Clever Clover, Belle Star, Minoko, and Morning Glory walked through the hills outside of Friendship Garden one afternoon. Ryo, the lop-eared bunny, rode on Belle Star’s back. As they crested a rise, a stand of evergreens came into view. Clever Clover pointed toward the trees with his axe. “That’s the spot.” The group made their way to the trees and spread out through the stand.
Minoko stood gazing at a tree. “How’s this one?”
“I think it’s a little too big. My ceilings aren’t that high.”
“Oh! Oh! How about this one?” Belle Star pointed to a smaller, but slightly lopsided tree.
“Couldn’t you find a less lopsided one?” asked Morning Glory.
Minoko glared at Morning Glory. “Do you see any that aren’t a little lopsided?”
“Well then, I guess this one will do.” Clever Clover hefted his axe and with a single blow felled the tree. “Next year I think I’m going to bring a normal axe. This one makes it too easy.”
“All right Ryo, you’re on,” said Minoko. The grayish brown bunny jumped down from Belle Star’s back onto the fallen tree. In a flash of light, Ryo transported the tree and the four ponies back to Clever Clover’s home. Before long the tree was standing in the living room. The four ponies worked long into the night decorating the tree with lights, tinsel, and ornaments of every color.
“It’s awfully late; I don’t suppose I could spend the night?” Morning Glory asked once the tree was finished.
“Uh, I don’t know where you’d sleep. I’ve only got two beds, mine and Minoko’s, and Belle Star sleeps on the couch. I suppose you could have my bed and I could sleep in my chair.”
“Oh, I don’t want to be a bother.”
“No, it is late. You can have my bed for the night.”
“Oh, thank you!”
* * *
Clever Clover went into his bedroom and took a small box out of the night stand drawer and rejoined the others in the living room.
Minoko held up a steaming mug. “Hey Clever Clover! Why don’t you sit down and have some hot chocolate?”
“Sounds good.” Clever Clover sat down and picked up a mug. “Morning Glory, everything’s ready. You can turn in whenever you want.”
Morning Glory yawned. “Yes, I suppose it is that time. Goodnight all.”
“Goodnight,” replied Clever Clover.
Minoko slurped her hot chocolate; Belle Star was already asleep.
Once Morning Glory had left the room, Minoko walked over to Clever Clover’s chair and sat on the arm. “So, now that we’re, relatively, alone, what do you say we have a little fun?”
Clever Clover emptied his mug. “It’s late. We should be getting to sleep.”
“You’re no fun.” Minoko turned up her nose in a huff and stomped off to her room.
“That was easier that I expected,” Clever Clover mumbled as he gathered up the hot chocolate mugs and took them to the kitchen. After rinsing the mugs, he returned to the living room, sat down, put up his hooves, and pulled a blanket over himself. He took out the small box and started turning it in his hoof.
As he contemplated the box, he was startled as Minoko stuck her head through the wall. Clever Clover, panicking, hid the box under his blanket. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Oh, just checking up. You and Belle Star aren’t up to anything, are you?”
“What do you think we’d be up to, anyway? Besides, once Belle Star falls asleep, she won’t wake up till noon.”
“I guess you’re right. It wouldn’t do any good to propose to someone while they’re asleep.”
“Propose!? I can’t believe Morning Glory has got you caught up in her delusions. But you’ve never been that jealous of Belle Star before. What’s up?”
“Uh hu. Well, you left her behind when you went ring shopping even though she’s supposed to be your bodyguard. Now why might you want to leave her in the dark?”
Clever Clover yawned. “Maybe I was shopping for Christmas presents. Did you ever think of that?”
“Presents? Oh! What did you get me?”
“Not a ring,” Clever Clover mumbled as he drifted off to sleep.
“Hm, presents. Maybe I should get him something. Oh well, there’ll be plenty of time to think of something. I might as well get some sleep.”
* * *
The weeks before Christmas passed quickly. A few days before the holiday, Clever Clover made the rounds to his friends’ houses delivering the presents he had bought them. At Thomas and Tabby’s mansion, Thomas answered the door.
“Hey Tom. Is Tabitha in?”
“No. She’s doing some last minute Christmas shopping. She shouldn’t be too long. Would you like to come in and wait?”
“Oh no. I actually would like to ask you a question.”
“So, ask away.”
“Right. Uh, when you decided to marry Tabby, I mean, um, how did you know that she was… Oh never mind. Here are some presents.” Clever Clover handed Thomas the gifts, bowed, and hastily strolled away.
* * *
When Christmas Eve arrived, Clever Clover’s friends once again gathered at his home. In addition to Minoko, Belle Star, and Morning Glory, Key and Yuki had come up from Port Scurvy for the holiday. All but Minoko were gathered in the dining room playing cards. Minoko was in her room hastily wrapping the gifts she had bought the day before.
“Hm, I wonder if young Lucas made it back from the Isle yet?” Morning Glory mussed. “I feel sort of guilty sending him off with all those gifts at the last minute like that.”
“Well, he is a delivery boy,” said Key. “It’s his job. Besides, I’m sure he wouldn’t have accepted the job if he couldn’t get back by Christmas.”
“Oh, I hope you’re right. I’d hate to think he’d miss Christmas with his family because of me.”
“You shouldn’t worry,” said Belle Star.
“That’s right,” said Clever Clover. “He wasn’t just carrying your presents; we all sent gifts with him back to Malachite Castle.”
“But I was the one who hired him.”
Belle Star nodded. “You do have a point.”
“Oh! Maybe I should call his parents.”
“If it will make you feel better.”
Just then there was a knock at the door.
“I wonder who that could be at this hour?” asked Clever Clover.
Belle Star jumped up. “I’ll go see!” She pranced off to the front door.
“Clever Clover, you wouldn’t happen to know Lucas’ parent’s phone number by any chance?”
“I don’t even know his last name.”
Belle Star came prancing back with a large parcel. “That was Lucas back from the Isle. They sent presents!”
“You mean Lucas is here?”
“Uh-hu. I promised him a mug of hot chocolate.”
“I’ll take it to him,” offered Morning Glory. “It will give me a chance to thank him for his hard work in person.”
As Morning Glory took Lucas his hot chocolate, Minoko came out from her room carrying an armload of presents, all wrapped with the same paper and ribbon.
“Did I miss anything exciting?”
Key shook her head. “Not really.”
Belle Star’s face brightened when she saw the gifts. “Oh-Oh! More presents! Did you get one for me?”
“Yeah, yeah. There’s one for everybody. Even Morning Glory.” The pirate pony dropped the presents onto the table, except for one. The last present she handed to Clever Clover. “Here. Why don’t you open it right away?”
“I’d rather wait until tomorrow. Besides, it’s almost time for church.”
“Oh, it’s that late already?” Morning Glory returned from the front door.
* * *
After a lovely midnight mass, the party returned to Clever Clover’s house. This time, Clever Clover was ready for his guests. Morning Glory, Minoko, and Key would sleep in Clever Clover’s bedroom while he would sleep in Minoko’s smaller room. Belle Star insisted on sleeping on the couch as usual, since she would be closer to Clever Clover. And he didn’t mind having her between him and Minoko... not that it would do any good considering how soundly Belle Star could sleep. Luckily, Minoko was almost as heavy a sleeper as Belle Star. Yuki slept with the pets.
Christmas morning came quickly. Clever Clover awoke and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He stumbled out of bed and headed to the door. “I hope I didn’t sleep too late. I’d hate to miss any of the fun.”
He stepped out of the bedroom and found Minoko waiting for him. “Merry Christmas!” she said. Clever Clover noticed her gaze was directed toward the ceiling. Clever Clover looked up.
“Oh, mistletoe. How did that get there?”
Minoko leaned close. “How’s not important. But you know the rules.”
Clever Clover’s face turned red. “Heh, yeah.”
Minoko closed her eyes and puckered up. Clever Clover touched his lips to hers momentarily, then turned away.
“What! That’s it?” cried Minoko.
“I just got up and I need to use the bathroom!” he shot back over his shoulder.
When Clever Clover finished in the bathroom, he found Minoko waiting for him once again, grinning ear to ear. He didn’t even have to look up to know he was standing under the mistletoe again. But Belle Star had just gotten up and was eager to use the bathroom. She ran into Clever Clover, knocking him over. As she landed on top of him, her lips touched his. After a moment that seemed like an eternity, Belle Star jumped up off of Clever Clover and turned bright red.
“I am so sorry! I was just in such a hurry I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“That’s all right…” Clever Clover began, but was cut off as Minoko grabbed Belle Star by the shoulders and began to shake her.
“You’d better be sorry! I had Clever Clover right where I wanted him and you had to mess it up!”
Belle Star began to cry. “Oh! I am so sorry!”
Clever Clover, back on his hooves again, broke up the fighting mares. “Calm down Minoko! It’s Christmas morning; can’t you try to be nice just this once? Besides, it’s not like Belle Star tried to kiss me or anything. It was just an accident.”
Minoko let go of Belle Star, who rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door. The fiery pirate hung her head in shame. “I’m sorry if I ruined your Christmas. I just wanted this to be a special day.”
“You haven’t ruined Christmas. And it can still be a special day. Now, why don’t we get some breakfast?”
Before Minoko could collect her prize, Clever Clover was leading her by the hoof away from the mistletoe into the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Morning Glory and Key were already hard at work preparing breakfast. They already had a large stack of hot and golden Belgian waffles ready and were preparing a tray of jams and jellies to go with them.
“Merry Christmas,” Key chimed in. “To thank you for your hospitality, we thought we’d fix a special breakfast for you.”
“Well, thank you; and Merry Christmas to both of you. Come on Minoko, we can carry the food to the table. Then when Belle Star gets here, we can eat!”
Before long all five ponies and Yuki were gathered around the table enjoying a most excellent homemade breakfast. Key couldn’t help but notice that Belle Star was still a little flushed and that she kept glancing embarrassedly at Clever Clover.
“By the way, what was that commotion earlier?” the sea patrol pony asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Minoko replied and continued eating.
Belle Star remained silent, but her blush deepened.
“Just your typical early morning traffic jam,” explained Clever Clover.
By this time, Morning Glory had noticed how Belle Star was acting. “Are you sure you three aren’t plotting something?”
Belle Star stood up. “Oh my, is it getting warm in here. I think I’ll step out for some fresh air.”
“I wonder what that was about?” asked Morning Glory.
Clever Clover shrugged. “I don’t know. But if you’re all finished, we could move into the living room and start opening presents. Yuki, why don’t you go tell Bell Star.”
The snow-white bushwoolie jumped up. “Yeah-yeah! Presents!” He hurried off after Belle Star. “Belle-Belle! Presents!”
The rest of the ponies took a minute to clear the table before moving into the living room. Minoko rushed ahead of the others. As soon as Clever Clover came into the room, Minoko shoved the present she had wrapped for him the night before into his arms.
“Here! Open mine first!”
Morning Glory turned her nose up. “Couldn’t you try to show a little self control for the holiday?”
Clever Clover took the package and sat down while Minoko stuck out her tongue at Morning Glory.
“I’ll open it as soon as Belle Star and Yuki get back.”
It wasn’t long before they returned. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I don’t know why I felt so warm all of a sudden.”
“That’s all right. I was about to open Minoko’s present.” As Clever Clover tore off the ribbon and paper, Minoko leaned close as if to catch every detail of the opening. As soon as the top of the box was cleared of paper, it sprang open and out shot a plush Ryo on a spring with a sprig of mistletoe clenched in its paws.
Minoko smiled. “Well, well, look at that! You and me under the mistletoe again. It must be fate!”
“I should have expected this sort of stunt from you,” Morning Glory huffed.
Clever Clover grinned nervously. “Oh well, I guess if it’s fate.” As Clever Clover and Minoko kissed, Key glanced at Belle Star, who was giggling.
Afterwards, Minoko grinned. “There, that wasn’t so bad now, was it?”
“No, it wasn’t. But in all fairness, I should give everybody a chance.”
“What? But it was my present! After all the thought and effort I put into it, you can’t just go around kissing everybody.”
“Come on Minoko, in the spirit of the holiday, don’t make trouble.”
“Oh, all right.”
Clever Clover stood up. “So, Morning Glory, how ‘bout it?”
Morning Glory grinned and shot a satisfied glance at Minoko. “I must say, Minoko, your gift is quite touching.”
Minoko fumed as her rival kissed Clever Clover, but did her best to control her temper.
Then Clever Clover turned to Key. “In all fairness I guess I should at least offer you a chance.”
“That’s all right, I’ll pass. I’m not much of the kissing type.”
Clever Clover shrugged and turned to Belle Star. “Then I guess it’s your turn.”
Belle Star turned bright red. “Oh! I don’t know, I mean, I am you’re bodyguard. It might not be…appropriate.”
“She does have a point…” mussed Minoko.
“I can’t think of any regulation against it,” interjected Key, as she gently nudged Belle Star toward Clever Clover.
Clever Clover smiled gently. “I won’t report it to your superiors if you don’t”
“Well…in that case…” Belle Star gave Clever Clover a quick kiss, turned even brighter red, and started giggling lightheadedly and collapsed onto the couch.
“What’s her problem?” asked Minoko.
Morning Glory shook her head. “I don’t know. You don’t suppose…”
“Hu? You think she… But she hasn’t even been trying!”
“Maybe she’s playing hard to get. But then who knows what she does when they’re off on those digs together.”
The two mares glared suspiciously at Belle Star, who was gradually regaining her composure.
“What are you two up to now?” Clever Clover asked.
“Oh, nothing!” they replied in unison. “Why do you think we’re up to anything?”
Now that the kissy-kissy stuff is over (for now), let’s get on with the presents!
* * *
From the ponies at Malachite Castle, they each got a fine, monogrammed, silk scarf. Minoko gave Key and Belle Star matching antique swords, Yuki an antique dagger, and Morning Glory a velvet cape, all booty from her pirating days. (And of course Clever Clover got a plush Ryo, with mistletoe!) From Clever Clover, Minoko got a pirate ship in a bottle, Belle Star got a deep blue hair ribbon, Morning Glory received a flint-knapped flower pendant… Well, everyone (even the pets) got fine presents and no one was disappointed. (Although Clever Clover would have really loved an antique sword.)
The Yuletide celebration continued long into the night, and into the wee hours of the next morning. There was food and drink, song and dance, games, mistletoe, and the occasional fencing match (Key and Belle Star just had to try out their new swords).
Early the next afternoon (after a party like that, you just don’t worry about the next morning) Key and Yuki had to return to Port Scurvy to tend the ships and all the official chores that came with being officers of the Sea Patrol. Morning Glory returned home, Minoko returned to her normal routine, while Clever Clover and Belle Star started cleaning up after the festivities of the past days (and if Morning Glory or Key had hung around, the cleaning might have gotten somewhere; Clever Clover and Belle Star are the worst cleaners, after Minoko).
* * *
The week after Christmas passed quickly; and before they knew it, the whole gang was back together to ring in the new year together. Clever Clover’s dining room table was dominated by a large punch bowl. A spread of chips, dips, crackers, spreads, and other edibles covered his kitchen counters. It all would have been overkill if not for the combined appetites of Clever Clover, Belle Star, and Minoko, each of whom could easily eat twice as much as the average pony.
Shortly before the party began in earnest, Clever Clover stood in front of the bathroom mirror, composing himself. He held the small box he had been carrying for weeks now, turning it over and over in his hoof. So caught up in whatever ponders he occupied himself with was he, that a knock at the door came as quite a shock.
“Hey Clever Clover! You gettin’ sick or something?”
The purple prince tucked away the little box, took a moment to regain his composure, and replied. “I’m fine, Minoko.”
When he opened the door, Minoko regarded him quizzically. “Are you sure? You’ve been acting awfully strange lately.”
“Yeah, I’ve just got a lot on my mind.” He poked his head through the door and looked around for any mistletoe.
“Don’t worry; I learned my lesson after that spring-loaded Ryo fiasco. Come on, your guests are waiting!”
But before they could go anywhere, the doorbell rang.
“I wonder who that could be?” Clever Clover mused as he went to answer the door. Opening the door, he found Lady Moonshine, with a bottle of her special “tea”.
Without waiting for an invite, Lady Moonshine stepped past Clever Clover into the house. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to your Christmas party. Morning Glory told me it was quite a blast. But at least I made it for New Year’s Eve! I’ll just throw some of my ‘tea’ into your punch bowl and then we’ll be all set.”
Clever Clover still stood by the open door. “Hi Lady Moonshine. Come in and make yourself at home.” He closed the door and returned to the increasingly crowded living room.
Everyone had a glass of punch in hoof. As soon as Clever Clover stepped into the room, Lady Moonshine handed him a glass.
“Here, drink up! We’ve only got three more hours left to this stingy old year! We might as well make them count!”
Clever Clover sheepishly took the punch. “That’s what I was planning to do.”
* * *
The next morning, Clever Clover woke up with a throbbing headache. He was laying on the kitchen floor. As he stood up and surveyed his surroundings, he grimaced in pain at the sight of the squalor. “What happened?” he mumbled.
Key poked her head up from behind the punch bowl. “Don’t ask me.”
As Clever Clover wandered about the house, the rest of the gang gradually started to come to.
“That was a great party,” said Minoko. “I think. How late did it go?”
Belle Star yawned. “Last thing I remember it was 1:30.”
Clever Clover shook his head. “You remember 1:30? I can’t even remember making it to midnight.”
“Oh yeah. You were standing on the sofa reciting ‘Beowulf’ until midnight. Then you started acting really strange. At 1:00 you went to the kitchen to get some ice. Uh, that was the last time I saw you.”
Minoko stared in disbelief. “You actually remember all that?”
“Well…I think so.”
Clever Clover went into the bathroom to wash up. After washing his face, Clever Clover reached for the small box, but it wasn’t there. “Oh no. I hope I didn’t do anything rash.”
Clever Clover rushed out of the bathroom. “Belle Star! You said I was acting strange last night. What exactly did I do?”
“Well, you kept asking me if you could ask me a question, but you never did. Well, I guess you did ask a question, but it was only the question about if you could ask another question; and I’m all confused. I need some green tea. I don’t know what you were talking to the others about.”
“Do you know if I gave anyone a…present?”
“Uh, I don’t remember.”
While Belle Star got her tea (real tea), Clever Clover began frantically searching through the clutter from the night before.
“What are you looking for?” asked Morning Glory. “Would you like a hand?”
“Ah, nothing important. I can take care of it myself. You get yourself some breakfast.”
And so the new year began with as much chaos and confusion as Clever Clover had come to expect in his life.