The loud whooshing of large, leathery wings stirred the calico from her slumber atop the fence post. The ground shuddered under the weight of something far larger than a cat, the vibration reverberating through the old wooden post. The calico blinked away sleep, her pale green eyes taking in the sight before her – a slinky black dragon bowed low to the ground. She studied it for a long moment before sighing.
“How did you find me?” the calico asked.
The snake-like dragon did not move. His wings were curled up against his back, his hide darker than midnight and shiny. It dazzled the cat sometimes, but the dragon was not a plaything – it was a thing she had already said farewell to. When the dragon made no further show of movement, the calico sighed again.
“Unflatten yourself,” she commanded. “It’s embarrassing, having a creature so large bow to a cat no bigger than its snout.”
“I apologize, but I am indebted to you,” the dragon replied, his voice light and airy. He stood up, lifting his long neck until he was looking down upon the cat. Looking uncomfortable, the dragon stepped away, his long body rising and flattening as his short legs moved. He waited until his middle lay flat on the ground, his tail encircling him and his head more level with the cat.
“I apologize, but I followed your scent,” the dragon explained, casting golden eyes downward. His long, black whiskers hung limp, so long they nearly reached the ground. “I’ve been following your scent since last we met.”
“You owe me nothing,” the calico replied, lifting a front paw for personal inspection.
“I owe you my life,” the dragon replied, raising his gaze. “If not for you … if not for you, I would have starved.”
“You were small, like my kittens,” she said between paw licks. “It was not as big of a thing as you make it out to be. My kittens,” she added, “have long grown and left. They do not return to bow to me.”
“I have seen your kittens, in passing,” the dragon remarked. “Many have found homes with the humans. They appear content.”
The cat lowered her paw, her features softening. “And you return because you do not feel content?”
“I return because I have nowhere else to go.”
The calico purred with amusement. “With those wings, I imagine you can go everywhere.”
“Oh, I have!” the black dragon insisted. “I’ve flown to the mountains, and the forest, and even to the sea. It was all very beautiful, but also … very lonely. I’ve searched far and wide, but found no dragons. The humans … they do not like dragons. They are afraid, and angry. You are the only creature who is not afraid of me. Though I worried for a while that you were … angry with me.”
The calico tilted her head. Angry?
“I sent you off with my children because you, too, had grown up,” the cat said, getting to her paws. “Though perhaps, as a creature of such size, it takes you a little longer.”
With a stretch and a yawn, the calico hopped off of the old fence post. She walked forward, her lithe little body such a contrast to the big, slinky dragon before her. She supposed it was a wonder, to be so small and unafraid of a thing so large. It was easy to believe that humans could fear this dragon for that very reason. But the cat found it impossible to be afraid of a creature she had found in the woods, once smaller than even she was.
Reaching one of the dragon’s claws, she placed a front paw against his forearm. Turning, she craned her neck to gaze up at his face.
“You never found another dragon, then? No siblings?”
The black dragon lowered his head down to meet her, and shook it softly. “No dragons, and no eggs. I searched for so long.” His whiskers brushed against her fur. Her own whiskers twitched in response.
What could a cat say to comfort such a creature? She had never expected to see the dragon again. Where there was a dragon egg, there was sure to be a dragon mother. Or dragon siblings. Kittens did not just sprout out of the soil, after all. How old were her kittens, now? Old enough to have kittens of their own, no doubt. The dragon had yet to have such an opportunity.
“Perhaps … you did not look in all the right places,” the calico said. “I’m just a cat, and I found you easy enough. If a cat can find a dragon, I think a dragon can.” Standing on her hind legs, she raised her right paw and gave the dragon’s nose a playful bop. The dragon watched her wide-eyed as she sat back down and purred.
“I … covered so much ground, I don’t think I missed much,” the dragon said, still looking bewildered. “I appreciate how you are trying to make me feel better, but I was hoping I could stay here for a while. With you.”
The calico eyed him for a long moment before batting at one of his whiskers. “All right, you can stay with me for a while. But I do have one condition.”
“Oh, anything!” the black dragon said, his demeanor much more light-hearted. “I could even catch you fish. You’d never have to hunt again!”
“Tempting,” she purred, “but there is something else. The time you spend with me will be used to find more dragons. Mind, I’m not as young as I used to be, so I don’t know how much time that will be. But we won’t be staying here.”
“You would do that?” the dragon asked, his face so close that they could touch noses. “Even though I haven’t found any dragons on my own?”
“Yes,” the cat replied, placing a paw against his snout. “I would do anything for my kittens.”