I opened my eyes, but imediatelly squeezed them shut when the still intense sunlight burned them. I opened them again, this time slowly, giving them time to adjust. When that was done, I got up, yawned, stretched, being careful not to strain my still healing wounds, and cracked my joints, releasing a satisfied growl each time I felt a pop. Suddenly I remembered I had... 'Breathed fire!'. I turned to Kerian.
<Kerian I br...> but she wasn't there. I cocked my head. 'Strange.' I looked around the area but I couldn't see her anywhere. I tried to catch her scent. With some relief, I picked up a faint whiff. I followed the trail for some time, until I found her in a clearing. She apparently didn't like sleeping on dirt, for she was bathing herself with her tongue. I allowed myself a moment to admire her form. Her scales seemed to sparkle where she had already cleaned herself. She was licking her left side, which was visible from where I was standing, the dirt leaving her scales with each tongue movement. I considered revealing myself, but stopped myself just in time. It was rude enough to watch a lady, even as a dragon, bathing herself. Barging in, interrupting her, would be more than a little embarassing. My eyes left her and I returned to the clearing where I had slept on. As I laid down, a thought crossed my mind. 'I must be dirty too.' After all, I had slept on the ground too. I looked myself over and realized I was indeed dirty. There were smudges of earth that clung to my scales, specially on my underside. After a brief moment of thought, I started licking myself, but imediatelly stopped. 'If I clean one side while laying on the other, I'm wasting my time.' I got up and searched for grass. I found some quickly, and so I laid down. I started licking the base of my neck, where it connected to my chest. It was somewhat difficult to lick that spot, as I had to bend myself into almost painful angles in order to reach it. It soon became easier as I moved further down.
As my tongue neared the base of my stomach and the beggining of my tail, I felt a strange pattern on my scales. Puzzled, I applied pressure on that spot. It gave way a bit. I started licking it. It felt good. I continued, until I felt something poke my tongue. I cocked my head in confusion. I withdrew my tongue and I saw something open and a pinkish-red... thing surfacing. As it grew and it became more visible I realized what it was... and that made me blush. 'My dragonhood.' I stared at it for a long time, until it began retreating. I considered keeping it outside, but thought better of it. If Kerian appeared now, it'd be very embarassing. 'Speaking of her...' I searched for her scent and then sighed in relief. She was still a fair distance away. I let my member disappear inside my body and started licking my tail, careful to avoid that odd patch of scales.
After a few minutes of grooming, I was finally clean... and shiny. My scales had a pleasant lustre to them. I quickly found myself staring at them, mesmerized. I quickly snapped out of it as I heard a rustling of bushes. 'It must be Kerian.' As I looked towards the general direction of the sound I saw it was indeed her. Her scales were shiny too, maybe even more so than mine, catching my eye again. 'I didn't know dragons were so vain... even us males...' I thought.
<I see you woke up.> She said. An awkward silence followed. Just then, I remembered...
<Ibreathedfire!> I blurted. She cocked her head.
<Sorry. I breathed fire!> I squeaked in joy. Her eyes widened.
<Do you remember when the fox struck you?> She growled a yes. <I got thrown off its back afterwards. I landed a few meters away. It took a while for me to get up, and when I did, the fox was already on you. I took off running anyway, but I wasn't close enough. So I guess instinct kicked in and the next thing I know I'm breathing fire.> She just stared at me for a few moments. <I guess I saved your life too.>
<That explains a lot.> She paused. <Can you do it again?>
<I'll try.> I took a deep breath, trying to breathe through my flamethower-lung, but I couldn't. I tried again, with the same results. I searched my whole body but I didn't find the odd organ. <I can't.> I released the breath I was holding. <I guess my instinct knows more than I do.>
<Let me try.> She breathed in and then out, but nothing but a small gust of wind came out. She repeated the process, arching her neck this time. The sound of the air rushing in was strange. I paid it no mind, until I heard a click. The click.
'Could it be?' I thought. A fraction of a second later, she breathed out, and with that came a stream of fire. It soon ended, but the deed was done. Her eyes bulged out, and so did mine. Fortunately, she wasn't directly facing me, and so I wasn't burned, but it still scared me a bit.
<How?> I asked, astonished. She took a while to answer.
<Do it like this...> She arched her neck like before. I did likewise and took a deep breath, and immediately something was revealed to me. Something that wasn't there before. Or was it? I felt the air go through the alien... thing, which I could now identify as my other lung and then, as I breathed out, I heard the click. I braced myself for a torrent of flame, but I was surprised when nothing but air came out. I blinked, confused. I did it again, making sure I had everything right but, again, no fire.
<What?...> I searched my library on draconology, attempting to find an answer for this riddle. After a few seconds I found it and I realized it was painfully simple and obvious: My supply isn't unlimited. A hatchling's fuel tank is smaller than that of an adult.
<I ran out of gas.> I said. She cocked her head but laughed a moment later. Suddenly, I heard a rustling of leaves. I immediately tensed, whipping my head to our left. A growl insisted on making its way out of my throat, despite my efforts to stop it. I took a look at my scent map. I found a large living mass in front of us. Further examination proved it to be a human. 'Oh no.' I thought. I slowly backed away. Kerian looked at me. <Human.> That was all I said. She didn't need any more encouragement. She went with me. I dared to take a quick look behind us. There was thick brush and a small tree. The human revealed himself to be a man. He was crouching, as if trying not to scare us. 'He thinks we're not intelligent.'
"Don't run away. I won't hurt you." Right... "Come on."
I took a quick look behind us. <Kerian.> I called, not looking at her. I didn't wait for her answer. <There's bush behind us. I don't want to take any chances.> She growled an affirmative. Without taking our eyes off the man, we slowly retreated into the... thicket, at least by our standards. When we were a fair distance away, I poked her with a growl and told her to run. And so we did. We ran for a few moments, just to put some distance between us and the biped. We stopped and I tasted the air, sighing in relief. There was no one else nearby. Wait, no one? I looked around me and realized, alarmed, Kerian wasn't with me. <Oh no no no.> I quickly took off to the opposite direction, desperately trying to find her scent, without success. <No!> I squeaked, but I didn't give up. I kept going, looking into every nook and cranny, which was easy, considering I could use my tongue. After a few minutes, I decided to take a more direct, although riskier approach. I squealed as loud as I could, then strained my ears to their maximum. For a few agonizing seconds, there was silence. Then, to my relief and joy, I heard a faint cry. I quickly darted to that direction. I tasted the air and caught her scent. I accelerated. After a few moments, I saw green and the next thing I know I'm on the ground, with a strong pain on my head, dazed. I groaned and shook the stars and the blur out of my eyes, with little success. I managed to see Kerian in front of me, in pretty much the same state.
<What happened?> She asked. I took a few moments to answer.
<I think... we crashed onto one another.> My vision started to return to normal. She shook her head and looked at me.
<I had lost your track, so I searched for you.>
<I thought you were hurt.> 'Aww...'
<Sorry to have worried you. But you shouldn't have disappeared like that!>
<What? It was you who disappeared!> I cocked my head. Looks like there was a misunderstanding here.
<I had told you to run.>
<When did you say that?>
<Before we ran from the man.>
<I didn't hear anything. You just sprinted off like there was no tomorrow.> I sighed. <I tried to keep up, but eventually I lost you. A few minutes later, I heard your cry and I thought the man had caught you... or worse.>
<I thought the same from you.> She snorted.
<And why would you think that?>
<Because you weren't near me when we ran from the man.>
<You didn't warn me.>
<Yes I did.> She growled in frustration.
<Fine. It seems none of us will concede, let's just assume we were both at fault.> I was about to argue, but thought better of it. We would most likely reach the same conclusion. I looked at the sky. The sun was low on the horizon. It was going to set soon. It was still warm, though. I decided to brood over the most recent events. I retraced everything from when I was transformed into a dragon hatchling in my sleep, to when I found Kerian. 'The odds of finding someone as crazy about dragons as me, in the same area as me, weren't very far from astronomical.' Which brought up a question. 'Does she really love dragons as much as I do?' There was only one way to know. But I was hesitant. Asking someone about their personal life only one day after meeting them was a bit inapropriate. But I had to know. I had to know if she was as willing to become a dragon as I was. I looked at her, trying to muster my courage, without success. 'I'll have to ask later.' That didn't seem too comforting. What if she was here against her own will? Running from those who once cared for her, because they didn't recognize her? What if she wanted to be with her family, as a human, enjoying their company? I made up my mind. 'I'll ask her once, if she doesn't want ot talk about it, I'll drop it.'
<Kerian?> Her head was laying on her legs. She looked at me. <Do you...> I struggled to find words. <Do you like being a dragon? I mean, do you miss your family?> She didn't take long to answer.
<Of course I miss my family.> She said, a bit forcefully. I flinched slightly. I didn't understand why did she answer like that. I didn't miss my family. Well... I might miss my mother a bit, but not my father. I would never miss him, not even if he suddenly became nice to me, which he wouldn't. Ever. I hated him to the point of death. I wish he- Before my thoughts went to far, I mentally slapped myself and got back on topic. I guess her family is different from mine. <Don't you?> I hesitated.
<Well... I miss my mother a bit... and my cousin on my mother's side... No one else.>
<You must have a horrible family.>
<Yes.> I lied. The family wasn't the only problem. I had Asperger Syndrome, so I wasn't very social. My father only made things worse. The problem was I didn't have the courage to tell her that. <But you haven't answered my other question.>
<I do like being a dragon, it's wonderful. I like you...> I brightened up after hearing that. No one had ever said that to me before. <... and I don't want all of this to go away but...> I knew what was coming. <...I also miss being with my parents... I wonder if I will ever see them again... I don't know what to think.> I understood her.
<I understand.> I nuzzled her. She looked almost surprised, but she returned it. We locked eyes for a few moments. I soon became entranced looking at them. I never was a big fan of green, but I just couldn't resist her eyes. 'I wonder if...' Burning from embarassment, I quickly tore my gaze off her and looked at the sky. It was dark, but still warm enough, although the temperature would drop soon. <We have to find the cave.> I said, quickly changing the unspoken subject.
We wandered for some time, trying to find the large burrow. We found it eventually, and settled in for the night.
"...I like you..." Those words kept ringing on my head. They had a strange effect on me. What could it be?
I kept brooding over that for some time, until I finally fell asleep, though I wasn't really exhausted.
As the days went by, and as they turned into weeks, and then into months, I felt myself growing increasingly protective and emotionally attached to Kerian. The awkwardness from the first days soon disappeared, and now every day, when we woke up and before sleep, we nuzzled our 'good mornings' and 'good nights', without any hint of embarassment. We began spending more time together, and we even started playing. There weren't a lot of games we could play, for we were just doing what our instincts told us, but they were always fun. There was mock-fighting, which for some strange reason, she almost always won, although it was my favorite. It was basically wrestling adapted to dragons. I won when I managed to pin my opponent to the ground and perform a deathlock, which consisted on biting them on a vital spot, usually the neck, without letting it go. The match ended when the victim surrendered from not being able to break free. It wasn't dangerous, we were careful with our claws and teeth, but sometimes, inevitably, accidents happened, though they were never serious, they were mostly light scrapes and shallow bite wounds, which healed in no time. There was also... It had a strange name, untranslatable to english. In the dragon tongue, it was something like this: growl, breathe, growl, growl, jaw clamp, growl. It was the equivalent of the human game of catch. We essentially chased each other through the woods, dodging trees and other obstacles. There hadn't been really anything else to say about this game until a few days ago, when Drulkar appeared in our dreams to check on us. He somehow guessed we had been playing and explained everything to us. I came to know the chasing game was going to get much more interesting when we gained our wings. I asked him when would that be, because I was itching to fly, but, to my disappointment he just said it would be soon. Since that day, I began exercising my wings, hoping to give them the required endurance and strength to lift me off the ground. I still couldn't fly, but I could extend my jumps using my wings. It obviously wasn't the same as flying, and I would get tired after a few leaps, but it was better than nothing. Kerian seemed to be enjoying herself too.