A wicked winter wind tugged on the scarf wrapped around the stallion's neck. The snow swirled around him angrily, as he squinted through a pair of goggles to see where he was going. The powder stopped his vision only a few feet in front of him, and large mounds of snow, making the trek difficult. After several minutes of pushing against the wind, he finally saw his destination.
The door to Heavy's shop opened, and the group inside looked toward the door. The white backdrop outside highlighted the stallion in a white parka, hood and ski mask blocking everything on his face except for the goggles covering his eyes.
"AH! IS WHITE DEATH!" Heavy dove behind Spy, covering his head.
"Get up you moron, it's only Sniper." Spy shook his head at the pathetic display. Heavy stood up as the Stallion removed his hood to reveal the Australian's mane.
"Cripes, it bloody freezin out. Not sure why you sent me to get the damn supplies, Heavy is used to this kind a' cold."
"Heavy was busy cooking." Heavy said indignantly as he returned to the kitchen, trying desperately to pretend his 'duck-and-cover' moment hadn't just happened.
Spy cleared his throat. "Pyro, Scout, and Engi were setting up the outside lights, Medic, Ms Pauling and I were decorating the inside, Demo's helping Heavy in the kitchen, and I have no idea where Soldier disappeared, but even if I did would you really trust him to get the right supplies? That leaves you or our guests." He turned to the keepers of the Elements of Harmony placing ornaments on the large tree decorating the next room over "They elected to decorate the tree."
"Fair point, though I'm still not happy about it." Sniper shrugged off the saddlebag around his shoulder.
"Did you get the stuff?" Pyro excitedly asked, bobbing slightly in anticipation. Sniper sighed, then reached into the pack, pulling out two large cartons of eggnog. "Woo!" She grabbed the cartons and rushed to the kitchen. "Demo! We got the nog! Get the rum!"
Sniper shook his head. "So when's her guest supposed to be here?"
"In a few minutes, I've been told. Something about picking up her child."
A light knock came from the door. They opened the door to show the town's resident mailmare and her filly. The two were wearing scarves, and Dinky was wearing an over-sized Christmas hat. "Ah, right on time. Come in." Spy closed the door behind the two as Derpy knocked the snow off of her ankles. The rest of the group came out to meet the mother and daughter.
"A bit chilly, isn't it?" She chuckled.
"You're telling me." Sniper shivered.
"Glad to see you could make it, Derpy." Twilight grinned.
"We were afraid something had happened," Fluttershy said
"We took our time. This blizzard's quite rough. Why did the weather team make such a powerful one, Dash?"
"Well uh... One of our new recruits decided she wanted to throw all of the storm clouds we had into the same storm. And the crew is so bare bones because of the holidays that we can't really fix it. It's not dangerous, though, so we should be fine. Just a lot of snow and some wind."
"Well, I hope it calms down. Customers are hard to get when their clothes are being blown across the street." Rarity huffed.
Derpy placed her saddlebag down, pulling out a present and placing it under the tree with the others. "So when is our Secret Celestia going to happen?"
"What, is the anticipation just killing ya?" Applejack chuckled
"I have to admit, I'm curious who drew me." Derpy grinned.
"We'll be opening presents in about an hour. Right now - " Twilight was cut off by the kitchen door swinging open.
"Is time for food!"
Dash let out a satisfied burp.
"Rainbow! Please try to act at least a little like a lady!" Rarity scolded
"What? It was good!" The platter of food was completely empty.
"It is okay, I take that as compliment!" Heavy chuckled.
"It was really delicious, Heavy." Pyro patted her stomach. She finished off her glass of eggnog "I think it's time for presents, don't you?"
"Yay, presents!" Pinky and Dinky said in unison. Pyro gave Dinky a small box. The filly looked to her mother, who nodded approvingly. She tore open the package, revealing a small doll. Dinky's horn glowed as she picked the doll up out of it's box. "It's so pretty. Thank you!"
"No problem, kiddo. I thought you'd like it." Pyro smirked.
"If you want, you can go play with Spike downstairs." Twilight offered.
"That sounds fun." Twilight led Dinky to the basement, then returned a few moments later.
"Thank you, Pyro, but you didn't have to do that." Derpy turned the the pegasus.
"Nonsense, it's Smissmus! I can't let her be dragged all the way out here and go home empty-hoofed!"
"Hearth's Warming Eve, Pyro. We're not in Teufort anymore, Smissmus isn't a thing here." Sniper said.
"Ah, whatever you want to call it, it's the holidays."
Twilight's horn glowed, and one by one the presents came out from under the tree. Twilight read each tag, then passed it to the correct pony.
"I must say, darling." Rarity said as her present rested in front of her. "That your filly is simply adorable. And so polite." The others nodded in agreement.
"Thank you. I raised her to treat ponies with respect, and it looks like she's learned that pretty well." Derpy smiled warmly.
Twilight grabbed the final box. "Alright, this should be it. Man, this one is pretty heavy" Her magic pulled the large box out, and a thud followed soon after. Soldier was latched tightly to the box, one hoof still in the tree. "Soldier? Where have you been? And why are you clinging to that box?"
"I've been in the tree for the last hour and a half! Why can't you people eat somewhere that isn't right next to my hiding spot!?"
"Why were you hiding in the first place!?"
"Because I -" He stopped suddenly, as if he realized something, then hid his eyes under his helmet, mumbling the rest.
"Because...?" Pinkie trailed off, trying to coax the answer from the stallion..He grumbled.
"Because my first gift was literally a can of old beans, and I needed to replace it without getting noticed. I didn't want to screw you over by giving you garbage, Pink" He admitted, a very strong air of defeat in his voice.
"Aw, thank you Soldier! I wouldn't have cared what gift it was, that put me in the holiday spirits all by itself!" She wrapped the stallion in a hug.
"GAH! Stop it! Stop hugging me!" Soldier yelled, wiggling out of her grasp.
"Well then, Pinkie, why don't you open your gift first?" Twilight suggested, trying to get the situation back under control. Pinkie pulled the large ribbon on the box, and revealed a crate.
"I thought you said you didn't give her trash." Scout joked, but he was silenced by an elbow to the ribs from Sniper. Pinkie lifted the lid and paused, eyes going wide.
"Is that what I think it is?" Engi asked.
"Yep. Chocolate pudding." Soldier said proudly. The crate was filled to the brim with the substance, emitting a sugary fragrance. Pinkie's face was frozen in one of the biggest smiles of joy that anypony present had ever seen. In a flash, she dove headfirst into the crate, swimming in the pudding.
"BEST PRESENT EVER!" She shouted, the started eating the pudding around her.
They all laughed at the display. "Alright, Pinkie, who did you get?" Pinkie's hoof raised out of the box like a periscope, then pointed toward Ms. Pauling.
The pegasus gulped, not sure what to expect from somepony as strange as Pinkie. She opened the lid to find a bag of coffee beans, a mug, and a cupcake. "Coffee things? How'd you know I drink?"
"I didn't, but you're always kinda cranky in the morning, so I figured you could use them." Pinkie hung halfway out of the box, looking like an excited puppy.
"I certainly can, thank you. My gift was to Demo."
The Scotsman pulled the wrapping paper off, revealing a set of glasses for any kind of drink he would need.
"Maybe now you'll stop drinking right out of the bottle." Ms. Pauling said with a half-lidded stare.
"I wouldn't count on tha'" Demo took a swig of his bottle. "But I thank ye for tha sentiment. I'll put 'em to work at tha bar. Twilight, ye got my gift."
Twilight lifted the lid, and found a bottle of Scrumpy with a red ribbon tied around its neck. "Oh goody. Alcohol." Twilight said, obviously not enthused.
"Eh, ye enjoyed it in Teufort. Just keep it handy if ye need to loosen up ever."
"Alright, I gave my gift to Scout." Scout tore open his package quickly, finding a large book.
"A book? Twi, I don't read much."
"I know, but I thought you'd find in interesting. It's a history of Equestria. I figured since you liked learning about our history in your own world, maybe you'd like to do a little bit of learning about it now that you're in it."
"Y'know, there are a few things I wanted to look up. Thanks Twi." He started pawing through the pages, then began reading.
"I got his gift." Sniper said after a few uncomfortably quiet seconds. Scout sheepishly closed the book. "I'll read it later" he said. Sniper opened the box, finding a tiny toy camper van. "I thought you'd like a little reminder of you're old home. Is that close enough?" Scout smirked, laughing at his own joke. Sniper frowned slightly, but then smirked, taking the jab in good fun.
"You certainly got me pegged, mate. Moving on, Fluttershy was who I got." The yellow pegasus, who had stayed quiet throughout most of the proceedings, nodded and smiled. She unwrapped a large quilt.
"Oh my, it's beautiful."
"I figured you could use one, for the animals or cold nights or whatever."
She smiled at Sniper, then wrapped herself in the quilt's warmth. "Thank you. My gift went to Soldier, but that puts us back at the start."
"It's fine, Fluttershy. We'll start the next chain after Soldier." Twilight explained, then looked to Soldier. The stallion shredded the paper surrounding his present: An entrenching tool, brand new and gleaming slightly.
"Ah, a new one! How did you know I broke my last one?" He looked at Fluttershy suspiciously.
"I didn't, Angel and one of my raccoons pointed it out when I was out shopping. I figured they wanted to get it for you."
"I'll have to both promote that rabbit for getting me the perfect gift and demote him for giving out my secrets."
"So he's right back to where he started?" Fluttershy asked.
"Yes. Make sure you pass that information along."
"Will... do?" Fluttershy looked confused, but shook it off
"Before we go on, I wanted to give Spy this." Rarity pulled out a present from her bag, magic adjusting the bow with a flourish. "I'm so sorry you weren't here when we decided all of this, so here you go. Now everyone's getting something."
"I appreciate it, Miss Rarity, but it isn't necessary. I'm just happy to be back." He opened the lid, and stared for a second. "Although I'm not going to complain." A gold pocket-watch emerged, an image of an owl swooping down for the kill engraved on the front.
"Once I saw the engraving, I just had to get it for you. Not quite as elegant as the hummingbird on the Dead Ringer, but it will do."
"Indeed." He opened it up, turning it to the correct time and winding it.
"So who was your actual Secret Celestia, Rarity?"
"Our gracious host." She turned to Heavy. The unicorn opened his present and grinned wide. He pulled out a sleek top hat. The band was red, and inside it held a small buckle that was shaped like a sandvich. "I figured a hat would fit you perfectly."
Heavy put it on his head, then looked in a nearby mirror. "Hmm... needs something, but what... ah!" His horn glowed, and a thick mustache appeared. "Now is perfect!" Rarity giggled. "Medic, you are up!" Heavy called out, still admiring himself in the mirror.
Medic opened up a bright white lab coat. "Ah, perfect. I needed a new one. Zank you, Heavy. My gift was to Rarity"
Rarity carefully unwrapped the paper, not tearing a single piece. She pulled out a set of fuzzy, blue socks. "I kind of panicked, and socks was all I could think of."
"Don't worry about it, they're perfect. Warm socks in winter are always welcome." Rarity grinned.
"Engi, why don't you go next?" Derpy said. "I'm curious how you'll like it."
Engi opened the bag in front of him, pulling out a sparkling, brand-new multitool. "Ooh, shiny."
"It's 21-in-1. I assume you can put it to good use?"
"A-course. Thank ya kindly. Applejack, you're next."
Applejack opened the package to find a large basket, similar to the ones she utilized during Applebucking season. "Great! We needed a new one after Apple Bloom tried turning one into a go-kart." Engi nodded. Applejack turned to the cyan pegasus beside her. "Dash, I got you."
Dash looked at the envelope before her. "Geez, AJ, don't spend all your bits on me." She joked.
"Maybe you should open it before you judge it."
"Okay fine, I'm just kidding." Dash opened the envelope, revealing a few strips of paper.
"Congrats, you can now get to the front of the line during cider season."
"Yes!" Dash pumped her fist in the air. "Not gonna clean them out this year, Pinkie!"
"Ah thought you'd like it."
"Pyro, you're up." Dash slipped the tickets back into the envelope for safe keeping. Pyro opened up a pair of large flight goggles.
"Sweet! These are pretty cool, Dash!"
"Alright, Derpy, we've saved the best for last." Pyro grinned. Derpy opened her present, pulling out a large book. She opened it, only to find blank pages.
"I'm afraid I'm a bit confused, Pyro."
"It's a new diary. I know your journal was starting to get really full when I read it back in Teufort. By now you must be writing in the margins."
Derpy's eyes took on a very thankful appearance in contrast to the confusion a few moment prior. "I don't know what to say. Thank you so much."
Everyone marveled at their gifts for a few minutes, until Twilight cleared her throat.
"Well, now that we've all opened our gifts, there's one last one I need to open." She pulled out a small box. Opening the lid, she revealed several golden tickets. "I talked to Celestia, and she gave us enough tickets that all of us can go to the Grand Galloping Gala again this year!"
"Oh how wonderful!"
"Grand Galloping Gala? What is that?" Engi asked.
"It's basically a giant fancy party." Scout answered.
"I'm surprised we're invited back after last time." Dash noted.
"I had to promise we'd be on our best behavior. Although remember that last year she said we livened the party quite a bit."
They began talking about their plans, their gifts, and just anything else that could come up, long into the night. It was Spy who realized they were closing in on midnight when he looked at his watch.
"Do you realize what time it is?" He asked the group. They paused, then looked at the clock almost in unison.
"One minute to midnight..." Sniper said.
There was a long pause as everyone realized what it meant. The fire was crackling softly, and the large tree behind them lit the room in blues and greens. Pyro grinned wide "10!" She called out. "9! 8!"
The others caught on, one by one joining in. "7! 6! 5!"
Demo and Pyro raised their glasses of eggnog "4! 3!"
Twilight couldn't help but smile at the spectacle. Here they were, a bunch of grown mares and stallions, shouting at the clock like a bunch of excited foals. "2! 1!" The clock struck midnight, letting out a chime.
"Merry Smissmas everypony!" Everyone shouted at once. "And a happy Hearth's Warming Eve!"