Sturm eyes the package a little suspiciously at first, but when he sees the misspelled crayon-drawn words his heart starts to melt a little. Smiling faintly he picks it up in his hooves and floats back inside with a few beats of his wings, kicking the door closed and letting the auto-lock latch back into place as he takes the gift into his living room, where his precious little Copper and fluffy big Gideon are sitting and playing.
He sets down beside them, pressing up against the warm feathers of his lover to dispel the cold that’d seeped into his coat from being outside, tugging at the ribbon and opening up the package.
He is, very briefly, scared witless, going stiff-winged and jerky-hooved at the sight of the terrifying and #triggering clown. He very nearly hyper-ventilates, but manages to control himself long enough to think about who (for sure) sent it and the memories tied into the gesture, a call-back to a similarly creepy portrait given to him in Ponyville though he isn’t certain if it’s the same one.
Either way his reaction softens, a smile creeping back across his muzzle as he thinks of his bestest horsefriend, a hint of sadness there as well. He didn’t know where she was or what she was doing, but he’d hoped she was alive and as well as she could be, laying low and out of sight somewhere, maybe being a good pony or at least a careful one.
He was going to put this portrait up in the foyer, even if it didn’t match anything else in the house.
“I actually got it when I was pretty young. My mother took me out to teach me archery, and I had a natural knack for hitting dead center on the target.” he explained, smiling at the memory.
“She was better than me, probably still is, but I’m a damn fine shot with just about anything that can reach out and touch someone. Ain’t too many applications a pegasus can find for that outside of the Air Corps though.” he told her, shrugging. “That’s not really why I wound up there but it certainly helped me fit in and find purpose once I was in uniform.”
“How about you?” he asked after walking in silence for a while, turning towards Pinkie’s butt and giving it a perfectly innocent stare as it swayed from side to side with her canter.
“What’d you have to do to get it?”
The shockingly shocking pink pony bobbled her rump in the most chaste way possible, her crimeless gaze falling too upon her behind behind her. “You mean my balloonies? I’ve had those since before I moved out of my parents’ place! Quite a story they hold too! I actually got them throwing a party! Did you know I like parties? Well, I do!” She announced for the whole world to know, her trot turning into a skitter as she bounded erratically around her new friend. Her face was embossed with an exuberant grin, and her lookers were lidded while she bounced blindly about.
“Once upon a time, there lived a family on a rock farm! It was a super sad rock farm, because nopony there smiled! Not the mother, not the trio of sisters, and definitely not the father! Everything there was colorless and drab, and smiles were all up and frowned upon because they were super out of place on such a dreary and lifeless quarry farm! But there was one little pink filly who dared to spread joy to her family, and, uh- that was after the part where there was a big rainbow sonicboom that I later found out my old friend Rainbow Dash made.” The detective pony fumbled with her story, for tale-telling while bouncing was a tough feat to achieve.
“Then there’s the whole bit where I got my signature fluffy mane when Rainbow Dash’s shock wave hit me, but that’s getting off topic. So anyway, the little pink filly threw her family a party - a surprise one, I should say - and she didn’t know if they’d accept it or not, so there was this big moment of suspense where they just stood there, faces sweaty, knees weak, legs were heavy, but then they all up and smiled and we- er, they had a grand old time and danced and sang and had a ton of cake and I got my Cutie Mark! Or, I mean, the filly did! And guess what, Sturm? The little pink filly in my story was me! I was her!” Pinks concluded studiously, taking a final leap and landing weightless on the back of the steed.
She craned her neck to gaze upside-down at his face. “So? What’d you think?”
"That’s actually a really sweet story, Pinkie." he said, smiling behind his mask and doing his best not to reach out and tussle the pink pony’s curly mane beneath her rather faithful looking hat.
"I kind of wish I had a story that neat now…" he added, frowning just a bit before perking back up as his nose catches the smell of cinnamon, apple pie and the other delightful smells of a bakery despite his filter doing it’s best to strip the air of particulates. It spoke (smelt?) highly of the food’s quality, and though his mostly full stomach didn’t growl at the thought he really hoped that this was the place they were looking for.
"So, Pinkie, you’ve lived on a rock farm and in Ponyville and in Manehattan, right?" he asked her, tilting his head back towards his investigative companion. "How long have you been living there? Why the change in scenery? I mean, it doesn’t sound like you can throw very many parties while you’re on the beat as a private I." he explained, eyeing the pony closely. He wondered if she was even a real detective. He wasn’t detecting any fraud on her part, but then again he was clearly a soldier-pony not a soldier-pony-playing-at-detective, and for all he knew this could be a silly-pink-party-pony-playing-at-private-investigation! The very idea was enough to make him want to put a tiny sherlockian cap on a party streamer and send it after the feared Moriparty to test it’s legitimacy as a crime fighter.
They made their way through the streets under the faint light of emerging stars seen between the rain clouds, and Pinkie found the sky beautiful, but couldn’t look up for long with the threat of an eyeful of raindrop. It was a light downpour, not much more than a drizzle - with a sort of soothing yet exhilarating quality a shower could give you. It descended upon one’s mane but didn’t really dampen it all that much unless one stood still for too long, and in this the two were lucky enough to have good head coverings.
“What do you think the stars are?” Pinkie questioned, looking through the eyes of the steed’s mask, searching for the life behind them. “I think, personally, that they’re the physical embodiment of our Cutie Marks! For every single pony who has found their special talent, there’s a star up in the sky. Certainly are enough up there to cover everyone down here! That’s just what I like to think.” She said with fervor, taking a moment to gaze at her flank in a puddle’s reflection. “I’m up there, I guess. You could probably say I’m up in history! You know, because it’s usually down in history?” She giggled.
“Mm, what’s your Cutie Mark about?” She again volleyed queries at the stallion, giving his flank a small prod with her fore-hoof. The pink mare obviously did not know what was and was not acceptable in the flank-touching department. Pinks gave a cheery, oblivious smile, stepping up onto a side-walk curb as they came to a more residential side of the city. There were more than a few shops littered about. Some were nestled independent between blocks, some were living kiosk lives, and some were behind glass windows - ready to be window shopped.
Under normal circumstances the old warhorse would have pounded any pony that tried to prod his patoot into a fine paste against the ground but where the pink pony was concerned no circumstance was considered normal. He knew she didn’t mean anything untoward by it, so he just nodded and went along with her, stiffening up a bit but keeping pace.
"I actually got it when I was pretty young. My mother took me out to teach me archery, and I had a natural knack for hitting dead center on the target." he explained, smiling at the memory.
"She was better than me, probably still is, but I’m a damn fine shot with just about anything that can reach out and touch someone. Ain’t too many applications a pegasus can find for that outside of the Air Corps though." he told her, shrugging. "That’s not really why I wound up there but it certainly helped me fit in and find purpose once I was in uniform."
"How about you?" he asked after walking in silence for a while, turning towards Pinkie’s butt and giving it a perfectly innocent stare as it swayed from side to side with her canter.
"What’d you have to do to get it?"
A small giggle came out of the mare’s muzzle as she too took the final sip from her drink. “Are you kidding? Of course I want to head out for some apple pie, silly! Or were you talking about just heading out in general? Cause I’m fine with both!” Pinkie slid out of the booth’s smooth leather seating, excitement in her eyes and in her movements, and fullness in her tummy and in her satisfaction. “Ever been to Sweet Apple Acres? Best apples and apple accessories in the world there, believe me! And that includes apple pie! Haven’t been there in a ton of time though.” The pink sleuth brought up, unsure of why she did, as she ambled to be beside the grey, gas-masqueraded steed.
“I ain’t certain why I brought that up just then. Might be because my mind’s fixed upon apples! Apples, apples, apples! Manehattan’s an orange city, dominantly, so we don’t have much in the apple department. What we do have, though, is lemons! Aisles full of them! And you know what they say! When life gives you lemons…” Pinks gave the grey stallion a little nudge, letting her sentence finish itself. “My city’s the city of dreams, Sturm! The city that never sleeps and never blinks, and quite right too. It’s too busy being all… dreamy!” A big, eye-shutting smile popped up on the pony’s face, as she motioned for stallion’s first. Pinkie was just courteous like that.
“What I don’t get is why we call it the ‘Big Apple’, when the fruity market’s being run by oranges. You think there could be something behind that, Mr. Raveny? I’ll have to check in on that sometime - find out what’s going on, exactly…” The pink mare gave a healthy yawn, having her ‘exactly’ trail on for the duration of it. Tired azure eyes blinked furiously, attempting to rejuvenate her wakefulness. “I might need to grab a coffee when we get down to the pie shop, by the looks of it! Good thing it’s perfect coffee weather, mm?”
The grey warhorse slid out after her, grabbing his mask back up and slipping it over his face. He takes hardly a second to snap the latches back in place, tugging on a strap to tighten it before taking a deep and filter-wheezing breath.
Thus readied he joined the pink mare on the way out, making sure the bill was squared and nodding at the service staff as they left. It paid to be polite, he’d found, and it wasn’t a difficult thing to be by any means.
"Well I think it used to be a big apple place, or they wanted it to be. I guess oranges just grow better out there, or they figured a way to get them to." he said, shrugging and enjoying the detached rasp of his voice through his mask. It, oddly enough, felt more natural to him than his unmodified vocals, a peculiarity born of his extensive wear.
He knows nothing about apples or oranges but he figure that a comparison between the two could be made if one tried enough. He keeps that to himself though, not wanting to send the detective on a tangent that might lead to her getting into an orchard-side shoot-out with stub-gun wielding migrant workers in an attempt at uncovering the vast conspiracies relating to the fortunes of one crop over another in one part of Equestria.
Instead he smiles at her and follows closely, his somewhat unique appearance keeping the usual riff and raff of the city from approaching as they made their way through the cobblestone streets.
A particularly cold and biting wind hits them, making his mane bristle.
"Yeah, I could go for something warm myself."
“The Air Corps? Always admired a stallion in uniform, I have! I have dealt with a few of them Changelings before, believe it or not. Tangled with a gang of them that called themselves the Broken Mirrors, I did. Their mirrors were a bit, uh- bit more busted up when they hauled them off to jail, if you take my meaning. Don’t know what happens to Changelings in prison. Some say they’re locked up tight, cause they’ve got a reputation for slippery escapes and such. I don’t know too much about that though, I only bring them to justice occasionally.”
“Usually, I’m finding silly evidence to support cases for a divorce or something stupid like that. Sure, it’s dumb, but for twenty-five bucks an hour, I’ll do almost anything you darn well please. Bucks as in bits, cabbage, not as in apple tree bucks. I do like apples though. We could go out for some apple pie after, or get some here. There was some on the menu, and I also know a place. It’s called the Cinnamon Tree or something similar. I’s got a connection there. Free pies for the Pinkie Pie! Coconut Cream Pies are my favorite! What’re yours?”
Her gaze fell to the colorless ground outside her window. She could spot a few speckles of water spring in multiple directions all over the gravel. It was raining. Storm clouds crept in unnoticed, and were now unleashing their steady torrent. Pinkie didn’t have an umbrella, but she had her wide-brimmed hat. Maybe she would get lucky. Maybe she wouldn’t get too wet this evening.
"My favorite pie is apple pie!" he says, nodding sagely. "We should head over there for sure." he tells her, turning towards the waitress as she passes by and hoofs them the check. He slips a few bits from one of his bags, the unicorn levitating it off to the register and wishing them a good day.
"How far away is it? We might need to grab a cloud or something for some cover, it looks like it could be rain out soon."
He’s a pegasus and every pegasus knows all about weather, because that’s their thing don’tcha know?
He isn’t particularly concerned about getting wet, being that he’s got his hood and his mask, but he isn’t sure if earth ponies know what weather is, being that it’s not really their thing. It’d be rude to ask, anyway, and he didn’t want to have to explain the complexities of weather to an excitable cute pink horse sleuth, as exhilarating a conversation that may be.
He doesn’t really engage about the Enclaves. He knows what they actually do to them, he’s done it himself, and Pinkie didn’t need to lay that kind of burden down on her conscience, it’d probably be devastating for her.
"But yeah, you want to head out?" he asks, sipping the last bits of his soda and waiting for her to finish up.
Gideon gives his li’l Sturmhorse another squeeze, (reluctantly) uncurling his wings and letting the pony rise into the coldness beyond.
“If you’re really hungry, let’s go get some food.” He purrs, stretching his hindlegs out like a cat. “Want me to make it?”
He’s an atrocious cook, but the offer stands.
"It’s okay, I’ll handle the cooking." he says, kissing the griffon’s beak and rolling off the bed.
"But you can grab some meat for me to cook, if you want." he adds, tugging on some of the sheets to re-arrange them on the bed. He’ll have to go wake up Copper soon, but it’s the weekend and the lil’ guy can sleep in until breakfast is ready.
"Do you want pancakes and stuff?"
Before meeting Gideon he’d probably scramble up some eggs. He knows better than to even suggest that to the big griffon though.
The colourful bird pony tearing into the seeds is an understatement. She was like a black hole with teeth, snapping up every last delectable delight with great gusto.
It takes her a moment to resume her gaze upon the mysterious, masked pony; her eyes instantly flicking from one lens to the other again, albeit less nervously. Her tail feathers quiver in the breeze as she manages to - almost - hold herself still. Almost.
“Me?” She muses, smiling politely. “Well, I don’t remember where abouts I was born.. But I live in Whitetail woods! In a tree!”
Peep’s relative motionless comes to an end when she hits the word ‘woods’, her whole body instantly falling into the bobbing, ducking, dancelike motions that come naturally to the everhyper birdpone. Her eyes don’t leave his lenses, though.
“Why do you have a little pony in your mask thingies, Sturm?” She asks politely, chirping a little. “They look a little like me! Only smaller! And I’m out here and they’re in there!”
"Those are reflections." he says, trying not to laugh at her.
"It’s like a picture of you but in real-time on certain surfaces." he explains, not sure if it’s really getting through. He figures she has the mentality of a foal, or somewhere around there, but the cross-species gap makes getting a handle on her difficult.
"So, what do you do?’ he asks, scooting a bit closer. "I mean, for a living?"
The griffon holds him tight, smiling as if he’d just won the national horse lottery.
His tail ceases its playful tugging, the mood relaxing into a warm, loving atmosphere. You can almost HEAR some romantic music in the background. Almost.
‘And I love you.’ Gideon wants to say. He really does. But he’s a big tough griffon, and big tough griffons are too tough for love! Grr! Tough! He settles for another bout of purring, the vibrations rolling off his chest and, hopefully, soothing the pony atop him. Or, at the very best, amusing him. “It’s nice…”
Sturm smiles and squirms around in the griffembrace, nearly falling back to sleep as he whinnies softly into the feathers around him.
"We should go get the breakfast though." he says, nuzzling Gideon’s chest again before rolling to the side, against some his wings. His stomach rumbles just a bit, adding emphasis.
"Or we could just go back to sleep for a while?"
He’s okay with either, but he is a hungry horsey.
The pale-blue-and-pink pegabird’s eyes zero in onto the seeds (SEEDS, OH MY GOD SEEDS) in the stallion’s hoof, widening slightly in delight. Her head-crests poof straight up to full height, because anypony with seeds is obviously great! Especially if they’re offering seeds to her! Did she ever mention how much she LOVES seeds? She really does!
Her head bobs in, and back, hesitating because there’s something she’s forgot…
Oh! Of course! She trills in excitement, finding her words. “Yes! Oh, yes! I love seeds!” With her wings a-flappin’ and her mouth a-grinnin’, Peep pecks her muzzle against the veteran’s treat, unfortunately not breaking the packet around the seedy goodness.
“Oh! U-um, thank you, Sturm!” She adds, mouth millimetres away from his hoof.
"No problem." he says, chuckling softly.
Sturm just keeps smiling behind his mask, hoofing the packet over to her to tear into and consume at her leisure.
He eyes her curiously the whole time, blinking at the way she expresses herself with her body, trying to figure out where colorful horse stars and colorful bird ends, deciding that he probably won’t be able to work it out and shrugging to himself. He’d have to ask her a lot of questions soon, but he didn’t want her to feel like she was being interrogated.
That’d come later, if something seemed off, but she was nice enough for him to think it was all on the level.
"So, Peep, where do you come from?" he asks her, rubbing at the seam between his face and his mask.
Peep settles down too, plunking her rump down with a thunk. Her eyes continue to flick between Sturm’s lenses, trying to decide which one to focus on, and why there’s a pony that looks like her inside them.
“Oh!” She starts, realising she’d just been staring for a good two minutes. “No, I just flew here on a whim. I-i guess.” The pegabird tries not to let her nerves show, but it’s a lost cause.
Sturm just stays still, trying not to laugh as the strange little birdypony stares into his eyes. He figures she’s pretty gosh darn adorable, and it’s all he can do not to hug her and ruffle her feathers up.
"Hey, don’t be scared." he says, snorting when she pulls back away. She looks on edge but there isn’t much he can do unless he…
Wait, there it was, he thought smiling as he reached into his saddlebags (slowly) and pulled out a small packet of seeds he’d had. They were sunflower, picked up along with a few other types for a garden he’d been thinking of setting up for his foal to work on, but he figured that Copper would understand the sacrifice of one packet if it meant gaining a new friend.
"Are you hungry at all? I saw you pecking at the ground earlier, I figured you were looking for worms or seeds or maybe a sandwich…"
The griffon tries to use his own hindlegs to hold Sturm’s rear still, grinning as they playfully scuffle, his tail’s prehensiveness making a mockery of Sturm’s, wrapping the pony tail up with the rattler-like griffon one, and tugging it gently.
“I think we can stay like this a little longer~.” Gideon’s teasing is only bolstered by his wings, pushing down over Sturm and engulfing him in fluffy feathers, forcing him to cuddle closer to the griffon, or get a muzzle-full of plumage.
Sturm blushes, his hind legs kicking back as his tail rises up and snaps around, no match at all for the delightfully serpentine tail controlling it’s movements.
He practically sinks into Gideon’s chest, the warmth and softness and feeling of protection wrapping him up completely.
"I love this…" he murmurs, his voice muffled by griffstuff.
“Mmn..” Gideon mmns, Sturm playing with his feathers like a relaxing massage. “Pancakes might be nice. If it’s no bother.”
He lets the nest comment slide without even a smirk, because that’s a thing /he/ does. I guess. “I was planning on going out and grabbing something proper to share. A deer or something.”
Silly Gideon! Ponies don’t eat deer. He forgets sometimes.
It’s because he sometimes forgets Sturm’s a measly pony, being as Sturm is the bestest thing in his life and all.
His tail flicks up onto Sturm’s back, tracing little circles and gently tickling the pony.
"Well I don’t know about deer…" Sturm says, shrugging and then giggling as he feels the tail sneak up on him.
Thoughts of eating other creatures vanish as he squirms in Gideon’s grasp, making no real attempt of breaking out of it and mostly just batting his tail around in play.
"Once you’re ready to get up I’ll get everything ready and make a big breakfast." he whispers, his rump wiggling evasively in the air.
The big, cuddly griffon’s purring only intensifies as Sturm says what they were both thinking, his wings still protectively wrapped around his pony. Frantic isn’t quite the word for Gideon’s current lifestyle. One could almost describe it as stressful, if it wasn’t for the pegasus that’s there at the end of the day, for cuddles, kisses, and everything else.
Gideon sighs happily, closing his eyes and giving his pony a little squeeze. “You’re the greatest, Sturm.”
“Oh hush…” Sturm whispers, his tail flicking back and forth behind him in happiness as he starts to nibble on some feathers that found their way in his mouth, half-pruning them but mostly just playing around with the plumage He secretly wishes he had feathers that nice.
“What did you want to get for breakfast? Not now, but when we do finally roll out of the nest.” he asks, sneaking in a bird reference because that’s a thing he does I guess.
“I could make pancakes.”
Sturm opens his eyes slowly, his dreams of frollicking through green fields and eating grass from the gentle rolling hills with his horsefriends fading as he comes to. It’s cold that morning but he doesn’t notice.
The grey pegapone letting out a low whinny of happiness instead of a shiver, the warmth coming from the fluff and feathers that surround him most every night enough to keep him happy and snug. He nuzzles at the griffchest beneath him, his hind and forelegs stretching out and then wrapping back around his lover in a sleepy embrace.
“You awake?” he asks, stifling a yawn and just enjoying being with the griffon.
Gideon purrs as he feels the weight on his body shift slightly, flicking open an eye and hugging the warm little pony closer to him contentedly.
“I am now.” He answers, in that special tone of voice he reserves for his little birdy, less gruff than the griff’s usual articulate. “Sleep well?”
His fluffy chest rises and falls with his relaxed breathing, and Sturm could probably hear his heartbeat in the moments of silence. “It’s a little earlier than your usual wake up time.” Griffons have an odd way of being able to tell the time without seeing a clock. Probably a bird thing. “Want me to get you some breakfast?”
Gideon is reluctant to move, preferring to stay cuddling for a while. He hopes Sturm will pick it up without him saying anything.
The pony nods slowly, still not moving much but wiggling a little bit on top of the griffbutt to get into the perfect morning-snuggle position (comfort is key!).
"Maybe later. We’ve got some more time, let’s just…" he starts to say, trailing off and nuzzling the griffon’s chest again.
"Let’s just stay like this for a little while."
The pony really does enjoy spending alone time with Gideon, especially when they can both be totally freakin’ adorable with no interruptions. He can tell they both need it, given how frantic life in Canterlot had been for them.
The cyan pony flinches, covering her head with her hooves.
After his kindness registers, however, one hoof slowly lowers. “You’re not trying to kill me?”
Her other one drops too, when the stallion doesn’t leap forwards with a knife and gut her. “I-I’m good. How’re you?”
"Kill you? Why would I try to kill you?" he asks, knowing full well why she thought that. He knew what his mask and clothing did to ponies. And bird-ponies.
"I’m pretty good, I guess. I haven’t seen you around here before. Did you move into the neighborhood recently or something?" he presses, sitting down in front of her.