By Vargr Dragonwolf.
Terry scribbled his name across the electronic receipt pad, the signature barely recognizable as his hand trembled in his eagerness to accept the long-awaited package. He handed the tracking device back to the delivery person, accepting the brown-paper wrapped box in return with a hearty 'Thank you' to the fellow's post-delivery spiel. Closing the door to his dorm room, Terry was already tearing the paper and packing tape off the package before he even reached the desk that served him and his roommate as dining table, study area, computer nook, and even ironing board on occasion.
Odd! The box felt lighter than he'd imagined such an object would weigh. But he ignored the minor discrepancy as he eagerly shucked the wrappings from the container within. Ever since he'd come across the item on EBay, he'd been working toward this moment. And now, only minutes away, was the realization of his efforts.
He recalled the moment he'd first come across his prize: He'd been sitting in his dorm room late at night, wondering what his friends and family were doing back home. Just weeks before, they'd thrown him the 'farewell' party and ushered him off to his new life as a full time college student. Now, left alone with his thoughts and memories, his roommate gone to the first of many 'away games', he missed their company.
And though he was still a bit ashamed to admit it, he'd acknowledged then that leaving all his 'menagerie' of plushy and vinyl toys behind had been a mistake. At the time, it had felt right. He'd hailed it as a sort of right of passage; a separation between the time of boyhood toys and adult life. Now, the security and simple pleasure of one of his fuzzy or inflatable toy creatures in his arms was a comfort he greatly missed.
In a fit of lonely homesickness, he'd linked through the school's network and browsed the EBay lists in search of a plush or vinyl creature to stand in for his missing 'critter friends'. He'd passed over the normal assortment of 'Teddies' and similar plush toys - none of them had sparked more than a passing interest. Then he'd come upon the listing for an Inflatable Gryphon. Intrigued by the unusual subject, he'd clicked on the auction notice and waited for the page to load. From the moment the picture had filled in enough to reveal that saucy eye, the mischievous grin on the wickedly curved beak, he'd known he was hooked. The rest of the image and the item's description had merely ensured the hook was well set - he'd been reeled in and 'landed'.
The Gryphon was a masterpiece of inflatable art. The wings, limbs, and tail joined the body so well that they looked as if they had grown there. The body halves were merged so precisely and colored so carefully that there wasn't even a sign of a seam down back or belly. The exotic coloring drew the eye. Unlike the normal tawny brown and cream of the lion body, this toy sported a blue body and silvery belly. The artwork of the eagle's white-feathered head, the depiction of the spars and 'fingers' on the wide-spread wings, the tiny details of feathers along the top and tufted tip of the tail and those wicked talons on the forefeet, the subtle shadings of powerful muscles in the leonine hips and chest, every aspect was perfect. He - for something in the Gryphon's expression said 'masculine' to Terry, even though the vinyl form was distinctly neuter - looked as though he could take wing and fly off the page!
But it was the Gryphon's expression which had first drawn his interest, and which had clinched his need to have the toy. It seemed to change each time he looked at the image; at one time knowing, as if the Gryphon held a great and wonderful secret he was ready to spring on Terry, and at other times full of un-repented mischief and barbed humor. But no matter the other changes, there was always the fierce, proud, loyal visage that said to Terry; "Here is someone you can whisper your secrets to."
He'd merely skimmed the text that followed - reliable seller with lots of positive ratings, item new in box, specially produced for this seller, unique, collectable... One item that caught his eye was the toy's size; 36 inches tall! Width and length were proportional. The size of this toy was icing on the cake. Perfect for hugs and cuddles, though it would take up a noticeable amount of space in the small dorm room. Terry didn't think that would be a problem. It wasn't like he'd brought all that much of his own belonging when he'd moved in. And if his roommate, Don, really objected, Terry could just deflate his new toy until he felt the need for its company once again.
There had only been one other serious bidder, and he'd dropped out after Terry had pushed the price to $24.† Not that that hadn't kept Terry from staying up late, sweating bullets and watching for 'snipers' to try and take his prize while the final seconds of the on-line auction counted down. His whoop of joy when he'd won had raised a chuckle and head shake from Don, but Terry was too happy with his conquest to notice. Payment had gone smoothly, as had the shipment, and now the package was in his hands at last.
Terry dumped the wrapping into the trashcan beside the desk and sat the package down on the marred surface. The box was smaller than he'd expected, but the same saucy eye and mischievous grin looked back at him from the box top artwork. Terry carefully peeled away the clear plastic wrapping and opened end flap. A waft of vinyl scent escaped, and Terry sniffed appreciatively at the aroma as he carefully pulled the folded mass out of its cardboard container.
A sinking sensation struck him. There was far too little material to expand to the size he'd read on the auction! Fingers trembling, he unfolded the flaccid vinyl and spread out the toy on the desktop. As he'd feared, the top of the plumed head was barely more than a foot from the tips of the forelegs' eagle-like talons. Turning back to his computer screen, Terry quickly clicked up the auction site and jumped to the page of the bid he'd so recently won. He scrolled the page down past the still-enticing picture and re-read the text he'd skimmed over earlier. Then he shook his head and flung himself back into the student's chair as he realized the nature of his mistake.
Instead of 36 inches, as he'd misread, the ad plainly stated 36 Centimeters! Terry slumped, resting his head in his palm and pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefingers as he did the math. 36 centimeters was just a bit more than 14 inches. The Gryphon was exactly the size its ad had offered. No wonder the other bidder had backed out so quickly when Terry had jumped the price up.
Terry shook his head again, chuckling a bit derisively at himself. "You're one expensive bit of plastic." he said to the flattened toy. Then he chuckled again as he met the Gryphon's painted gaze. Perhaps it was a wrinkle in the vinyl, but the Gryphon's eye looked as if it was quirked in a way that almost seemed to be asking "Who? Me?", while the grin implied "You know I'm worth it!"
"Well, perhaps you are at that." Terry replied to the silent riposte, smiling. "Let's see what you look like with some air in you."
He fumbled a bit with the valve on the Gryphon's hip before pulling it open, then lifted the limp toy to his lips. The scent of new vinyl filled his nostrils, sweet and tantalizing has he took a breath and began to blow. With a hiss, the Gryphon's hind leg expanded, sticking out to one side before the silver and blue body began to swell. The other limbs began to thrust outward as the leonine body grew larger and rounder. The eagle-like head lifted, rising to look eagerly back into Terry's eyes.
Terry smiled back at the eagleís gaze as he took another breath, savoring the aroma of the new, fresh vinyl under his nose. Wrapping his lips against the soft, slivery hip, he began to blow once more. The Gryphon's body expanded further, and the wide wings began to unfurl. Their two wide membranes crackled softly and fluttered as the air chambers filled and extended them. Terry could feel the back pressure starting to rise. He blew a bit longer, then stopped when the thin vinyl began to tighten and the Gryphon's slim leonine belly started to bulge.
Terry flipped the toy upside down and ran a finger down the smooth, taunt surface of the tucked up belly and wide, powerful chest as he squeezed the plug back into the valve. "Ah! I see you're in fighting trim. I rather like my lion tummies of the 'full-meal' size. But then, you're not a lion, are you?"
Grinning, Terry flipped the Gryphon upright to regard him in all his glory by the light of the room's windows. The vinyl of the body had an iridescent quality that rendered the blue back and silver belly into a range of rainbow hues. They flowed like oil over water as Terry twisted the Gryphon from side to side and up and down. The same blue and silver repeated on the wide wings with the addition of the brilliant white primary feathers. The saucy eyes were a brilliant golden yellow. They practically glowed with their own inner light. As Terry met their full gaze for the first time, it looked like the painted ends of the Gryphon's smile lifted just a bit higher, as if to say "See? I told you I was worth it!"
Terry laughed and hugged the Gryphon to his cheek. The vinyl was buttery soft and sleek, with a gentle give and not a hint of a scratch from a hard seem anywhere to be found. Terry burrowed his nose into the joint between the wings and body and sniffed up the heady scent once more before releasing his breath with a sigh. "Yes. Yes, you were worth it!" he said as he stroked his cheek against the Gryphon's soft chest and flanks.
Lifting the Gryphon away from his face once again, Terry regarded the shining form. "So, what shall we call you? I don't want to just call you 'Gryphon'. That'd be like naming people 'Human'." He smiled. "And 'Gryph' is right out, isn't it." He bobbed the Gryphon's head in agreement with a bit of thumb pressure behind its neck.
Chuckling, he continued. "Okay. So... Ralph? George?" Shaking his head, "No, I don't think so. You're more exotic than that. You shine like a dragon's scales. Hmm. How about 'Drakon'?"
Terry cocked his head to one side and contemplated the silvery blue figure. "Yeah! That'll do!" He cuddled the Gryphon in a gentle hug. "Drakon. You and I are going to be good friends!† I can tell it already!"
Later that afternoon, Terry's roommate, Don, noticed the silvery blue Gryphon perched at the edge of the desk. The Gryphon was positioned to 'watch' Terry typing out his homework.
"So! Is that the prize you've been sweating over for so long?" Don asked.
Terry nodded with a smile as Don picked up the Gryphon and looked the toy over.
"Bit smaller than you were expecting, eh?" Terry nodded again as Don sat the Gryphon down with a smile and ran a finger over the plumed head as if petting the creature. "'s okay! He'll take up less room this way. I like his smile! He looks like he's got a secret."
Don finished the finger-stroke with a tweak to the hooked eagle's beak. "And he's not one to take any guff! Are you?" Don said, addressing the Gryphon directly. "Look at that beak and those talons!"
"His name is Drakon." Terry offered, and Don smiled in return.
"It fits. Good show!" With a light punch to Terry's shoulder, Don tossed his books onto the cinderblock-supported plank that served as their bookshelves. "I'm off to practice!" he said, grabbing his gym bag and heading back out the door.
"Run a wind-sprint for me." Terry called at his retreating back, eliciting a snort. Terry chuckled at the wordless retort, knowing Don didn't need any encouragement to 'go the extra mile'.† Though Don was still second-string quarterback, he wouldn't stay that way for long. Not with his dedication, Terry thought.
Terry had been a bit concerned when he'd first heard he was rooming with one of the 'jocks'. Especially since Terry wasn't that big into sports himself.† Though some of the teammates Don brought back to the room with him proved to be every bit the stereotypical brash, loud, inconsiderate, annoying 'jocks' Terry had feared he'd been saddled with, Don had turned out to be a great roommate.
Terry would have enjoyed hanging out with him more, but between Don's studies, practice, and the games themselves, Don didn't have a lot of free time. And since Terry had been a bit over-exuberant in signing up for his fist term's classes, Terry's and Don's schedules rarely matched enough to let them indulge in much 'down time' together.
Days passed. Drakon found a home atop the built-in bookshelf headboard of Terry's lower bunk - when he wasn't perched at the edge of the desk 'supervising' while Don or Terry worked on homework or chatted with their friends on the computer. Don took to the Gryphon's presence with good-natured humor. But Drakon became much more than a cute fixture to Terry.
Drakon was Terry's confidant when doubts assailed the lad late at night. He was a comforter when the homesickness or loneliness struck one who'd been uprooted and dropped into such a new environment. He was an inspiration of fierce determination when Terry struggled with a tough assignment. And he was always ready to offer that mischievous grin to pick Terry up when he felt down.
Drakon also developed an odd and endearing trait: Every morning, Terry would wake to find that the Gryphon had deflated a little, enough to lower his wings as if sheltering Terry from his position on the headboard. Drakon's head would slump just enough to tilt his view downward, so that Terry frequently met the saucy golden gaze as the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes. It became a morning ritual each day for Terry to lift Drakon from the headboard and administer a partial breath until the vinyl hide returned to taunt, shiny fullness. Don frequently laughed about Drakon also having to 'get up' for each new day.† Terry laughed along, but he kept secret how much he'd come to look forward to the touch of that buttery soft vinyl against his lips and the sweet scent of it in his nostrils every morning.
The odd thing was; the Gryphon didn't seem to lose any air during the day. He was still as full and perky when he took his position on the headboard each night as when Terry had just finished re-inflating him every morning.
"You're watching me, aren't you?" Terry whispered to Drakon from beneath the covers one night. Don was on the road to another 'away' game, and Terry was alone with only Drakon for company once more. "You're watching while I sleep. Are you guarding me? Or do you just want to come down for a snuggle?"
Terry reached up and gently stoked a finger down the feathered cheek and across the smooth top of Drakon's curved beak. "I wish I could snuggle with you through the whole night. But you're a bit too small and your vinyl's too thin and soft for that. If I fell asleep and rolled over on you during the night, well, the results might not be good!" Terry chuckled and rubbed the bottom Gryphon's silvery chest. "I sure wouldn't want that! I like you far too much to risk that happening!"
Perhaps it was a shadow from his moving hand, or maybe the stroke of his finger bent the flexible vinyl, but Terry could have sworn Drakon nodded agreement to the words. Terry chuckled at his wild imagination and chalked the vision up to the foggy twilight of pre-sleep clouding his mind, but he smiled warmly at the Gryphon just the same. "Good night, Drakon. Sleep well!"
As he dropped off to sleep, Terry realized that since Drakon had arrived he hadn't had any of the bad dreams he'd been having since heíd first moved into the dorm. He was especially glad for the lack of the reoccurring one where he had to stand and watch his family and friends vanishing into the distance while he was anchored by his book bag to the floor, unable to chase after them. He couldn't remember what dreams had taken its place, but he knew that awakening with the crushing feelings of homesickness and loss was a thing of the past.
At the crack of dawn Terry was startled out of a sound sleep by the crash of something hitting the floor followed by raucous laughter. "Good thing you only need to throw, not catch, or you'd never leave the bench, Don!" The loud words were followed by another gale of laughter.
"Sure you can catch, Brad. Ya gotta admit it's easier with me dropping the ball right in your arms. But at least you know where the ball is going and when it'll get there, at least as long as you can stay on your pattern. You don't have the quarterback yelling 'think fast' and pitching an equipment bag at your head!" Don's words sounded a bit irked. "Now, be quiet! Terry is still asleep. This is his 'down day'."
"Still asleep?" If anything, Brad's voice was even louder. Terry cracked one eye to see the huge running back approaching his bunk. From his prone position on the lower berth, Brad looked a lot like a walking wall. "What a wuss! Look! The sun is nearly up! What's he doing still laying about? Trying to get in some beauty sleep? Hah! That's a lost cause!"
Brad planted one foot on the bed beside Terry and shoved, bouncing the mattress so hard that Terry's body actually lost contact with the bed beneath him as he rebounded up into the air. "Rise and shine, wimp! Some folks have been up all night shoving busses out of the ditch, while you were lazing around in your nice, soft, comfy bed.† You should have been there!† Smart guy like you could' a figured out a 'scientific' way of getting that heap of junk out of the ditch, couldn't you? But NO! You had to stay home 'and study'." Brad's voice took on a whiny tone for the last two words. "Couldn't even come to watch us win. And we're still ready and raring to go to class next, while you're still laying your sorry butt in bed!"
Terry groaned, still only half-awake despite the commotion and abuse. He briefly considered pulling the covers over his head, hoping Brad would go away like a bad dream. But he rejected that as consciousness slowly seeped back into his head, deciding the ability to see what was coming next was more important than hoping to hide from it.
"Brad." Don's voice rose, warning. "Leave him alone. He's taking more courses this term than you took all of last year, and he's got two major tests coming up tomorrow. Just because you've got an athletic scholarship doesn't mean the rest of us aren't trying to get some education out of the money we're spending on our time here."
"Hah! And I'm not trying to learn too? Huh? Is that it?" Brad turned back on Don, glaring. "There's a reason I'm taking 'light' courses. That scholarship money is based on me keeping my grade point up. I know I'm not the brightest bulb on the string. But if I want to keep my dream of going pro one day, I got one chance - here, now, today! I don't play here, and no team's gonna pick me up, ever. And if that means I gotta do it by getting 4.0's for 'underwater basket weaving' instead of taking a 'real' course and risking dumping my average, then I'll damn well weave you the best wet basket you've even seen!"
"And the folks that think I'm slackin' my way through the courses because I can't make it in a 'real' class can just go screw themselves! Think I don't hear 'em talkin' like that behind my back?"
"I chose the easy courses 'cause I ain't willing to risk my dream. At least I'm man enough to admit that! I'm willing to own up and face the reality of what needs to be done to get a crack at the pros. That's why I'm in the gym before punks like this," He bounced Terry's bed once again, harder, "are even out of bed, makin' sure there's iron around my middle instead of his flab. That's why I'm putting in one more session of stadium stairs at the end of the day while the rest of you are already hitting the showers. The world thinks I can't make it? I'll be right up in its face proving otherwise!" Brad snorted. "I don't go hiding behind stuffed toys because I can't handle the big bad world."
"Look at it!" Brad waved his hand at where Drakon stood, wings slumped and head bent as he looked down on Terry from his aerie on the headboard. "Can't even blow the damn thing up right!"
Without warning, Brad reached out and snatched the Gryphon off the headboard. Terry came as wide awake as if he'd been dashed with cold water.†
Brad pulled the plug out of the inflation valve and put the Gryphon to his lips. "Let a man show you how to blow this thing up." he said with a laugh, and took a deep breath.
"NO!" Terry tried to leap out of the bed, but the blankets wrapped around his legs and he sprawled to the floor. He struggled to get to his feet, kicking frantically at the sheets and blankets, but air was already hissing into the little Gryphon.
Drakon's body had already reached full size, but Brad continued to blow. Terry could see the thin vinyl beginning to stretch under the pressure; Drakon's painted eye growing wider, the curved smile straightening as if the Gryphon's expression was changing to one of horror.
"NO! STOP!" Terry yelled again, freeing his legs at last from the entangling sheets. As he got to his feet, Brad held him at bay with a casual stiff-arm while he continued to blow. Dragon's wings rose and his legs began to splay spread-eagled as his slim, silvery lion's belly bloated outward into an expanding ball. Terry could see the Gryphon's golden eyes widening more, the curved beak straightening as the painted line of his mouth widened. It looked to him like the tiny toy was screaming in pain.
The Gryphonís belly swelled like an expanding balloon, growing larger and larger, the thin vinyl stretching until it grew translucent. The taloned forelegs spread wider against the pressure of the expanding girth as if Drakon were reaching out towards Terry.†
"Brad!" Don shouted. "Stop right now! That's ..."
The sound cracked outward, astonishingly loud.† The report was thunderously out of all proportion to the tiny size of the Gryphon it issued from.†
Something snapped inside of Terry. He screamed like a wild man, flailing and raking at the huge running back. Brad easily held the smaller man away while Terry railed impotently against him until a lucky swing caught the running back on the cheek.
"Geez! Get a grip, you maniac! It's just a damn toy!" Brad spun Terry around, pinning his arms behind him before shoving him face-first back onto the bed. He flung the ruptured gryphon onto the mattress beside the sobbing Terry. "Damn! You'd think I shot your dog!"
"Brad," Don's words were even, but spoken with a commanding coldness that brooked no argument. "That was outa line. Way outa line! You'd better leave."
Brad looked at the quarterback with surprise. "Huh? Well, maybe I will then!" He turned and stormed out of the room.
Terry seized the tiny flaccid toy and gripped it in his fist, holding it to his chest as he continued to sob. He'd felt so ineffective, so impotent. And Drakon had paid the price for his helplessness.
Terry felt a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Terry. Brad was an ass. We were up all night, pushing the team bus out of a ditch, like he said. But there was no excuse for that." Don paused. "I've got to go to class. You going to be okay?"
His face still buried against his mattress, Terry gave a little nod, though he wasn't sure he believed it.
Don took the gesture at its 'word' and patted Terry's shoulder once again before he headed out. Terry heard the door click shut and lock, but made no move for a long time.
At long last, he screwed up his courage enough to look at Drakon and assess the extent of the damage. At the first glance, he shuddered and nearly began sobbing again. The Gryphon's belly was split right up the middle, from chest to crotch. The edges of the tear were surprisingly clean, almost as if cut by a knife. But the horrible, gaping 'wound' in his friend was nearly more than he could take. Terry looked away, taking a few steadying breathes before he turned his gaze once again to his broken friend.
Further examination showed that the thin vinyl of the Gryphon's leonine belly had stretched and not returned to its original slim size. Drakon looked like he had either finished an impossibly huge meal, or was pregnant and many months overdue. The rest of the toy also showed signs of its over-inflation. The luminescent quality had gone out of the silver and blue paint, leaving Drakon looking muted and drab.
But it was when Terry examined the Gryphon's face that the tears began to fall once again. The bright eyes were dull and muted, the shiny regard rendered matt by the stretched vinyl underneath. None of the vital, secretive, mercurial expression remained in the face's artwork. It was as if some spark of life had gone out of the little figure.
Terry felt as if he'd been stabbed in the heart. He crawled the rest of the way up onto the bed and curled in a fetal ball, the limp, ruptured Gryphon cradled against his cheek. His tears rolled across the drooping vinyl to pool within the rent body before trickling on to seep into a damp patch on his mattress. "Oh, Drakon! I can't believe you're gone." He sobbed. "I love you, little Gryphon. I wish you were whole again. I wish you were back, watching me from the headboard again. I swear I'd even give you the all-night cuddle you wanted."
Terry cried until the tears ran out and continued to sob with dry, aching eyes and an aching heart. He dropped back into a troubled sleep at last, still clinging to the damp, torn piece of vinyl, and his tears flowed within his dreams.
"Terry? Terry. C'mon, fellow. Time to stop now. Time to rise." The voice was one he'd never heard before, but there was a strangely familiar feeling about it. It was a soft, liquid baritone with a burry vibrato buried deeply beneath it.
"Go away." Terry mumbled.
"Only if you really want me to, and I don't think you do." The strange yet familiar voice replied. Something prodded his shoulder. It felt like the corner of a seat cushion. "C'mon, get up! You've cried yourself out. Didn't make you feel any better. Time to change strategies."
Terry shook his head.
"Okay then, you've forced me to resort to harsher tactics." The stranger chuckled. "Don't say I didn't warn you!"
Something poked Terry in the ribs. It felt like the same seat cushion. It didn't hurt, but it surprised him, and as he flinched it poked him in the flank, then in the belly.
"Hey!" Terry began to exclaim, but something else ran twitching up the inside of his bare knee to his thigh, and the exclamation became a yelp of surprise and laughter at the tickle. "No, I'm..." he began, but something vibrated against the sole of his foot and he began to dissolve in laughter as the person continued to poke and prod with the padded corner at his ribs, flank, and belly, eliciting yelps, yips and squeals as he tried to fend off the insistent thrusts. The continued tickling on his feet and the inside and backs of his knees and thighs and along his ribs reduced his efforts to haphazard flailing in the midst of gales of laughter.
Tears filled his eyes once more, but these were tears of mirth. He tried to blink them away, to get a glimpse of his attacker, but all he saw was a watery shadow in the darkened room.† Dark? Had he slept the day away in tortured sleep? Gasping, he cried "Uncle! I give!† You win! I'm up!† I'm up already!"
"Good! Or I'd have had to resort to even stronger tactics." Came the oddly familiar voice once more, accompanied by a cough of laughter that sounded like it was backed by a purr.
"Stronger than that?" Terry asked, still blinking at the shadowy shape in the darkness. "What sort of tactics?"
The coughing purr came again. "Oh, perhaps you'll find out some day. But for now, it's time you got up. There are things we should be doing."
Terry frowned. Why did that voice sound so familiar? He could swear he'd never heard the odd, burry roll beneath those liquid tones. He knew he'd remember such an unusual voice and the person who'd made it.
"Things we should be doing?" He repeated. "What sort of things? And who are you, and how did you get into my room?"
"Things to set things right." Came the reply, along with what was certainly a purr. But is was a purr both deep and visceral, as if a diesel truck had learned to 'speak cat'.
"As to how I got here, why, you brought me here yourself! You're the one who invited me in! Surely you haven't forgotten that, have you?"
The speaker paused, leaving Terry to grope for an answer that still eluded him. But somewhere in the midst of the cloud of despair that still hovered nearby, waiting for a momentary lapse to swoop in a reclaim its hold on him, a glow of hope was fired.
"And as for who I am, you already know the answer." The purr deepened, rumbling through the room and vibrating the bed. "Just look within your heart. The answer's been there all along."
Dawning realization filled Terry with warmth and joy that grew until he thought for sure his heart would burst. As his swollen eyes adjusted to the starlight through the room's windows, the shadowy figure stepped closer. A shining golden eye looked down at him, framed in snowy feathers that reflected the weak light. A smile grew wider across the wickedly hooked beak.
"DRAKON!" Terry's yell hurt his throat, but he didn't care! He leaped out of the bed to launch into a flying tackle that would have done the big running back, Brad, credit. The Gryphon sagged back under the impact, planting strong leonine haunches to brace himself as the man flung his arms around the eagle-like neck. Drakon wrapped one foreleg, talons carefully curled safely away, around Terry's waist and hugged him to the Gryphon's broad chest.
Terry squeezed himself against the Gryphon, face buried against Drakon's neck while Drakon curled his head over Terry's shoulder and preened gently along Terry's back. Terry hugged the huge creature for all he was worth, running his hands down the back of Drakon's neck and over the powerful muscles of his winged shoulders. The scent of new vinyl filled his nose. His grasp sank several inches into a warm, soft, slick form that gave way then resisted as if filled with a downy, springy padding. His flingers played across the taunt vinyl hide, sliding across the buttery smooth, seamless, slippery surface.
Drakon was cool to the touch on the surface, but warmth radiated from within, and it seeped into Terry from neck to waist as he pushed more tightly to the Gryphon's smooth, wide chest. Drakon responded by hugging him more firmly, wrapping his avian foreleg around Terry's waist and pulling him snuggly into the Gryphon, sinking more deeply into the flexible, enfolding vinyl.
"Oh! Drakon!" Terry whispered when, after many seconds, he finally found the words to speak once again. "I can't believe it!† ... But ... Brad? He..."
"Shhh." The Gryphon hissed softly against Terry's back. "I know what he did. No need to speak of that just now."
Terry lifted his head from Drakon's neck, and the Gryphon raised his head from the man's back to meet Terry's gaze. Golden eyes met Terry's and the knowing 'I've got a secret' expression was back in full force on the Gryphon's eagle visage.
"Drakon! How?" Terry asked incredulously as he lifted his head farther away to get a better view of the huge form standing before him.† "Look at you! Is this a dream?"
"Does it matter if it's a dream?" Drakon asked in return, smiling warmly. "And for how; does that matter either?"
As Terry shook his head in negation, Drakon's smile widened into a grin. "I thought not. What matters is that we're here together again." The grin grew to a gape-beaked beam. "AND, that I finally got the chance to have the cuddle with you I have wanted every night since you first sat me on the top of the bed's headboard."
He gave the odd cough-purr of his laughter, then lowered his head to lay the top of his curved beak against Terry's chest and tummy. Terry pillowed his head atop the Gryphon's, and hugged Drakon once again. The Gryphon's deep purr vibrated through him.
"I've wanted a cuddle like this too, since I first saw your picture on that auction site. But I was afraid of hugging your little form too tight and injuring it." He ran his hands down the back of Drakon's head and over the smooth shoulders. Drakon stoked the smooth soft curve of the top of his beak up and down Terry's chest and belly. "I guess there's no danger of that any longer!" Terry added with a chuckle. "Just look at the size of you!"
Drakon cough-laughed again, and gently extracted himself from Terry's hug. He posed heraldically in profile for a few seconds, one foreleg raised. Then he turned slowly to give Terry a view of him from every angle.
The Gryphon stood over four feet high to the top of the leonine shoulder. Shining wings that looked wide enough to fill the small dorm room and well beyond rested easily furled along his shining blue back. The regale eagle's head rose high above the strong shoulders, topped by feather-tufted, pricked ears that Drakon kept swiveled toward Terry as he rotated around. Powerfully muscled, wide lion haunches shifted as he turned away, and Drakon laughed as he flicked the softly tufted and feathered tip of his leonine tail against the inside of Terry's thigh while the man was staring.
Terry yelped a quick bark of laughter at the touch, and realized where the worst of the tickles had come from. The prods to his ribs and flanks must have either been from Drakon's vinyl beak, or perhaps the eagle-like clawed front feet. But that tufted tail was definitely what had worked the worst of the 'damage' on his feet, backs of his knees, and inside of his thighs.
As the Gryphon continued to revolve gracefully before him, Terry realized that the silvery lion's belly was considerably rounder than the tight, tucked-up slimness of the toy's original shape.
"Aw. Looks like Brad did away with that 'fighting trim' you once had." Terry reached out to stroke the Gryphon's bulging flank, then drew his hand back in horror as he realized that the Gryphon's belly and chest still gaped open down the middle.
"Oh no! Drakon! Does that hurt? Are you..."
"Shhh." Drakon said, spinning quickly to nuzzle the soft curve of his beak against Terry's cheek. "It's okay. In fact, it's better than okay."
"Huh?" Terry began, but Drakon cut off his exclamation as the Gryphon continued.
"It's why I came. Remember? I said we had some things to set right?" Drakon prompted.
Terry nodded, gently running his fingers over the top curve of Drakon's beak, and down to the wicked looking hook at its tip. The solid looking beak was as flexible as the rest of Drakon's vinyl body, which was probably why the Gryphon could convey such clear emotions and subtle meanings with his expression. But Terry got the impression that the hooked weapon could somehow be just as dangerous as it looked, as could those talons on his forelegs.
"Good." Drakon said, nipping playfully at Terry's fingers where they ran across the edges of his beak. The firm vinyl edges closed for a moment on Terry, pinching, but not painfully.
"Good," Drakon repeated. "Because, much as I'd like to continue this, it is time we got down to business." The Gryphon paused, cocking his head in a typical avian regard, ears oriented on Terry. "Now, how much do you trust me?"
"Completely." Terry answered.
Drakon smiled happily. "Good! Turn around and drop your shorts!"
"What?" Terry replied in an astonished squeak as he looked down at the briefs that were the only things he typically wore to bed. A moment of embarrassment washed over him as he thought of what Brad must have been thinking when this near-naked man with the soft role beginning to overtake his belly launched himself at him. Terry shook the thoughts out of his head, and looked back up at Drakon, questioningly.
The Gryphon's expression grew even more mischievous. "I said, 'turn around and drop your shorts.'" Drakon repeated. "Or, if you want, drop your shorts and then turn around. Either way. I don't care."
Terry hesitated, and the hot blush that began to spread at Drakonís first request wasn't helped as Drakon added. "Don't worry. Iíve watched you dress nearly every morning. You've nothing that I havenít seen already. And, if youíre concerned about what I thought, don't be. I think you're a perfectly handsome fellow who I'd have no trouble snuggling against all night long. Nude or not."
Terry was starting to think his now-fiery blush would begin lighting up the room.
Drakon laughed. "What? I'm only telling you the truth of what I think. But you're delaying things. Now, are you going to take those off, or do I have to?"
Almost before Terry could think, Drakon had lifted one foreleg. He ran the smooth, curved backside of his eagle's claw down the slight bulge of Terry's underbelly and snagged the hooked talon into the elastic waistband of Terry's briefs, pulling them slightly out away and down from Terry's belly.
"Nope!" Terry's voice came out in a near-squeak. Drakon laughed and released Terry's shorts as Terry continued, turning his back on the Gryphon. "I'll take these off myself. But why?"
"Because nothing can come between you and I for what is to follow. Not even such a thin bit of cloth as that." Drakon replied.
The Gryphon let out a salacious wolf-whistle as Terry bent to slip his briefs off over his feet. "Nice butt!" Drakon said admiringly, nipping playfully at one rounded cheek.
Terry yelped and nearly fell over. In his haste to remove the shorts and stand up again, he nearly pulled his own feet out from under himself! It felt like his face was about to burst into flame from blushing so hard, and he whirled about to face Drakon and confront him for his impertinence.
With Drakon's beak already poised for another nip to Terry's bare behind, the Gryphon was suddenly presented with quite a different view - which Terry realized a moment too late as Drakon gave another, even longer whistle.
"Nice mrphf..." Drakon began, when Terry cut him off by the expedient means of clamping the Gryphon's beak shut with one hand while hastily covering the tiny shreds of his remaining modesty with the wadded up underwear held in his other fist.† As he stood there, blushing like a blazing torch, Terry realized that even his normal shyness couldn't account for the strength of his current embarrassment.
A tiny voice in the back of his head told him that perhaps it was because he'd found the satiny soft, cool touch of Drakon's talon against his lower belly, the gentle stroke down to and within the waistband of his briefs, to be one of the most erotic contacts he'd ever experienced.† Even now, a part of him was sorry he'd reacted so quickly that the Gryphon's curved beak, still poised inches away from his groin, hadn't had a chance to complete it's thrust to ...† Terry shook his head, blushing even more though he'd thought that previously impossible. He was SO not going to go there now!
As Terry concluded his internal dialog, Drakon gave Terry's nether regions one last intense gaze, then lifted his head and shook Terry's hand free of his beak. "I'm only teasing with you, Terry." he said, the powerful purr of his laughter vibrating through Terry's bare feet. He stroked his beak over the man's soft cheek. "But I swear, if you blush any brighter, you're going to set your hair on fire." Drakon cough-chuckled again, and nibbled gently at Terry's ear.
"Now if you're done teasing me by shaking all those tantalizing body parts in my face," Drakon glanced down meaningfully, laughing again at Terry's second yelp and renewed efforts to cover himself.
"Okay Terry, I'll leave off a little bit for now." The Gryphon's voice was a tiny bit more serious. "But I warn you, what comes next will be even more intimate.† You may not be comfortable with that."
Catching Terry's suddenly widened eyes, Drakon hastened to reassure. "But not in that way! Not sex. Probably not in any way you can imagine. So, I'll ask you again - do you trust me?" By the time Drakon finished speaking, his tones were completely serious and solemn.
Terry looked once more into Drakon's golden gaze, and nodded slowly. "Yes. I know you wouldn't do anything that would hurt me. Not in anyway. Nor do something I didn't really want done. I do trust you." He ran his fingers over the Gryphon's beak once again, down to the wickedly hooked, dangerous looking point.† Drakon took the fingers gently within, chewing softly of their tips before releasing them without even a pinch.
"Good." Drakon replied quietly, and ran his beak in one more soft caress down Terry's cheek. "So, go ahead and turn around, and toss those underpants away."
Terry nodded, flipping the garment into the corner of the closet then turning to face away from Drakon. "Now what?" he asked.
"Now, you hold still while I do this." Drakon replied, and reared up, resting the ankles of his eagle-clawed front legs on Terry's shoulders and stepping carefully forward with his hindquarters until Terry could feel the curved belly with the terrible, gaping slit pressing up against his back.
Drakon chuckled softly, unable to resist one more dig at his easily embarrassed friend. "It's a good thing no one has any hidden cameras in this room. Just imagine what this must look like?" Drakon's chuckles grew with Terry's renewed blush. "Why, they'd think you'd suddenly gone all barn..."
"Okay, Drakon! What next?" Terry interjected frantically, and the Gryphon's purr-cough laughter vibrated through him. The worst part was, Drakon's constant teasing, not to mention the soft touch of the Gryphon's vinyl body against him and all the loving caresses, was beginning to have an effect. He was trying to be nonchalant in hopes of not calling attention to what was rising, but he doubted that Drakon's sharp eyes would miss the changes for much longer.
"You are such fun to tease, you know that?" Drakon asked, stroking Terry's cheek once more and then preening his hair with his eagle's beak. "Okay, now, you just step back into me."
"What? Into you!" Terry countered, shocked.
"Yes, into me. You know, it's funny in a way. We couldn't have done this without what Brad did." Drakon said philosophically. "But enough of that. Just step up and back, like you were stepping into a pair of hip waders waiting for your feet. I'll steady you."
"Don't worry, you won't hurt me. You can't." Drakon added as he felt Terry hesitate.
Terry nodded jerkily, and lifted one leg to reach backward with it. He winced as his foot slid into the gaping rent down the Gryphon's belly, but all he felt were the soft edges of the vinyl moving along the edge of his leg. Then his heal touched the vinyl hide of Drakon's lion haunches from the inside.
"Good." Drakon said evenly, helping to steady Terry as the man stood awkwardly poised on one leg. "Now, just ease your foot over a couple inches to your right, and gradually set it down.† You'll have to stand on tip toe to fit your foot within my paws.† Then just rock your weight back onto that leg. I'll keep steadying you."
Terry carefully did as he asked, with Drakon continuing to direct.
"You'll feel my vinyl skin surrounding your leg and feet. Don't worry! You can't tear me. I'm† much tougher than that now."
Terry nodded, feeling the cool vinyl encircling his leg as he slid his foot down toes-first into Drakon's right hind leg.
"Your foot and leg may feel a little strange surrounded by all that vinyl. Maybe a bit tingly and itchy. That's okay too." Drakon continued.
Terry nodded once more, noticing his leg did feel exactly like that. Further, he could feel Drakon's haunches shifting as the Gryphon seemingly flexed non-existent muscles to help keep both himself and Terry balanced in the rather awkward pose. The vinyl seemed to grip and release around Terry's foot, calf, and leg as the Gryphon shifted, and the ring of its massaging pressure rose slowly up Terry's thigh as he eased his foot deeper and deeper into Drakon's hind leg. He swallowed nervously as he felt himself responding to the kneading touch working its way slowly up his thigh towards his hips. Then he felt the room's floor through the vinyl of Drakon's hind paw, and he eased his weight slowly back onto both feet, though mostly on the toes of the one within Drakon's leg.
"Good! Very good!" Drakon nuzzled his cheek once more. "See, that wasn't so hard now, was it?"
Terry shook his head, certain that Drakon must be able to see his rampant reaction when the Gryphon dipped his head to slide his beak over Terry's cheek. But Drakon hadn't remarked on it, perhaps taking pity at last on Terry's embarrassment. Or more likely, Terry thought with small grin, saving it up for when they weren't poised in so unbalanced a stance as to risk tumbling them both to the ground.
"Okay, now just do the same for the other leg." Drakon directed.
Terry nodded again, and carefully lifted his leg to ease it backwards. Once more he shuddered slightly as his foot entered the rip in Drakon's belly, but he continued gamely onward, sliding his foot a little more quickly down until it too was firmly enclosed within Drakon's other hind leg.
Terry gasped a little bit as, with both legs now inside of the Gryphon, Drakon's vinyl hide rode higher up his legs, nearly to his crotch. The gentle kneading of Drakon's flexing hindquarters was proving a serious distraction. Worse, as he settled his weight more onto his toes, he could feel the powerful lion's haunches seeming to mold themselves against his own backside. With each shift of Drakon's weight as he balanced on his hind legs, Terry could feel the smooth, slick vinyl sliding over and between his buttocks, caressing the backs of his thighs, beginning to ease between his legs to touch the back of his...
"Ahem! Ah, what next, Drakon?" He asked frantically, his voice cracking, as he tried to take his mind off the sensations that were going on behind the small of his back and on down, wrapping around the inside of his thighs nearly to his... Terry shook his head frantically as the directions of his thoughts headed towards positively pornographic destinations.
"I said, now you curl your back and slip your shoulders and head into me." Drakon repeated, squeezing one of Terry's shoulders gently with his front eagle's claw. "Are you okay?"
"Yes. Yes, I'm fine." Terry insisted, panting slightly.
"Good." Drakon replied.† The renewal of the Gryphon's rumbling purr-chuckle told Terry that the Gryphon knew exactly what had distracted him the first time.
"Oh, don't _do_ that." Terry whispered to himself as he hunched over. The Gryphon's purring laugh was sending a whole new set of tantalizing and stimulating vibrations through a region that definitely didn't need any more stimulation.
As he gradually slid more of his torso inside of Drakon, the vibrations grew stronger and more encompassing. And much harder to ignore! In trying to distract himself from his increasing arousal, he almost missed Drakon's words once again.
"Once you have all of yourself inside, just reach up and slip your hands and head into my forelegs and neck, like you were putting on a turtleneck sweater. That might be the toughest part for you, when the vinyl wraps around your face for a moment. Don't worry! You can't suffocate. I won't let you." Drakon advised.
"Are you ready?" The Gryphon asked as Terry paused with his shoulders just outside of the edges of Drakon's slit belly.
Terry looked down to see the Gryphon's leonine hind legs rising up almost to where the lowest part of his human underbelly emerged. The soft, slick, cool touch of Drakon's vinyl hide wrapped around every inch of Terry's legs all the way up to brush against the folds of his crotch. The continuing vibrations of the Gryphon's rumbling purr thrilled upwards from that contact, settling into the pit of Terry's belly and building a pressure there that was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
His erection jutted out just above the upper edge of Drakon's vinyl belly hide, as large and as hard as he'd ever seen it. He chuckled. It looked like Drakon had the hard-on, not him. But the Gryphon was still as neuter as when he had been at his toy size. "Poor Drakon, to never know this feeling." Terry thought to himself as the Gryphon's vibrations continued to coax him to even higher ecstasy.
Drakon gave a tiny snort. "Don't be TOO sure of that."
"Huh?" Terry responded, surprised to a response at his unvoiced thought.
"Just take a deep breath, relax, and let yourself move up into me." Drakon replied as if he hadn't spoken the previous sentence. "And don't be afraid of any odd feelings that might happen afterward. Though, from your current state, I don't think 'fear' is at the top of what you're feeling just now." He finished with a louder chuckle-purr, and Terry knew Drakon had been fully aware of his growing arousal, and probably was from the very beginning.
Terry chuckled, shook his head, and did as he'd been told. Taking one deep breath, he slid entirely within Drakon's body. The leonine vinyl torso surrounded him, flexing against his sensitive sides and flanks, stroking his back. He quickly lifted his arms and pushed upwards, squeezing his face with a small wince through the narrowing vinyl corridor of Drakon's eagle's neck and head.
Terry felt something odd happening. It was as if his neck and arms were stretching upward for a much longer period than they should. He knew for a fact that his human neck was too short to equal the length of the Gryphon's, but he felt almost as if his neck were elongating to fit. He was certain that, at the end, he was able to fit his nose, eyes and mouth into corresponding openings in the Gryphon's eagle-like face.
At the same time, his arms were reaching farther and farther down the Gryphon's avian forequarters. When his fingers and thumb began to reach out and fill the long toes and talons of the eagle-like feet, Terry knew it was more than just a feeling: His body was changing to fit and fill Drakon's gryphon-form!
Terry didn't take time to wonder much about that though. Because, at the same time, the long slit in Drakon's vinyl belly began to seal slowly from the chest down. As Terry's chest and belly rounded out to fill the leonine mold, he could feel the cool, soft, slick vinyl sliding over his skin as he enlarged to fill it. Then the sealing vinyl began to smooth its way down the front of his chest, edging continuously lower.
Drakon's purr grew stronger, more joyous, as he felt Terry filling and sealing up within.† It rumbled though him as Terry grew and molded within the interior of the vinyl Gryphon.
Soon, every inch of Terry's body was in contact with an enfolding, intimate vinyl embrace, except for the steadily decreasing span of his exposed belly. The enclosing vinyl crept lower, sliding smoothly back and forth across his skin as his belly and chest expanded and contracted with each breath. The enclosing vinyl reached just above his navel, and his already slightly round tummy grew even larger to match the still well rounded, bulging lion's belly that had resulted from its early extreme over-distension.
The feeling was incredibly erotic, and Drakon's increasing purr tingled through every inch of Terry's body. The pressure that it had brought to the pit of his belly grew higher and higher, no matter how much Terry tried to direct his mind to other thoughts. The closing slit had progressed below his navel now. He squeezed his eyes shut, giving only a moment's thought to the realization that before he did so, he could see out to a room as clearly lit as in daylight, and sharper than he had ever seen it. But that fact was a minor side note as the enclosing vinyl moved slowly lower and lower.
The vinyl had finally covered his entire abdomen. He could feel his belly pressing outward against it, rubbing every square inch of it, the vibrating purr transmitting itself deep into his inner organs. With it came the realization that his own belly must have grown large enough to fill the lionís bulging, well-fed sized belly which Drakon currently sported. It meant that his own belly was suddenly big enough to rival the bulging tummies heíd always found so enticing in his friendly furred and inflatable critters. The thought was surprisingly erotic, and it certainly didnít diminish the pressure inside him that was pushing him closer and closer to climax.
The vinyl had just begun to touch the top of his shaft when the seam began to close up from the bottom as well. Vinyl formed itself between his legs, reaching up to caress his scrotum, to surround him in a slick, cool, soft embrace. It flowed up his maleness slowly, from root toward the tip, and brought with it the rumbling vibrations of Drakon's ecstatic purr.
Terry tried to hold out as the soft, embracing vinyl reached up to cover the last square exposed inch of his body, but the sensation was far, far too much to resist. The pressure within him rose continuously, relentlessly, unstoppably, until it finally burst out of him.† He bucked in the throws of an orgasm more powerful than any he'd ever known.
Shuddering, he fell forward to catch himself with his foreclaws on the edge of the lower bunk. His vibrating purr trembled through him, coaxing him to new heights and prolonging the ecstasy he experienced. He screamed, an eagle's triumphant screech, as spasm after spasm shook him. Long, delirious shudders ran through his entire body, lashing his tail and fluttering his wings with each one, as seemingly endless, delicious, indescribable explosions erupted in his belly and groin.
Terry/Drakon's feet slid from their grip on the bunk, and the Gryphon dropped to all four feet then fell to his side as he collapsed onto the floor. He curled himself about the unbelievable joy and rapture that still continued to explode from within him as each new movement stoked the pliant vinyl across every inch of his body. Terry spurted seed until he thought he would implode with the next thrust, and still he continued on until he was completely, utterly, and totally spent. Even then, each new move, the Gryphon's enraptured purr, all served to coax several more long, trembling, dry shudders from his loins before he finally was able to lay gasping and, at long last, quiescent.
Still gasping, barely able to move in the aftermath of such pleasure, Terry prized open his eyes and looked down at himself. A silver blue phallus was slowly retracting back into a sheath tucked tight against his rounded lion belly.
"Well," he gasped out between breaths. "I guess you're not a neuter any longer, eh Drakon?"
Terry laughed when the Gryphon's reply came back as inarticulate groans. "So, was it good for you?" he continued, glad to be able to get in a couple of his own digs after Drakon's earlier teasing.
Drakon groaned once more in blissful afterglow, then gave a weak laugh-cough that shook deep into Terry's chest. "That was incredible! Beyond words!" Drakon replied at last, and Terry was surprised to feel the Gryphon's beak move independently against his somehow morphed mouth.
The Gryphon's next laugh was a bit stronger. "But don't get to feeling your oats, lad, or I'll do this!" He twitched himself all over, like a horse bothered by flies, and Terry felt the slick, enfolding vinyl hide slip and stroke across his skin once more, ALL the way down. With a wince he realized that, spent as he was, Drakon might still be able to coax him back to another climax. Given what he had just gone though, Terry wasn't sure if he'd implode or explode as a result, but he wasn't going to risk either.
"Okay. Truce! No more trying to make either one of us horny again, all right?" Terry offered.
"All right." Drakon agreed willingly, with another laugh. "Besides, I don't know if I could take that again either. I mean, I've already burst once. I don't know if I could hold that much pleasure a second time. Not so soon."
Terry shuddered within the Gryphon as Drakon's words conjured up the images from early that morning. A gentle, rhythmic stroking ran through the vinyl over his neck and shoulders as Drakon caressed him with his back and wing 'muscles'.
"Don't fear, dear heart! I can never leave you now. No longer. We are become one, you and I! For as long as you will have me, I will be a part of you, both in your heart and at your side whenever you want me. Even if you were to fill me with such joy that I exploded into a million, million pieces, I would reform once again." Soft touches ran down Terry's neck as Drakon stroked him within, and Terry's tears of joy rolled down the painted cheeks as Drakon's gleaming, golden eyes cried Terry's tears.
"Now, we have something we need to do." Drakon said gently when Terry's joyful weeping had abated. "There is someone who needs a little lesson, and we're just the ones to teach it to him."
"Just let me do the moving around at first, okay? You just go along for the ride for now, okay? We'll have plenty of time later to learn how to move together as a team." Drakon advised.
"Okay." Terry replied, flicking his tufted ears as Drakon spoke the word in his Gryphon's silky baritone.
"You don't have to speak aloud." Terry heard, accompanied by the Gryphon's cough-chuckle. "Just think it to me, and I'll think back at you. Otherwise, folks are going to wonder about me holding conversations with myself. Now -- ready?"
"Ready!" Terry thought.
Then, "Wait! Folks are going to wonder? You mean more people than I can see you?" Terry's mind whirled with the possibilities of what would happen if a full sized, walking, talking vinyl Gryphon started making regular appearances on campus.
"Later." Drakon deferred. "Lesson first."
The Gryphon climbed gracefully back to his feet and turned to face the wall of windows.† He lifted his wings.
"Hey, wait! The room isn't wide enough to..." Terry's though trailed away as the walls of the building faded away to either side, and the windowed wall vanished from before them. He could feel the powerful leonine body tensing just before Drakon sprang out into the star-filled night sky.
With a few beats of his wide wings, Drakon rose above the darkened campus, then turned, banking easily to glide towards a distant line of houses.
"Isn't that the fraternity house where Brad lives?" Terry sent, and received an affirmation from Drakon. "We're going to teach him the lesson?" Terry sent again as a small thrill of revenge and anticipation coursed though him, and a little rumbling growl from Drakon echoed his feelings.
Again he received agreement.
"You know anyone else that needs a lesson more, just now?" Drakon asked, rhetorically.
Terry shook his head, then chuckled as Drakon sent him a mild 'swat' to the haunches when the Gryphon's vision shifted unexpectedly at the head shake.
"Just think no, not shake it." Drakon sent in rebuke, chuckling slightly at the natural mistake.
Terry noticed that their glide had become a decent, and they were arrowing toward a small, partly open window on an upper floor of the house. "Hey! How do you think we're going to fit through that? Wait!" Terry took quick stock of the situation. The window seemed to be looming unnaturally large.† In fact, the whole house seemed to be growing. Or... "Are we shrinking?" he asked in dawning realization.
"Yep!" Drakon confirmed. "I can grow as small as the toy you originally purchased."
"Oh!" Terry sent in surprise. "And can you get bigger too? How big can you get?"
"Yes, and that depends." Drakon replied.
"On what?" Terry asked curiously.
"Later. Time for the lesson now." Drakon replied as he glided silently in through window and settled easily to the counter just beyond.
Brad was sleeping in the bed at the other end of the room. Apparently he rated high enough to have a room to himself.
The tiny, toy-like Gryphon padded silently forward and settled himself on his haunches at the end of the countertop next to Brad's bed. He tilted his head to look down at the sleeping man, and flipped his wings outwards from his sides, curving them out and gently down as if sheltering the man below.
"Okay." Drakon began. "Now we begin. This is called 'dreamwalking'."
Terry recognized the pose. It was the one he'd seen when he'd awoken every morning before he re-inflated the Gryphon each day. "This is what you were doing to me?" He asked.
"Something like it. But for you, I was mostly just a passenger in your dreams, enjoying your company. I only acted when one of them started to hurt or upset you. And then just enough to calm you and ease your pain." He explained. "We're going to do something more here."
"Okay." Terry replied, curious to see what would happen next.
Drakon didn't reply. Instead the room around them fell out of focus. Slowly, the remaining clear view narrowed even more until it was a tunnel centered on Brad's face. Terry felt an odd disorientation, as though he was floating for a moment, and the clear view of Brad's face blurred for just an instant.
When the blurring cleared, the view was still centered on Brad as before, but a thick grid of plastic bars obscured part of his face.† As Terry realized he was looking into the face of a man in a football helmet, the blurry tunnel obscuring the rest of the scene widened quickly out to reveal they were standing in the midst of a football field, on the side of the opposing team, looking back at Brad and Don and the rest of their teammates lined up before them.
A gentle susurration grew quickly louder and became the roar of the crowd from 'off stage', the people in the stands seemed blurred to a nondescript impressionist image of football fans.† The sounds of a band playing a school 'fight song' faded in and out. Terry looked anxiously at the team lined up before him; each of them already down and 'set'.† He was worried that the snap would happen at any moment, and they'd be over-run.† In fact, shouldn't it have happened already?
But, for some reason, the team remained down and poised for far longer than the count should have allowed.† And why hadn't the opposing team reacted to the sudden appearance of a stranger in their backfield?
"Because we're on their side." Drakon sent with a small cough-chuckle. "See?"
For a moment, Terry found himself 'outside of himself' and looking back.† A large Gryphon stood poised for quick reaction in the backfield of the opposing team. The rest of the team was dressed in silver and blue, matching the Gryphon's natural colors. But if that weren't enough to signify its rightful place on the team, the Gryphon also wore a helmet, fitted for his eagle's head, with a silver Gryphon rampant on the side. He also wore the same blue jersey with the silver piping as the rest of the team, with the number 33 on his back.† He didn't wear any pants though, and Terry smiled and then blushed as he realized that Drakon wasn't neuter any longer, even in this dream.
"Now, now, now!" Drakon chided with a purring laugh, and Terry realized his view had shifted back into 'first person' once more.† Oddly, he could see perfectly clearly even though the wider view had plainly shown the protective bars of the helmet across his field of vision.
"We're not here for that sort of dream!" Drakon continued, still chuckling softly. "Though later, if you still want..."
"Lesson first!" Terry sent frantically, falling back to Drakon's standard response. Terry was sure his sudden blush must be heating the Gryphon from the inside.
Drakon's soft purr became a full coughing-laugh. "Right!† Now, they haven't hiked the ball because time in a dream is one of the easiest factors to manipulate. Days can pass in an instant, or an instant might take forever to unfold. The dreamers frequently do this to themselves, so it's even easier for us to influence from the outside, as we have here."
"The key is to keep things in context as much as possible. Sure, dreams are fantastic places. But, unless it is a nightmare, there's almost always a thread of some sort of self-consistency within, no matter how tenuous that thread might be.† That's why we're wearing the helmet and jersey. It's enough of a connection to put us onto the opposing team without raising questions that could snap the dreamer out of the current scene. Modifying one of your school's normal opponents, the Silver Eagles, into the Gryphons is a close enough change not to raise concerns either, and it just reinforces the appropriateness of having a real Gryphon here with them. So the result of it all is that we fit as a natural and accepted part of this scene."
"Next, we add a bit of extra incentive for what's to come by planting a little, tiny suggestion in the sleeper's mind.† It's one that he's already had naturally, so it won't seem unusual for it to arise again."
Terry's view narrowed down to Brad's helmeted face for just a moment, and he heard Drakon's voice saying "I've gotta do well tonight! All the Scouts are here!"
As Terry's view widened to encompass the full scene once again, he saw Brad turn his head slightly to look toward the impressionist painting of the crowd on the sidelines. Terry's view followed along with Brad's, as if Brad had called up a camera shot zooming in on the stands.† There, all in a row, were a group of people with clip boards and little pocket recorders. Somehow, each of them knew Brad was looking at them, for they all met his gaze and nodded in recognition.† As the view returned to the field around them, Terry could practically feel the 'flop sweat' trying to break out on Brad's brow.† He knew Brad had to be thinking he couldn't fail now, with all those people watching. It would blow his chances of turning Pro for sure.
"Now we have set the stage." Drakon said in Terry's mind. "Let the show begin."
Across from them, Don suddenly snapped out the count that had been on hold for so long. There was a sudden flurry of motion around Terry as the players of both teams reacted.† Drakon's superlative vision easily picked Brad out of the mass, and the Gryphon moved smoothly to cover the man as he moved downfield in his pass-receiver's pattern.
Terry could see Brad's eyes widen in dismay as the man realized the opposing team's 'star' player was covering him. But his brown furrowed in determination and he put on a sudden burst of speed.
Drakon let Brad gain a step on him, though the Gryphon's hot breath on Brad's shoulder and neck made sure the man realized just how close the Gryphon was, raising the man's anxiety. Suddenly, Don's arm shot forward and the football fired like a bullet towards Brad.
The crowd's roar grew, and Terry clearly heard Don's voice saying 'Of course you can catch.† Ya gotta admit it's easier with me dropping the ball right in your arms.', exactly as he had in the morning.† True to this words, the ball hit just where Brad could catch it easiest, and the running back tucked the ball in, turned down field, and hit the gas.
They crowd roared louder, the band blared out a brassy tune as Brad quickly distanced himself from the rest of his opponents.† All except Drakon!
The Gryphon matched Brad stride for stride, his hot breath still bathing the back of Brad's neck. Brad made an even stronger effort, setting his head bullishly as he plowed ahead even faster. But Drakon stayed right with him. Terry could see the tiny beads of sweat begin to stand out on Brad's neck as the man realized he couldn't outdistance the Gryphon.† Worriedly, Brad lifted his eyes to check the distance remaining toward the goal line.
"Ah!" Drakon said in satisfaction within Terry's thoughts.† "First turn of the screw!"
Terry could see Brad flinch as the sight hit him - The goal posts were mere toothpicks, nearly lost in the distance. They had to be at least a mile down the field! Still, a wave of determination swept off Brad and over Terry as Brad recalled all the extra laps and sets of stairs he'd run! He could do this! This was what he'd trained for. He could run to those posts easily!
From among the general blare of band and roar of crowd came the sounds of a public address announcer. "All eyes are on Brad as he runs toward a sure touchdown! Only one player seems to be able to keep up with him! It sure is good that Brad has been spending all that time staying fit and in shape, or he might be having trouble eluding the Gryphon on a run like this."
Terry blinked in bemusement at the announcer's words. Those were nothing like he'd ever heard over the PA at any game.
Drakon cough-chuckled. "That's because this is a dream, Terry. Brad's hearing what he wants to hear, reinforced by his own thoughts of the moment. But it gives us a clue what to use for the next turn of the screw."
Drakon quickened his pace for a few steps, just enough to be able to reach up and hook one eagle's clawed talon on the neck of Brad's mesh jersey. With a tug and a wrench, the tear-away jersey performed as designed; ripping away instead of dragging down the running back.† However, instead of the beefy football-pad-covered physique under the concealing jersey, it revealed an old-fashioned laced girdle surrounding Brad's middle!†
Noticeable rolls of fat were squeezed out the top and bottom of the restricting garment.† The laces were standing out under obvious strain as they struggled to contain a huge belly that was manifestly struggling to get free of imprisoning material.† Brad looked down in horror as the crowd's roar changed to raucous laughter.
It almost appeared that his belly was trying to grow larger with every step. The girdle's seams began to split, its laces to fray, as Brads belly forced its way farther and farther out of the top and bottom of the restriction about its middle.†
The announcer's voice came once again: "Uh oh!† Looks like Brad has been hitting the kegs a bit too hard on the weekends!† Look at the beer belly grow! I don't think that girdle is going to take much more! Look out, Gryphon! It's about to blow!"
Drakon 'hit the brakes' an instant before the girdle exploded with a huge *BOOM* that echoed off the distant stands.† Shards of fragmented cloth still bounced off the Gryphon's helmet as the laughter of the crowd redoubled. Terry could hear a group of individual voices raised in laughter above the general roar, and he knew those had to be the scouts watching from the stands. He was sure Brad knew that too.
Brad's naked belly swelled outward in a huge surge as it escaped the entrapping girdle. It shook and swayed in rolling ripples for a while in rebound before it settled down like a gigantic shiny beach ball, bouncing between his hips and his pecs.
"Oh my!" came the voice of the announcer. "He's going to have a hard time carrying all of that down the field ahead of the Gryphon's star player.† Too bad he let all his partying and drinking get the better of his training. There goes the Gryphon! He's shaken off the effects of the explosion and he's back on Brad's trail again. And heís gaining fast."
Drakon sprang back into a charge once more. As he quickly closed on Brad, it was obvious that the suggestion of all that weight was beginning to tell on the man.
Brad's steps were beginning to grow slower, his breathing more labored. The distant goal posts seemed only yards closer even though he had been running steadily at top speed for several minutes. Still he pressed on, though his eyes were growing wider in disbelief and despair.
"Yep! The Gryphon's star is gaining rapidly now." came the announcer's voice once again. "This is the time he typically uses his patented 'flying attack'.† Yes! He's getting ready to use it now!"
As the announcer's voice advised Brad of his steadily decreasing chances of reaching the goal, Drakon spread his wings and launched into the air.† Like an arrow, he surged ahead until he was directly above Brad.
The Gryphon's shadow fell plainly upon the man running below, as though a spotlight had cast it sharply on the ground.† Brad, faltering obviously now, began to try evasive running to elude the beast following above.† With every turn, his huge belly swung out like a giant pendulum, dragging Brad along with it and slowing his turn as well as his pace.
Drakon easily banked back and forth above the struggling man, keeping him precisely centered in the middle of the Gryphon's threatening shadow. "Now the third turn." said Drakon quietly to Terry.
Brad's turns and leaps soon reduced him to a staggering walk, still struggling toward the goal line while Drakon stroked along easily overhead. The turf seemed to tie itself around his cleats at every step, trying to hold his feet down.† It built up on the bottom of his shoes, weighing down his already aching, exhausted legs.† Somehow, during all his maneuvering, he had managed to close the distance to the goal line.† It lay just ahead now, only 30 yards away, nearly in reach. But his endurance was running out much faster than the distance was decreasing.† And still the menacing, ever-present shadow of the Gryphon loomed over him.
Brad was still struggling forward when he caught a toe and tumbled to his knees.† Drakon glided on ahead, landing just across the goal line before turning around to face the oncoming running back.
Too exhausted to get back to his feet, Brad was still crawling slowly towards the goal. The sounds of the crowd and the band had faded at some time earlier when no one had noticed.† Even the rest of the field had blurred out.† Only the narrowing patch of ground between Brad and the goal remained in focus, with Drakon waiting patiently just beyond.
The last of Brad's strength drained away.† His huge belly dragged along the ground under him, holding him back as he crawled, slowly, painfully on hands and knees toward the goal line only a few yards away.† As he was just about to put one faltering hand over it, Drakon reached out with one clawed forefoot and lifted it out of reach, as if the line were a rubber band stretched across the field.
"Last turn of the screw." Drakon whispered to Terry. The Gryphon's words were sad, but determined.
"NO!" Brad screamed as the Gryphon moved the line just out of his reach.† Gasping, he forced himself forward a few more inches against the anchoring weight of his belly.† But, once again, Drakon calmly pulled the elastic goal line farther out of Brad's reach.
"Oh no!† NO!† That's not FAIR!" Brad gasped, weeping in frustration as he struggled and failed to move the newly added distance.
"Why? Because you can't win?" Drakon asked softly, the burry baritone rolling over Brad. "You've lost games before, haven't you?† That isn't it, is it?"
Brad lifted his tear-stained face to the Gryphon, shaking his head 'no'.
"Then why? Because you're letting your team down?" Drakon asked again, his words oddly gentle.
Brad paused, considering. He was obviously about to agree when Drakon continued...
"But your team mates have made mistakes before, haven't they? They've blown the big play, dropped the crucial pass, right? It hurt, sure.† But not like this, did it?" Drakon prodded.
Brad cried out, tears falling to the turf as he pushed forward for another couple inches, then collapsed as Drakon easily moved the line just out of his reach once more.
"So, why is this time different?" Drakon continued relentlessly. "Is it because the crowd laughed at you?"
Brad shook his head, weeping into the crook of his arm.
"No, it's not that. You've heard laughter before. You've even done some of it yourself, haven't you?" At Brad's affirmative shake, Drakon continued. "And it's not because you failed, because everyone fails every now and then, right?"
At a slightly louder sob, the Gryphon nodded. "Ah. Getting a bit closer, are we?† So, once again, what is the real problem here? Why does this hurt so much?"
Carefully, Drakon reached out and lifted Brad's chin, raising his face to meet the Gryphon's gaze. "You know, don't you? It's not because you failed. It's not because you looked foolish.† It's not because you let your friends down.† Those are all of part of it, but they are it are they?"
Brad shook his head, looking up into the golden gaze above him. "It's because you've taken my dream!" he husked. "No team would take a player like me! Not now!"
Drakon nodded. "Yes. That hurts more than all the rest, doesn't it? When dreams die, something inside us dies as well, doesn't it?"
Brad nodded, tears still streaming down his face.
"Dreams come in all shapes and sizes, Brad. You took a man's dream away today. It hurt him just as much as this hurts you. And the worst thing? You didn't even know - or care."
"Oh, no." Brad sat back on his knees, hugging the nearly forgotten football to his chest, looking down at it. "I never wanted to hurt anyone like this. Who..."
He looked up to Drakon once more, to see that the Gryphon's helmet and jersey had vanished, and recognition loomed up in Brad's eyes. "Oh gods, no! I didn't want to hurt Terry this way.† Not like this!"
"I know you didn't, Brad. But you weren't thinking. To you, it was just a stupid little toy for a stupid little guy. You didn't know it was a dream, and you took it from him." Drakon said somberly, relentlessly. "Just like I took your dream here."
Drakon looked down at the goal line still snagged in his claw, and he set it back on the ground just in front of Brad's fingers.
Brad followed the Gryphon's gaze, and he hesitantly put his hand on the other side of the line, into the goal zone. The forgotten crowds exploded into a roar of outrageous applause, the band broke into the school fight song, and the announcer began expounding on how Brad had overcome such impossible odds to reach the goal, using his will and determination and heart alone, that any team would be lucky to snap him up.
Brad looked back up at Drakon, wonder in his eyes as he met the Gryphon's golden gaze once again. The Gryphon slowly began fading from view, revealing the scouts waiting beyond, anxious to sign Brad up.
"Sometimes, dreams get a second chance, Brad.† Just like I'm here, whole and unbroken now. Sometimes, someone can help make them come true. Maybe someone like you? Sometimes the dreamer will find another one to put in its place. But the miracle doesn't always happen." Drakon's voice continued even as the figure faded. "Remember that! There's not always another dream to take the place of the one lost. Keep that in mind before you take away someone else's."
The world faded around Terry as Drakon faded from Brad's view. The dream settled down to simple, uncomplicated sleep...
The insistent, raucous buzz of the alarm startled Terry awake. He looked around in confusion, trying to place his surroundings. There was a bunk above him, complete with sounds of someone stirring in it and groaning himself awake.
Terry stared down at himself.† Where were his wings? Where were his talons?† Wait a minute! Where were his SHORTS!?† He noticed he was nude under the covers, and quickly clutched the sheet to his chest.
Then the rest of the memories flooded into his sleep-befuddled brain, and he frantically flipped the sheet aside, his nakedness forgotten as he searched his bunk for the torn and deflated form of his little Gryphon.
Where was Drakon? There was no sign of him in the bed. Maybe he'd fallen off onto the floor or gotten swept under the bunk?
Still in bed, Terry bent his chest over the edge to look on the floor and under the bunk.† Don hit the ground beyond with a thump as he hopped out of the top bunk.
"Hey! Put something on, will ya?" Don said with a laugh, flipping a bath towel Terry's way. "Ya look like a fish's belly! If you're going to go nudist on me, at least get yourself enough sun not to glow white in the dark!"
Ignoring the towel, Terry looked up anxiously toward Don. "I can't find him! I can't find Drakon! Have you..."
The words petered out at the expression on Don's face.†
With a surge of hope, Terry twisted about to look over his shoulder at what had fixated his roommate so. There, in his normal position at the headboard of Terry's bed, stood Drakon.† The Gryphon's wings drooped slightly, as if sheltering the person sleeping below, and his head titled just enough to look down at where Terry normally rested his pillowed head.
"Drakon!" Terry's shout of jubilation was enough to wake the rest of his dorm's wing, but he didn't care. He seized the tiny Gryphon and lifted him carefully off the headboard, turning him this way and that, looking him over in wonder.
At first glance it appeared that Drakon was exactly as he always had been, slightly deflated, first thing in the morning. Terry carefully put his inflation valve to his lips, relishing the feel of the buttery soft vinyl, the sweet, heady smell, and gently blew in just enough air to leave the Gryphon taunt, perky, and shiny once again.†
Fully inflated, Terry noticed the changes that had eluded him on first inspection: The Gryphon's leonine belly was noticeably rounder than before, as if Drakon had just finished a very large meal. There was obviously no sign of the horrible rent that had split the little body nearly in two. But, as he turned the Gryphon over to look at that area more closely, Terry noticed that a little fold of vinyl had appeared between the Gryphon's hind legs.† It wasn't terribly obvious, but if looked at in the right way, it almost appeared like Drakon was male instead of neuter now.
"Did you find a new one?" Don asked, and Terry nearly jumped at the unexpected voice.
He turned and handed the toy to his roommate, who took it carefully.
"No, Don. That's Drakon. You can see where his belly stretched out some after Brad over-inflated him." Terry replied.
"How did you fix him so well?" Don countered, turning Drakon upside down and inspecting the site of the damage for himself. "I can't even see where he was ripped!"
"I didn't." Terry replied once more.
The two met each other's gaze for long seconds, then Don silently handed Drakon back to Terry.
"Well, class waits." Don said at last.† He reached down, and gently ran his finger over the feathered head of the little toy.† "I'm glad Drakon's back."
"Me too!" Terry replied with enthusiasm.
"Good! Now cover yourself up so I don't have to put on my sunglasses!" Don finished, giving Terry a little punch on the shoulder. "Dibs on the shower!" As he padded quickly toward the bath, Don tossed over his shoulder. "Oh! Nice helmet! It'll look good on him!"
"Huh?" Terry said to Don's retreating back, but his roommate was already closing the bathroom door behind him.
Turning, Terry looked once again at his headboard. There, sitting on the shelf beside the spot where Drakon had been standing was a tiny blue football helmet, sized and shaped to fit an eagle's head, with a tiny silver Gryphon emblazoned on its side.
Terry lifted Drakon to eye level, and gazed into the saucy golden eyes for a moment before hugging the Gryphon's silky soft chest and sides to his cheek. "It wasnít a dream, was it? We really were together?"
A tiny beak nibbled his ear, and a burry baritone voice filled his mind. "For as long as you will have me, I will be a part of you, both in your heart and at your side whenever you want me." Drakon repeated, and a faint hint of a vibrating purr rolled through the tiny figure.