• Published 28th Aug 2016
  • 8,058 Views, 237 Comments

Strange Gifts - Rocinante

Sometimes you're given what you wanted most, without ever knowing you wanted it.

  • ...

Morning, Day 3

Warmth and the singing of birds stirred Lambert from his sleep. Rejecting the call, he rolled over but found himself facing the sunlit window. Rolling back the other way, he pulled the blankets tighter to him. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes. Confusion swirled in his mind, bringing him fully awake as he struggled to figure out where he was.

The pretty, upstairs room in Miss Mary’s house, he remembered. Sitting up, he looked for Miss Mary. She wasn’t in the room, but he could hear motion through the partly closed door.

Lambert slid onto the floor, then sat there a moment. Closing his eyes, he tried to remember happy times from the many bedrooms he’d shared with his parents, but green eyes and wooden teeth looked back at him through his memory.

He shook his head, derailing the images before the screams were fully remembered.

After going downstairs, he watched Miss Mary for a moment as she scrubbed something in the kitchen. Curious as to just what she was doing, he moved closer. “Good morning.”

Miss Mary looked back at him with a smile. “Sleep Well? I picked up cinnamon rolls from the bakery while you were sleeping. They’re on the table. Help yourself.”

Lambert nodded, noticing the sweet smell just as she mentioned it. “Yeah. Did you?” He asked, remembering to politely return the question before getting the offered food.

“Actually, I did. Slept really well.”

Climbing into the chair, he studied the pan of sticky rolls, trying to figure out how to make the least mess.

“Just use your hands... claws, talons.” Mary said, sliding a plate and napkin between him and the pan.

“Thank you.” Plucking out a roll, he nibbled on it while watching Miss Mary. From his elevated perch, he could see she was cleaning the stove.

“Can I help?”

Miss Mary looked around the house for a moment, then gave him a soft expression. “Eat first, but if you want, you can sweep the house for me.” Going to a closet, she pulled out a broom and dustpan. “Just do a good job, if you’re going to do it,” she said, leaving them propped up in the corner.

Once Lambert finished his roll, he washed his talons before picking up the broom. With slow, careful sweeps, he began cleaning. First the kitchen, then the living room. By the time he was collecting his last little pile of dust and hair, he could hear Miss Mary filing a mop bucket.

“Good job!” She said, smiling at him.

A bit of joy and pride fluffed Lambert's feathers. “Anything else I can do?”

Miss Mary hummed, scratching at her chin. “You can move the chairs around while I mop.”


Following Miss Mary around the house, Lambert scooted what he could out of her way as she mopped, then placed each item back as she moved on. When Miss Mary stopped to change the water, he used the pause to fan his wings and dry the floor a little faster.

“I see why people have kids now,“ Miss Mary said with a laugh. “You’re useful.”

Lambert’s wings fluttered at the comment, but his heart ached too.

Once the cleaning was done she checked the clock. “Not even noon yet. You want to come take a run with me; work up an appetite for lunch? There’s usually no one else on the White Tail trail this early.”

Lamberd nodded. He really didn’t want to run a trail, but he wanted to spend as much time as he could with Miss Mary before the princess came to take him away.

Leaving through the back door, Lambert followed Miss Mary’s easy pace through the yard. The cherry tree he’d made a nest in seemed like a memory more distant than the nightmares.

“How long did you live in that tree?” she asked.

“About a moon.” Looking into the branches, he could just see the shadow of the nest. “I had to leave the bridge, water got high after the rain.”

Merry followed his gaze, then looked back to the garbage can that had been his best source of food in weeks.

“When did- How long have you been... alone?”

Lambert felt empathy in that last word. It almost seemed painful for her to say.

“It was still cold. The snow melted a few days after.”

Miss Mary started to say something, but instead rested her hand on his head as they walked. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” she said after a while.

The bright summer trail was far different than the cold, rainy forest that haunted his dreams. They ran for a long stretch of the trail, then walked for a while.

When they’d both caught their breath, Miss Mary gave him a crooked grin. Reaching out, she placed a single finger on his beak.

“Tag. You’re it.”