Tim plunked himself down beside Fal, wincing as his tail bone came into sharp contact with the hard stone of the cave floor. Hands braced on either side of his hips, he eased his position and looked at the still form of his Guardian. He saw mostly dark curves outlined against the lighter walls of the cave. “Fal?“ Tim knew he would get no reply, but still he hoped this day might be different from all the days before. He pulled his worn jacket close about a slender torso. The sleeves were short on him now, not quite reaching his wrists. Back when it belonged to his older brother, the sleeves reached down below Tim’s fingertips. That time seemed long ago, and his mind shied away from thoughts of his mocking older brother.
A single morning flyer sounded a strident call, carried on an errant breeze which snuck into the cave. The leaves on the trees near the cave mouth, waved and fluttered, their movement creating a shushing sound as if remonstrating the flyer and its harsh noise.
Tim felt his belly growl. He knew he should get up and attend to a meal. Still he sat beside Fal, staring at his Guardian lying curled, silent, eyes closed, long, darkly ridged tail curving about him, narrow jaw resting upon his scaled forelegs.
Just then, the sun dared a single streak of light through the mouth of the cave, shining across Fal’s shoulder and over his back and spinal ridges. Where it illuminated, Fal’s scales sparkled emerald green, shading to deepest cobalt blue. The rest of him looked black in the shadows of the cave.
Gone was the fearsome beast so many knew as the Fallen. In its place was this stunningly beautiful creature, so unmoving it might have been carved from purest crystal. Even Fal’s smell had changed, mused Tim. He inhaled the almost floral, spicy scent that exuded from Fal’s warm sides and thought how different that was from the combined odor of spice and rotted meat that accompanied Fal in the past. Tim preferred this new scent, though he’d take the other if only Fal would wake up.
Tim sighed with longing. He watched the gradual movement of sunlight sparkling across Fal’s back and felt admiration, no, adoration, a feeling that welled up within him. He loved Fal with all his heart, though he didn’t know why. Fal had not been kind to him. Worse, Fal had convinced him to do bad things. And worst of all, Tim had no idea how to bring Fal back from wherever he had gone. The thought twisted his gut painfully.
Knowing it would not wake Fal, Tim leaned forward from where he sat, resting his forehead against Fal’s. He would never have attempted this were Fal awake, but now, what difference did it make? The contact was comforting to Tim and he allowed himself this small familiarity, leaning close and resting his hands on the dusty cave floor.
Tim closed his eyes, breathing deeply, his nostrils filling with Fal’s warm, sharp scent, and he rested. He heard the slow, whooshing of air, in and out, and felt Fal’s hot breath warming his stomach where he leaned over his Guardian’s muzzle. Tim hadn’t intended to stay long like that, but instead of a brief contact before getting up to make his meal, he fell into a deep sleep.
Tim was frightened when his eyes opened to what seemed an infinite void of blackness. Then he realized he was surrounded by points of colored light. He looked deeper and saw that pearly strands of white formed a web connecting the flickering, dancing lights. Close to him was a beautiful, dark blue pulsing light that bounced slowly up and down.
Tim knew, and had no idea how he knew, that this was his Guardian, Fal. His heart almost exploded within him at the thought, except that when he looked down, he realized that he too was just light, a sparkling aqua blue. His light pulsed, looking like a tiny, blue sun. He felt as though he might burst with joy as love flooded out of him and surrounded his Guardian with iridescent rainbow rays. Fal’s light pulse brighter and brighter still. Tim felt warmth and happiness radiate from his Guardian, as Fal’s light danced up and down before him.
Suddenly, Tim felt himself surrounded and filled with energy that pulsed with love, appreciation and gratitude such as he had never known. He was astounded to realize that Fal loved him, loved him deeply. Surely Tim’s heart would explode now. It was all he had ever wanted. Tim felt whole and complete and he wanted to stay there forever.
He felt a gentle push upon his forehead and Tim opened physical eyes on a physical world. Disappointed and awkward with it, he pushed himself up and back, away from Fal. Fal’s enormous golden eyes were open and staring right at him. But instead of the cold rebuff he might have expected, Fal looked at him softly, eyelids closed just slightly, relaxed and accepting. Tim saw love in those eyes, that tingled upward through his body, from his toes, expanding through his chest and right out the top of his head. Gradually, Tim felt replete with that love, so nourishing it filled his heart and belly too. He felt as though he was filled completely and might never need to eat again.
Then the odd thought came, as they will, and he realized that if he never ate again, he’d miss his porridge too much. This struck him as terribly funny. Maybe it was the strain of the weeks of not knowing. Maybe it was the joy of finding Fal again. Maybe it was the amazing discovery that Fal loved him. Whatever it was, he started chuckling. The joy and love he felt inside bubbled up within him and he laughed out loud. A guffawing belly laugh that carried him forward as without thought he threw his arms about Fal’s neck and laughed until he cried, tears streaming down his cheeks to drip over Fal’s neck as it curved about him in a Guardian’s hug.
He started to sob then. He couldn’t help it. Great wracking sobs consumed him. He cried for himself and the things he had done, the hatred he had carried in his heart. He cried for Fal, the pain and regret he felt within him. He cried for the pain that together they had caused others. Then he was crying for the relief of forgiveness and found love. It all poured out of him, and all the while Fal held him.
Gradually the sobs gave way to great shuddering breaths. As those finally calmed, Tim swiped at his cheeks, pushing himself back. He took in a tremulous breath and looked at Fal incredulously.
His Guardian gazed back at him, golden eyes warm, huge scaled body still, brow ridges laid back against his skull in relaxation.
“Fal.” It was all Tim could give voice to, yet that single utterance carried everything that overflowed from his heart, as his watery eyes beheld his Guardian before him.
He breathed steadily for several moments, watching Fal shift one powerful foreleg and then another, claws scraping the cave floor, levering himself up to a sitting position before Tim.
“You’re back,” said Tim in wonder. His head tilted slightly and his eyes crinkled with the smile that curved his lips. “You’re back,” and relief poured through him, the sensation bubbling and tickling through his body. The feeling of it made Tim giggle boyishly, until he remembered himself and chortled in what he thought of as a manly guffaw. Then he released all inhibition and threw himself upward at Fal, arms attempting to snug about his Guardian’s neck, but succeeding only in reaching up to his shoulders.
In the eternity of that precious moment, Fal curved his long neck into a hug about his boy’s side and back, holding on to his life line.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41
Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44 Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48
Chapter 49 Chapter 50
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