Chapter Two: Gentle Hands
Warmth welcomed Fluttershy like a friendly neighbor as she regained consciousness. Lifting her head from a deep crimson pillow propped up by the arm of the couch, she noticed she was laying on her right side cocooned snuggly in a thick sky blue quilt. The slight shifted of her body as she tried rolling onto her stomach jostled the sharp sear in her left pastern. The pony nosed aside the fold of blanket covering her leg, eyes widening in shock at what her curiosity had found. Half of her lower leg was wrapped tightly in gauze soaked in a mixture of blood and a brown liquid she guessed was iodine, a startled squeak leaping from her throat at the sight of it.
“Oh, good. You’re awake,” a masculine voice interrupted the silence in the room, causing the pegasus to jump a little.
Turning her head to the right where the voice had originated from, she found a dragon garbed in an apron covered in bluebirds smiling at her from his position by a red, old-fashion wood burning stove in the corner of the room.
The reptile was almost the height of two average sized ponies, his body sleek and well built. His thick neck wasn't as long as the adult dragon's she had seen--only at half the length in proportion to the rest of his body. The arms were long, strong muscles visible under his scales. His legs were also toned, slightly bent at the knees with lengthy feet planted flat on the stone floor. Orange serrated spines with the pointed tips curving back trailed from the top of his head and stopped just inches from the tip of his long tail; the three crowning his head were quite sizable compared to the rest. A pair of ear frills, slightly flared, were attached to both sides of his head. While Fluttershy couldn't make out the color of his eyes just yet, she admired how beautifully vibrant his red scales were, and how nicely they complemented his golden underbelly.
Setting the metal ladle upon the granite countertop built into the wall the left of the stove and reaching behind his back,--hands sliding under his folded wings just a little bit--, the dragon tugged at the apron's strings to untie it before hanging it up a few feet away from the stove. Turning back to the pegasus, he began walking towards her.
Fluttershy's natural fear of dragons made her nervous at the idea of being in the same room with one, but his friendly smile made him a lot less intimidating. On top of that, this must have been the creature that saved her life. The pony kept her eyes on him as he dropped down onto his knees right in front of her. She met his gaze; the dragon's sea green eyes were soft and gentle, conveying nothing but concern for her, and she felt almost every ounce of fear she had of him melt away.
"There's no need for you to worry, miss. I shall finish tending to that hoof of yours after the iodine soaks in a little longer," he assured her in a calm, comforting voice, reaching a hand to her face and giving her a couple light pats on the cheek before standing straight up again and attending to the hot chowder simmering in a silver cooking pot sitting atop the stove.
Fluttershy was fascinated by the winged reptilian, as she always was when meeting a new creature. Soon, the flapping of wings and soft cooing stole her attention from him. To her far left, in a clearing of the room stood a bare wooden table. Gathered upon it were five white doves and a fluffy brown rabbit. The feathered critters were circled around a plastic plate of assorted seeds, pecking at them hungrily. The rabbit had his own plate of chopped vegetables and pellets and was working his way through a particularly thick slice of carrot he held between his paws. At the foot of the table, a familiar baby griffon sat on its scrawny haunches, eagerly waiting for something to drop onto the floor. A wave of relief washed over the pony knowing that the griffon, too, had been saved. However, the relief was followed by concern. Hadn't the griffon been fed yet?
The loud tapping of ladle against the rim of the pot gathered the attention of both baby griffon and pegasus. Deciding that enough of the chowder had dripped back into the pot, the dragon set the ladle aside and turned around, bowl filled halfway in one hand and his eyes on the skinny child.
"All right, little lady. Chow time," the dragon announced, walking over to where the baby griffon was planted. He sat down beside her and blew into the bowl to cool the chowder before presenting it.
The griffon's trust had been bestowed upon the dragon when he had saved her from the brush with death. The scent of warm food was enticing her to come closer as well. The chick chirped at the dragon, telling him to hurry up--she couldn't take the pain of her beyond empty stomach nagging at her anymore--and opened her beak wide in anticipation of the warm food.
"Hold on now, little one. You'll get it." The dragon paused his task of cooling the chowder to chuckle at the hungry creature's impatience. "I was cooling it so you don't burn your little throat."
He tilted the bowl ever so slightly over the griffon's head, allowing the creamy chowder to pour into her awaiting mouth. Any large chunks had been mashed up in order to prevent any possibility of choking. The chick wolfed down the food, bird head bobbing every time she swallowed.
Fluttershy watched the pair with a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She was happy now that the baby griffon was in the hands of someone who clearly would take good care of her. As the chick finished off what was in the bowl, the pony felt a bubble of laughter at the sight of her, but she managed to suppress it, not wanting to interrupt them.
The griffon's face and chest were soaked with everything that had escaped her beak. Seeing that, the dragon scooped up the tiny creature in one arm and rose to his feet. His eyes met the pegasus' on his way over to a sink built into the mid-section of the counter beside the stove, and he smiled at her. The all too familiar bout of shyness threatened to overcome her, but she smiled back.
It didn't take long for him to rinse the chowder out of the griffon chick's down. As soon as he was done, the small creature shook her head to get rid of the water that soaked her baby feathers. After setting the child back down onto the floor, the dragon thoughtfully glanced Fluttershy over. Having made the decision that the iodine had soaked the pegasus' wound long enough, he disappeared into a nearby hallway.
The pony's eyes shifted back to the griffon chick as she toddled over to the room's main source of warmth, a stone fireplace several feet in front of Fluttershy. The griffon curled up between the pony's wet saddle and scarf, as well as the remaining two of her snow boots that were drying off with the help of the warmth radiating from the dancing flames.
Fluttershy took stock of her surroundings--of course, she couldn't see anything behind the couch, but it was obvious that the place was lightly furnished. No decorations were hung up on the walls, nor were there any rugs as far as she could see. It appeared as if it belonged to someone who had just moved in. The only things in her field of vision were the stove, counters and sink, a refrigerator, the table the animals were eating off of, a lamp table beside the couch on her left, an open box of books sitting beside it, and a couple of doors that lead to other rooms. Yet, the atmosphere felt welcoming and safe. Safe from the cold, cruel, and merciless desolation that was waiting outside.
After her eyes had finished roaming the room, they went back to the baby griffon. She couldn't help but think how cute she looked curled up into a ball. Just then, her vision was blocked by red and yellow scales. The winged reptile returned with a roll of fresh gauze, a bottle of iodine, and a sewing needle between his teeth. He lowered himself onto his knees again, setting the items in his hands down and taking the needle between his fingers.
"Now then, let's fix up that hoof."
The dragon brought his free fingers behind the pony's ears and ran them through her disheveled mane. The physical contact puzzled the mare, nonetheless, she allowed it. Once he removed his hand, two dead strands of her mane were entangled around his index finger. Holding the needle in front of his face, he begun carefully threading one of them. When he was done he smiled down at the mare, scooped her wrapped hoof in his free hand, and pulled it very slowly towards him before proceeding to unwrap it, being sure to be as gentle with every movement of his hands as possible.
Seeing her hoof, Fluttershy jumped again, shocked, further arousing the pain coursing through her leg, the comprehension of how badly wounded she was pressing down on her. She was used to seeing all kinds of injuries on animals, but never on herself. The gash was deep, spreading a little over an inch in length across, with the surrounding tissue inflamed, warm, and throbbing. Nausea overwhelmed and paralyzed her, but the instant she eyed the needle in the dragon's fingers, she instinctively pulled her hoof away from him, the pain in it intensifying at the action. The mare trembled in fear as she held her injured foreleg to her chest. Tearing her eyes away from the hideous laceration, she clenched them shut and whimpered.
The dragon understood the dread of having a needle pierce one's flesh repeatedly, but it had to be done. Bringing a hand to her cheek, he addressed the pony, his voice calm and patient. "Come on now, miss. I need to stitch that up or it won't get any better. I understand how scary this must be, but I promise I will not hurt you."
He tenderly stroked the pegasus' cheek, his touch warm and feathery light. Fingers slowly sliding down her cheek and curling underneath her chin, he lifted her head so their eyes could meet.
"I promise I will not hurt you," he repeated with a reassuring smile and eyes that encouraged the equine to let him help. His hand drew away from her chin and he brought it to the top of her head, smoothing it over her mane for comfort.
His touch was still as warm and comforting as before. Giving the slightest nod, Fluttershy whimpered as she hesitantly offered him the injured hoof, her eyes never leaving his. "P… p-please… b-be g-gentle…"
At that, she clenched her eyes shut, preparing for the marathon of pain.
The dragon sympathized with the pegasus, but it was to ensure she didn‘t develop a nasty infection and healed properly. Dipping the tip of the needle in the iodine, he began stitching the torn flesh back together. It was a demanding task considering how badly Fluttershy was now trembling. Thankfully being an owner of small animals himself, he was accustomed to gentle handling. Finishing with the difficult part, he wrapped her hoof in fresh gauze. Tying it off, he reached a hand over to the still trembling pony's head, petting her again in a soothing manner.
"It's all right, my dear. It's all over now," he said, running his hand over her head once more before pulling it away.
Opening her eyes, she blinked in surprise at her newly dressed wound. She had been expecting excruciating pain, but other than the dull throbbing or slight stings from the gentle tugging while the dragon stitched, she didn't really feel any pain at all. Shifting her attention back to the dragon's face, she gave him a grateful smile.
"Um… Thank you so much…um… Mr. Dragon."
"You are quite welcome, miss," he responded, twisting the cap back onto the bottle of iodine. "Now… as soon as I put these away, I'll get you some food."
Gathering up the remaining medical supplies, he pulled himself back up onto his feet and disappeared back into the room from where he had retrieved them.