Mira’s skin was burning, heated and aching. Her breath came in staccato bursts as her feet pounded across the sandy rock. She could feel the Dragon hot on her trail, wings beating the air with a purpose. It wanted to kill her. Why, she wasn’t sure. But she knew that the beast was dangerous and deadly, could easily rip her head off or rend its claws through her flesh. It dove, talons outstretched. But she ducked down between a few rocks at the last second and the Dragon merely smashed its heavy body into the stone. An angry roar escaped its maw and it scrambled for purchase on the slippery surface. Gleaming claws scraped at the entrance to her little hideaway, trying in vain to reach her.
She could hear its heavy breathing. In her mind’s eye she could see tongues of flame escaping its nostrils as it prepared to roast her alive. Mira wrapped her arms around her head and her mouth opened in a silent scream, trying to bury her face between her knees and praying that the beast would simply give up and leave her alone. It let out a few more anguished cries, inhuman and furious. The sounds of scales scraping against stone rang out loudly and made her want to claw at her ears. The beating of wings, smashing against heavy walls. There was one last mighty roar, like that of a wounded creature, then it fell silent. All she could hear was the rushing waves upon the shore, the gentle chirping of crickets in the night. Mira opened her eyes to see embers trailing down in the wind. A few fell into the crevice where she hid and drifted down in front of her, landing on the backs of her hands.
They didn’t hurt. She lifted her head to see thousands of them, already fading away and being swept up by the wind. She reached up and hoisted herself out of the hole. The Dragon was gone. Her gaze flitted over the scenery quickly, trying to find… There!
Arman lay on the ground, unconscious. She ran over to him and fell to her knees, rolling him over so that he was on his back. He was hot to the touch; feverish. Like he was burning from the inside out. It had never been this bad before. What was wrong with him? His mouth was twisted in a grimace and he groaned under his breath, painful gasps escaping his throat.
“Arman!” She yelled, pressing her hands to his bare chest. Her fingers couldn’t seem to stay in one place, tracing up and down his physique and trying to find some way to calm him. At her touch another loud gasp escaped him and he finally opened his eyes. They were bright, like burning coals in a fire. His gaze was unfocused, looking past her shoulder. Like he was still not quite aware of where he was. “Arman, you’re awake. The Dragon is gone now. We’re safe.” As soon as she finished his eyes sharpened and focused on her.
“No.” He growled, sitting up and grabbing her shoulders. She squeaked in alarm as he leaned over her. “You will never be safe from him. He will find you, find us. I can’t stop him. You don’t understand, I--” His brows were furrowed, lips thin and angry. He had pushed Mira to the ground and loomed over her, hands still on her shoulders like vices. “I--” In an instant the angry look faded, his grip loosened. Mira’s chest rose and fell with her harsh breathing, lips parted. Arman’s eyes calmed, familiar brown overtaking what once was burnished gold. “Mira…” The moonlight shone on him, casting his skin with a brilliant sheen of silver.
“Arman…” She relaxed in his grip, tenseness flowing out of her like water from the mouth of a stream. A shaking hand rose up to cup his cheek and he hissed at the touch. He looked like he wanted to pull away, but instead he brought his hand up from her shoulder to hold her there. His fingers entwined with her own and his eyes fluttered shut at the touch. Arman tilted his head into the palm of her hand and nuzzled into it, lowering himself down closer to her. “The Dragon isn’t here right now, Arman. It’s just you and me.” He let out a heavy sigh, head dropping against her shoulder. She could feel his mouth parting around silent words, murmuring unknown phrases against her skin. “What are you saying?” She asked. He only shook his head in reply, leaning back to catch her gaze once more.
He was very close to her. Their noses were almost touching. Her eyes fluttered shut, she tilted her head up, trying to--
This, however, was the first night that Arman had made an appearance. She didn’t really know what to make of that. But she most definitely did know exactly what this feeling deep in her chest was whenever she thought of him. Stupid, girlish feelings that she thought she’d grown out of. He had been so… Sweet. In her dream. Dark hair over darker eyes, strong body leaning over her. Caging her in. Mira bit her lower lip and clutched the blanket tighter to her chest at that last thought. She could feel her cheeks heating up when the very last event of the dream played through her mind.
Maybe… If she went back to sleep then she could finish it…
“I don’t ever have dreams. What are dreams usually about?” He watched her brow furrow in thought, eyes still sleepy and unfocused. Like she wasn’t fully awake.
“Well…” She started, twisting the fabric of her nightgown in her hands. “Sometimes it’s something I’m scared of,” Mira trailed off, voice fading, “sometimes it’s something I long for.” Her eyes darted around the room when she responded, trying to look at anything but him. Like she was scared of him. Arman couldn’t help the little twist in his chest at the thought that she was afraid of him. Even though she had every reason to be. “I’m really scared of the Dragon, Arman.” Her voice wavered and shook, like she was on the brink of tears. He wanted nothing more than to pull her to his chest and run his fingers through her hair. Even though that was impossible. Words ran through his mind at the confession of fear; for the longest time he had only seen her with a happy smile upon her lips. This quivering and shaking girl was a far cry from the Mira he knew and lo--
“The Dragon will never harm you, Mira. Ever. I promise.” He had to reassure her. He had to make her feel safe. Control was coming easier to him with each passing day, and he would be damned if he would lose it now. He reached into the waistband of his pants and pulled out the little wooden instrument that she had gifted him earlier, fingers running across the smooth surface. “A new man was born today, remember? Because of you.” A soft smile crossed his lips, and Mira’s face calmed. “And he needs you.” Mira’s breathing had settled by now, and Arman could tell that she was probably still exhausted. With every moment he spent there, at the foot of her bed, the more he didn’t want to leave.
But he knew that he had to go now. Else he may not have the strength to go back to his own den. So he merely ran his fingers over the soft covers, inches away from her clasped hands. As close as he could stand without touching her. He stood from his crouched position and turned to walk away, satisfied that she was no longer troubled by her dream. He gripped the ocarina tight in his fist in order to ground himself as he moved away from her.
“Good night, Arman.”
“What?” He turned to face her just as he was about to turn the corner. The strap of her nightgown was slipping down her shoulder, pale skin gleaming in the soft moonlight. Her lips parted in a smile as she explained:
“That means goodbye for the night.” It was getting harder and harder to leave with every second. But he was able to tear his gaze away from her joyous face and walk away, starting the long trek down to where he slept. He turned over the ocarina in his hands as he carefully descended the makeshift steps, staring at it and trying to reign in his wandering thoughts. Mira looked so happy, so sweet and calm. He wanted to see her like that all of the time; he couldn’t bear to look upon her fearful face, knowing that he was the cause of her terror.
He made it back down to his den and lifted the curtain, falling in his new bed with a sigh. He brought the instrument to his lips and began playing, letting his breath sing the soft tune. Fingers dancing across the holes to control the sound. It calmed his racing heart and he could feel his eyelids becoming heavy. What a useful gift she gave him. He would have to find a way to repay her.
“Good night, Mira.”
He nearly jumped in surprise when the soft palm of her hand brushed across his shoulder. A short cry escaped his throat and he scrambled to roll over to face her, ready to scold her for touching him. She knew what that meant, knew how dangerous it was, knew he couldn’t stop when--
His heart stopped in his chest at the sight of her. Her hair was brushed back out of her face; a far cry from what she looked like earlier. The fabric of her nightgown shimmered and rippled under the light of the moon, almost translucent. Now he knew why she had clutched the blanket so tightly to her chest when he went to check on her. The expression on her face was different now, not twisted in fear or shining with happiness. No. He had never seen this look on her ever before; he didn’t know how to explain it. “Mira?”
She said nothing, only moved closer to him even as he crawled backwards away from her. Eventually his back hit the stone wall and he pressed himself against it as she moved closer still. “Mira, what’s wrong? Why are you--?” Her hand reached out and touched the side of his neck. Arman gasped and attempted to shy away. “You know that’s dangerous, Mira! You know what’ll happen if you touch me!”
“I don’t care.” She said. Her voice was low and rough, like nothing he’d ever heard before from her. “I don’t care anymore and neither should you.” Her hand once again reached to run up and down the side of his neck, trailing down to trace circles on his chest. His heart pounded under her fingers, so loudly that he could hear the blood rushing in his ears. His fingers clenched and his nails dug into the rough stone behind him, in an attempt to keep himself from shooting forwards and grabbing her.
“But… The Dragon--”
“I don’t see him anywhere…” Mira looked from side to side, lip curling into a small smirk. “Do you?” She asked, pressing herself closer again. Arman could feel the fire racing through his veins, the roaring in his head. Could feel the deep rumbling in his chest. “You’re supposed to be living like a human, Arman.” Her words cut through the angry fog of his mind. “How can you do that if you can’t control the monster? He has no place here. No place with me. No place with you. Send him away.” Her nose brushed against his now, gentle words pouring from rose petal lips. “You’re stronger than him, correct? Prove it.”
Her lips pressed to his and he wondered why he was ever afraid of the possibility of her touch. Arman’s hands immediately shot up to grasp at her shoulders, fingers roaming soft skin. The back of her neck, exposed from when she hacked off her braid in uneven lengths. Her cheeks, reddened like the tips of her ears. The silky smoothness of her nightgown, straps slipping off her shoulders with fabric bunching up around her waist. She was perfect, beautiful. Arman’s lips parted with a sigh and she smiled against him, deepening the kiss and pressing him further into the wall. Her clever fingers danced across his heated skin leaving trails of fire in their wake. He couldn’t explain the feeling that washed across him with every touch, only that she didn't seem keen on stopping any time soon.
His hands finally made their way back to her shoulders and he pushed her down, falling on top of her as he laid her out across the plush carpet. She fell back with a mischievous giggle and her fingers continued their journey, this time mapping out the planes of muscle across his back. It was maddening. He didn’t know what she was doing, why this was even happening at all. He was dangerous; she shouldn’t be touching him at all. It was too risky. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to stop her. Acute senses became blurred and murky. Coherent thoughts left him with nothing more than abstract feelings. The gentle songs of breath; soft whispers of fabric against skin. A little giggle escaping pink lips followed by a low moan. Hands in his hair, tugging and pulling. The strain of movement. He didn’t know what she was doing to him, only that he never wanted to stop. He just wanted to exist in this moment with Mira, never leaving the safe haven that they had created.
He stumbled to his feet and ran out of his little den on unsteady feet. Fire racing through his veins too quickly to hold back. Nothing he can do but wait it out and hope that Mira doesn’t see. He ran to the large crevice in the wall, familiar and terrible. Shoved himself inside and waited for the change to come. Waited. Waited. The feeling was still rushing through him, stronger than ever before. But nothing else came with it. He looked down at himself, trying to see the tracings of flames shining through the skin. Nothing. He doubled over and wrapped his arms around his legs, burying his head into his knees. It had to be whatever it was he had dreamed about. When Mira told him about dreams he thought that they must be exhausting, never experiencing the blissful darkness of a dreamless sleep. And he was right. He felt awful now, like something had crawled inside of him and was refusing to go away. What had caused it? Why had he dreamt that night after he comforted her? Why had he dreamt something like that? Questions ran through his mind, none of which he had the answer to.
When the moment had finally passed and he could breathe normally again, the sun had risen up above the sea and was hanging heavy in the sky. Mira was probably awake by now. Arman sucked in a few deep breaths and uncurled from the ball he had made himself into. He didn’t understand. It had felt like… It had felt like the Dragon. But different somehow. Not quite as angry and painful.
“Arman!” He could hear Mira calling out. “Where are you? Don’t you want breakfast?” A long sigh escaped him as he heard her cheery voice ringing out across the island.
Yes. Breakfast would be nice.