• Published 29th Jun 2019
  • 2,711 Views, 61 Comments

The More Things Change... - SugarHoneyIceTea123



The School of Friendship is having its annual reunion! And while Gallus is ecstatic to see his old friends again, he may have to deal with some changes he wasn't prepared for.

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Midnight Reverie...

Gallus couldn’t sleep.

It was actually a common problem for him. Moreso when he was younger, but he did have to suffer through the occasional relapse here and there.

The insomnia first started to affect him a few months after he had first moved into the
School of Friendship’s dorms. Something that certainly confused Gallus at first. One would think that exchanging the cold, empty hovel in Griffonstone for the warmth and safety of the School, surrounded on all sides by creatures who cared for him, would make Gallus sleep sounder than a newborn hatchling.

It wasn’t until Trixie and Starlight took notice of his late-night wanderings about the house that they suggested therapy as an option.

Gallus originally scoffed at the idea. Therapy was for creatures that heard voices in their heads, or planned to murder their terrible employers. He just had trouble sleeping some nights. Pop some goodnight-pills and let the problem take care of itself.

Of course, Starlight was much more adamant, having been something of a poster-child for the effectiveness of good therapy herself. Though Gallus did think she was something of an extreme case which, in his eyes, only further proved his point.

Still, he was still a minor in her care. At the end of the day, she was the guardian and he was her charge. However much he grumbled, he did eventually agree to seeing a shrink, if only to spare both of the two mares any worry.

Those first few visits to the therapist, a plum-purple unicorn mare with a frazzled orange mane named Ms. Pathway, were mostly spent in spiteful silence. Just because Gallus agreed to see a therapist, didn’t mean he actually had to say anything to the quack.

That said, Ms. Pathway was nothing if not professional. She knew all about this kind of patient. Young, brash, think they have a full grasp of their own mind so of course they don’t need anyone’s opinions but their own.

Not much she could do but let Gallus stew in silence, thank him for his time, then invite him back for another session.

Ms. Pathway had a patience born from years of dealing with ponies ten times more indignant and stubborn than Gallus in every way.

While Gallus was, at his core, a teenager still trying to figure things out.

What harm could there be in asking for a little help?

After about five separate sessions of Gallus offering little more than haughty indifference, he finally laid out his cards.

“Okay.” He told her in the middle of their session. “What do you want to know?”

She asked him about his home life, his relationship with Trixie and Starlight, his friendship with the others of his group. She asked him about his future, what he planned to do after graduating.

Then she asked him about his past, before coming to Equestria.

From the way Gallus looked away the first time it was brought up, Ms. Pathway was worried Gallus might slip back to silence. But then he looked back with a tired emptiness in his eyes.

“Bad.” Gallus said. “I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you that those two mares in the waiting room aren’t my real parents. Mom died laying my egg and Dad ditched me when things got tough. I was barely old enough to chirp when Griffonstone dropped me off in some old buzzard’s talons who couldn’t be bothered to do any ‘parenting’ outside of making sure I didn’t starve. From there, I spent every day, week, month, and year of my life shunted off to the edge of our city. Out of sight, out of mind. Alone.”

After a while, Gallus did receive an answer, or at least a theory, from Ms. Pathway. Though what she offered was almost enough for Gallus to walk right out of her office and call her every synonym for fraud that he knew.

She thought he was in denial.

In Ms. Pathway’s own words, she believed Gallus’ subconscious was outright rejecting this new life. That the comfort of his new home, the love of his new friends, the care of his new guardians, were all considered to be a lie, a dream his conscious mind was having, and that eventually, he would wake up and be right back in that cold, empty hovel in Griffonstone.

Because, on some base level, Gallus felt he didn’t deserve to be happy.

As Ms. Pathway droned on, talking about how this was actually a common problem for creatures who dealt with childhood trauma and neglect, an attempt by the subconscious to somehow justify their past suffering when it just didn’t mesh with their current happiness, Gallus kept shutting out each and every word she was saying.

Gallus, of course, balked at all of this. He told Ms. Pathway that he was under no delusions over what was real and what was fantasy.

Ms. Pathway countered that even if he knew that, his brain might not.

That said, Ms. Pathway did make it clear that this was only a theory, based on what little Gallus was willing to share about his past. Which Gallus would fully admit was not much. There are things about his past that not even his closest friends knew about, nor would ever know if he had anything to say about it.

It was entirely possible the insomnia was caused by something else entirely, but Ms. Pathway offered no real solutions other than to hope the problem went away in time and to keep seeing her so that they could continue working towards a more long-term goal.

Gallus refused to see her again… for a few years at least.

He actually did decide, of his own volition no less, to go back to her office around the time he started studying for his Teaching Degree. Whatever problems he had with Ms. Pathway picking apart his brain, she did only ever try to help him and she did, on occasion, help Gallus feel less stressed about the common goings-on in his life, which were at a record high while juggling a job as a Royal Guard on top of higher education.

As Gallus continued to lay on his bed, staring up at his ceiling, he reminded himself that he had another session at her office in a few weeks. Something to look forward to, he guessed.

Knowing he wasn’t going to get any sleep any time soon, Gallus dragged himself out of his bed to see what he could do to entertain himself before fatigue finally caught up with him.

Looking at the clock by his bedside, he saw it was already well past midnight. Not terribly late, but considering he and Smolder were expected to have an early breakfast at Sandbar and Yona’s house, he figured it would be a much more enjoyable morning for all involved if he wasn’t falling asleep in their dining room.

Sighing, Gallus trudged over to his bookshelf. Maybe a quick chapter or two from one of his stories might lull him to sleep. If it worked for small children, why not give it a shot?

Gallus did take a peek at the ‘Friend Shelf’ with a bit of a smile. The five books therein were a series of gifts Gallus received from his friends in a shared Hearth’s Warming gift, each book an exemplar of their respective cultures.

That was something all of his friends shared with each other, and indeed the reason they were all friends in the first place. An honest, genuine curiosity and appreciation for each other’s different culture. Especially at a time when said cultures had their fair share of distrust or disdain for one another.

Sandbar’s was the most thematically appropriate. A Hearth’s Warming Tale. Because of course ponies would write a story about divine intervention for the sole purpose of making one pony not be a jerk.

Yona’s book was more a manuscript, a survival guide for any who dare to enter the frozen mountains the yaks called home. For whenever friend Gallus wants to visit, Yona would say.

Ocellus gave him a more modern book, considering the changeling hive under Chrysalis was a bit stunted in the art and culture department. What was odd was that it was a children’s book, meant for kids around Sorrel and Nettle’s age. About a young changeling who went around accidentally scaring ponies and other creatures but who eventually found a friend who wasn’t scared of them. A friend they could share love with. The book was obviously a little below Gallus’ reading level, but he appreciated the symbolic gesture nonetheless.

Silverstream… gave him a book detailing the history and manufacturing of garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments. If there were any deeper symbolic meaning, it was completely lost on Gallus. But the smile on Silverstream’s face when he opened her gift was enough for Gallus to say he loved it.

And, of course, Smolder was the odd dragon out. It didn’t help that dragons were a bit behind, technologically speaking, from the other species of the world. So much so that they didn’t even have a concept of printing in the Dragon Lands. No printing, no books. At least, none that were accessible to the public. Thus, a lot of dragon stories were told orally, which is why the Feast of Fire was so important to the dragons. It made sure those stories weren’t lost to time.

So, instead of giving Gallus a book, she spirited him away in the middle of the festivities, revealing she had made a nest of pillows and sheets in his room for just the two of them.

She locked the door to make sure they wouldn’t be disturbed, sat Gallus down at the nest, and told Gallus story after story after story. Their own little Feast of Fire, with the cherry on top being a tape recorder Smolder bought earlier that week so that Gallus could listen to those stories whenever he felt like it.

It was, by far, the best Hearth’s Warming Gallus ever had.

He reached for the recorder, set up right next to all the other books on the ‘Friend Shelf’, before drawing back. It was late, and he didn’t want the sound to wake up anyone still sleeping.

Maybe if he found a pair of headphones first.

As quietly as he could, Gallus creeped out into the hallway, passing by his sister’s room. Nearing the living room, he did spy the counter where his mothers kept their favorite family pictures.

He paused for a bit to admire his own favorite picture out of the bunch. A young Gallus holding an infant Mirage, the very same day Starlight and Trixie brought her from the orphanage.

Gallus saw his own nervous smile looking back up at him, and the warmth from holding his new sister came back as strong as ever.

It had only been a year after Gallus was adopted himself before Starlight and Trixie decided to increase their family by one more. He was still reeling from the notion that he was a son, and now he was a brother on top of that.

Of course, Miri’s role in all this wasn’t as sunshine and rainbows as it was for the other members of the family. There was a reason she was in that orphanage in the first place.

It was a freak accident, or so the authorities said. One spark from one bit of faulty electrical wiring in the middle of the night, and the whole house was ablaze before anyone knew what was happening.

Miri only survived by sheer, dumb luck. The fire started from the second floor and hadn’t quite reached her nursery at the opposite corner of the house before the firefighters managed to spirit her out.

Her parents… weren’t so lucky. Her father perished in the fire. While her mother was able to get out of the house thanks to the firefighters, she later succumbed to her smoke-poisoned lungs. She lived long enough to tell the paramedics that Miri had no other family but them. That they came to Ponyville seeking a fresh start.

And, just like that, Mirage became a child of the state.

For all of three months before Starlight and Trixie visited the orphanage.

Gallus sighed, thinking back on those events. He never knew Miri’s birth parents personally. Never even heard about them until he came home from school one night and saw Princess Twilight in his living room having a tense discussion with Starlight about the whole thing.

Still, if he could go back…

If nothing else, they were never dishonest to Mirage. The second she started to piece together that having two mares for parents and a brother that was an entirely different species didn’t exactly fit the model of a nuclear family, they told her the truth, as much as they could without scarring the poor filly.

Gallus remembered Miri being really quiet when she first learned the truth, refusing to say a word to anyone of them for a long time.

Until, after only a day or two, she came out of her room, eyes red and bloodshot, and gave each of them the tightest hug she could muster at the tender age of five.

This was Gallus’ family. They were weird, full of themselves, belligerent and proud to a fault. None of them were actually related to each other in any traditional sense… But they were his family.

Shaking the sentimentality off, Gallus kept going towards the living room, thinking that maybe someone left a pair of headphones on the entertainment stand.

Television was a relatively new development to Equestria. While they had the concept for filming, mostly used for movie theaters, home theaters was something that wouldn’t come about until after Princess Twilight brought the technology back from the… Hoo-Man world or whatever it was called. Gallus always thought that whole thing was kind of weird since he first heard about it.

They didn’t yet have the capability to apparently send film to television sets across the world like the other world could. Something about ‘streaming’ or something, Gallus remembered hearing one egghead talk about it. What rivers had to do with all this was well beyond Gallus’ comprehension.

That said, they were capable of playing pre-recorded film right in the comfort of one’s own home, so that was pretty cool.

So it surprised Gallus, somewhat, to see his mother, Trixie, lounging on the couch watching one such movie with the volume down low, so as not to wake the rest of the house.

Just a glance at the screen was enough for Gallus to see she was watching a crime noir. Apparently, Rarity introduced the genre to Trixie and she, of course, fell in love with the panache and pageantry of a good mystery thriller.

Evidently, he wasn’t as stealthy as he thought as Trixie’s ears perked up as he approached, peeking out over the edge of the couch to see him slinking in the living room.

“Hey, sweetie…” Trixie said in a hoarse whisper. “Another all-nighter?”

Gallus rubbed the back of his neck. “Hopefully not all night.” He grumbled. “I’m sorry Mom, didn’t mean to bother you.”

“No no! Come visit with me for a bit!” Trixie offered, patting the seat on the couch next to her. “We hardly got to talking before you headed straight to bed.”

“Heh, yeah, sorry about that. It’s just… long night and early morning to get up to.” Gallus said, rounding the couch to take a seat.

The sat in a comfortable silence as they watched the detective on screen put the pieces of a grisly crime scene together.

“I wanted to apologize, too.” Trixie said. “You didn’t need me smothering you the second you got home.”

Gallus said nothing for a few seconds, trying to put his thoughts to words. “D’you wanna know something?”

“Hmm?”

“When I think about you smothering me with way too much affection, or when I think about you and Mom being just a bit too uptight and full of yourselves, or when I think about how much of a little pest Miri is. Do you know what I always think to myself?” Gallus asked, sincerely.

“I’m almost afraid to ask…” Trixie said.

“I think to myself… How freaking lucky I am to have you guys in my life.” Gallus said. “So, believe me Mom, I can handle a bit of smothering. It’s one-hundred times better than what I had before.”

Trixie said nothing, but simply smiled up at her son, wrapping her foreleg around his back as the two held each close.

“Do you remember…?” Trixie began, grabbing Gallus’ interest. “I don’t really know why that made me think of this, but do you remember… The first time you called me ‘Mom’?”

Gallus let out a small laugh. “Yeah, I remember. It was just… what was it? Three, four months after you two adopted me?”

“Around that, yeah.” Trixie said.

“You were going to the market to grab something for dinner and you asked me to come along. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I just figured ‘Why not?’.”

“And when we got there…” Trixie continued. “I asked you to take a look at the spice racks for me… And you said ‘Sure, Mom.’.”

Trixie giggled a bit at the memory. “I was so shocked, I almost dropped everything I was carrying. Just… Mom! Right outta nowhere! I mean, full disclosure, I had kind of always hoped you would call me that one day, since the moment we adopted you. But to actually hear it…”

Trixie looked up at Gallus. “Why did you say it then? What changed?”

“Changed?” Gallus asked.

“It didn’t take you much longer after that to start calling Starlight ‘Mom’ too. When did we stop being ‘those two mares who let you crash at their house’ and when did we start being your mothers?”

Gallus lulled over the question for a bit. “I can’t really answer that. The first time I called you ‘Mom’... It just sort of happened. I wasn’t even thinking about it at the time. You asked me to do something, and I just said it like it was the most natural thing. It didn’t take me until actually getting to that spice rack that it fully hit me what I just said. I actually had to find a corner to hide in and have a little mini-freakout.”

Trixie pondered this for a second. “By the time we got home, you just kept on calling me and Starlight ‘Mom’. As if you had been your whole life. You didn’t really seem to want to make a big deal of it, so Starlight and I agreed we wouldn’t either. At least, not in front of you.”

Gallus laughed. “Yeah, that whole ‘mini-freakout’ I mentioned? It… gave me some time to think. The fact that it was so natural, the fact that it did just come out. Well, I figured there was no point in denying what was happening. You had already heard me say it, the damage was done.”

Gallu looked down at his mother, his eyes soft. “You two… were becoming my parents. In every way that actually mattered. And the more I realized that was actually happening, the more I realized how much I wanted it to happen. So, I just… let it.”

Gallus felt his smile stretching across his face. “And I’m so, so happy I did. I’m so happy you guys are my family.”

“Ohhh… Gallus!” Trixie couldn’t find the words that only action could convey as she sat up from her seat to wrap her forelegs around Gallus, pulling him into yet another crushing hug.

One Gallus happily returned.

Unfortunately, the tender moment was a bit diminished when a loud, shrill cry suddenly rang out throughout the house.

“What the-?” Gallus said, pulling away from his mother. “Is that Brim?”

“Oh, the poor thing.” Trixie said. “He’s been going off and on for the past few hours now. Smolder must be at her wit’s end.”

“This has been going on for hours?” Gallus said, the slightest hint of accusation in his voice.

“Hey, I tried to offer my assistance to the young lady!” Trixie said. “But, nooo. This was apparently something she had to take care of ‘on her own’.”

Gallus brought his palm up to his head. “Dang it, Smolder, I thought we talked about this.”

Gallus offered an apologetic look to his mother as he scrambled off the couch. “Look, the kid’s gonna wake up the whole house soon. Do you mind if I…?”

“Go.” Trixie said. “Maybe she’ll actually listen to you and let you help.”

“Hopefully.” Gallus said.
---
It didn’t take Gallus long to reach Smolder’s guest-room, all the while, Brim’s crying was only getting louder. Pretty soon, a very cranky Starlight was going to come out of her room unless Gallus did something.

Figuring there was no way Smolder was sleeping through this cacophony, Gallus gave the door to the guest-room the tiniest knock.

He heard a defeated sigh from the other end of the door, a hefty sigh too, considering he heard it over Brim’s crying, before he heard Smolder’s voice from inside.

“Come in…”

Gallus quickly scrambled in before closing the door behind him, making sure the noise didn’t get out for too long.

Upon turning to face Smolder, his heart lurched a bit seeing just how drained his best friend was.

She sat on her bed, back against the bed-post, as she half-heartedly rocked a screaming Brim in her arms.

“He… He won’t go to sleep.” Smolder said, looking to be on the verge of tears herself. “Everytime I manage to get him out for ten minutes, he just fidgets himself back awake.”

Gallus just stood there, no fully aware that he didn’t actually have any sort of plan. “Is there… Is there anything I can do to help?”

Smolder shook her head. “Nothing you can do. He’s just not used to sleeping in a strange place. We’ve only ever slept in our cave before tonight, and he’s not liking the change.”

Smolder closed her eyes as the back of her head hit the bed-post. “Nothing to do but let him cry it out.”

Gallus stood there, wanting to help but not knowing how.

“At least let me take him for a bit, give you a break for second.” Gallus said, offering his talons to the dragoness.

Smolder looked like she was about to decline, but finally relented as she passed Brim over to Gallus who took a seat at the foot of the bed.

While Brim continued to cry his lungs out, his tears were stifled a bit when he noticed the different hands holding him. Opening his eyes, he looked up at Gallus’ face staring down at him.

Within seconds, the shrill crying died down to a mumbling whimper.

“Little traitor…” Smolder said, chuckling. “I can’t believe he actually likes you more than me now.”

“I think he just needed something familiar with everything being so different.” Gallus offered, gently rocking Brim. The fatigue from crying so much was starting to get to the drake as his eyes started to droop.

Smolder stared at the two, visibly uncomfortable with whatever was going on in her mind. “Hey… Gallus?”

Gallus looked up from the babe in his arms. “Yeah?”

“Would you…?” Smolder started before shaking her head. “Ah, nevermind. You’ve already done more than enough.”

“No no, go on.” Gallus prodded. “What were you going to say?”

Smolder looked away, unable to meet his eyes as the scales on her cheeks became a darker shade of orange. “Would you… Would you stay with us? Just for tonight?”

Gallus wasn’t entirely sure what she meant. “Stay with you?”

Smolder grumbled as her cheeks got even darker. “Y’know, sleep here. In this room.” She awkwardly patted the other side of the bed. “In this bed.”

Now Gallus was blushing, thankfully hidden beneath his feathers. “O-oh…”

“It’s just… Look, Brim really likes you. I can’t explain it, he’s just super calm around you.” Smolder said, pleadingly. “So, just for tonight, just until he gets used to sleeping here…”

“Can you sleep with us? Help me keep him calm?”

Gallus was, understandably enough, more than a little shocked at the proposal. A great many thoughts flashed through his mind at the concept of sleeping in the same bed as Smolder, not all of them were all that welcoming.

But one glance at the tired, bag-heavy eyes on his friend more-or-less made the decision for him.

“Sure.” Gallus said.

By that point, Brim had already managed to calm down. Not really asleep, but clearly getting to that point. And a small part of Gallus knew that if he just cut his losses right there, handed him back to Smolder and left for his own room, the crying would have immediately started up again in full force.

So, instead, he waited for Smolder to shuffle herself to one side of the bed and lie down, clearly waiting for Gallus to take his place on the bed.

With a sigh, Gallus laid down across from Smolder, facing her as he gently laid Brim on his back in-between them. Brim apparently decided this wasn’t good enough as he tumbled over to crawl into the crook of Gallus’ chest.

Smolder couldn’t help but smile at the display before turning her tired eyes to the griff across from her.

“Thank you…”

Gallus nodded numbly, his attention mainly on the baby dragon apparently trying to nest in his feathers. “Like I said, I’m your griff.”

With his attention on Brim, Gallus barely noticed it when Smolder quickly leaned forward. Though he definitely noticed it when he felt the slightest peck across his cheek.

Gallus looked up in shock, but Smolder was already back on her side of the bed, already succumbing to the sleep Brim’s constant crying kept her from.

Gallus continued to stare gob-smacked at the now snoozing dragoness laying across from him, absently touching a talon to his cheek.

Did that… Really just happen?

Gallus tried to shake off all the intruding thoughts banging against the door of his brain. She was probably just… really appreciative of him helping out with Brim. Or she was so tired, she wasn’t thinking clearly.

As Gallus continued to stare at Smolder, one errant thought did manage to finally break through.

She was really pretty when she was sleeping.

Gallus immediately shut that thought out, turning to lay on his back so he wouldn’t look at her anymore. But every single detail of her dozing face stayed in his mind.

I’m in deep, deep trouble, Gallus thought to himself.