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by Coaldust

Gallus pondered the fruit in front of him. In hindsight, it looked like such a simple thing. Small, oblong, a mix of green and orange. Not entirely unlike a mango, now he came to think about it. But this was no mango. This was something entirely different.

"So, this'll make me...change then, huh?" The gryphon asked, eyeing the fruit.
"Just one bite of Hen's Seed Berry is what you need. Make sure to eat it all, including the seed." Came the reply from Zecora. The zebra shaman paused stirring whatever was bubbling in her cauldron to look up at the pensive Gallus.
"It just seems so...easy. Just eat this fruit and all the bad feelings and stuff go away. Done."

As he looked over the berry in his left talon, his mind drifted back to how he'd gotten here in the first place...
It was an ordinary morning in Fluttershy's Kindness class. Gallus sat in the second row of gathered schoolchildren, Silverstream beside him on the left, and Ocellus on the right. He was trying to pay attention to the lesson Fluttershy was giving, but it was hard. His mind had been elsewhere for a while now.

"So today we're going to do something different while the animals settle into their new sanctuary. We're going to be painting!" Fluttershy beamed as the class lit up at the thought of something creative. Even Gallus seemed interested. Calling for quiet from the excitedly chattering class, Fluttershy continued.

"We're going to be painting something different today though. We're going to be painting our feelings!"
That gave Gallus pause. Feelings? Paint...what...huh?

Gallus stared at his canvas, paints beside him. He just couldn't summon up any inspiration. Paint his feelings? How did he feel right now? He'd been feeling kind of troubled lately, if he was honest with himself. He just couldn't put a claw on why.
Looking over, he saw Silverstream chatting to Ocellus as the hippogryph lashed paint across her canvas. Streaks of multiple colours, splotches of pink, blue, green, yellow, splashes and sprays of red, was chaotic and loud, but bright and, Gallus pondered, almost cheery.
Just like her, he thought.
Gallus thought again, then picked up some paint and a brush. Then he began to paint, closed his eyes and began to paint, splashing almost aimlessly like he'd seen Silverstream do.

Gallus opened his eyes, and frowned. The canvas was a dull mess of black, dark red, some brown, and it was really more of a formless splat. Silverstream had created something artistic. He'd created a mess. Was that really how he was feeling? He was interrupted from his train of thought by a familiar chirpy voice.
"Hey Gallus!" The bubbly hippogryph Silverstream squeaked with joy. "I came to see what you painted and- uwoah!"

Gallus fidgeted as Silverstream peered at his canvas.

"Gallus, are you feeling okay?"

Gallus was not feeling okay. In fact, now more than ever he really felt like he needed to leave.

"Er, Professor Fluttershy, could I be excused please?"

Gallus fled out the class without waiting for Fluttershy's reply.
Gallus sat in one of the stalls in the student bathroom. What had just happened? He'd never felt so...what? Panicked? Stressed? Worried? And why was he crying?

Gallus was snapped out of his morose mood by a familiar voice. He craned his head towards the stall door.

"Er, hey, Gallus? Y'okay there, dude?" It was Sandbar.

"Y-yeah...I'm fine...all good. Just...Pinkie's cupcakes go right through me, y'know?"

Gallus could practically hear Sandbar retch at the mental image.

"Well, okay, if you're sure. Silverstream said you seemed kinda down, so if you need anything..."

"Yeah, thanks Sandbar. I'm..."

I'm not okay.

"...I'm fine."
Silverstream sat in Starlight's counsellor office. Rather than the constant bugging about little things, this was a major issue and Starlight was more than happy to listen.
"Well it started when we were painting our feelings in Professor Fluttershy's class and Gallus painted something that looked super not good and then he ran away to the bathroom and I haven't seen him since and I'm worried because his painting looked like he's really depressed and I want to help him you know?"
Starlight stared in wonder. Silverstream didn't even seem to stop for breath. She could rival Pinkie Pie.

"You think he's depressed?" She asked. Silverstream nodded.

"Well it's a hippogryph thing. It's why I love painting my feelings! I do it a lot. I've got soooo many pictures in my room!" Silverstream rose from her chair, flapping excitedly as she explained. "Hippogryphs use paintings as a way to get feelings and thoughts out. It kinds stopped for a while when we were down in Seaquestria. Can't really paint underwater, you know? But I got super good at figuring out how hippogryphs feel from how they paint and Gallus' painting showed he was feeling super depressed and I just..."

Silverstream paused. Her breath caught in her throat, and she drifted back to her seat. Starlight motioned for her to continue.

"...I want him happy. I...kinda like him. Like, LIKE like him."

Starlight thought for a moment.

"Well Silverstream, thank you for bringing this to me. I'll talk to Twilight and look into this. If you see Gallus, let him know you care for him, okay? He could use a friend right now."

Silverstream nodded, raising to leave. As the door closed behind the somewhat sullen hippogryph, Starlight sighed.
"Hoo boy, I've got my work cut out for me."
Gallus laid in his room, curled up in his bed. His blankets were comfy. Warm nest. Bird burrito. He was content to just stay there. Feelings he'd not felt in ages, feelings he thought he'd shut out years ago had come flooding back. His throat felt tight. His eyes were already red from the tears he'd shed, even if he hadn't noticed them after a while. But if he stayed curled up and comfortable, the bad feelings would go away. Right?


He was disturbed from his nesting by a knock at the door. Gallus grunted, but didn't move. The knock was more insistent.

"Gallus? It's Starlight Glimmer. Can we talk?"
Oh great. The magical nutjob. Just what I need.

Gallus rolled out of bed and headed for the door, dragging his blanket. Opening the door, Gallus looked at the light purple unicorn. The look on her face was one of sympathy and concern.

"I heard you weren't feeling great, Gallus. Do you want to come and talk?"
Gallus wasn't sure qhy he agreed. Maybe he was just tired of feeling like this. But agree he did, and soon he was following Starlight to her office.

Inside the office there was a large canvas and some paints. Silverstream sat in the corner, watching expectedly. She got up to give Gallus a great big hug. Gallus didn't return it, but the warmth helped. He smiled a little.

Starlight gestured to a chair in front of the canvas and paints.

"Okay Gallus, Silverstream and I have had an idea. Hippogryphs have a thing where they can use paintings to express true feelings. Silverstream is going to help me figure out what has you feeling so bad right now. I'm going to do something first to help you get a clear head. Okay?"

"Er...yeah...sure. If it'll fix whatever is going on with me, sure." Gallus sounded despondent, like he just didn't care. Not his usual brash self, Starlight noted.
"Okay. Now, Gallus, focus on this watch," Starlight requested, floating a small pocket watch in her magic's grip, "and listen to my voice..."
In a short time, Gallus was under. Starlight lowered the watch carefully, and started to speak.
"Okay Gallus, focus on your sadness. Focus on what is making you sad. As I speak, you will sink lower into your feelings. Find the sad feelings, then give them a shape on the canvas."
The hypnotised gryphon raised a talon, eyes open to regard the canvas but not truly awake. Starlight and Silverstream watched from behind as the brush began to move across the canvas.

"This is so amazing, Counsellor Starlight! I don't think the hippogryph elders ever thought about hypnotising before!" Silverstream chirped, taking care not to be too loud so as to not disturb Gallus.

"This would definitely make for an interesting study paper, that's for sure. Twilight would probably write a book about it." Starlight replied. Gallus' painting sped up, feelings coalescing into art on the canvas, paint dabbed and splatted and streaked.

And then the brush was still. Some of the paint ran, but the image was clear. Starlight gasped at what she saw in front of her. Silverstream stared in wonder.
"Gallus, what do you call this?" Starlight asked. The sleepy gryphon spoke in a monotone, still clearly hypnotised.

"Galena." Came the reply.
Gallus blinked as he awoke, no longer hypnotised. Then he looked at Starlight and Silverstream.
"Woah. Did...did that actually work?" He asked. Silverstream nodded. Starlight looked to the canvas, turning it to get a better look.

"Well, I have an idea of what this means, but I think our hippogryph feeling painting analysis expert should give her thoughts too." Silverstream nodded in reply to Starlight and sat beside Gallus.

"Well, given that we asked you to dig down super deep into your feelings and paint what was there, I think this says a lot. Like, I never expected this at all. This is so fascinating! I've never met anygryph like-"

"Focus, Silverstream." Said Starlight.

"Sorry. Er, yeah, the really deep down buried feelings in your head are...erm...Gallus..." Silverstream fidgeted, trying to find the right words, " you wish you were a hen?"

Gallus' eyes went wide. He grabbed the canvas and turned it to look. The painting was himself. And yet, it wasn't quite. It was clearly a gryphon, blue and yellow like himself, but feminine. The curves, the build, the posture, even the eyelashes - unmistakeably, this was a gryphon hen.

"You called it Galena." Silverstream said, sliding closer to Gallus. "Is that who you really are?"
Gallus had no answer.

No, that was a lie. He had an answer. His answer was the same as when he was very young. Keep Galena buried. Keep those feelings hidden. Who'd take a gryphon chick trying to make it on the streets seriously if they knew he wished he was a hen?

Silverstream cleared her throat.

"Gallus, if these feelings truly are yours, then keeping them buried is very likely what caused your breakdown earlier. Now I can promise you'll get any support you want or need. So how can we help you?"

Gallus flinched. Once he'd have lashed out. Help him what? Be a hen? Embrace his "feminine side"? What a load of nonsense! Whoever suggested that would get a feel of claws! Or biting sarcasm. Whichever he felt like. So being confronted by the idea now should've made him feel the same, right? But it didn't. In fact, he felt something he hadn't done for a while. He'd confronted feelings he thought buried and gone for years, and the first thing he'd been offered was help, support, love.

A tear ran down his beak, followed by another.
"Call me Galena, please."
A few days of research, one sleepless Twilight Sparkle and an upturned magic library later, a clue had been found about how to help Galena. Reference to a rare and potent berry with transformative powers. Its rarity made it highly sought after, and thus expensive. As they could only transform gryphons and hippogryphs, the market in berries was absent in Equestria at large, but gryphons loved them. Hippogryphs saw no need thanks to their pearl necklaces, but gryphons loved to hop into a dragon form to steal some bits every now and then.

It was a surprise, however, to find that Zecora had a supply of the berries in stock. The bits from gryphon customers kept her in pocket during dry spells of potion sales, so she kept the berries close by.

And so it was that Galena found herself stood before her hut, knocking on her door.

"Is that the gryphon I expected to see? Twilight said you'd come to see me." Came the reply from the door as it opened. Zecora smiled as she gestured to her hut, letting Galena enter. She took in the view, staring at the myriad of artifacts from Girafrica that adorned the walls.

"Twilight said I was coming, huh? Cool, cool. So, you got a berry for me then?"

"I do indeed have the catalyst for your change. These types of shifts are not even that strange. For people who are transgender like you, I'm happy to help with a berry or two."

Galena grinned. The grin turned to a smile. Was this truly it? Finally?

"Okay. Berry me."

Zecora passed a berry over to the gryphon, then stood back.

"The Hen's Seed Berry is all you need for the hen within you to finally be freed. To be able to assist you is an honour most great. You can take the berry now, unless you wish to wait."

Galena pondered the fruit in front of her. In hindsight, it looked like such a simple thing. Small, oblong, a mix of green and orange. Not entirely unlike a mango, now she came to think about it. But this was no mango. This was something entirely different.

"So, this'll make me...change then, huh?" The gryphon asked, eyeing the fruit.

"Just one bite of Hen's Seed Berry is what you need. Make sure to eat it all, including the seed." Came the reply from Zecora. The zebra shaman paused stirring whatever was bubbling in her cauldron to look up at the pensive Galena.

"It just seems so...easy. Just eat this fruit and all the bad feelings and stuff go away. Done."

As she looked over the berry in her left talon, her mind drifted back to how she'd gotten here in the first place...
...and then in went the berry.

Blech. Bitter.

And then she stumbled.
"Now class, we have someone new joining us today. Well, that is to say, someone we already know, but in a new...erm, well you'll see when she joins us for class today. Everypony, please welcome Galena."

Rarity gestured to the classroom door as a blue and yellow gryphon hen padded confidently through the door. Surprised whispers and remarks sprung up as they watched their school friend in her new form settle down next to Silverstream and Yona.

"Friend Galena look amazing!" Said the yak.

"Yeah! You look amazing!" Silverstream added. Galena just smiled, and hugged them both.

For the first time in her life, she truly felt happy.
That night, Galena sat in her room with a canvas and some paint. Silverstream sat alongside, watching with a grin.

"Woah. I don't think even Queen Novo ever made anything this pretty!" Silverstream chirped. Galena rolled her eyes, but smiled as well. It felt almost like she hadn't stopped smiling since her visit to Zecora.

"Thanks. I call it 'Free'."

"Ooooh, I love it!"

"I love you too."

"Awwww!" SIlverstream blinked in surprise. "Wait, what?"

The end