Arlo hovered close to Mina's head.
"The sun is shining and the flowers are out!" His tail nearly hit Mina in the shoulder as he zoomed downward.
"Watch it, scale face!" Mina dove out of the way.
Arlo landed in the grass. "Oh, sorry. But I love the spring time!" He beat his dark red leathery wings like a butterfly and whooped.
Mina watched the dragon bound through the meadow and dive through large patches of flowers as if they were leaf piles. She rolled her eyes and trekked onward.
"Mina," Arlo said.
Mina kept walking. She didn't have time for this. They needed to reach the woods by sun down if they were ever going to arrive at the encampment.
"Mina!" Arlo sang. "Mina, Mina, MINA!"
A gust of wind blew the stray hairs around her face into her mouth. She clutched her sword hilt and dug in her heels to keep from stumbling forward.
Arlo landed a bit clumsily before. "You never stop for the flowers."
"Why should I?" She tried to get around him.
"Because they're glorious." He kept in her path.
She crossed her arms. "Move out of my way."
"They could make you smile?" He nabbed a mouthful of them. The poor, trampled flowers looked out of place in his snout. He looked more like an absurd red cow than a dragon. "Mphee?" He grinned around the flowers which only made him look more ridiculous.
Mina managed to squelch her smile with a deeper frown. A practiced skill since traveling with Arlo. She brushed past him. "Arlo, we've got to get to the encampment."
He sighed loudly, and his clumsy feet thudded after her. "I don't want to go to the encampment. They always look at me funny."
If he didn't obsess over foliage, they wouldn't.
Mina growled and turned on him. "What?!"
"What's wrong?" His scaly brow had creased.
"Yes there is. You're not usually, this, well, I mean you are, but-- but, uh. . ." He walked beside her now. "Well, you know what I mean," he said quieter.
"It's of no consequence."
"Everything's of consequence."
"Look, I can take care of myself."
Arlo halted for a pace. "I'm. . . I'm sorry. I didn't mean. . ." He took to the air.
Mina swallowed. She didn't want to make him feel bad, but she couldn't tell him. And it it was of no consequence. She'd been a warrior for ten years now and trained since she was a child. Nothing bothered her. She was fine. Absolutely fine.
But wasn't Arlo like a. . . friend?
She gritted her teeth. Why did she keep thinking about this?
Hours later the sun soon dipped behind the woods.
They were a few paces from the trees now. Arlo landed. He kept some distance between them.
He had been crying. Great. Of course, it was her fault. Nobody would've known he had been. But Mina knew him, she could tell. She clenched her teeth. He was sensitive; she didn't know how to talk without hurt someone's feelings. Just ignore it. He'll be over it in five minutes when he'll notice the color of the sunset.
But she was so tired of acting the tough one.
No, she was the tough one.
Agh, she was going to regret this, one way or the other.
Mina sighed. "Arlo?" Her voice sounded hesitant and unfamiliar.
He gazed at her with his head still down.
"I, I just. . ." She pressed her lips together. What was she supposed to say? How? This was why she never talked about it. "Yesterday, at the barricades, um, I. . ." She shook her head.
"What?" Arlo stopped and made her stop with him.
"I had to. . ." She fingered the hilt of her sword. Why was she being so dumb? She frowned at herself. "Well, it's nothing new! It happens all the time. I just, I mean I was trained for this and it shouldn't bother me and. . ."
Arlo nodded. "I see."
She took a deep breath. Her boots had grass stains on them. People said talking about things made you feel better. But why did she expect that talking about killing people would be the same?
Arlo stepped close and craned his neck around her.
His jaw bumped against her back and drew her closer. His gnarled paw rested gently on her shoulder. "It's called a hug, Mina." His voice sounded choked.
Mina stood stiffly. She couldn't-- remember-- being hugged. She looked up at the sky. She was not going to cry. That's what Arlo did, like he was now. She wasn't going to, okay, maybe she was. Just a little.
Mina rested her head on Arlo's shoulder.
PS-- Sorry about the background change. I'm trying to find something less, uh, fluffy, without making the background black.