Thanks to Stephen, for listening. Happy birthday, Swellison!

Always With You

II.

The next time he awoke, it was dark. He had no sense of place, caught in quiet so deep it muffled breath. His chest hurt with every inhale; burned each exhale like fire from his lungs. Dragons breathed fire. Had he been dreaming of dragons? No, that wasn't quite right. A bird. Green scales flashed bright as emeralds in the strong afternoon sun. A shriek like ripping metal filled the air.

His head brimmed with pain. What was wrong with him? He should know, but he just…didn't. His earliest memory was the dream. Trees bent and snapped under wing-compressed wind. Eyes, blood red and ancient, glittered menace while a long tail sliced the sky. The enormous bird went into a dive, headed right for the hunter on the cliff. He shuddered in recollection and agony ripped through his shoulders, stealing air; suffocating thought. A groan escaped the prison of his throat, the pain unbearable. Breath stuttered.

Then a hand on his arm, warm comfort. "Hey. Hey, man. Easy, bro. You're okay. Just breathe through it. You're okay, I gotcha." Murmured reassurances from a voice that felt familiar…felt like home.

Pain-tightened muscles instinctively loosened…and he slid once more into darkness.