief, shaking loose snow off of himself. “Don’t scare me like that!”

“-Sorry,-” Scruffy said, before realising he didn’t have his amulet with him. He pointed at Spike, and raised one eyebrow.

“What I’m doing here?” When Scruffy nodded, Spike continued. “I was coming to see you. Boy am I glad that you were here, I thought I was going to get lost.”

Scruffy looked at Spike sternly, clearly not happy about this revelation.

“Ehehe...w-what are you doing here anyway?” Spike nervously asked, changing the subject.

Scruffy relented, shaking his head and sighing. He pointed at a small spruce tree that was lying on its side in the snow.

“Oh! Are you getting a Hearth’s Warming tree?” Scruffy shook his head.

“-Christmas.-”

“Right, you have your own holiday. Uh, Scruffy, can we go to your house? It’s cold out here.”

Scruffy slapped his forehead. He put Spike down to grab his tree, and then lead him to his home. The moderate sized wooden building sat at the edge of the forest, warm lights twinkling in the windows, a stream of smoke rising from the chimney. Scruffy stuck the tree he was carrying in to the snow nearby and the pair walked in. Scruffy waved for Spike to go the living room, while he went to get his magic necklace.

“So...what’s made you come all the way over here?” Scruffy asked, placing the amulet around his neck.

“I came here to check up on you.”

“Me?” Scruffy asked, pointing at himself in confusion.

“Yes, you! Where have you been the past few days? Everypony was worried that you might have caught a cold and that you’d be lying on your bed, sick.”

“Ah… No, nothing of the sort. I’m fit as a fiddle.”

“Then why haven’t you been to Ponyville? Everypony is so excited to see what you think of all the decorations, and they want to show you around the town.” Scruffy rubbed his neck, seeming to think for a moment.

“I suppose I should tell you what’s going on. You see, I’ve been busy with something. I wanted it to be a secret, but I guess that’s not an option anymore.”

“What? So Rainbow was right afterall? Well, what are you planing then?” Spike asked, causing Scruffy to grin.

“Let me show you.”

********************

Twilight paced back and forth in the Carousel Boutique. She had had trouble concentrating ever since Spike left, and now that he still hadn’t sent them a letter, worry had taken a grip of her heart.

“Darling, you are trotting in circles again,” Rarity gently noted to her friend for the 7th time. The sound of a sewing machine filled the room as she worked on a vest, inspiration for which she got from Scruffy.

“I’m sorry Rarity… I just can’t sit around idly.”

“You have nothing to worry about, Twilight dear. I’m sure we’ll get a message from Spike soon enough,” Rarity calmed her friend. In truth, she too was starting to worry why he hadn’t send anything yet. Even if he had been slowed by the snow a little bit, he should have made it to Scruffy’s cottage by now.

“I know,” Twilight simply said, although Rarity got the feeling that she wanted to say more. Before she could voice her thoughts, a tuft of sparkling smoke drifted in to the room, forming in to a neat scroll. Both mares jumped at it.

“Finally! What does it say?” Rarity impatiently asked when Twilight got the scroll open. Twilight’s eyes seemed to absorb the text so fast Rarity was afraid they would be left permanently spinning in their sockets.

“It says...that Scruffy is okay...he’s not sick...and Spike is okay too, it just took him a bit longer to find his way in the snow…”

“Thank the stars, for both of those,” Rarity said, visibly relaxing.

“Spike says he’s going to stay there…and that we don’t need to come over?”

“Hmm?” Rarity leaned over Twilight’s shoulder “Mmm...oh, there it is. ‘It’s already late so I’m staying over for today. I’ll come back to Ponyville later. I’ll be fine with Scruffy, so you don’t have to come over.’ Well that’s a little odd,” Rarity concluded.

“You don’t say… I wonder why Spike would specifically say that.”

“Because he’s hiding something!” Pinkie said, bursting forth from a stack of cloth, and thoroughly scaring both mares. Rarity let out a shriek and fell in to Pinkie’s outstretched hooves, while Twilight ripped the scroll in two accidentally.

“Pinkie!” Twilight admonished, while the pink pony fanned the collapsed fashionista. “What were you even doing in that pile?!”

“Napping.”

“N-...napping?”

“Yup.”

“...In Rarity’s supplies?”

“I like to nap in there often. It’s cozy,” Pinkie smiled happily.

“...”

“Darling, I have told you not to do that many times,” Rarity sternly said to Pinkie, her eyes boring in to Pinkie’s. The pout on her face made it clear just what kind of trouble Pinkie was in.

“But Rarityyy…” Pinkie complained.

“I’m not even going to ask…” Twilight shook her head. “What was it that you said before you gave the both of us a heart attack?”

“I said that it sounds like Spike is hiding something,” Pinkie repeated. Rarity stood up and turned to look at her with questioning eyes.

“Why would Spike be hiding something?” she asked.

“I dunno. That’s the mystery,” Pinkie shrugged. “If you’d like to make it an unmystery, we could go and ask him.”

“It’s already dark outside, Pinkie darling.. Taking a trip through Everfree forest at night wasn’t something I had planned today,” Rarity countered. Seeing the disheartened look on Twilight’s face, she continued, “Since Spike is safely at Scruffy’s place, we can wait until tomorrow and go when it’s light outside.”

“I guess you’re right…” Twilight reluctantly agreed. If Spike had had some trouble finding his way to Scruffy’s house when there had been some light, they would have even more of a hard time doing it in the darkness.

“We’ll go tomorrow then?” Pinkie concluded, bouncing up and down again. Both mares nodded.

********************

The next day, the group of friends gathered near Sugarcube Corner. An unexpected and unscheduled heavy snowfall was making its way through Ponyville, the clouds arriving from the Everfree forest, as the clock was getting close to noon. They were waiting for the Princesses’ to visit before they would leave to check up on Scruffy and Spike.

“So I was right afterall!” Rainbow cheered once after Twilight, Rarity, and Pinkie had brought the rest of them up to speed.

“You think the two of them are hiding something together?” Applejack asked.

“Isn’t it obvious? Scruffy doesn’t visit the town for several days without any good reason, and now that Spike’s gone to visit him, he’s acting all dodgy too,” Rainbow pointed out.

“That is so suspiciooous!” Pinkie said in a sing song voice, eager to uncover the secrets the two were hiding. They had prevented her from drinking too much cocoa this time around, so mercifully her hooves stayed on the ground.

“But why would they be hiding anything?” Fluttershy pondered.

“My money is that they are planning the most epic prank ever,” Rainbow confidently suggested.

“On Hearth’s Warming?” Applejack questioned, and several others also looked unsure if that was the reason.

“Why not? Scruffy told us that his kind have set out a day specifically for pranking! If they are willing to go that far, who knows what kind of other strange ways they have for celebrating other holidays.”

“Whatever the reason is, I’m sure we’ll find out once we get there,” Twilight said.

“I wonder if the Princesses will have trouble getting here in all this snow,” Applejack changed the subject, looking at the big snowflakes floating down from the sky.

“Something like this is nothing to the pegasi of the Royal Guard,” Rainbow rebuked, “although they might need a good preening and a few hours next to a fireplace afterwards to dry up their wings.”

The girls chatted to themselves for some minutes more, before the royal pegasus carriage arrived and touched down next to the town hall.

“Princesses!” Twilight called out as their group trotted up to the carriage.

“Greetings, everypony,” Luna and Celestia addressed the ponies who had arrived.

“How wonderful it is to see you again, Princesses. I hope the snowfall didn’t give you any trouble?” Rarity asked Luna as Celestia and Twilight greeted each other.

“It did not, although some more clothing might have been in order,” Luna replied as she adjusted her scarf, and brushed some errant snow from her mane. “Our loyal pegasi carried us through all the snow without any delays, and we are lucky to have such fine members in our ranks,” Luna continued, making sure her voice was loud enough to carry over to their ears. Both guards seemed to perk up and shine with pride, despite their stoic facades of professionalism.

“At least it’s not windy like yesterday,” Rarity offered.

“Hey, let’s go and show them around the town already!” Rainbow impatiently said, flapping her wings to hover up in the air. “I want to know if we won.”

“Rainbow, it ain’t a competition,” Applejack rolled her eyes.

“Sure it is. It’s a competition between which town in Equestria has the best decorations, and I’m sure Ponyville is at least two times as cool as than any other place,” Rainbow boasted, eliciting smiles from the other townsponies around who nodded along.

“Then we should not delay it any further. Lead the way, my little ponies,” Celestia piped up. Twilight, Rainbow, and Mayor Mare took up the initiative lead tour the gussied up town, while Rarity and Luna fell back a bit and continued talking.

“Poor Rainbow. She has been dying to show off all the effort everypony’s been putting in to this,” Rarity said to the Lunar Princess, not trying to mask her amusement.

“A sentiment that many others have mirrored all over Equestria. I am pleased to see that everywhere in our lands, the preparations for Hearth’s Warming have been going well. But I must ask, however, surely Rainbow has been able to show your festive preparations to our honored guest?” Luna wondered.

“Well...not exactly. Our dear Scruffy hasn’t been in to Ponyville for several days now.”

“He hasn’t? Scruffy hasn’t gotten himself sick, has he, on the eve of celebration?”

“We were worried about the same thing, but Spike went to see him yesterday, and it appears that Scruffy is in fine health. Spike stayed there overnight.”

“Then pray tell, what is the problem?”

“We aren’t sure, and we were planning to visit them to find out. Pinkie and Rainbow seem convinced that they are hiding something, but I am not so sure yet.”

“Hmm… Then perhaps Sister and I will tag along, if you won’t mind.”

********************

“You didn’t have to come,” Twilight said, as the group of eight made their way towards Scruffy’s house.

“Nonsense, my student. It’s been well over a month since we have had the chance to see Toivo,” Celestia replied, having to strain to pronounce his name correctly, and even still, it wasn’t as flawless as she hoped it to be.

“That is right, Twilight Sparkle. Scruffy is a dear friend, and we appreciate the chance to see him before the holidays,” Luna continued.

“I’m also eager to learn more of his kind’s winter traditions. The letter you sent us was a joy to read,” Celestia finished.

The ponies made it to the edge of the forest, but with the snow masking the usual path, they ended up going a little bit off.

“Perfect!” Pinkie said, pulling winter camouflage clothes from her saddlebags. “This gives us the perfect opportunity to see exactly what they are hiding.” The mare eagerly put on the suit, making her indistinguishable from the snow. Except for the pink tail bouncing back and forth.

“Erm...Pinkie?” Twilight tried to get her friends attention. “We don’t have to sneak there... Weren’t we going to go and ask what they were up to anyway?”

“Silly Twilight. That wouldn’t be as much fun.” Pinkie made a ‘tsk tsk’ noise, wrapping one foreleg around her friend’s back. “I will sneak in with Celestia to see what’s going on…”

“Me as well?” Celestia asked with an amused smile.

“...and once we have made sure all is clear, the rest of you can follow,” Pinkie explained, and started to crawl towards the house, her pink tail clearly visible against the white snow. The others turned to look at Celestia, who simply shrugged and strode after Pinkie, casting a spell to make her mane and tail look completely bleached.

The pair carefully made their way to the main building, scanning the house for any sign for their missing quarry. Once they reached the nearest wall, Pinkie motioned for Celestia to peer through the windows for any ‘suspicious activity’.

“What do you see?” Pinkie whispered.

“I see a beautifully decorated Hearth’s Warming tree,” Celestia replied after a quick look. Pinkie gasped.

“You do? Where, I wanna see!” she stood up with her hindquarters, almost headbutting Celestia in the chin in her hurry, all pretenses of stealth forgotten.

“Hmm... The lights are off, and the house appears empty,” Celestia hummed after further observation.

“They aren’t inside the house? But where could they possibly be then?” Pinkie wondered, acting like this was the biggest mystery in her life.

“I dunno, like, right behind you?” Spike asked in a flat tone from behind them. Pinkie jumped in surprise, this time actually headbutting Celestia in the chin. “Ouch,” Spike winced.

“Ah...there you are… Hello, Spike,” Celestia greeted, wincing as she rubbed her chin. “It appears we have been found out…” Celestia noticed the trail of Spike’s calw prints leading from another building next to the one they had been observing.

“Hey… Uhh, why are you sneaking around Scruffy’s home anyway?” he asked as he rubbed Pinkie’s back encouragingly, who was silently moaning in the snow and holding her head.

“Twilight mentioned that you had come to visit Scruffy yesterday, and we wanted to come say our own holiday greetings to him as well,” Celestia explained as she cast a pain numbing spell on both herself and Pinkie. She then signaled for the rest of the pony group to come join them from the edge of the forest.

“Uhhuh… What about Pinkie’s camouflage gear and your new mane style?” Spike asked one eyebrow raised. Scruffy, who had been putting on this boots and jacket, came out of the same shed Spike had come from, a happy smile on his face as he spotted Pinkie and Celestia.

“We know you are hiding something spike,” Pinkie accused, having recovered from the impromptu headbutt into Celestia’s steel jaw, and pointed her hoof at him. “So out with it, mister!”

“W-what? I-I’m not hiding anything!” Spike unconvincingly argued.

“What Pinkie means to say, is that we suspect Scruffy is planning something, and you must have found out yesterday,” Celestia stepped in, a knowing smile on her face. “Am I right?” she asked, despite being sure already.

“Uuuh…” Spike’s eyes darted from side to side, but luckily, Scruffy saved him from further scrutinization.

“Good day Celestia, Pinkie!” Scruffy greeted enthusiastically as he neared them. “Hello everypony!” he continued, waving at the others.

“How wonderful it is to see you again.” Celestia gave Scruffy a hug when he was finally close enough.

“It has been a little while, hasn’t it? Running a country sure is busy work.”

“You mean to say that it is time consuming,” Celestia gently corrected.

Isn’t that what I said, Scruffy pondered to himself. More greetings were given once the rest of the ponies arrived. after which Scruffy suggested that they move inside and not stand around in the cold.

“So what brings you all here? Did you all just come to visit old me?” he asked with a smile once everypony was comfortably seated around a fire.

“We were worried for you, darling. We haven’t seen you in Ponyville for several days,” Rarity said.

“Yeah! We got all kinds of awesome decorations set up in Ponyville now. Why haven’t you come to check them out?” The other ponies and the dragon turned to look at Rainbow with flat looks. “Ah, and we were worried you might be sick,” she sheepishly added.

“I thought Spike send you a letter? I’m completely fine,” Scruffy asked, bemused.

“He did, yes,” Twilight confirmed, looking at Spike who was fidgeting with his claws. “But there was something...strange in it,” she continued.

“And that’s because you two are hiding something!” Pinkie declared, hopping from side to side between them. “And we want to know what it is! I bet you two had something super duper fantastically cool planned, like baking hyyyooomun Hearth’s Warming treats.” Pinkie gasped loudly. “I want to bake too!”

“Erm…” Scruffy looked at Pinkie’s eager smile. “We weren’t planning on baking,” he said, causing the pink mare’s smile to morph in to a sad pout.

“Then what were you planning?” Celestia prompted. Scruffy seemed to consider whether he should explain or not, but when he saw the expectant looks from the ponies, he sighed.

“It was supposed to be a surprise for you all, but I guess that’s not going to work anymore. And I could use your help,” he relented.

“Friend, if we can help in any way, please tell us,” Luna encouraged.

“Yes, umm… After talking with Twilight about Hearth’s Warming and...my people’s holiday, we found out that both were very similar. But there was one big difference, and I wanted to use it to surprise you.”

“Hmm… Oh! Do you mean the...erm…’gift giver’?” Twilight asked.

“Yes. Ponies have a tradition to get gifts for family members and close friends. But you don’t have the, ‘gift giver’, as Twilight put it. We call that person…-Santa Claus-... He is a person who, according to the tale, brings gifts to children. But only if you have been nice the whole year. Parents often get someone to play ‘gift giver’ for their children.”

“That sound like a wonderful tradition,” Celestia smiled.

“We have previously held events in Canterlot where we give presents to fillies and colts,” Luna said, thinking back before her banishment.

“I had been thinking of something like that,” Scruffy said. “I have my old ‘gift giver’ clothes that I have used in the past, and I have an old sleigh I have been fixing the past few weeks. I was planning on coming to Ponyville with it, properly dressed and all, and giving some presents to the fillies and colts in Ponyville.”

“That’s a marvelous idea!” Rarity excitedly exclaimed.

“Mmhm,” Fluttershy happily nodded.

“Heh, sounds good to me. But what can we for you?” Applejack asked.

“...Well…” Scruffy scratched his beard, a wicked smile forming on his face.

********************

The next day, as dusk was starting to settle in, the ponies in Ponyville gathered around the town hall. A massive spruce tree had been erected in the square and decorated with a lavish set of lights, tinsel, moons and suns, garlands, and many other holiday baubles. Many of the younger ponies were admiring the tree or playing around it.

As it was tradition in Ponyville, the villagers would sing Hearth’s Warming carols together and wish each other happy holidays, after which families would return to their homes to enjoy a Hearth’s Warming feast. Gifts would be given afterwards, and ponies would spend the rest of the day with their loved ones.

As Mayor Mare was finishing her annual Hearth’s Warming address, and the ponies were passing leaflets for the first song, a filly suddenly pointed at the sky.

“Look, what’s that?” she asked. Soon all the ponies were looking towards the heavens and the object that was circling them.

“What is that?” Lyra asked.

“It kinda looks like a sleigh of some sort…” Thunderlane replied, squinting at the night sky. Even with his keen pegasus vision, it was too dark to see it properly.

The ponies murmured amongst themselves, some getting slightly worried. Ponyville’s few guards ponies took defensive stances just in case. The sleigh made a few circles in the sky, before starting its descent. It made sure to give a wide berth to the ponies, landing on the other side of the town hall. The murmuring only increased while the sleigh was hidden, but it all ceased when it slid in to the square proper.

The ponies jaws dropped open as they saw the thing. It was a rather large sleigh, by pony standards, that had been painted red and decorated with garlands. It was clearly outfitted to be pulled in the snow, and it had a seat where maybe three grown ponies could fit.

Their unmistakable visitor from the forest was sitting on it, wearing garments that were also red with white, furry linings and an equally jovial hat. Spike was standing next to him, wearing the same clothes, but he also had a fake beard. Behind them was a large sack that seemed to be bursting with things, including six familiar mares who were poking out from the opening, beaming smiles on their faces. Each of them was wearing a similar red hat and vest as Scruffy and Spike.

But the greatest causes of the shock were the Royal Sisters, who were pulling the sleigh. They both had a bright red bulb attached to their muzzles, what seemed to be fake deer antlers, and their coats had changed to a light brown color for Celestia and dark bluish brown for Luna. If it wasn’t for their flowing manes, the ponies might not have realised who they were.

HO HO HO!” bellowed Scruffy when they were fully in view. “Merry Hearth’s Warming to everypony!”

“Happy Hearth’s Warming!” all the Elements and Spike cheered. The sleigh pulled next to the town’s Hearth’s Warming tree and ponies approached, curious.

“Well, what do my little eyes see?” Scruffy said once they stopped, climbing out of the sleigh and squinting at the ponies. “Hello there little ponies,” he continued, as if just now realising who was in front of him. His act was causing besument and amusement in the ponies in equal measure.

“Scruffy? What’s this all about?” Lyra trotted closer with a big smile on her face as she glanced at Scruffy’s companions.

“Oh, little Lyra Heartstrings, I am Santa, and I heard that you have a wonderfully joyous celebration planned for today. I was hoping we could join you and give presents to all the good little fillies and colts,” Scruffy explained, affectionately ruffling Lyra’s mane, which caused her to giggle.

“Presents?” some of the young ponies gasped, coming closer.

“Why yes, presents!” Scruffy patted the huge sack. “Me and my friends have brought presents to all the little ponies who have been good this year.” He then leaned in closer, holding a hand to his mouth and not so silently whispered, “You all have been good this year, right?”

“Yes!” came a unified reply from the fillies and colts.

“Wonderful to hear!” he bellowed again, and turned towards the Elements who had gotten out of the sack, and were all grinning brightly. “I think we need to start passing gifts then.”

With the help of Rainbow and Applejack, Scruffy hoisted the sack out of the sleigh, with plenty of eager foals gathering around to receive a gift. One by one each of them were received a beautifully wrapped present, given by Scruffy, Spike, the Element Bearers, or the Princesses. Once the gifts were given, the Hearth’s Warming celebration continued, with everypony’s spirits lifted.

********************

“Wow, that was a great idea Scruffy!” Pinkie happily giggled afterwards. The ponies were all still gathered, chatting and watching the foals enjoy the gifts they got.

“I agree, this was positively delightful,” Rarity said.

“In all my years, I don’t think I have ever had quite as fantastic a Hearth’s Warming as this one,” Celestia piped in, the disguises she and Luna had been wearing now absent, except for the antlers, which they had decided to keep on their heads because several foals seemed to like them. “Thank you for this, Toivo.

“Don’t thank me yet, because I still have few more presents to give,” he replied, fishing in to the sack that had been full not long ago, now almost empty. He pulled out nine small packages, and he gave one to each princess, each of the six friends, and to Spike. Inside the presents were small wooden carvings of their cutie marks, or a side profile of his head in Spike’s case. They all gave him a heartfelt thank you for them.

“I think it is best we start heading back to Canterlot,” Celestia said. “We still have plenty of celebrations to attend there as well.”

“You are right, sister. Thank you all for this wonderful evening,” Luna agreed.

“And thank you for all the gifts,” Celestia said to Scruffy and gave him a brief hug.

“I hope it doesn’t take another month until the next time we see each other,” Scruffy chuckled.

“We will endeavor to have more free time,” Luna replied with a smile, also giving him a hug. However, one of her antlers got caught in Scruffy’s jacket.

“Ow,” Scruffy exclaimed as one of the points poked him.

“Oh, sorry!” Luna took off the fake antlers, which were left dangling in the jacket and took back a step.

“Careful that your jacket doesn’t tear,” Rarity said, wincing as Scruffy reached to pull them out.

“I can help you with that,” Rainbow said, flapping her wings to reach the antlers, but Rarity’s hiss indicated that it wasn’t a better idea.

“It’s okay, I’ll just take it off for a moment,” Scruffy said, and started to undo the buttons on his jacket. As the top few came undone, it became clear that he wasn’t wearing any of his normal shirts underneath. The jacket was very thick, and as Scruffy had put it, the chill of Equestria was nothing compared to his homeland. He pulled his jacket open, revealing, despite his old age, a rather well toned muscular abdomen.

The ponies all took a good look.

Several impressed eyebrows were raised.

Luna and Rarity swooned.

Author's Note:

Hopefully you all had happy holidays. :pinkiehappy:

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