• Published 26th Nov 2011
  • 26,666 Views, 526 Comments

Redemption - PourMeADrink

At the end of his life, Ryan Williams stumbles across something to live for.

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Chapter the Third

April 12th, 2017

Strong morning sunlight splashes through the windows, breaking over the kitchen in warm, gentle waves. Sitting on the counter is a plate of pancakes, aromatic steam rising lazily as another cooks with a soft sizzle on the nearby stove, the strong scent of coffee overlaying everything. Ryan hums along with the music that’s issuing quietly from the living room, the sweet clarion of a trumpet rising cleanly through the registers, building towards the songs opening.

Plying his spatula he glances at the clock above the sink, beginning a silent count down in his head, the tell-tale staggered thumps of hooves impacting the floor above him as he reaches zero. Smiling, he gives the last flapjack on the stove top a flip and begins setting the table.

He’s just turned off the range and delivered the fragrant stack of hot cakes when he hears what can only be described as a small herd of buffalo stampeding wildly down the stairs.

“Good morning Daddy!” the two fillies exclaim as they rush into the living room. Going to one knee he gives them both a hug and a kiss on the head.

“Good morning Tia Marie, good morning Lunabelle. You girls ready for pancakes?”

Nodding eagerly, the three sit on the floor around the coffee table as Ryan fixes them their plates. It had become clear pretty quickly that the girls weren’t made for sitting in straight backed chairs, and after some trial and error he had finally acquiesced and started serving their meals in the living room, where the low table was the perfect height for them to eat at comfortably.

Cutting a short stack of pancakes into manageable bites and setting it in front of Luna, he looks to her sister. “Tia, it’s your turn to pick today.”

“But Daddy…” Luna complains, her words muffled by a mouth full of breakfast cake.

“No buts Luna, you got to pick last Saturday.” Ignoring the youngest fillies disappointed whine, he sets Celestia's plate before her, drizzling syrup over the pieces. Plopping a couple of bendy straws into their drinks, he settles back with his own plate and a steaming cup of coffee. “Well sweetie?”

“Can we go swimming?” she asks quickly, taking a bite.

“Hmm, it’s a little cold yet sweetheart. Why don’t you think of something else?”

Chewing meditatively, she swallows and takes a sip of her apple juice. “Can we go feed the fishes?”

“Fish, dear. Can we feed the fish.”

“Can we feed the fish, Dad?”

Sipping his coffee and gauging the weather outside the living room window, Ryan nods his head. “Yes, we can feed the fish, Tia Marie. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”

“Mmm-hmm.” She replies happily, smiling around a mouth full of food.

Saturday mornings have become a sort of ritual in the Williams house, beginning with Ryan rising early to make the girls their favorite breakfast. After washing up, they get the rest of the morning to play and watch cartoons, while he gets a start catching up on any chores or tasks that have escaped his attention during the week. The two sisters take turns picking an afternoon activity for the three to share in. He worries about keeping them cloistered in the house, and so the activity is usually something outdoors if the weather is agreeable. About half of the time they end up at Cisco pond.

It had been a cow pond back when his grandfather had still lived there. About a fifteen minute drive in the opposite direction of the canyon where he had found them, nestled in the small hollow formed by the saddle of two broad sloped hills, it was fed by a small freshwater spring. At some point his grandfather had stopped keeping cattle at the home place, and it had been left to itself. With no animals trampling the grounds or messing in it the water had cleared, sweet smelling grasses quickly encircling it. A handful of elms grow about the hill sides amongst clumps of three-awn and blue grama, their broad leafy cover providing dappled shade in the summer months. Small minnows and frogs were its current occupants, swimming and splashing about the cattails that grew in ever shifting patches.

It was at Cisco pond that he had taught them to swim the previous summer, wading out with them in the shallow water as they hesitantly learned how to dog paddle. They had picked it up surprisingly quickly, and by the time summer had started to pass into autumn they were both confidently splashing and paddling around the shallows, their laughter rising through the fragrant August air to mix sweetly with the ever present bird song.

During the spring when the weather still retained some of its sharp winter edge, they liked to sprinkle bread crumbs for the minnows and chase bullfrogs still slow from months of hibernation. Well, Luna liked to chase the frogs. Tia thought they were slimy and gross, a sentiment that she made known every time they visited. It was Ryan’s opinion that this probably accounted for how her sister would inevitably chase one of the sluggish amphibians in her direction, always ‘on accident’.

Cleaning up the meal, Ryan flips on the small T.V. on the kitchen counter as he refills his coffee before starting the dishes. The raucous sounds of the girls playing in the living room can be heard, drowning out the cartoons they’ve put on. Smiling at the familiar cacophony he turns his attention back to the news broadcast, his arms elbow deep in the warm sudsy water.

He doesn’t get much chance to keep up with current events anymore. Between raising two fillies, keeping the home place in working condition and managing the bills and other expenses associated with those things, he can rarely catch more than a couple of headlines or a few minutes of broadcast.

Tuning out the din from the other room he focuses on the anchor while he scrubs. He’s a little surprised and alarmed to find the dapper, be-suited man in the middle of a story about reported civil unrest in the Russian Federation.

“…information is scarce at the moment, but unconfirmed sources report heavy fighting in and around Moscow, and there have been scattered reports of similar fighting taking place around several key military installations in the region. The president is urging calm on all sides, as analysts are telling us this could be the beginning of a full blown civil war…”

The report is accompanied by shaky handheld footage of tanks firing into what appears to be some sort of government building, before switching to a shot of a field at night, flashes bursting and flaring like heat lightening on the horizon.

“...seem to be mounting, with eyewitnesses on the ground claiming hundreds dead already. In a statement issued earlier by the head of the Socialist Labor Party, Vladmir Kalinin blamed any violence occurring in his country on a weak and inefficient government, corrupted by Western influence…”

The reporter is about to introduce a commentator when there is a loud crash from the living room, followed by the sound of crying. Rushing in, he’s greeted by the sight of Tia holding a doll away from her sister, who’s trying vainly to get it back.

“Daddy, she took my doll!” Luna sniffles, tears wetting her muzzle as she lunges for the toy.

“I wanna play with it!”

“But I had it first!”

“But it’s my doll!” Tia mumbles back through a mouthful of doll, hefting it higher.

Blinking and swallowing down his stillborn panic, he looks at the two. “Tia, did your sister have the doll first?”

“But Daddy…

He gives her his best dad look, trying to ignore his still racing heart. “Celestia Marie Williams, you give that back to your sister right now….”

The rest of the afternoon had gone well, the girls asking a nonstop barrage of fish and frog related questions as they had their fun, and after a vegetarian pizza for dinner and some ice-cream for desert Ryan had tucked to two fillies into their respective beds, continuing a story about a boy and his magical dragon.

“…Thomas looked everywhere for his friend; he looked down on the ground and up in the trees, in between some bushes, where he found some bees. He looked in caves and under rocks, he checked the river, and looked in his socks. He looked everywhere he could think of around, but the dragon, Tucker, was nowhere to be found.” He reads softly from his seat between their twin beds, rose and teal eyes reflecting the light of the small lamp situated between them, blinking slowly as they struggle not to drift off.

“He looked everywhere he could think of to peek, but, he had to admit, Tucker the dragon was really good at hide and seek.” Placing a marker between the pages he closes The Tall Tales of Thomas and Tucker, setting it on the night stand between their beds.

“Daddy, are dragons real?” Luna asks, jaws cracking in a huge yawn.

“No sweetie, they’re make-believe.”

“But why aren’t they real?”

“They’re just legends – myths, Lunabelle. Stories that people made up a long time ago.”

“Oh, okay.” She replies, dispirited.

“Does that make you sad sweetheart?”

Blinking a few times, she looks up at him. “I’d like it if dragons were real. That would be really amazing!”

"There are plenty of amazing things in this world kiddo." Running a thumb along her jawline to her chin causes a gentle smile, and he chuckles. "You just have to find them."

Leaning back he sees Tia gazing down at her blankets, a strange, almost strained look on her shadowed face as her hoof fidgets with the bedding. He watches, curious and a little worried as she seems to gather herself.

“Dad,” Celestia asks suddenly, looking up intently, “Why can’t we go to regular school like regular kids, like on T.V.?”

Ryan sits for a moment, mind racing for an acceptable answer to his eldest daughter’s question. His stomach flops over, and he feels a little as if he’s suddenly been dropped into free fall. “Well Tia Marie, it’s because you two are…special,” he falters for a moment before recovering quickly, “and regular school isn’t enough for special girls.”

“Why are we special, is it because we’re so short?” Luna pipes in. Her large eyes, along with her sisters, locking onto him.

Swallowing, Ryan nods his head, managing a grin. “That’s part of it, Lunabelle.”

Celestia looks intently at her father, large blush colored eyes solemn in the reflected light. She seems to struggle for a moment, face working while she looks down, before hesitantly returning her gaze to his. “If we aren’t regular kids, what…what are we, Daddy?” her eyes are large and moist, her voice small, vulnerable.

Ryan meets her eyes for a moment, before looking over to Luna's wide-eyed gaze. “You’re my girls, “he replies, voice serious, “and that’s all that matters.”

The three share a brief look, before he bends down to embrace tightly first one and then the other. “You’re my girls, and that’s all there is to it.” He murmurs again, giving each of them an extra squeeze and a kiss on the forehead.

Looking content with his answer they both settle under their blankets, soft smiles below oddly shaped eyes which are blinking finally closed. Ryan stands looking down at them. “Good night girls, love you.”

“Love you Daddy.” They both mumble back as sleep begins to claim them.

Making sure the nightlight is on, he leaves their door open a crack, stopping in the hallway to lean against the wall. He’s always known that they were plenty sharp, but it’s never been brought home to him quite like tonight. Pinching his forehead between two fingers, his eyes begin roaming the short Berber at his feet, his mind turning over this latest event. Has he been too ambiguous with them? He knew it was impossible to hide their nature from them forever, but he always figured he’d have plenty of time to ease them into it.

They weren’t ready for this sort of thing. They weren’t ready to learn just how different they were. It was too soon to let them in on the facts of life. The facts that said that if they were discovered, if others learned what they were, that they would be taken away from him. That they would in all likelihood end up as test subjects, treated no better than animals. The thought sends little fingers of apprehension worming down his back, raising goose bumps.

But they were smart. They were sharp. If Tia was already beginning to think of questions like that …

Standing up straight he gives his head a shake. Well, there was nothing to do about it now. He’d just have to do his best to adapt to events as they were. That meant, before too much longer, having a good old fashioned sit down with them about where they came from, what they were, and what it all meant.

He winces at the idea. Such a thing is going to be difficult for him. Worse in his mind, it’s going to be difficult for them. He’s got to make them understand, and they won’t quite be able to.

They’re children for Gods sake. They’re just children, and it’s not fair.

Sighing quietly to himself he straightens up, glancing back to check that he’s left their door open, and makes his way down the hall, their nightlight casting sharply angled shadows along the opposite wall. He intends to go to his study. He’s got a lesson to get together for tomorrow after all. As he descends the oak steps and rounds the corner to the doorway, however, all he can think about is Celestia, her beautiful rose petal eyes reflecting the mellow glow of the lamp as she looks to him.

What are we Daddy?

And all his spinning mind can come up with is You’re my girls. He worries. He worries that in the end, that answer won't be enough.

Dropping heavily into the chair behind the scarred wooden desk, the same desk his grandfather had worked at, tending to the never ending papers and numbers that come with a successful ranching business, he lets out another sigh. He’s dreaded this part of it ever since he realized what the girls really were. The fact that they were as smart and as quick as they were didn’t help either. What will they do when they learn the truth? Will they be angry? Will they be disappointed? Will they, after thanking him, turn away, seeking their own paths, seeking their own past?

Will they hate him?

It’s the last two thoughts that stick with him, squeezing his chest in cold iron bands and running rubbery fingers up and down his spine.

What if his daughters end up hating him? End up leaving him?

Pulling another sonorous breath, he looks down at the desktop, sweeping the stacked school papers off to one side. He’s going to have to handle this smartly, with tact. He won’t lie to them - he can’t lie to his girls, not about this - but he’s going to have to handle it delicately. No matter what, they cannot look down on themselves for being different. At the same time he doesn’t want them to end up resenting the outside world for being normal, either. He’s going to have to walk a fine, careful line. He’s going to have to perform a balancing act.

Delicate, tactful. Loving, considerate. Supportive, fatherly.

Mind now turning at speed, his thoughts racing each other like greyhounds around a track, Ryan continues his contemplation of the scarred wood top long into the night. He doesn't notice the lateness of the hour, or the passage of time which, eventually, makes fools of us all.