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A Hearths Warming Evening

Brony Number 42


The smell of freshly baked bread gently tickled Sandbar’s nose as he opened the door to Sugarcube Corner. The warmth of the store felt good compared to the chill winter air outside. He wiped the snow off his hooves on the wet welcome mat. The jingle of the bell let the staff know there was a customer.

A bushy-haired pink pony popped up from behind the counter. “Oh boy, a customer. Oh, hi Sandbar. What brings you here today? Looking for some delicious holiday cookies? Here, try one.” Pinkie Pie offered a tray of sugar cookies to Sandbar.

The cookies were shaped like holly, trees, and apples. They were covered with red or green frosting and sprinkles. Sandbar tried one and he liked the way that the sprinkles crunched between his teeth. “Mmm, thank you, Miss Pie.”

“Oh please, we’re not in school now. You don’t have to call me Miss Pie. Call me Pinkie.” Then Pinkie got an inquisitive look on her face. “Unless you’re trying to tell me that you miss pie! Do you miss pie, Sandbar? Because I miss pie too sometimes. But I usually keep a spare pie around, just in case. Here, let me find you a pie.” She was about to turn to go into the kitchen, but Sandbar stopped her.

“Oh, no, uh, Miss Pinkie. I’m not here for pie. Actually, I need a cake.”

“Ooo, a cake! What kind of cake? We have chocolate, double chocolate, half double chocolate, which is a lot like regular chocolate.” Pinkie put her hoof to her chin in thought. Luckily, this distraction stopped her from listing every cake in the bakery.

“Well, actually, it’s kind of for a special occasion,” Sandbar replied.

“Oh, special occasions are my specialty! What is it, a birthday, a cute-ceañera? Oh, how about a first-time-buying-a-special-occasion-cake cake? Those are almost as fun as a second-time-buying-a-special-occasion-cake cake.”

Sandbar looked at the floor and rubbed his neck, like he was embarrassed. “Actually, it’s for a special some...one. Someone I like. Like, like like.”

Pinkie got a twinkle in her eye. “Oh my gosh, those are the most special of all! A like like cake has to be just right. We can customize it so your special someone knows it’s just for them.” Pinkie got a note pad and pencil. “Now, tell me about this special someone.”

Sandbar was beginning to feel more comfortable. “Her name is...”

Pinkie held up a hoof. “Bup bup bup! Don’t tell me who it is! You have to keep it a secret. It’s just between you and her. I just need to know some things about her. Her good qualities, what you like about her.” Pinkie was an expert at making like like cakes. In fact, Rainbow Dash had come in last week for one. Although it was pretty obvious who it was for the moment Dash mentioned what her special somepony liked.

Sandbar thought for a moment. “Well, she’s kind, strong. You can always count on her. She has a big heart.”

Pinkie was scribbling notes. “Mm hm, right, got it. Ok, I will get started on this right away.” She hopped away, going into the kitchen. “It should be ready tomorrow morning, if that’s ok. These things take time.”

“Oh, that’s fine. I’ll be back then. Thank you!” Sandbar called to her as she disappeared into the other room. He stood alone in the front area, looking around at the various pastries on display. He sighed and turned to leave. That was one item off his list.

He went back outside, the bell jingling again. He inhaled the cold air. The sky was clear and the sun felt warm on his skin. Even though it was cold enough to see his breath the sun felt good and Sandbar loosened his coat. His next stop was Carousel Boutique. It was a nice walk, with the snow crunching under his hooves. The walk gave him more time to think. He had been planning this for months, waiting for the winter break. But now he was actually implementing his plan, and he felt nervous and excited at the same time.

The boutique was decorated in traditional holiday trappings, with green garland hanging around the roof and red bows on the corners. The sidewalk was newly cleared and his hooves clacked on the cold pavement. He opened the door and entered.

There was holiday music quietly playing, and the smell of incense was a contrast to the smell of baked goods he had smelled earlier. He felt a little uncomfortable because he wasn’t particularly into fashion. He couldn’t tell the difference between cheap clothes and high fashion.

From the back room he heard the sing-song voice of Rarity, “Be right there, dear!” He did his best to wipe his hooves on the rug. After a moment an elegant unicorn came out of the back room. She was wearing her glasses and had a measuring tape around her neck. “Oh, well hello Sandbar. What brings you here this afternoon?”

He stammered a little, “Well, uh, I’m looking for a gift for someone.”

“Oooh, a gift? How wonderful. What do you have in mind? And please, make yourself comfortable. You can hang your coat there on the rack.” She pointed to a coat rack.

Sandbar took his coat off and hung it on the rack. “Well, I was thinking something like a scarf.”

“Oh, that sounds like a good idea. A lovely scarf is perfect for this time of year. Let me show you what we have to work with.” She went to a section of her shop where there were scarves and mittens hanging on some racks and shelves. “These are just the base. We can modify these to make a perfect, personalized gift. Let’s start with colors. What color is her coat, mane, and eyes?”

“Well, light brown, dark brown, and gray.” Sandbar smiled.

Rarity went to a desk that was littered with ribbons, gems, and various other bits and bobs. She picked up some ribbon. “Maybe some blue. Hmm.”

Sandbar followed her. “I’m sure anything you come up with is fine.”

She turned to him, “Oh, darling, it’s not just a matter of throwing some random things together. It has to be crafted, created! Each piece is custom made.”

Sandbar wondered if his gift would be ready in time. “Uh, yeah. Well, I trust your decision.”

Rarity was already comparing fabrics and getting lost in her work. “Hmm? Oh, yes, right. Don’t worry, dear, leave everything to me.”

“Great. Uh, when will it be ready?”

Rarity thought for a moment. “Oh, this should be ready tomorrow afternoon. How does that sound?”

Sandbar smiled. “Perfect! I’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks Rarity.”

“Don’t mention it. Now, off with you! I have work to do!” She giddily got to work on her latest project. Sandbar retrieved his coat and left the boutique.

He had accomplished his tasks for the day. The school Hearths Warming party was in two days. He planned to give the gift then. Now he had to think of what to say and build his courage. He inhaled the brisk air. He had some thinking to do.


The next day passed without incident. Sandbar picked up his cake from Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie Pie had put it in a box tied up with a ribbon. “Don’t worry,” she explained, “she will like it. You might say like like it, hehehe!”

Rarity put the scarf in a package, also tied with a ribbon. “Magnificent, simply wonderful,” she explained. “I’m sure she will adore it.” Sandbar took the items home.

The party was tomorrow, but he was too nervous to sleep. He decided to go for a walk. It was now dark, but he liked the night. The temperature had fallen, but there was no breeze so it didn’t feel so cold.

Sandbar zipped up his coat and pulled his hat tight. The night was cold and quiet. He started walking toward the edge of town, where the lights couldn’t quite breach the darkness of the woods. He followed a walking trail into a copse of trees. The trail led to a small ledge with a good view of town.

There was minimal cloud cover and the sky held a half moon. There was just enough light for him to find his way. His breath formed clouds that quickly dissipated. The dark was inviting. He felt secure in his coat, a barrier from the outside. It was quiet, except for the crunch of snow under his hooves. Though it was cold, the walk warmed him. He even loosened his coat.

He found a rock to sit on. It was a nice place to be alone with one’s thoughts. The lights of the houses twinkled and smoke floated out of a few chimneys. There was a lot on his mind, yet he couldn’t form a thought. He just wanted to relax.

A shadow flew over him, silently, yet conspicuously. He looked up to his right and the figure silently came to a rest next to him.

“Dost thou wish to be alone on this lovely night, or wouldest thou deign to share thine thoughts?”

Sandbar gasped and stammered, “Princess Luna! No, uh, yes, uh, I mean, please, sit down. I mean, if you want to.”

“Please, young pony, relax,” Luna sat next to him. She was wearing a dark purple hood with white fur lining. She exuded a regal air. “I do so love the night in winter.” She stared into the sky.

Sandbar wasn’t sure if he was supposed to respond to that comment, so he said simply, “Yeah, it’s pretty.”

They sat quietly for a moment, then Luna looked to him, “What troubles you, my young pony?”

He felt a little nervous. “What makes you think something is troubling me?”

She smiled, “I’ve watched your dreams lately.” He felt embarrassed. She placed a hoof on his shoulder. “Do not worry. I only get impressions. Only on important situations do I enter one’s dreams. I respect your privacy.”

Sandbar felt better. “Well, nothing. I mean, just this Hearths Warming party tomorrow.”

“And what about this party makes your so nervous?” She asked.

“Well, it’s not the party, it’s about who’s going to be at the party.” He felt foolish talking about such things with a Princess. He felt like a foal talking about trivial problems with somepony who bore the weight of a kingdom on her shoulders. He thought that he should be using more sophisticated language. But what was he going to say? “There is one fair maiden who hath caught mine fancy. Words fail even the world-weary poets. Oh, my dearest Princess, I am at a loss and my soul aches.” Instead, all he could muster was: “There’s a girl I like. Like like.” His face flushed in embarrassment. “I don’t know if I can tell her how I feel. I might just not even go to the party.”

Luna responded softly, her voice comforting. “The dream realm is my domain, but I am no stranger to matters of the heart. My young pony, listen to your heart and have no fear. Just tell her how you feel.”

Sandbar shrugged. “Sure, but what if she doesn’t feel the same way? I can’t handle that.”

Luna replied, “Do not let fear block your path. I can tell you that living with regret is one of the hardest things. Tis far better to live with rejection than to live with the doubt of not knowing what might have been.”

He thought about that for a moment and his mood changed. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”

“Approach everything with confidence. You will fail, many times. Even I have failed at times. But you will learn. Your failures will make you stronger, but your successes will set you on a path to even greater things.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I guess I have nothing to lose. And maybe she’ll like me back.”

Luna smiled. “You have much to think about and look forward to. I shall take my leave of you tonight. Good luck, my young friend.” She spread her wings and lifted into the air. Sandbar watched her disappear into the night.

He decided it was time to go home. He was now more excited than anxious for the party.


The school’s cafeteria was decorated with some balloons and streamers. Those were a requirement with any party that Pinkie Pie planned. But in comparison to other events, this one was more subdued. The tone of the party was more relaxed and calm. Hearths Warming was a holiday where ponies spent a nice time with friends and family; it was not typically a time to part-tay, as such.

There were tables with food and drinks. The students had decorated a tree with baubles and lights. Ponies mingled with family and friends from outside of Equestria. They swapped stories, told anecdotes, and generally enjoyed the afternoon as it turned into evening. Sandbar had brought his gifts and placed them on a table with other gifts. Traditionally ponies would trade gifts later in the evening. It was getting late and some ponies had already done so with friends and family.

Sandbar spent much of the party trying to build his courage. He would see the target of his affection chatting with a group. He would attempt to join the conversation, but would slink away. He had almost told himself that his endeavor was a bust. Some ponies were even starting to leave as the party was winding down.

He began to lose confidence. He felt a fool for buying gifts that wouldn’t be given. He went to the snack table and poured himself some cider. Tilting his head back, he downed it in one gulp. But as he was swallowing the tart drink, he glanced at a mural painted high on the wall. It was a stylized picture of Princesses Celestia and Luna. The memory of the previous night flashed into his mind.

Suddenly, his mood changed. Confidence flooded back into him. Luna’s words echoed in his mind: that living with regret is one of the hardest things. He put the cup down, retrieved his packages from the table, and searched the room for who he had tried to avoid much of the evening.

There she was, talking to a classmate. His heart was racing as he strode to her. She and the classmate noticed him. “Hi Sandbar,” she said.

“Hello,” he replied. He looked at the classmate, whose name he couldn’t recall at the moment. He smiled and politely said, “Hi, would you mind if I spoke to Yona privately? Thank you.” The classmate nodded and waved goodbye to her friend.

When he was alone with her, he spoke with confidence. “Hello Yona. I’m sorry I haven’t spent much time with you tonight. But I’m glad we can talk now.”

“Yona also is sorry she didn’t see much of you tonight,” she said in her charming accent.

He held out the gifts. “These are for you,” she took the package with the scarf and opened it.

She smiled. “Oh, Yona likes. It’s a, a. What is it?”

Sandbar laughed. “It’s a scarf. Here, let me show you.” He wrapped the scarf around her neck. Being that close to her made his heart skip a beat. “It keeps you warm in the cold, see?”

Yona was happy. “Oh, Sandbar is thinking about Yona’s well-being in the cold. That means so much. In Yakyakistan, giving someone clothing means you are very close friends.”

Sandbar beamed at that. “That’s good. I feel that we are very close friends.” Their eyes met for a moment, then they both blushed and turned away. “Oh, and I have a cake for you.”

“Yona likes cake too,” Yona said and they both laughed. He placed the cake on a nearby table and opened the box. “It looks yummy.”

Sandbar retrieved forks and gave one to Yona. “It’s a special cake. It’s a, um.” He hesitated. Yona gave him a questioning look. He took a deep breath. “It’s a like like cake. A Pinkie Pie specialty.”

Yona was confused. “What means this like like cake?”

Sandbar looked at her and said confidently. “It’s made for someone that you like like. You know? That special person that you want to be your close friend. Yona, I like like you. I hope you feel the same way.” Saying it out loud was a surreal experience. He couldn’t believe he actually said it. But at the same time, it was a huge weight off of him. He said it and it was done. It was out there and now it was Yona’s turn to respond. If she rejected him, then what was lost? If she felt the same way, well, that was an even scarier prospect.

Yona was not completely familiar with all pony customs and idioms. At first, she didn’t know what like like meant, but as she looked at Sandbar it began to dawn on her what he meant. Her expression went from confusion to mild embarrassment. She blushed and smiled, looking down at the floor. She was quiet when she spoke. “Nobody ever like liked Yona before. It makes Yona feel special.”

“You are special to me, Yona.” Sandbar replied.

“Yona not know how to respond.”

“Just say what’s in your heart.”

She looked up at him, “Yona’s heart says she also likes Sandbar.”

No other phrase in history was so ambiguous. It could be taken in two completely different directions. Did she like Sandbar, or did she like like him? She didn’t say like like, but that didn’t preclude the possibility. He began to stammer, “Um, that’s good. I mean, like I said, I like you too, and…”

Yona put her hoof to his mouth to silence him. “Yona like like you too, you silly pony.” She leaned in and kissed him softly. “Even if you talk too much sometimes, or not enough other times. Yona will teach you how to talk just the right amount.”

Sandbar was stunned. He couldn’t believe it. He wanted to melt into the floor and explode through the ceiling. Fortunately, his body maintained its integrity. “Would you like to go for a walk? The night is lovely in the winter.”

“Yona would like very much to walk with pony.” She kissed him again and they went out for a walk.

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