• Published 28th Aug 2016
  • 8,057 Views, 237 Comments

Strange Gifts - Rocinante

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

  • ...


The rest of that day passed with a quiet evening at home. I helped Lambert find a place for his heirlooms, and with a little effort we made something like a shrine in the corner of his room.

It turned out that the ring box contained a beautiful penannular brooch, the kind used to pin cloaks or heavy scarves. The tool box was really no less a piece of art, and the tools inside were all fine carpenter’s tools.

At the end of the night, I tucked him into to bed and started to leave, but a soft cry stopped me.

“I’ll never see them again...”

Sitting on the edge of the bed, I put a hand on his shoulder. “It gets better, I promise. I still miss mine too, but the pain is gone; most days.”

“Where’d you live after that?”

“My mother’s parents,” I answered. “I still worry about them. They have no idea where I went. I guess they think I’m dead.”

“I never met my grandparents.”

I started to suggest that we could find them, but it seemed cruel to give him false hope. “You’ve got a home with me, for as long as you need.”

Rolling over, he nuzzled against my hand. As he closed his eyes, I straightened the errant feathers on his head with my other hand. The casual grooming seemed to calm him, and as his breath evened out to sleep, I couldn’t help but think I’d gotten in way over my head. A messed up girl like me had no business raising a kid. I liked bar fights and metal working, yet here I was soothing a child as he slept, and the idea of him leaving already made my heart ache.

Maybe I did need that talk with Doctor Page.

Easing off the bed, I went downstairs to read for a bit to clear my head.

- - -

The next morning brought a better mood to Lambert. For fun, I made us french toast for breakfast and broke out the zap-apple jam to smother it with.

After cleaning up breakfast, I debated how to pass my impromptu day off. I had a few hours to blow till my appointment with the Doc, and a whole day after that with nothing planned at all. Maybe I’d take Lambert out to the orchard. I was sure Applejack would be at her market booth by then. Maybe I’d swing by and see if she was up for company later in the day.

“What did the doctor give you for homework?” I asked Lambert, who was half dozing by the window.

“Noise,” he answered. “Get comfortable in a noisy place. And make a new friend.”

“Hmm...” A long yawn escaped me as I stretched my back. It was getting tense from lack of use; I had only hit the gym once in the last week. Actually, a good gym session was just what the doctor ordered.

Walking into the downstairs bathroom, I started changing into my workout clothes. “Hey Lambert,” I said with a smile. “You ever been to a gym?”

“No,” he said, rubbing at his eyes in an effort to wake up.

Once properly dressed, I playfully nudged Lamberd to his paws. “Well you’re about to. Come on, it’ll make you feel better, and you can tell the doctor you went somewhere noisy.”

Lambert reluctantly obeyed my prodding towards the door. “It’s noisy there?”

“A little, but not bad. Think of it like a playground, where the toys are noisy. Shouldn’t be anyone there but us and the owner this time of day though. He’s big and loud, but a kitten on the inside”

“Oh...” Lambert didn’t seem thrilled at the idea, but followed me into the street anyway.

Playing it safe, I took the long way there. Better to give the park and market a wide berth for a while.

It was a peaceful walk, but I did get a pleasant surprise as we rounded the last corner to the gym. A grin spread across my face as I recognised the gray pegasus walking just ahead of us. Her little foal spotted me, but an impish “shhh...” gesture stopped her from alerting her mother.

Still grinning, I looked down to Lambert and motioned for him to stay where he was in the alleyway.

Running forwards, I caught up in just a few strides. Her ears perked, and swiveled towards me, but I had both arms around her barrel before she could turn her head. She let out a surprised whinny as I lifted her in a hug, but by then she'd recognized me and fell to laughing.

“When did you get back in town!?” I asked, trying not to succumb to her infectious laughter, but failing.

“Last night,” she answered as I sat her back down.

“Have fun at your grandparents?” I asked Dinky and scruffed her mane before standing back up.

Dinky bounced on her hooves. “Lots!”

Looking back, I spotted Lambert caught between curiosity and anxiety, watching us from around a corner. “It’s safe, this is my best friend and her daughter,” I said waving him over.

Derpy peered around me to see who I was talking to.

“This is Lambert,” I explained while he worked up the courage to leave the alley’s shelter. Lowering my voice, I whispered, “His parents died. I’m taking care of him, for a while.”

“Aww...” Derpy cooed.

Dinky’s expression wilted a bit as well. The pain of losing a parent was a recently healed wound in her heart, and I could tell that mention of a parent’s death had plucked at the scab. Imitating her mother, Dinky tried to see who I was talking to, but when Lambert emerged from the dark alley, she let out a squeal of fright before scrambling between her mother’s legs.

Lambert froze, the sight of the scared filly overriding his own fear with a sense that he’d done something wrong. Shrinking back into the shadows, he made himself as small as possible.

I really wasn’t sure who to feel sorry for, the scared filly or a wounded looking Lambert. Deciding that Dinky had her mother to sooth her, I went to Lambert’s side. “This is Lambert,” I said, encouraging him to climb into my arms. The touch seemed to reassure him he hadn’t done anything bad, and he eagerly took comfort in me holding him. Looking back to Derpy, I saw her similarly comforting Dinky. “He’s a young griffon, and he’s living with me now.”

Dinky studied him for a moment. I could see her relax by degrees, till she seemed to accept that he wasn’t dangerous. Leaving her mother’s touch, she moved closer to Lambert and me. “I never met a griffon before. I’m Dinky. It’s nice to meet you.”

Leaning forward, Lambert nearly fell out of my hold. His wings shivered as Dinky introduced herself.

“Remember how ponies scared you at first?” I reminded him.

Lambert nodded absently. Setting him down, I let him and Dinky get to know each other while Derpy and I chatted. I caught her up on my story with Lambert, and she told me about their visit to the in-laws. Her husband’s parents had done their duty as grandparents and spoiled Dinky rotten for the entire visit. Unfortunately, we had to cut the reunion short. Derpy had a lot to do on her first day back in town, but I got a promise that she’d be at my table come Sunday.

Waving goodbye, Lambert and I continued on towards the gym.

“Make a new friend?” I asked, once Derpy and Dinky were out of earshot.

Lambert nodded. Looking over his shoulder, his wings fluttered as he watched Dinky disappear around a corner.

Smirking, I held the door to the gym open for Lambert. “Oh? You think she’s cute?”

“No,” he protested curtly, but a flick of his tail made me doubt him.

Following Lambert into the gym, I found it as abandoned as I expected. The only sound came from Bulk himself as he grunted through a set of squats.

“Smells funny in here,” Lambert commented absently, looking around.

“Yeah, it’s called gym-funk, it’s unavoidable.” Resting a hand on his head, I scratched between the feathers. “Now, don’t be scared of Bulk, he talks very loud, but he’ll cry if you give him a dirty look.”

“Hey, Bulk,” I called. “I brought a friend with me.”

Like a kid called to the cookie jar, Bulk scrambled over to greet us. “Awesome!”

The stallions greeting withered Lambert, but my touch seemed to assure him he was safe.

Pouting when Lambert winced at his voice, Bulk squatted down to the chick’s eye level. “I’m Bulk, nice to meet you,” he said in a rapid whisper, before extending his hoof to shake.

Lambert studied the stallion for a moment, not seeming sure how to feel about the intense red eyes behind the childish pout. “I’m Lambert,” he finally said, taking the offered hoof in his talon.

The pout vanished from Bulk’s muzzle. A broad smile replacing it as he sat back up. “You come to work out with us today?” he asked Lambert.

“Yeah,” I answered for him. “I thought you could teach him how to strengthen his wings.”

“You can do that?” Lambert asked, his eyes bright with hope. “You can make my wings stronger?”

“Of course!” Bulk cheered. Trotting over to a weight rack, he promptly did a few curls with his wings—with more weight than I could deadlift.

Lambert’s wings pressed tight against him, but he didn’t run or seem overly startled. Scooting just a little closer to me, he relaxed with a deep breath. “How?”

Bulk pranced across the gym, pausing beside a complex cable machine. “You just have to work out the right muscle groups. It takes time, but in a few months, you can start to see results,” he explained, adjusting the machine. “This is a good start. Want to try?”

Looking up at me, Lambert silently asked for permission.

“Come on,” I said, waving for him to follow me. “Let's see how this works.”

By the machine, Lambert had an uneasy air to him, but he nonetheless followed Bulk’s instructions. Padded straps were looped over his wing’s elbows, and soon Bulk was cheering him along as Lambert’s wings moved the weights up and down with a CLACK-CLACK.

“That’s it. Good!” Sitting on his haunches, Bulk used his forehooves to guide Lambert’s posture. “Keep your wings low. Two more. You can do it!”

Lambert was hooked. I could see it in his eyes and the way his feathers fluffed. “I’m going to go hit the free weights,” I said, excusing myself from the training session.

As I worked my way through some drop sets, I watched Bulk move Lambert from one station to the next. They were both having a blast, but Lambert was going to seriously hurt the next day. Hopefully it wouldn’t spoil his opinion of the gym too much. I’d have to set the idea that the burn was a badge of accomplishment, something to be proud of.

After a good thirty minutes, a haggard but happy Lambert waddled up to me. His wings were dragging along the ground and any attempt to move them resulted in a wince of pain, but still his eyes shone bright with post-workout endorphin happiness.

“Let’s get a protein shake before we go,” I said, trying not to laugh as I racked my weights. I’d be hurting tomorrow too.

“A what?” he asked.

“It’s something that helps you get stronger.” Waving for him to follow, I led him to a little smoothy bar in the corner where Bulk was already crushing ice. “Bulk makes the best shakes.”

“What flavor sounds good?” Bulk asked.

Lambert studied the menu board for a moment. “Can I try the banana one?”

“Same for me, but no milk in his,” I added.

“Coming right up!”