Chapter Seven: Mommy and Daddy
With the largest pot Smokey possessed filled with broth, sliced vegetables, and herbs simmering upon the wood burning stove set on low heat, he prepared meals for his animals. The dragon opened the left cabinet door to the storage space built in under the counter and reached in to retrieve one of two industrial-sized bags. One was filled with bird seed, the other had grass pellets. The clawed hand grasped onto the rolled up top of the seed feed first.
As the crinkling sounds of the bag's material reached the ear holes and registered themselves into the brains of all five doves, they immediately took to the air and gathered at the table, disturbing the rabbit. The leporidae grunted his displeasure at having his nap interrupted--especially since the content of his dream consisted of a massive garden of ripe carrots that exceeded his size multiple times, and a very attractive spotted lop-eared doe.
Ears erecting and rotating into the direction of the kitchenette, they caught the familiar sounds of the crinkling bag of seeds--which made a similar noise to his bag of grass pellets--and triggered his hunger and anticipation for food. The rabbit ditched his nest of warmth and hopped from the wooden chair beside the table and onto the flat surface of said table, joining the feather creatures where they all waited to be fed.
Two of the more impatient doves shoved themselves in front of the others, wanting to be the first to eat. The remaining avian beings with the more placid natures waited for the plate to be set down before taking their places around the pile of seeds--and after the aggressive birds began eating.
The rabbit watched his scaly caretaker go back into the kitchenette to fill up a small bowl with pellets and sliced up bits of half a carrot. Smokey knew a diet with nothing but vegetables wasn't suitable for a rabbit considering the fact that all the water content packed the potential to cause the long-eared mammal urinary problems.
After setting the bowl of grass pellets beside the brown rabbit, Smokey cautiously approached the bedroom door, his ear frills flared and perked forth for any indication that the werewolf might still be inside…
All that reached him was silence…
Pressing an ear frill flat against the wooden door, he listened carefully for any disturbance on the other side…
Still, the silence remained.
For fear that the werewolf may still be lurking inside the room--just waiting quietly--, the nervous dragon reached a hesitant hand to the doorknob, retracting every now and again as if it were a live cobra ready to strike. Starch tension piling itself on top of his muscles, he slowly twisted the knob and pushed the door open just as slowly, hinges creaking in complaint. Leaving the gaping crack at the width of his head, Smokey poked it through, reflexes at the ready in case of any sudden attacks. Eyes swiftly scanning the room, he discovered the werewolf was no longer residing there. As relief washed away the burden of anxiety, the red-scaled reptile entered to recover the silvery pot he'd left last night. It was resting on its side a few feet away from the exact spot he placed it.
Lowering himself onto one knee, his clawed fingers curled around one of the pot's handles in a firm grip and lifted it off the floor to check out the inside. There was not a single remaining drop of chowder within. The werewolf had devoured the creamy dish and licked the pot's interior spotless. Smokey's emerald green eyes swept across the clearing of the room that had served as a battlefield the previous night. Broken pieces of glass from the window were carpeted abroad the stone floor; many of them had been flung around by the affray, along with specks of blood here and there.
Pushing himself up from his kneeling position, Smokey exited the room with his pot in hand and closed the door behind him. He didn't want anyone wandering inside and cutting their feet on the shards of glass. Though he doubted anyone would walk in while he quickly got the broom, but he was compelled by the protective side of his nature. The reptile placed the pot down upon the countertop beside the full sink, then directed himself to the space between the long counter on the right of the stove and the refrigerator where a broom was propped up against the wall. Collecting the broom and the dust pan from inside the counter cabinet, he immediately went back into the bedroom to clean up the mess.
An hour and a half's time elapsed. The bedroom's floor was swept and scrubbed clean, the towels in the bathtub saturated with Smokey's blood had been thrown out--he would pick up new ones on his next trip to the store--, and the dishes were washed and stored away in their proper places; he checked on the soup and his charges in intervals. The winged beast performed all of these tasks with minimal noise, not wanting to wake up his guests.
Gently swishing the ladle in the concoction of broth and vegetables, Smokey silently meditated on the prior day's events and the present matters at hand. What with having a sick equine and a griffin toddler on his claws; on top of taking care of his own animals and making sure he had his magic act perfected for spring. Learning to perform actual magic had proved to be an exceedingly difficult task for him several years ago. Heck, he still had trouble with the more elaborate tricks. Under an apprenticeship, it had taken a year to even tap into his magical energies and learn his first trick. Not to mention maintaining any living space he acquired over his years of traveling. It was fortunate that his animals were capable of assisting him.
Spurred by hunger, the baby griffon roused from her slumber. Extricating herself from the sleeping pegasus' unconscious embrace in a series of wriggles and twists, the altricial being padded towards the kitchenette and came to a stoppage beside the large reptile with a look of expectancy. She waited at his foot, but he didn't notice her. For Smokey had detached himself from reality to file through his thoughts, most of them concerning the ill pony and the griffon herself.
Growing impatient, the little bundle of white released a loud squawk--but not loud enough to disturb Fluttershy's rest--that reeled the dragon back to the third dimension. The sudden noise sparked a flash of adrenaline in him, but it swiftly died down into miniscule currents as Smokey identified the squawk as the infant when he discovered her at his right foot.
Setting the ladle aside with a gentle smile, he sat down on his hams, hands clasping his knees. "You know, little lady, a nudge would've sufficed." With a soft chuckle, he straightened his body to its full height and directed himself to the almost overflowing brown paper bag he had brought back with him on his trip out to Ponyville.
It was still early in the morning when the inhabitants--sans pony and griffon--within the dragon's cozy abode had awaken; and when the said dragon had left to retrieve medicine as well as other necessities. Not as many ponies were active in the dim gray mornings before the sun even had a chance to burn away the remnants of the night's chilling air. It meant that there were less of them he would scare with his appearance. Full grown dragons lumbering down the streets of pony populated areas wasn't exactly the norm.
Smokey didn't have any problems with finding items he needed or checking out--as equines in line just dropped their things and made a mad dash for the door. It was the general customer service that stalled him. It took quite a while to coax the cashier into allowing him to pay for the merchandise he picked out.
One by one, he pulled out his purchases, setting them down upon the surface of the counter left and right; a set of three fleece bibs--each sporting a different animal in the center--, new towels to replace the ones he thrown out, a soft stuffed panda bear with a squeaker stuffed into its belly, a book on the fundamentals of parenting, and a second book filled with baby names. The bottom of one of the bags happened to have the most important items at the moment: several jars of baby food and Fluttershy's medicine.
Removing one of the jars, Smokey clasped the lid in an iron grip and opened it with an audible pop. The aroma of mushy alfalfa stewed with beets filled the dragon's nostrils. Not bothering with a bib right now, he dropped onto his knees before the awaiting chick, her mouth already wide open in anticipation.
"All right, sweetie, here it is." Lowering the jar within her reach, he proceeded to feed the baby griffon her first bite.
"Bleh!" came the response, apparently not very fond of the combined tastes in the manufactured mixture.
The sight of the baby griffon scrunching up her face in distaste inspired a bemused laugh from the large reptile. "Come here, little darling. Let's finish the rest of--" Jar of baby food inching toward the young chick, the rest of his words died in his throat when she turned tail and fled the kitchenette. Despite the nagging gurgles of hunger, the white bundle was certain she didn't want to taste that again.
Gathering his weight and steadying it on his legs, Smokey pushed himself up off the floor and pursued the infantility. He witnessed the child sheer her course to the mattress where the sleeping pony laid, sparking worry that she might wake up the poor equine. Before he could even get into springing distance from her, the griffon tucked her tiny beak underneath the hem of the sky blue quilt and disappeared.
As Fluttershy slept, she had felt an oddity under the blanket with her. A tickling sensation, not unlike a feather duster, was rustling up against her wing. With a mirthful squeal, the mare stirred while shuffling to lightly push the ticklish thing away from her. The combination of physical contact of the baby's body and vibrations carried by the springs within the mattress extracted by her movements jostled Fluttershy awake. Blue-green eyes springing open, the pony rolled over onto her side with a confused expression.
Her head was still a bit stuffed up from her clogged sinuses because of the cold, and her it was throbbing lightly due to the sudden surprise wake-up call. Her vision was blurry, and she wasn't able to determine what had woken her up. Staring down at the lump in the bed beside her, she watched it wiggle and move around beneath the blanket, making its way towards her flank.
With a panicked gasp, she recoiled to the bottom edge of the mattress, but not before grabbing the hem of the blanket between her teeth with intentions on pulling it over herself to hide. However, it didn't need to come to that. With the baby griffon exposed, a weak smile came to her face relief flooding through her as she realized what was going on. This all happened so fast that Smokey had no time to react and reassure.
"Oh!" Fluttershy chuckled in a motherly tone, reaching over with both forelegs to wrap around the baby. Pulling her up and laying back down on her side again, the pegasus nuzzled the chick in her forelegs. "Hello there, little one. What were you doing under there?"
The sight of the chick curling up in the mare's embrace painted a smile on the dragon's face as he approached the side of the mattress and slowly lowered himself onto his knees. With a warm chuckle, he prepared to answer the pegasus.
"She's attempting to escape from her breakfast." A playful smirk tugged at the corners of his lips with an insisting gesture with his hands to the griffon. "Come on, sweetheart. You need to eat. I'm sorry I grabbed beets and alfalfa. I was looking more at nutrients than flavor."
Providing the healthiest food for his animals has always been Smokey's top priority. However, caring for a child was far more different than an animal, and it was a lesson he was only beginning to scratch the surface of. Being so used to looking at nutrition, he automatically overlooked taste.
Extending the jar, Smokey attempted to coax the baby into accepting the mush. Just as she had done before, the child turned away, scrunching up her face in disdain.
Fluttershy giggled softly at his attempts. "You really should eat it. It's good for you," she said, leaning over to nuzzle the young chick again. "I bet it's not so bad. Here."
Giving Smokey a smile, she leaned forward to lap up a little bit into her mouth to prove her claim to the baby. "Mmmm…"
Though, as soon as the baby food actually reached her taste buds, her eyes bulged out. Her face contorting in a wild mess of revulsion and disgust, the pegasus pursed her lips and rolled her eyes into her head as her cheeks puffed out. Slowly, forcibly, she gulped down the repulsive tasting concoction and stuck her tongue out before nervously giving the dragon and griffon chick a grin.
"Uhm… Yum, yum. Delicious," she weakly stated in a breathless choke that wasn't fooling anyone.
Smokey snorted, his cheeks inflating outward as he struggled to hold in a massive bubble of laughter at the pegasus' reaction. It was just too funny! Inhaling a deep breath through his nostrils and exhaling out of his mouth while still fighting back his laughter in an effort to calm himself, he waited a few moments to quell down.
"She tasted it, so I'm not sure that'll work… I shall have to consort with the parenting book I purchased." he informed. "Since I'll be keeping her, I might as well call her my daughter," he added with a smile directed at the mare and chick.
Of course. Yes, that would have made sense if the child had eaten it first. Fluttershy didn't blame her at all--that baby food tasted pretty terrible!
She opened her mouth to offer a suggestion, when she was suddenly caught off guard by the dragon's words. Eyes widening a bit, she felt a protective surge of jealousy rise up within her breast. Now hold on a minute! He was keeping her? She found her first! Granted, he saved both of their lives, but surely being the one to discover the baby had to account for something, right?
Not to mention, didn't the little one have parents? In fact, that thought paused the pegasus for a bit. What happened to the poor thing's mother and father anyway? There had to be some reason she was alone. Did she get separated from them and was just never found? Or, did something happen…?
Her thoughts turned to the werewolf… and it suddenly dawned on her of the possibility of what could've happened. Giving a small gasp through her semi-plugged nostrils, she instinctively pulled the baby closer as the dark thought ran through her mind. No… no, that couldn't have happened… could it?
"Uhm," she spoke up. "What about her real parents?" she asked "Couldn't they possibly still be out there somewhere? What will you do if they come looking for her?"
She glanced off to the side for a moment. "Besides," she whispered, the tiniest hint of possessiveness lacing her intonation, "…I found her first."
Fluttershy raised a valid point. What if the griffon's parents were still alive and searching for her? The answer was simple. "Well, if they do show up… I'll give her back… After all, it wouldn't be right to keep a child away from its parents."
The red-scaled beast smiled warmly down at the little one as she snuggled into the pony's toasty, soft fur. She certainly had bonded with her in such a short amount of time, and Smokey felt foolish he hadn't even considered the possibility that she may have wanted the baby too. It wouldn't be right to keep her from Fluttershy either, if she was indeed an orphan.
"You know…" he began, lifting his eyes back to Fluttershy's. "She could use someone to call Mama as well. Shouldn't every child have a daddy and a mommy?" he asked, arching a brow with a smirk.
The pink-maned pegasus blinked up at the dragon. Yes, yes, that was the sensible thing. Give the child back to her parents. Of course, she'd have done the same thing...
But, as he mentioned the baby needing both a mommy and a daddy, she suddenly went beet red in the face. Wait, he couldn't possibly have been suggesting…? No, they barely knew each other!
"Oh… my…" she squeaked, her still semi-feverish mind cooking up an odd mental image. No, that was just silly! She… no, he was just being metaphorical… Wasn't he?
'He is certainly nice enough…' she thought. She hadn't met very many dragons, and she had always heard stories about them. Yet, here he was, before her and completely defying every possible bad rumor and horror story she had heard about his race while fully grown. Sure, there was Spike, but he'd been raised among ponies…
It was then Fluttershy realized she didn't really know much about him at all.