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The Dragon's Prince

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Steve knew he was in the right spot when the first villager to see him—a man with a huge bruise on his forehead—yelped and ran, clutching at what looked to be a solid-gold chamberpot.  

“I heard there’s a dragon here,” Steve called out, standing in his stirrups.  His horse sighed. “I don’t want any trouble—I definitely don’t want your chamberpots—”

“Who the hell are you?”  A young woman poked her face over the fence near his elbow.  “What’s that sword for, then?”

It was both convenient and annoying, Steve thought, to be travelling without his entourage and ceremonial armor.  “This sword wouldn’t hurt him.” He grabbed the hilt and pulled a few inches of blade to show plain steel, not the slick, greenish sheen of an anti-magic enchantment.  

“Mmmm,” she hummed, squinting.

“His privateer license expired, is all—” Steve shrugged.

“Go away!  You’re here because he ate our sheep!” a kid yelled, and Steve sat back down in the saddle, brushing snow off his arms.

“Is that what happened?”

“He just strolled into town and asked whose sheep he’d eaten,” said another villager, hanging out a window.  “Been up on north field. Hucked treasure at everyone.” More of them were venturing forth, one of them holding a golden harp.  

“Broke my front tooth,” said the kid, yanking her lip back to show a gap, “—he was naked.”  Steve stared between his horse’s ears, and the kid smacked his boot.  “You gonna take all the stuff he gave us? It was too much, but he gave it to us.”

“No,” Steve grimaced at the guy hiding in plain sight “behind” a tiny shrub, “—no, keep your...chamberpots, I understand a trade caravan will be coming through, if you want to sell some…” he trailed off as a villager waved and pointed him to a ceramic vase larger than she was.  “Uh, some of his...gifts. They usually keep track of where he’s been.” A cheer went up around him, and he sighed. Definitely the right place, he thought.   Now I just have to convince him to listen to me.  And risk his life. If anything, he felt more tired, and he rolled his shoulders, hiding his wince as it strained the bandages under his jacket.   While I’m doing those two impossible tasks, maybe I can convince him to put on pants.

 

After some negotiation—and a stern refusal to accept harps or encyclopedias in payment—Steve stood at the base of a fall of boulders, and began to climb.  He started scrambling faster as the sun set, and the boulders shifted, and caught his boot. He froze, taking a shaky breath, and clung to the rock face, remembering the expression on General Hopper’s face after Steve received his orders.  

“Why not ask a dragon that responds to summons,” Hopper had gritted out.

“We need a fire dragon,” Steve had echoed his father’s words in his own voice, and tried to sound certain.  “He—he doesn’t kill anyone outside his license. I just—I don’t know what I can offer him.  He could be in danger from them too, and they didn’t give me any—I can’t go to a dragon, even that dragon, and say “Please fight our battles, we’ll definitely figure out something to pay you with later—”

“There was that bandit.  This is a bad idea.”  Hopper had shaken his head, and stomped away to frown at the stack of maps.  

Steve had imagined himself seared black, and speared on a tree like a butcherbird’s breakfast, and wondered semi-hysterically which had happened first.

“E-except that,” he’d agreed.  “I’m—I’m sure there was some—”

“He is a dragon,” Hopper muttered.

 

Steve yanked on his leg, yelling at the flash of pain, and the boulders shifted again, sending an avalanche of rocks and dirt down slamming into his shoulders, and the back of his head.



When he awoke, he was warm, and clean, and everything was bright through his eyelids.  “...oh shit,” he whispered, curling tighter, “—I’m dead, and now everyone else will be dead—”

“Whoa there,” breathed a voice next to his ear, “—pretty boy.”

Steve stilled, opening his eyes on gold, and golden scales, because the voice of a dragon was unmistakable.  It rumbled all around him and blew across the skin of his back like bellows over hot coals. He swallowed, closing his eyes again.   Of course I’m naked.

“I know, touching me feels like heaven,” the dragon continued, “—but I have to ask.  What drives a prince...to climb a landslide...to knock on my door?”

Steve tried to stand, and found his right foot was a sea of pain.  His vision went starry.  

“Whoa, whoa,” the rumble said, and smooth scales curled around him.  Steve allowed himself to be propped up, then lifted, grabbing at the talons around his butt and ribs, and blinked into the face of the gold dragon.   He’s young, he thought distractedly, his head’s barely the size of a pony.  

“My—I’ve been sent—”

 

A tiny Prince Steve dangles in the claw of a huge golden dragon, who has a very annoying smile.

Art by the fabulous Humming-fly

 

“Are you a present?” asked the dragon, ignoring him.  “I took your giftwrap off, it was a bit—” it waved a claw, “—torn, after I dug you out.  I think you’d look great on this rock here,” it held him up to a slanted boulder the size of Steve’s bed, and tugged some furs from a pile to toss over it.  “I think your ass would really bring the room together.”  

“My—what,” Steve tried to turn, and the dragon leaned its head within view, teeth bared in what Steve suspected was an annoying dragon grin.  “My—I am not—I am his Royal Highness Prince Steven of Hawkins, Duke of Harringtown and Knight of the Realm, and I have been—”

The dragon sniffed him, and Steve resisted jerking away, swallowing hard as it spoke again.  “Why send you out without your guard?  You were wounded before you came here,” it informed him, and he stared back into enormous, bluey-gold eyes.

“I know that.”  Steve gritted his teeth.  

The dragon’s grin widened.  “Entirely-gold hoards are out this year.  I think a prince’s smooth skin would really make it pop.”  

“I thought you didn’t eat people.”

The dragon blinked, then huffed.  “I’m just saying you’d look nice lounging—”

“I need your help,” Steve hissed.

The dragon momentarily stopped trying to angle him different ways in the light.  “What are you offering?” it asked, the flames flickering in his throat.

Steve rolled his eyes.  “I don’t know what you want.  You must have enough money,” he waved at the piles of treasure, “—this isn’t even your main hoard.  And you aren’t paying taxes, like you agreed to do when you applied for your privateer license—”

“...you.”  The dragon went still, running a knuckle down Steve’s face, and then met his eyes again and laughed.  “As—as decor, naturally—”

“In a cave where you put me?” Steve asked, to clarify.  It was better than being roasted, he figured, or dropped onto a spike.  “I’ll need to ask you to defer my payment until—”

“One night, with you,” the dragon interrupted, turning its face away.  “I mean, if you can’t tear yourself away after—”

“One night?”  Steve squinted at him, and then yelped and grabbed for the dragon’s talons again, kicking for balance as he was suddenly lowered to the floor of the cave.  The mountainous gold coils and wings folded and curled inward, packing themselves impossibly tiny until they resolved into a human-ish shape covered in shining scales, and sporting dragon horns.  

He crouched, frowning at Steve’s swollen foot, then smirked up.  “One night...with me.”

“Oh!” Steve almost clapped in realization, but caught himself, blushing, as the dragon-man leaned his face into his own scaly hand and cackled.  “Just…” Steve trailed off, rephrasing his objections, until he remembered the amount of people at risk, and the whole reason he was there.   Maybe he enjoys sex where the human survives, he told himself, and held out his hand.  

The dragon took it in both of his, edging much too close for a handshake, and held it, grinning, as though he was delighted Steve had offered it, and didn’t intend to give it back.  

Steve set his jaw as the dragon leaned closer, his clawed thumb rubbing gently at the skin between Steve’s knuckles, and licked his lips, his gaze dropping to Steve’s mouth.  Steve barely had time for a startled inhale before he had warm lips pressed to his.  Up close, the dragon looked a bit like a very expensive costume, Steve thought, like someone at a masquerade ball, when he would wonder whether the person pressing him into the wall knew who he was kissing. 

He wondered, now, whether the dragon had ever attended.

 

The gold was digging into his butt, and his foot throbbed, but the dragon’s warm bulk was surprisingly cozy.  He had unreasonably long lashes, and soft lips, and Steve let himself relax into the kiss, licking curiously into a dragon’s mouth.  He found it nearly steaming hot, and thankfully clean of singed bandit. The pile of treasure he was lying on shifted.  

He winced as something jabbed into his side, and the dragon reached over—still licking gently into Steve’s mouth—and bent the metal arm of it back with a grating creak.  The reminder that a dragon could have crushed his skull with one hand, and instead was running soft fingertips along his jaw—and shifting scaly knees so as not to jostle his sore foot—made him feel a bit like jelly inside, and he laughed into the kisses, panting.  He pushed himself up on his elbows, into the kiss.  

The dragon hummed, grinning against his mouth, and dropped alongside him.  His hands were pleasantly hot, running up and down Steve’s ribs. “You should see what I’ve got, before you agree to anything.”

“What?” Steve murmured back, tossing a leg over the dragon’s waist.  

“We can—we can make sure this is fine—after I’ve saved your humans.” 

“What—what do I call you,” Steve whispered into the kisses, and the dragon pulled back to grin at him, then leaned in for another kiss, and another.  

“You don’t—you don’t know my name?”  He kissed Steve’s lips again. The skin was starting to feel tender.  

“You’re designated by color, ability, and area,” Steve rambled, accepting kisses when he paused.  “—it’s—mm.  The paperwork is a mess—the way you keep flying around—I thought your name must be some—some Dragonish growly noise that—that they didn’t know how to spell, which, rude—” he panted into another kiss, losing his train of thought.

“...Billy,” the dragon snickered into Steve’s ear.  “You always let strangers do this?”

Steve remembered with a jolt that he’d been sent to bring a dragon back, whether it required his oath or his life, and he shook his head.  “It’s dangerous, what I—what I need from—”

Billy bit, oh-so-gently, up the side of Steve’s neck, and he groaned, losing track of his words as his eyes fluttered shut.  “You finally came without your guards.”

“Were you waiting to get me alone?” Steve snorted.  “If you weren’t giving pornographic statues to children, you wouldn’t rile everyone up so much—”  

Billy snickered.  “It was heavy! I didn’t wanna carry that thing!  Fun though it was.”

“She was eleven—”

“Oh, she kept cows, she’d seen worse.  You probably bought it from her.”

“We couldn’t very well—”

“So she’s better off, now.  Several times the price of a couple cows.”  Billy’s teeth shone sharp in his grin, and he leaned in to run his knuckles up Steve’s side.  “I’ve got some treasures I’ve been saving for you…actually, here—” he leaned off the edge of the rock, then held up a vial of sparkling silvery fluid.

“It’s—it’s just my ankle,” Steve stared at it.  “We can stop by a healer on the way back, there’s no need for—”

“You’re hurt,” Billy uncorked it with his teeth, “—that’s what it’s for.  If I’m not paying attention, and you get hurt again, it’ll use it up later, maybe.  Maybe your tears will start healing the sick.”

“How would I even find out that was happening,” Steve asked, frowning at the vial.  “You should sell that stuff to some kingdom with a dying queen, or something.”

“Or maybe,” Billy whispered, “—you’ll live as long as a dragon.  Try for that one.”  

“How am I supposed to try for something—What am I gonna do, talk to the potion?!  Mmfgh!”

Billy grinned, sticking it in Steve’s mouth, and Steve drank it, staring at him over a magic potion worth as much as...a prince’s ransom, he wondered.   A king’s castle?  

“Why didn’t you drink it yourself?” he asked, as Billy frowned at, tapped it, and tipped the last drop onto Steve’s extended tongue.  “You could—”

“I’m a dragon,” Billy licked his lips, watching Steve’s mouth, “—you think I’m going to get hurt?  You’re fragile.  If something happens—”

“Why do you care about me?”  Steve asked, lowering his eyes to flex his suddenly-painless foot.  He reached down to tug at the loosened bandages. They were stuck together with blood.  “I mean—”

“You—you’re the prince,” the dragon laughed, tossing the empty vial against the far wall, and Steve nodded, biting his lips.

“Right.”

“No, I mean—” Billy crouched in front of him, cocking his head to catch Steve’s eye, “—everyone knows what you’re like.  We know what you do, because you’re the prince. You’re on coins—”

“I’m valuable.”  Steve nodded, keeping his shoulders relaxed, and giving his best public ‘welcome’ smile.  

“No,” Billy pushed him back, climbing over him again, and kissed his nose, “—no, I mean—I know you, I read every copy of the Imperial Gazette—”

Steve snorted, bursting into cackles of laughter.  “You think you know me through that?!”

“...no,” Billy muttered, his gold scales pinkening.

“What’s my favorite color?”  Steve grinned up at him, and Billy leaned in for another kiss.

“Gold,” he whispered.  “The best color.”

“...I do like yellow a lot,” Steve whispered into the kiss, and Billy squeezed him.

“I know enough about you,” he mouthed along Steve’s ear, “—to know I want to know everything about you.”  

Steve’s heart pounded, and he took a shaky breath, then cleared his throat.  “...what kind of name for a dragon is ‘Billy’,” he mumbled, his head muzzy with warm hands and bright smiles.  “Shouldn’t you be.  The Slayer.  Something about fire.  Smog.”

“Rude,” the dragon whispered against his mouth.  “Billy the Slayer?”

One more question, Steve thought, before he burns them all away, kissing me.  “Wha—Billy.”  he cleared his throat, leaning into the hand on his head.  “Wait.  Why did you burn that man?  The bandit.  You—you killed him—” 

Billy punched his shoulder, with an odd gentleness, and Steve tried to fight back a smile, given he was asking about a murder.  “You saw his crimes!” the dragon huffed.

“I didn’t,” Steve raised his eyebrows, tugging a fur over himself, and lying back against the boulder with a sigh, “—because you didn’t send in your paperwork, like usual—we were called out and—I just—my lungs are full of bandit flesh now—you couldn’t just break his legs and drop him at a guard station—”

“I—I definitely sent—” he paused, thinking.  “I didn’t.” The dragon scrambled away, sliding down the mound of treasure in his tiny human form.  “Ah, here they are—”

“How do you fill them out?” Steve asked.  “Do you use your claws?  With your eyes shut?  Because that would explain the handwriting—”

The cavern brightened with a poof of flame.  “I use a quill— look—” he clambered back up the shifting mounds of treasure, waving a handful of papers, “—see, look, he stuck his cock in places it wasn’t wanted, so I stuck a tree through it.  And set him on fire.”

Steve grimaced, finally relaxing.  “Oh.  Well.  That’s fair.”

“And then I threw his golden chamberpot at the first person I—”

“Who has a golden chamberpot,” Steve started snickering, and couldn’t stop, curled against his warm dragon.  Eventually the days travelling wounded caught up to him, and he mumbled his replies, then snored, with the vague impression of gentle claws combing through his hair.

Chapter Text

The next day they circled to land within sight of the castle, at the edge of the battleground where the fighting had turned the trees to rot and ash, and the earth to craters and spikes of glass. 

“There was a dragon hunter when I was a child,” Steve said, once they'd landed, and the dragon’s bluey-green eyes fixed on his face, his tail lashing restlessly.  “He had—he’d captured a young one, and killed the dragons as they tried to win it back.  He killed—over a dozen.  He—faced his last stand here.”  

“Friend of yours?” Billy asked, for once standing more than an arm's length away and listening, instead of—instead of being distracting, Steve thought, shaking his head.

“Wha—no!  We were hunting him too.  He’d—he had an early form of the magic dampening rituals, and he—he—”

“—this isn’t from then,” Billy pointed out, rapping at one of the still waves of glass with his claws.  

“You—you’re right, yeah.  Between the dragons and his sorcery, too much magic was released here.”  Steve pointed into the forest. “You see where it’s darkest.  It—he made a—a crack.  A gate.  Things, uh, things come through.”

“Things,” Billy repeated.

“When it’s cold,” Steve snorted a laugh, holding his hand up to catch a few flakes of snow.  “—when it’s cold, they ride through, and we have to—only fire.  Only fire stops them.  We’ve brought everyone into the castle, but we aren’t prepared to feed so many.  And it’s getting colder.”  He took a shaky breath, and Billy stepped close, warm against his side.  

“...the...hunter,” he said, breathing flames for Steve to warm his fingers, “—and the little dragon.  He caused this?”

“He was—yeah.”

“Why didn’t you kill him?”

“What?  They did, they were so close to the castle—we came out and tried to put a stop to it, but he’d already—he attacked us.”

“No, the little dragon.  He caused this.”

Steve jerked away, staring at the dragon’s long golden face.  “...no?  He was a little kid—his whole body was the size of your head—”

“Your father was going to.”  Billy's voice was flat as he surveyed the forest, and Steve stepped closer, running the flat of his hand over warm scales.  “He—he gave the order to chop his head off, and then—you came running.  You saved him.  You told him a story.”

“That’s why you like me so much,” Steve laughed, sliding his hand up behind the fin-like scales protecting the dragon’s nape, and scritching the softer scales there.  “Where'd you hear about it?  What happened to him, d’you know?  I tried to keep track—”

“Doesn’t matter.”  Billy nudged Steve’s whole body with his head, like a giant horse.  “Still his fault.  You should—you should have killed him.  Look at this.”

“It wasn’t his fault.  He was held captive, him and Elle, the little sorceress.  Hopper scooped her up, I just had to sit with a scared baby dragon until some more showed up, and got that horrible collar off.”

“It took hours,” the dragon snorted.  “You got between him and a sword.”

“They wouldn’t have hurt me.”  Steve rolled his eyes, accepting the snuggles of an adult dragon, and remembering the little one perfectly still against his shoulder, its scales still soft to the touch, as his voice began going hoarse, and he started to jumble his stories together.  Holding the little dragon close for warmth, and glaring down the guards standing around.  The little dragon hadn’t spoken the entire time.

“...how many have died?”  Billy asked, eyes fixed on the breach in the woods.  

Steve swallowed.  “We don’t—we don’t know what happens to the people they take.  But.”  He clenched his jaw.  “Too many.”

“Enough that they sent you to ask a dragon you thought had burned some innocent man alive.”  Billy bit his lips.

“Enough for that.”  Steve leaned to bump his shoulder against Billy’s jaw.  “I knew better, though.  I did all your paperwork.”  

“You thought I might have,” Billy’s laugh was unsteady, and Steve leaned to kiss his broad golden cheek.  

“Nah.  I knew.”

 

Long enough later that he'd started to shiver, Steve jumped, startled out of his reverie by human-sized Billy leaning his head in so their noses nearly brushed.  His scales and horns made him look a bit fierce, but Steve suspected, staring back into his blue eyes, that he was actually worried.

“We’ve got until tonight, right, your highness?”

“Ye-yeah.”

“Maybe you should sleep?  Or eat?”  Billy leaned in for a warm kiss, and Steve relaxed into it, glad to draw his eyes away from the amount of frozen blood splashed across the ground.  There were mounds of frozen, broken people in armor, evidence of further battles while he’d traveled, and followed false leads, and the times exhaustion from his now-healed wounds had kept him asleep long unnecessary hours in inns.  

“Thank you for coming.”  He slid his arms around Billy’s neck, and sighed.

“I’ll fly you to the castle,” Billy whispered, nibbling his ear.  “You can get some—”

“No,” Steve pulled back, “—I mean, if—if you want to—the town is right over there, we can eat—”

“The castle’s closer,” Billy cocked his head, rubbing the flats of his hands up and down Steve’s upper arms, “—but town is fine, you want to show me around town?”

“...we can get you some pants,” Steve told him, and his eyes narrowed.

“I have scales.”

“You do.”  Steve pulled him close, smoothing them, then leaning to press kisses down Billy’s shoulder.  “But you know you want to try different colors, and flex in front of the mirror.”

Billy stared into his eyes.  “I—I really want to do that,” he snorted, and Steve dodged the tiny flames, grinning.

“Maybe we can find something sexy for when you’re huge and spiky.”

“You—” Billy laughed, glancing sideways, “—you think I’m sexy then?”

Steve stopped dead in the snow, and yanked Billy’s elbow, which ended in Steve yanking himself into Billy, but he just steadied himself on scaled skin and yanked Billy’s head into a deep kiss.  Billy laughed, and Steve grinned back, turning his head to get at more of Billy’s mouth, and letting his eyes drift shut.  

It was easy to forget that the icy gates would open that night, and the riders would come through, when Billy was humming happily against his mouth.  Steve had to stop to breathe, and Billy chased his lips, panting as hard as he was.

“Convinced now?”

“...convinced you like me shaped like this,” Billy whispered back, grinning.  “I must have gotten it right, right?  I’m the prettiest human around.”

“Wait,” Steve stopped again, and ran his thumbs along Billy’s cheekbones, “—wait, no, that’s not right, you—you’re always—you’re always you, so you—”

“What?” Billy asked, cocking his head, “—careful, there, kinda sounds like you’re into lizards—”

“I am into a dragon,” Steve squinted at him, speaking slowly and carefully, “—and sometimes he’s got skin, and sometimes he has scales, and sometimes he has wings—”

Billy covered a snort, grinning, and pulled him into another kiss.  “I’m gonna hold you to that,” he said against Steve’s ear, laughing at his shiver.

 

As the ice gate crumbled into shards and blew away, and whole company of tattered soldiers roared in relieved victory below, Steve let himself flop forward along Billy’s dorsal spikes.  Billy laughed and flapped harder, spinning upward, and Steve yelled, scrabbling at the smooth scales, when Billy’s whole sinuous form jerked like he’d been hit, and began dwindling down to human-sized.  His head lolled on his neck, his eyes rolled back in his head, and Steve grabbed for him in midair, screaming his name. 

Their momentum held them up for a long second, and then Steve’s stomach flipped as the ground came spiraling towards them.  He caught Billy’s outstretched wrist.  When the towers of Harringtown in the distance were nearly at eye level, there was another whud sideways, and they somersaulted end over end to the ground. 

When Steve staggered to his feet, Billy was yards away, flat in a crater of dirt, with three people in clean palace guard uniforms standing over him.  The snow was starting to fall thickly.  The ground shook behind him, and he pivoted and fell on his butt, staring up at another, smaller, bronzey-red dragon.  “Y-you’re his sister,” he said hoarsely.

“You’re the prince,” her voice was growly, but she nodded, watching Billy over his head.  “...if I...distract them.  You can get him away?”

“Why?” he coughed, swallowing, and shoved himself upright again.  “You—air dragon.  You—helped us fall.  Safely.”

“He was attacked by your people,” she hissed, her nostrils puffing steam.  “Are you his enemy or his friend?”

“His friend.”  Steve wiped his face, nodding.  “I’ll take him—I’ll—I’ll make sure he’s safe.”

“He trusts you,” her voice rumbled as she leaned in to stare, her breath warming his chest, “—and so will I, but know that if you betray us—”

“I won’t.”  Steve patted her nose, as he would a man’s shoulder, and her eyes narrowed.

While she blasted the guards back—he watched, riveted, as a man in full plate armor bearing his father’s colors cartwheeled back end over end—Steve scuttled across the battlefield, pushing between startled soldiers who hadn’t even gotten a chance to fight, and weren’t entirely sure what had happened. 

When he reached Billy, the dragon was entirely soft and human, grayish-green against the snow, and Steve whipped his cape off and wrapped him, then tried to move him.  It was like lifting a larger-than-life marble statue, if that statue was also an unwieldy corpse.  After yanking on Billy's arm until he was completely winded, he looked around, and saw an apple cart pressed into service as an artillery wagon.  He grabbed a few of the more hale-looking soldiers—yelling and waving his signet ring as needed—and they helped him slowly shift the dead-to-the-world dragon into the cart, which rode even lower than it had filled with iron cannonballs.  Steve rubbed his face, and started pushing.  After a few feet, the smaller dragon landed next to him again.  

“What are you doing?”

“He’s made of lead,” Steve wheezed, the frozen earth crumpling under his skidding feet as he threw his whole weight into moving the cart.

“...humans,” she muttered, and shifted into a smallish red-haired, red-scaled girl, who pushed the wagon quite handily, while Steve cleared a path, and eventually, yelled until someone opened the castle gates.  The cart smashed at the top of the second stairway, its wheels rolling away as wood splinters flew in a truly melodramatic way, but between the two of them they drug Billy into Steve’s room, and heaved him into the bed.  It emitted a loud creak Steve wouldn’t have expected of the royal furniture, hewn from whole hickory trees.

 

It creaked again, hours later.

“What’s the deal,” Billy asked, from the bed.  It sounded like his throat was raw, and Steve bit his lips, pacing.  He’d locked the door, but it wouldn’t take long before someone noticed he’d smuggled a dragon into his room in an exploded apple cart.   His muscles shook from hauling the cart up three staircases.  They’d been lucky—he grimaced with guilt at the thought—that everyone was still outside, dealing with the wounded.

“Your highness,” Billy hissed.

“What?”  He frowned over at Billy’s sweaty face, white under his freckles.  He looked strange with no scales at all.

“The arrangement,” Billy said, shoving himself up on his elbow, and closed his eyes with a pained grunt.  

“Lie down—Billy—” he shouted, running over to stand like an idiot, watching Billy writhe.  “Billy, not tonight, you need to—try to rest, at least.”  Steve crouched, tucking a sweaty curl behind Billy’s ear.  He’d never felt the dragon’s skin so cold.  “Do you need more blankets?  Should I build up the fire?”  

“What’s it gonna be, your highness,” Billy whispered, grinning up toothily.  “I bet you’d like people to listen to you.  How’re you going to use me—how’s this—” he asked, waved his hand, and made a soft noise in his throat, curling a little on his side, “—h-how’s this gonna work.  You have a collar, or are you—you want me to shift, right, you can’t—you can’t weld anything on—keep me from sh—from shifting—you want to be able to tell me to shift—scare people—”

“What are you talking about.”  Steve pushed more pillows around him, feeling useless.  “I don’t—I think you’re delirious.  Are you thirsty?  You want something to drink?”  He tried to take Billy’s hand, and warm it up, but Billy snatched it back.  Steve kept rambling, pulling uselessly at the coverlet.  “Your sister’s gone for Nancy—and Elle—maybe they can—fix this—”  He eyed the blankets where they covered up the sealing sigil that had transformed Billy in midair, and nearly killed them both.

“...make it darker,” Billy whispered, and tried to blow out the torches, blowing with his human lungs.  Steve smacked his hand over a laugh, and took the torch he’d grabbed from the hallway back outside, and blew out the candelabras.

“Does it make your eyes hurt?” he asked, sitting back on the bed, and Billy stared at him, his eyes catching the firelight in a weirdly human way.

“Just—tell me what you want.  I—I’ve lived through worse, just—just tell me what’s—wh-why’d you save me, Your Highness,” Billy laughed, and winced, shivering, and Steve stopped trying to touch him, and went to add more wood to the fire.  

When he was done, Billy was still clammy to the touch, shuddering with cold, and Steve helped him out of the huge bed—somewhat—and pushed chairs over for him to steady himself.  Between them, they got the dragon lowered onto furs in front of the fire, where he rolled half on top of Steve.

“Why’d you save me.  You keep saving me,” Billy whispered against his neck.

“You gotta pay your taxes,” Steve whispered back, kissing his forehead, and Billy laughed.  A little high, and shaky, Steve thought, but a laugh. “You’re sitting on piles of gold out there,” he pressed kisses along Billy’s cheek, “—you think I’m gonna let you die?  Let me tell you about hoard insurance.”

Billy shook with laughter against him, snuggled down in blankets and still shivering, but stopped trying to pull away.  “...die to get out of paperwork.”

“No,” Steve squeezed him, “—don’t you dare, not after I had to struggle through that much monstrous handwriting.”

“Rawr,” Billy snickered, shivering.

“—yeah, I’m the only one who can read it.  I’ll be holding petitions in the great hall and in comes a messenger—my dragon sent in his paperwork, and nobody can read it—”

“Your dragon.”  Billy buried his face in Steve’s neck.  “My prince.”

Steve held him tightly, wrapping more handfuls of blanket around him, and thought about his father sending him to get the only fire dragon in the kingdom, whatever it took—and then someone shooting he and Billy out of the air.  He squeezed his eyes shut, and tried to sleep.

Chapter Text

Nancy and Elle between them were able to chant the anti-magic sigil—it looked like a brand, burned under Billy's ribs—into curling back, a little, and Nancy snatched it off Billy’s skin with tongs, and threw it in the fire.  It belched oily smoke, and Steve yanked a fold of blanket over Billy’s face, uncertain what it would do in his lungs. The skin against his hands, under the blanket, was already warmer.  

 

When Billy woke again, Steve was sweaty and half-undressed from holding a sleeping dragon for hours in front of a roaring fire.  Billy jerked against his shoulder, clenching a scaled fist.  “How does it work,” he asked, pushing away to keep his eyes steady on Steve’s, as he ran his claws over his own throat, and slid them along his wrists and ankles.

“How does what work?”  Steve held up a cup of water, and Billy took it, pausing in his inspection of the bare patch of skin where the seal on his magic had been.

“What happens to me when I drink this,” he enunciated clearly, taking a deep breath.  His scales scraped the sides of the silver cup, and Steve winced.

“I—I think you’re still—you were disoriented.  It’s just water.”

Billy growled, water running down his arm as his claws pierced the metal.  “Stop—you just—” He trailed off, then jerked away to sit at the other end of the pile of furs.  “...you’re out of my debt, is that the deal?  I didn’t wake up in sigil chains, but you don’t owe me anything—you don’t have to keep touching me—”

Steve scooted close enough to grab Billy’s scaled hand, and pressed his lips to its knuckles.  Billy tipped to bury his face against Steve’s neck, breathing shakily, and Steve turned the hand in his so he could kiss Billy’s fingers, and palm, and down his wrist.  “I couldn’t move, under your lead ass.  But.  Thank you,” he whispered.  “Thanks so much for helping.  You didn’t have to.  You’d have been safe.”

“Had to rescue my prince,” Billy whispered back, curling closer, and Steve braced himself to take the weight of a cuddly dragon in the shape of a man, hoping he didn’t get crushed.  

“I talked to Nancy,” Steve squeezed him, talking into his curls, “—and she, uh, she said we might be able to make a sigil band you can wear that’d keep something like that from—from taking hold, again.  Knocking you out of the sky.  I think—that’s probably why you thought I’d try to—” 

“Make me immune to your one weapon against dragons?!” Billy repeated, his voice cracking.  “You’re an idiot.”  

“I know,” Steve huffed, his cheeks flushing.  “Not every dragon, just you—”

Billy kissed him so hard it shoved him back across the furs, yanking at his clothes, and Steve yelped as their teeth banged together.  

“You fell too,” he whispered against Steve’s lips.  “You weren’t—that wasn’t a plan, you didn’t trick me to get me here and then control me—”

“You thought—” Steve blinked up into Billy’s eyes, then closed his.  “...the little dragon.  You thought we’d—do that.  To you.”

“I know you let him go,” the scales of Billy’s knuckles smoothed along Steve’s cheek, “—but I’m dangerous.  You—you can’t just go trusting—”

Steve yanked him into a deep kiss, then panted, “I trust you.”

Billy dropped his head to Steve’s chest, groaning.  

“That’s what you were talking about, earlier,” Steve told the ceiling, hugging his dragon.  “That’s—that’s horrible, we wouldn't—I'd never let anyone—are—are you feeling better?  Your sister helped us.  The air dragon.  Breathed at us to break the fall.”

“...whoever did that to me,” Billy lifted his head, “—didn’t care that you’d fall, too.”

“...you are dangerous,” Steve reached up to run his fingers through Billy’s curls, tucking them behind a pink, but pointed, ear.  “I mean, I know you’re safe, but I probably seemed like a necessary—”

“No,” Billy scrambled up and sat on him, “—no, you—your dad—I’m—he sent you to me thinking you might die, right—”

Steve was staring at the side the falling blanket had revealed, in the firelight—long clawmarks in pink skin, stretched with age, and a healed jagged tear.  He smoothed his hand along the shiny areas between the freckles.  “Wait, you—you’re the little dragon.”

Billy took a shaky breath, his hand jerking toward his side, then shook his head.  “Now you know why I have to help clean up my mess.”

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Steve breathed, grabbing him by the shoulders, and pulling him down into a hug.  “I think you weigh as much as my horse—”

Billy snorted a laugh, rolling them to the side.  “...holding you to the one night.”  He glanced up through his lashes, biting his lip, and Steve couldn’t resist.

“...you know it’s almost morning, right?” he whispered back.  “You’ve already had your night.”

Billy stared at him for a long moment, then shoved him over onto his back. 

Steve started sniggering.  “...nah.”

“You’re pretending you don’t want it as much as I do,” Billy shoved him again, and Steve rolled off the rug, laughing.

“Maybe.”

“Definitely,” Billy growled, crawling towards him.  Steve grinned up, pinned to the floor by his dragon, and Billy leaned in, his weight carefully braced, to start licking his face like a giant gross dog, and Steve yelled, laughing, and yanked him into an actual kiss.

 

Right at the moment Steve least cared, a thumping came at the door.  He groaned, ignoring it, and heard Billy laugh behind him.  

“Your highness,” came a kid’s voice.  “It’s important!”  

“...can wait,” Steve mumbled, but the thumping turned into banging, and Billy pulled away.  

“They’re gonna break the door.”  He pressed a kiss against Steve’s butt, and Steve growled, staggering to his feet, and yanking his trousers up.  The pounding continued. He threw the door open with a glower, and shaky knees, from the two of them trying to figure out every single thing that could be done with Billy’s long wiggly dragon tongue.  “What,” he hissed.  

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Billy shimmer and contract into his scaled human self, and Steve drew breath to sigh just as Max in little girl form punched him aside and ran in, followed by more children he knew, and some he didn’t.  “Wha—what,” he gasped to Dustin, who snorted.  

She ran to Billy and threw her arms around his neck, red hair streaming behind her, and Billy spun them around as she tried to climb him and look him over.

“You dunderhead,” she hissed.  “You—you horny goatbrain.  What were you doing there—”

“His highness asked me for help,” Billy grinned down, and she punched his shoulder, then punched it again.  

“What if I hadn’t been there!”  She threw her arms around his head again, this time grabbing him by the hair, and Billy yelped, smacking at her hands.

“That’s a dragon?  He looks like you found him braiding his pretty hair in a tower, Steve—” Dustin wrinkled his nose.

“Max says he never wears pants,” Lucas crossed his arms, and raised his eyebrows, “—she says he hucks pornographic woodcuts at people—”

“Wait, wait, when did that happen,” Steve cut in.

“Wooo, sign me up,” Dustin snickered.  “I guess the naked dragon man is good for something—”  He cut off at the gout of flame that burned all the oxygen from the room, blasting their ears before vanishing without a puff of smoke.  Everyone who wasn’t a fire dragon started coughing, and Billy dumped Max on her butt and meandered over to Steve, rubbing his back as he staggered to the window and threw it open.  

“Yes!” Dustin gasped, and Steve hung his head and arms out the window, until Lucas drug him back inside.

“It’s still cold, even though she closed the Gates of Winter,” Lucas growled, shivering.

“Even though Billy made her close the gates,” Steve sighed, nodding.   He rubbed his face, watching Dustin follow Billy around asking questions like “So if you ate a drumstick now, and then if you puked it up as a dragon, would it be a drumstick big enough for a whole village,” and “Don’t you think it’s irresponsible, Steve, that he could make infinite food with dragon puke, and there are hungry people out there that could be eating dragon puke.”

Steve dropped to lie back across his bed.  “If he’d just pay his taxes, there wouldn’t be hungry—” their ears popped as Billy transformed back into a dragon, which took up most of the room, then grabbed Steve and held him up in both claws.  

“I will throw him and knock you all out like bowling pins,” he rumbled.

“Humans aren’t furniture, Billy,” Max hissed at him, and all their hair ruffled a bit in the wake of her breath powers.  

“They can be,” he growled back.  “I’m starting a collection.”

“I’m just part of a collection?!” Steve yelped.

“Can you transform the other way?”  The other kid squinted, and Steve tried to remember his name.  Michael?  Probably?  “Can you make a huge human head on a dragon neck?”

“Yes!” Dustin yelled.  “Can you—”

Billy drew breath, slowly, letting them really appreciate how long his lungs took to fill, and let flames flicker at his nostrils. 

“Oh wow, this is gonna—”

Lucas grabbed Max, and Dustin, and some other kid Steve couldn’t see in the mass of dragon, and probably a few more, and yelled “GOODBYE!”, and the door slammed.

Steve looked around the mountains of scales surrounding him, and wished he had a rope.  Possibly a grappling hook.  He began scrambling up, putting a foot on Billy’s elbow—and the dragon promptly stretched his leg, dropping Steve back into his gleaming golden trap.  He huffed a sigh, and tried pulling himself up with dorsal scales, only to have Billy roll just enough onto his back that they yanked out of his hands.  “...help,” he gritted out, finally, and Billy snorted.  

“I think I hear an unsexy tax collector.”  He thumped his grinning face down next to Steve, upside down, so Steve was looking down at his chin.  “Is there a tax collector in my scales?  Maybe there’s a salve for this kind of infestation—”

Steve dropped to the floor, hugging his knees, and leaned against Billy’s cheek. “You did agree to pay when you signed your papers—”

“Do you know how expensive an anti-magic seal is, especially one strong enough to down me—and his kid—in midair?” 

Steve threw an arm over Billy’s jawbone, and rubbed the soft scales around his throat.  His appreciative hum vibrated the floor. “...I guess it’s a lot?”

“It’s a lot,” Billy turned his head, ignoring Steve’s laughing and flailing as he was pinned between the soft scales of dragony stomach, and the gleaming golden armor of dragony face.  “You said you didn’t have enough to feed everyone, didn’t you?  The hell is the king doing shooting allies out of the sky?”

“I don’t know,” Steve curled up, held against Billy’s side, “—it doesn’t make any sense.  But maybe if there was more money to go around—”

“Nooope,” Billy nuzzled him, sliding his tongue down Steve’s neck, and into his collar.  “You should usurp the throne.  King Steve.”

Steve’s eyes had been drifting shut, but that had him shoving at Billy’s face.  “What?!  I—I’m not—no!”  He snorted with laughter.  “I’m not—I can’t—”

“What if everyone just starts listening to you,” Billy whispered, blowing hot air under Steve’s shirt, and running hot dragon tongue across his stomach.  “Because your dragon comes to council meetings.  Roars every time the king opens his mouth.”

“Tha-that—” Steve panted, squirming as Billy undid his shirt, “—that might work—you could—”

“You have to let me eat somebody,” Billy breathed against his prince’s exposed chest, grinning as he exploded with laughter.  “Nobody will listen if I’ve never eaten anybody.”

“No!  No,” Steve laughed, trying to wrap his arms around Billy’s nose.  “No, you don’t really want to eat anybody.”

“I could make an exception,” Billy grumbled.  “Sorcerer Brenner.  I bet he’s the one who fired that spell off.  He looks chewy.  Like smoked jerky.”

Steve snorted, pulling on Billy’s horn so he could press kisses along the side of his face.  “...maybe you could just chew on him a little.”

“I’ll just eat his legs,” Billy grumbled, nuzzling him back, “—maybe his arms—”  

It was warm against Billy’s side, and weirdly...safe feeling, considering they were talking about him eating people.  Steve sighed.  “Won’t be your problem once you get back to—” he waved a hand, “—eating pirates.  And things.  Setting people on fire.”

“...set you on fire,” Billy whispered, sliding his tongue up Steve’s ribs, and over his collarbones.  

Steve bit down an admission that he was on fire, and leaned to wrap more of himself around Billy’s face.  “Mmmn.”

“Your highness,” Billy whispered, his voice rumbling through Steve’s whole body.

“What,” he mumbled.

“Why didn’t you want to come back here?  Before?”

“...doesn’t matter,” Steve sighed, pushing himself away.  Billy uncurled a bit, so his feet hit carpet.  

“Your right royal knight.”  Billy shrank, transforming so fast it made a cracking sound in the air, and grabbed Steve’s shoulders to turn him back around.  “Has anyone come to see you, since you brought me back to your room?  Checked to see whether I’d eaten you, or—” He bared his teeth and hissed at Steve’s headshake, then pulled him close, kissing his face.  “...then nobody,” he stared into Steve’s eyes for emphasis, “—nobody knows what our bargain was.”

“I—I sent Max for Elle,” Steve felt himself warm at the dragon’s indignation, “—they—they know I’m all right.”

“Hrm.  But, still.  Nobody knows what I asked for?”  Billy grabbed Steve’s face, his claws gentle.  

Steve shook his head.

“What...would you have had me ask.” Billy leaned in to press a kiss to his mouth, then pulled back, licking his lips.

“You changed your mind?”  Steve frowned down at his feet, and Billy ducked his head to meet gazes.  

“I think I—I think I could do better.  I could ask for you to be one of my treasures.”

“What?!” Steve laughed.  “Are you gonna hang me on the wall after all?”

“I would have to stay here,” Billy emphasized, slowly, and Steve’s eyes widened, “—to protect my greatest treasure.”  

“I—I’m—” Steve laughed.  “What are you—you don’t like staying anywhere—”

“What if I took you away from here,” Billy offered, and Steve took a shaky breath, imagining mornings waking up against hot smooth scales, and probably so much sex they’d both die of starvation.  “No schedules,” Billy whispered. “No diplomacy, no problems you have to fix—”

“No, no,” Steve shook his head, pulling away.  “I—I have to stay, there are—there are some people I can help, even if I’m not—”

“So I’ll help you help them,” Billy followed along, taking his hand.  “They can’t tell you no if you’re using my money, right?”

“I—I can’t just—there are people in charge of these things for reasons—”

“General Hopper was doing pretty good out there,” Billy breathed against his cheek, and Steve wrinkled his nose.

“Please don’t tell me you’re—”

“And some of those sorcerers.  Wheeler.  Byers.  Promote them to help.  Battlefield promotions are a thing, right?”

“This is sounding like a coup again,” Steve laughed, wide-eyed. 

“Get them all here, they can help you figure it out,” Billy kissed him again, and Steve let his eyes fall shut, forgetting his train of thought.  “People you trust.  Enough money.  Whatever you come up with, I’ll make it happen—”

“This would take more than a night,” Steve whispered against scaled lips, and Billy snorted.

“I don’t think I should leave you here alone, treasure, someone tried to kill you today.”

“Are you calling me ‘treasure’?” Steve snorted a laugh, and rubbed his face to hide it, and Billy grabbed him around the waist and swung him around. 

“That’s what I want to—what I wish I asked.  Be my treasure.”

“That’s so corny,” Steve wheezed, trying to hide his flaming face with his arms.  He yelped as Billy tossed him across the bed, and clambered up next to him.  The bed creaked alarmingly.  

“Is that a yes?  All the best Feng Shui Hoard magazines recommend a prince draped over your—”

Steve kicked at him, then frowned.  “Don’t eat anyone.  Don’t eat my dad, or my mom, I don’t want to find you—using her toe bones as a toothpick or—”

“Is that a yes?”  Billy leaned in, his inquisitive hum making Steve’s chest vibrate.  

“You want to stay here with me forever and help me,” Steve stared up, squinting, “—that’s—what—what do you get out of—”

“And kiss you,” Billy yanked Steve’s shirt up, and started pressing kisses under his ribs, and down the trail of hair leading into his pants, “—and touch you everywhere—”

“Yes!  Yes!” Steve yelped.  “Yes, anything—anything—”

“Treasure,” Billy whispered, and Steve started snickering again, curling around his dragon to kiss his head.