He was dying. She did the best she could to wipe the sweat from his brow, but it was so hard to see through the sting of tears. Her trembling fingers, tracing the laugh lines on his face, from the corner of his kind blue eyes, to the corners of his lips that still retained their smile, even now, just for her. They traveled to sooth him, to burn the tracks into her memory to hold onto when he wasn't there. To warm her on those lonely nights when no one was by her side.

"The bird…" He whispered through shuttering bluish lips, tears finally being allowed to slide down his face. "When set free..."

"Will follow the wind of love back to thee." She finished as he slowly…slowly closed azure eyes.

Free Bird
Chapter One

"Good morning, Stephanie." Milford greeted as she stumbled into the kitchen, the saddest look on her face, and he had come to expect it from her. After all, given the circumstances…Her hand found an orange on it's own, her thoughts somewhere else, her eyes staring at nothing even as she began to peel it. "Anything I could make?" He asked, Stephanie finally looking up.
"Oh. No. I'm…I'm not very hungry at all." She said sorrowfully as she placed the orange back on the counter.
"Well, have a nice day then." Stephanie said nothing back as she made her way out into the daylight. Once outside, the other kids noticed her, Ziggy running over.
"Stephanie! Wanna come play some basketball?" She looked down at him, his bright smile breaking her sadness.
Managing a smile of her own, Stephanie nodded, "Sounds good." Ziggy rejoiced quickly before rushing back to the court to join Trixie and Pixel. But on her way came a familiar voice.
"Hey guys!" She turned, smiling for the first time that day, always for him. No matter what, he always managed to get that grin and it was like some power over her that she never could figure out. Stephanie hurried over to him and Trixie, Ziggy and Pixel shook their heads, not surprised she'd forget about her game invitation so easily. He was Sportacus, after all.
"Sportacus." She said with a deep breath after hugging him. "I had that dream again." He knew what she was talking about. For the past three weeks since Stephanie had returned to Lazy Town for the summer, she had been having very weird dreams.
"About the man and the woman and the bird cage?" He asked, just to make sure. Stephanie nodded and he put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "It's just a dream. Let's go play to get your mind off of it." No need to say more, in a flash they had joined the others, a game of horse already underway. But even so, she seemed distracted. Stephanie never mentioned the ending of the dream to Sportacus, she could never tell him that the man always died at the end, nor did she mentioned his strangely familiar blue eyes…
"Stephanie, heads up!" Trixie yelled, tossing the ball to the entranced girl, breaking her from her deep thoughts as the ball hit her in the chest. "You've been out of it lately, Pinky." She said with a sigh, placing a hand on her cocked hip.

"Oh. Sorry, Trixie…I haven't been getting much sleep."

"Not much sleep?" Ziggy repeated. "I've been having that problem too. For some reason every time I lay down to go to sleep, I get a horrible horrible tummy ache."
"Could that be because of the five pounds of chocolate you eat before bed?" Trixie asked, only for Ziggy to shake his head.
"What's dinner got to do with it?" Everyone laughed a bit; even Ziggy, but Stephanie soon passed the ball back to Trixie. She wasn't in much of a mood to play anymore and went to perch on top of a nearby wall. Sportacus joined her.

"Are you sure you're ok?" He asked quietly as the other three went back to their game. She shuddered a bit under his touch, and gently shrugged him off.
"I'm fine."
"I don't believe you." He replied and Stephanie sighed.
"There's still a part of the dream I…I haven't told you about." She said quietly, looking down at the ground below her feet. Sportacus readied something to say but was interrupted before the words could leave his mouth.
"A dream?" Pixel asked, coming over. He hated to see Stephanie so down. "I've got just the thing for that!" She looked up at him as Trixie and Ziggy came over.
"Another weird gadget? Where do you keep them all?" Trixie scoffed, but was ignored by Pixel as he hopped up and took Stephanie's other side. He had become a lot more daring over the months Stephanie had been gone.
"It's my Dreamerama 3000." He said. "And it records your dreams for you. Maybe if we record it, we can try to figure out what your dreams are saying." Stephanie brightened a bit at this idea.
"Do you really think it'll help?" She asked, leaning an inch closer to him, forcing him to blush slightly.
"P-positive!" Stephanie then hugged him, Trixie smirking at the look of embarrassed joy on Pixel face, even as Stephanie let him go and hopped off the wall.
"What are we waiting for then?" She took his hand and led the way back to his house, Ziggy following close behind.
"Aren't you coming?" Trixie asked Sportacus who was still sitting on the wall.
"In a little bit." He said, flashing her a smile. Trixie shrugged and followed after them, leaving Sportacus alone.
"I have a very bad feeling…" He whispered to no one in particular, a hand reaching towards his stomach where something odd was twisting inside. By time he had joined the kids at Pixel's, Stephanie was lying in Pixel's bed, trying to get comfortable with her new crown on her head. It looked more like silver head phones that were resting on the temples instead of the ears, the band wrapping around the back of the head instead of over top.
"Now, just relax and try to fall asleep." Pixel instructed from his computer desk. Trixie and Ziggy was watching from a couch that was turned to face the monitor wall next to Pixel's bed, a large popcorn tub shared between the two of them. Stephanie took a deep breath, not entirely excited to have this dream again, but all inhibitions and nervousness disappeared when Sportacus stepped in. That was another affect on her that she'd never understand. Things were always right when he was around…
"Are you ready?" Pixel asked, the program popping up on the now unified monitor wall. Stephanie glanced again at Sportacus who took a seat next to Ziggy.
"Yea. I think I am." And took a deep breath, closing her eyes and trying to relax. After this, everything would be just like normal again. She could stop feeling someone else's pain. A few minuets later she managed to drift back to sleep.

On the monitors showed a bright green field, with beautiful blue skies and hardly a cloud. She was obviously in a woman's point of view, but certainly not her own as wavy brown hair kept blowing into view. Dainty pale hands were picking the wild flowers in the field, a voice that wasn't Stephanie humming a soft melody. As she picked each one, she'd weave it into a chain, soon admiring a flower crown, which she placed on her head.
"I don't get what the big deal is." Trixie said, but was hushed by Pixel as someone approached, coming over the flowered hill. He was a tall young man with gentle blue eyes and blonde hair. She stood and greeted him kindly in words that were hard to hear or understand. It wasn't in another language, it was like the memory was faded, or the dream hadn't intended for it to be heard. But what ever she said made him laugh before leaning into a kiss. You could tell it was a kiss because he blushed and puckered before the screen went dark as the woman closed her eyes. But as soon as they opened again the scene was replaced by a cold dark room. And in a chair was a cold dark woman. She was tall with long winding lavender hair and a black sequence dress.
Sportacus remembered Stephanie trying to describe these characters to him before, but it was so much more powerful to see it for himself. But that horrible feeling of worry in his stomach increased as he watched. Thought she had never descried the ending, he knew something terrible was going to happen. The woman stood and slapped the girl, sending her back. Stephanie had flinched at that in her sleep. It was like she could feel it.
Again the scene changed as the woman Stephanie was experiencing this through was gazing at a birdcage, in it two love birds. There had been no real sound till now; you could hear the birds sing. But they didn't sing like birds. They sang like people.
"The bird when set free," One in a female tone sang.
"Will follow the wind of love back to thee. Oh how I wish for open skies." The other replied in a masculine tone, the two of them coming together to finish the song.
"To follow the sound of your voice, back to your side. Sign your name to the wind and I'll follow you there. And over divides I'll find your hand and pull you near. From the skies, from the clouds above, here with you forever in love." No one made a sound in Pixel's house; all of them transfixed to the screens at this point as everything suddenly became so clear and alive. The sounds, the colors had suddenly come to a life like point.
"Amy, I need you. Please. Will you marry me?" He bent on his knee and took her hand, the vision on the screen suddenly blurry from the tears the woman was crying, tears forming in Stephanie's closed eyes as well. His voice was so strong and comforting, his sparkling blue eyes seeming to beg her with every once of his being.
"Sonny. I. I wish I could." She whispered back, taking her hand to help clear the vision of tears, only to reveal his shocked and disappointed face. "I just can't. I'm so sorry."
"Why?" He begged, standing, never minding the dust on his knee from the dirt road that they were standing in.
"You know why." She replied, more sadness in her voice than one could describe with words. But before he could respond, the scene had melted away to the bird cage, blood spattered all around the metal framing. Both birds horrible disfigured, the cage was unopened, still with it's lock.
"Isn't that strange?" The woman from before in the black dress asked, stepping to Amy's side. "It's almost like they just exploded all on their own. The cage is untouched, and there are no cats in this household. This is your fault, you know."
"I know." Amy replied before the scene changed again, Sonny now in her arms. He was shaking slightly, his breathing so labored as Amy sobbed. She took a cloth and tried to wipe the sweat from his brow. And you knew he was dying. It was clear in those blue eyes, in his smile. She gently ran her fingers over his face, humming the melody of the song that the birds had sung. Until he finally drew a deep breath.
"The bird…" Another deep shuttering breath. "When set free." You could almost feel Amy's pain as she sobbed, her tears dripping onto his chest.
"Will follow the wind of love back to thee." His eyes closed slowly and she pulled him close, rocking softly. And the scene faded out, the color now gone, everything looking distorted. Older looking hands were buttering a piece of bread, an empty birdcage not too far away. It was the last thing Amy focused on before falling over, everything returning to black. Stephanie sat up gasping for air and Pixel rushed over to take the Dreamarama 3000 off of her.
"Stephanie! Are you alright?" She clung to Pixel.
"Please make it stop. I-I can't sleep, I can't think. I..." He rubbed her back, suddenly the closeness not mattering. All that mattered was calming her.
"Shh, it's over. We can try and figure out what this is all about now." She let him go and wiped her face. Ziggy grabbed a tissue, wiping his own eyes. It was all so sad.
"You're such a baby." Trixie said, looking at Ziggy.
"Your eyes are red too." He pointed out, Trixie looking away.
"I just got something in them is all." She huffed, taking the tissue box and grabbing one for her own face. Sportacus however was still staring at the screen, even though the dream had ended. Ziggy pulled on his vest a little.
"Uh, Sportacus? Are you alright?" No response so he pulled a little harder, finally getting Sportacus to blink out of whatever had taken him prisoner.
"Oh. Yea, I'm fine." He replied his voice very dry. But it certainly wasn't fine. The way he looked, his face, his posture, would closest be described as disturbed…depressed, which was completely weird to see from Sportacus. But soon, the hero stood and walked to the door and left without a word to anyone. Stephanie's chest ached at that. Was he mad at her? Disgusted? He must think she was horrible for having such a terrifying dream. This of course, encouraged new tears.
"Why would Sportacus just leave like that?" Ziggy asked, baffled. Normally, well, normally Sportacus would have been the one to rush to Steph to see if she was all right, he'd have tried to calm her, to let her know it was all right. Instead he just… left?

"Maybe he didn't want to get all emotional in front of us." Trixie suggested, tossing the box of tissues back at Ziggy.
"He's probably mad at me." Stephanie said, rubbing the last tears from her eyes. "I probably scared him away."
"Sportacus?" Pixel asked. "There's no way something as silly as a bad dream would scare him away."
Outside, Sportacus was walking back towards his ladder, his mind in a fog. There was just something about that dream, no it was that song. That melody. He caught himself humming it as he walked aimlessly thru the town.
"The bird when set free will follow the wind of love back to thee. Oh how I wish for open skies, to follow the sound of your voice back to your side. So sign your name to the wind and I'll follow you there. And over divides I'll find your hand and pull you near. From the skies, from the clouds above. Here with you forever in love." His hand traveled automatically to the cold metal rung, and pulled him up. "So don't you cry, take my hand it's alright. Travel with me to the day, far from night."