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Here Be Dragons

Finch glanced up from his computers, alerted to Reese’s return by the sudden scrabbling of toenails on the library floor as Bear scrambled to his feet and slunk into the back office, the clang of a metal trash can tipping over telling him that the poor dog was once again hidden beneath his desk. That, coupled with Fusco’s call earlier, left Finch with no choice. He had to have a word with his operative.

Gathering his thoughts as the echoing footsteps drew closer, Finch swiveled his chair to face the hallway, his mouth opening as he took a breath to speak, only to have the words catch in his throat. Reese stalked into the room, his dark, sapphire blue eyes crackling with electricity, like tiny flickers of lightning dancing across his irises. His otherworldly power surrounded him like a storm cloud, thick enough to raise the short hairs on the back of Finch’s neck. And if that hadn’t been enough, he held the tattered remnants of a raw steak in one hand, thin pink trickles of blood drying on his chin and down his throat, staining the open collar of his white shirt. No wonder Bear was hiding under the desk. Finch was about ready to join him.

Instead, Finch cleared his throat. “Mr. Reese, I thought I asked you not to do that in here.” He gave a stiff nod to the half-eaten hunk of meat.

Reese glanced down at his hand, then back at Finch before dropping the rest the steak into Bear’s bowl. “I know, but when I do it in the park, people look at me funny.”

Finch supposed it was meant to be a joke, but he didn’t find it very amusing, especially in light of his growing collection of surveillance footage featuring Reese doing things not typically considered normal for a human. Lifting a car. Leaping up to a second-floor window. Chasing down a motorcycle on foot. Turning into a dragon. It was becoming a full-time job just cleaning up Reese’s digital footprint, and it seemed to be getting worse, just like his moods.

“Do we have a Number?” Reese asked, a slight growl threaded through his words.

“Not at the–”

Reese turned on his heel and stalked back down the hall.

“Reese, wait,” Finch called after him. Reese didn’t even slow down. “John!” Finally, Reese paused and glanced back.

“What?”

“Don’t what me,” Finch said, levering himself up out of the chair. His hip was stiff from sitting so long. “Something is going on with you and I don’t like it. Fusco called me–”

“Fusco needs to mind his own business,” Reese snarled.

“He was worried, said you nearly bit Detective Carter’s head off today.”

“If I’d bit off her head, I wouldn’t have had to stop for steak, now would I? I’m just sick of putting up with that insufferable, self-righteous bitch. I think it’s time we cut her loose. Cut both of them loose.”

“And me?” Finch asked softly. “Are you sick of me, too?” Reese didn’t answer. Finch found the silence sticking in his throat, a lump he had to work to swallow down. “And what did you do to Bear? He’s terrified of you.”

“I didn’t do anything to him. I would never hurt him. It’s my nature that frightens him, but I would never hurt him.” He glanced at Finch, a heaviness in his eyes, a pain and…fear, perhaps?…that took Finch by surprise.

“I know,” Finch said after a moment. “You wouldn’t hurt either of us. But something is wrong. John, please, you can tell me. Maybe I can help.”

“You can’t. You won’t,” Reese said, shaking his head. He turned to leave again.

“There’s a big difference between can’t and won’t,” Finch said. “Tell me what’s wrong and if I can help, I will.

For a long moment, Reese just stood in the corridor, his back turned, the dragon coiled around him like a shadow in the dark, undetectable to normal human senses, but there just the same. Finally, he drew a shuddering breath and sighed.

“I’m almost eight hundred years old, Finch,” Reese said, catching Finch by surprise. Finch actually knew very little about dragons, aside from what he’d managed to learn by working with one, but he never would have guessed that Reese was so old. Before this recent bout of mood swings, Reese often displayed almost child-like qualities, teasing Finch and playing with Bear.

“I know you’re probably thinking that’s really old,” Reese said, “but for my kind, it’s actually not. We can live for ten or twenty thousand years, sometimes longer. By dragon standards, I’m just a kid…Or, I was. I’m entering sexual maturity now.”

“Dragons go through puberty?” Finch asked, arching an eyebrow. That explained the moodiness.

“Sort of. It’s complicated. Basically, my body has become a war zone of conflicting hormones and desires. Dragons have very strong mating instincts.” He glanced back, a weight in his gaze that unnerved Finch.

“So- so that’s what’s been bothering you? You want a mate? Or do you just want to mate? Because if it’s the latter, I could probably help you out with that– I- I mean, I know people,” he added as a heat crept into his face. “I could give you the number of a reputable escort service–”

“Thanks, but it won’t help,” Reese said. “You were right the first time. I need a mate and dragons mate for life.”

“Oh,” Finch said.

“See, I told you you couldn’t help.” He started walking away again.

“You also said I wouldn’t,” Finch said. “So which is it?” Reese stopped, but didn’t answer. “Does your mate have to be female? Does it have to be another dragon?” He almost didn’t see Reese give a slight shake of his head. Finch licked suddenly dry lips. “What happens if you don’t find one?”

“Survival of the fittest,” Reese said quietly. “Only the strongest, fiercest, smartest, healthiest dragons can breed. The rest become sterile. Our sex organs are reabsorbed into our bodies. Use it or lose it, as they say.” A heavy silence settled between them as Finch worried his bottom lip between his teeth, his heart pounding in his chest as he searched for a solution and came up with only one answer.

“John–”

“Don’t worry about it, Finch,” Reese interrupted. “I’ll still be able to do my job.”

“I know how much you want to have a family…children…a normal life. What if…what if I became your mate? I know you said dragons mate for life, but I’m just a human, and as dangerous as our lives are, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to put up with me for long and then you’d be free to find someone else, and you could have that family that you deserve.” He was talking fast, rambling, as he often did when he was nervous, his gaze fixed on the floor so he didn’t have to see whether Reese found the proposition amusing or repugnant. It wasn’t until Reese’s scuffed black shoes entered his field of vision that he glanced up, startled to find Reese regarding him with a small, sad smile.

“Thank you, Harold,” he said, “but I couldn’t do that to you, especially since you have no idea what you’d be getting into. Dragons are extremely possessive; as my mate, you would belong to me and I would kill anyone who touched you. You would never be able to have any sort of physical relationship with anyone else.”

“I think that ship has already sailed,” Finch said, not without a little bitterness. Neither men nor women were exactly beating down his door– “Wait, did you say ‘with anyone else’? Meaning there would be a physical relationship between us?” There it was again, that flash of pain in Reese’s eyes.

“You can’t really have a mate without mating,” Reese said. Finch found his gaze moving slowly down Reese’s body, imagining the firm muscle and tanned flesh beneath his clothes, and he felt his mouth go dry at the thought of running his hands over that smooth, supple skin. “Don’t worry, Harold, I won’t ask–”

“You could do that?” Finch heard himself ask. Morbid curiosity, he supposed. “You could be…intimate…with me?”

A slight frown creased Reese’s brow. “I think so. I’ve never mated with a human before, but if I’m careful, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

“That’s not what I was asking,” Finch said with a slight shake of his head. “I meant…” He felt his face heat up. “I meant, you wouldn’t be turned off by my physical appearance?”

“I’ve gotten used to humans,” Reese said, his eyes flickering as he cocked his head and regarded Finch with an intensity that made Finch squirm. “I’ll admit, at first, your bodies were not attractive to me. Your limbs are too long, your necks too short; your faces are flat, your teeth dull, your claws thin; you don’t have tails, or scales, or horns, but living among you, as one of you, I’ve come to appreciate certain things, like your soft skin and hair, your lips, your hands; the way you kiss and make love. Dragons don’t do those things.”

“Yes, but…I don’t look like most other humans,” Finch said, unable to meet Reese’s gaze. “I’m an old man; I’m soft, I’m broken.”

“You’re not broken,” Reese said, a faint growl in his voice. “Do you find me ugly, because of my scars?”

“Of course not. You’re one of the most handsome men that I’ve ever met.”

“And as a dragon? Do you find me attractive in my natural form?”

“I- I haven’t really seen you as a dragon, not all of you, not in real life. Just through the cameras, mostly in the dark. But from what I have seen — supple, gleaming scales; a long, sinuous body; twisting black horns — I think you must be beautiful.”

“I’m not,” Reese said. “Compared to others of my kind, I’m just an average sapphire dragon. Nothing special. I’ll let you in on a little joke, though. I’ve heard humans say that they can’t tell one dragon apart from another. The funny thing is, we can’t tell you humans apart, either. Not by sight, anyway. Your smells are much more distinct.” He leaned close and took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then exhaled, his breath tickling the side of Finch’s neck and making him shiver. “The point I’m trying to make is, just like you can’t tell that I’m an ordinary-looking dragon, I can’t tell that you’re any less attractive than any other human. You’re my friend, and because of that, I love you.”

“You do?” Finch asked, taken aback.

“Of course,” Reese said, raising his hand to brush his fingertips along Finch’s jaw. “You didn’t know that?” Mutely, Finch shook his head. “Well, I do. You mean more to me than anything, which is why I can’t take you as my mate, not unless I’m sure it’s what you really want, and not just something you’re willing to do to help me.” Finch didn’t know what to say, so he did the only thing that made any sense. He kissed Reese.

It was electric. He could actually feel his lips tingling, a cool, not unpleasant sensation that left him breathless. Drawing back, he looked up into Reese’s flickering eyes. “I want to,” he said.

“Oh, Harold,” Reese whispered, pulling Finch up against his lean, strong body and wrapping him in a tight embrace. Finch marveled at how good it felt, how right, like they were meant to be together. Finch didn’t believe in fate or destiny or true love, but he could find no other explanation for the way Reese made him feel. It was like he was twenty again and falling in love for the first time in a way he’d never imagined was possible.

“I wish we had more time,” Reese said after a moment. “I’d like to do this right, to take you to dinner, the theater, the opera…maybe even a baseball game, but the sooner we complete the mating, the sooner my body will progress into sexual maturity, and I’ll stop being so irritable and Bear will quit being afraid of me.”

“I think we’ve been dating for more than a year now,” Finch said. “It’s just that neither of us realized it.” He would have been content to stand there in Reese’s embrace all day, but he finally pulled away. “I’m ready.” Reese kissed him again, a slow, tender brush of lips.

“I don’t suppose you have any lube,” he said. Finch shook his head. “There’s a drug store on the corner. I’ll be back in a flash.”

“I’ll be waiting.” Finch watched him hurry down the hall and disappear from view, then he turned and made his way back over to his desk, dropping down into his chair as the enormity of what had just happened — and what was about to happen — began to sink in. He’d thought finding a dragon living in the abandoned subway tunnels would be the most extraordinary event of his life, even more amazing than creating his Machine, but this…becoming said dragon’s mate…

He glanced up at the soft tick-tack of Bear’s nails on the floor, the dog peering out of the office with his head hung low, his big brown eyes staring mournfully at Finch.

“It’s all right,” Finch said, patting the side of his leg. Bear slunk over, his tail between his legs, his ears flicking back and forth, his wet black nose twitching as he remained alert for Reese’s return. Finch ruffled the thick fur on his neck and scratched behind his ears. “Don’t worry, everything will be back to normal soon,” he assured the dog. “But until it is, maybe you should stay in the office. I’ll put your bed in there and your bowls, and your squeaky toy. How does that sound?”

At the word squeaky, Bear’s ears perked up and he scrambled across the room, seizing a big, rubber bone that Reese had gotten him, chomping hard to make it squeak. Finch chuckled and got back out of his chair, the usually ache and pulling in his hip and thigh making him frown. Maybe Reese wouldn’t find him unattractive like another human might, but surely it wouldn’t take long for him to realize Finch’s limitations. Reese was a strong, healthy young dragon in human form — judging by the things that Finch had seen him do, athletic and vigorous sex would be the norm for him, and heaven help Finch if Reese got really randy. Could Reese really be satisfied with an old cripple?

His doubts and insecurities were only aggravated as he struggled to move Bear’s bed into the other room. How was he ever going to satisfy Reese if he got winded just dragging a dog bed across the room? He took his time carrying the food and water bowls into the office, eyeing the tattered hunk of raw meat with distaste. He’d be the first to admit that a lean cut of beef, flame seared medium-rare, was a thing of beauty, but this…this looked more like something one might find smeared across the interstate. He set the bowl down and Bear came over to sniff it. With a whine, he backed away, tucking his tail between his legs again.

“Does it smell like him?” Finch asked, wincing as he bent down and pulled a loose gobbet of meat free, his lip curling as he rolled it around in the palm of his hand to disguise the scent. He held it out toward the cowering dog. “I know you can’t understand what’s going on. Your instincts tell you that he’s dangerous — so do mine — but I know he’d never do anything to hurt either of us. Just hang in there, boy; I’ll do whatever it takes to put things right again.”

He wasn’t sure if he’d covered the scent, or if Bear just trusted him enough to overpower his fear, but the dog crept forward and lapped the bit of bloody meat of Finch’s hand. “That’s it. Good boy,” Finch said, even as he pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the dog slobber off his palm. He poured fresh water into Bear’s bowl and gave the dog another scratch behind the ears before leaving him in the office and pulling the door shut behind him. As he limped out into the main room, he was surprised to see Reese seated in his chair, a small, brown paper bag rolled down and perched on his keyboard.

“That was fast,” Finch said. “How long have you been back?”

“Long enough,” Reese said and Finch froze, trying to think of what he might have said, what Reese might have overheard, that would get him into trouble. Reese slowly rose from the chair, all restrained power and effortless grace. Finch swallowed hard. “Did you really mean it, that you’ll do whatever it takes?”

“Of course,” Finch answered.

“You say that now…” Reese said, a shadow darkening his handsome features. “If you can’t, I won’t hold you to it.”

“If I can’t what?”

“Don’t worry about it now.” Reese picked up the bag and reached out, taking Finch’s hand. “Let me make love to you now, and we’ll deal with the rest when the time comes.”

“Cryptic reassurances are hardly reassuring,” Finch said, but he followed Reese through the library, to a back office that Finch had turned into a crash room. It was very spare, with just a bed and a wardrobe full of blankets, towels, and first-aid supplies. Without a word, Reese began to strip, shedding his clothes with the efficiency of someone completely comfortable with their own body. Finch, on the other hand, barely managed to loosen his tie as the smooth, tanned flesh was revealed to him. His heart beat faster as Reese shucked his briefs and straightened up, completely nude.

Perfection was the first word that came to Finch’s mind, and even though he could pick out half a dozen serious scars in various stages of healing, from the still pink and tender marks on his thigh and abdomen to the smooth and faded burn on one forearm, it didn’t change his initial perception of the man. Reese was perfect.

“Feeling a little shy, Harold?” Reese asked with a smile.

Finch cleared his throat, trying to pull himself together. “I was just, ah…enjoying the view.” He knew he shouldn’t be acting like that; he was a grown man, after all, but as Reese stepped toward him, all he could do was stand there and stare, his palms sweaty and his mouth dry.

“My turn, don’t you think?” Reese murmured, reaching up to unbutton Finch’s waistcoat. The look on his face, the intense concentration, the anticipation, and the quicksilver flash in his dark eyes held Finch rapt, even as Reese removed his vest and tie, and started on his shirt. “Mmrrr,” Reese rumbled, a sound low in his chest that a human should not have been able to make. “How remarkable.” He dragged his fingertips through the soft tangle of graying chest hair visible through Finch’s partially open shirt. Reese glanced down at his own smooth, bare chest, then finished unbuttoning the shirt and shoved it back off Finch’s shoulders.

Finch stiffened, bracing himself for the moment Reese noticed the scars low on one side of his neck and down onto his shoulder and collarbone. His back was worse, but that, at least, could not be seen. Yet. He knew Reese wouldn’t say anything, but he’d gotten very good at spotting the look, the one people couldn’t seem to help but give those who were a bit worse for wear. It was a varied cocktail of sympathy, pity, curiosity, and revulsion. He expected curiosity to dominate Reese’s look, but they would all be in there.

Except, they weren’t. Finch had had years of practice recognizing the look — he could see it even when people tried to hide it — but as Reese’s electric gaze moved slowly over Finch’s body, his expression held nothing but hunger and desire. Even when he looked down at Finch’s soft, pale midsection there was no change. Reese rumbled again and placed his hands on Finch’s belly, gently gripping and kneading the flesh as he leaned down and nuzzled the brown and silver fur on Finch’s chest, rubbing first one cheek then the other against him like a cat.

Finch let him continue for a moment, then drew back. Reese straightened up, but kept his gaze downcast, refusing to meet Finch’s eyes. “That was too weird, wasn’t it?” he asked, his voice low. “I’m sorry, I just…I couldn’t help it. Dragons are tactile creatures, rubbing against each other to show affection, but our skin is covered with hard scales. We don’t have this wonderful softness…” He placed his hand against Finch’s gut, caressing his slight paunch.

“I would hardly call a few extra pounds ‘wonderful’, Mr. Reese,” Finch said, feeling the heat rise into his face.

“To me they are,” Reese said, taking a hesitant half-step closer, his callused fingers brushing against Finch’s little love-handles as he slipped his hands inside Finch’s unbuttoned shirt. “A dragon looks for a little plumpness in a mate. It means they’re healthy and well-fed; they can hunt and provide for a family. You know, it was only two hundred years ago that my kind had to give up the ways of our ancestors. I can still remember hunting bison on the plains, the thunder of millions of hooves, the earth shaking as a tide of black washed across the prairie, bison as far as the eye could see.” He sighed. “Now we wear suits and have desk jobs, but the blood, the soul of the hunter is still there.”

“I’m not a hunter,” Finch protested weakly, unable to resist the warmth of Reese’s skin as the taller man drew him close, their chests touching as Reese’s arms encircled him, his hands caressing the small of Finch’s back. “I’ve just been eating too many donuts.”

Reese chuckled. “Doesn’t change the fact that I’m hardwired to want a little meat on my mate.” He bowed his head, plucking at Finch’s lips, his soft, sweet kisses coaxing a low groan up from Finch’s throat. “Can I see the rest now?” he asked between kisses. “I promise not to do any more weird dragon stuff.”

Finch pulled back. “No, don’t.”

“No?” Reese said, looking confused as he frowned. Finch gave his head a shake.

“I meant, don’t promise that. You don’t have to. I want you to be yourself. I want you to share this with me, all of it. Even the ‘weird’ things.”

“Really?” Reese asked, and the hopeful light in his face was enough to dispel any lingering doubts Finch might have had on the subject.

“Yes, really.”

Reese rumbled, a much deeper, less restrained sound than before, and captured Finch’s lips in a deep kiss that left them both breathless. Hands still inside Finch’s shirt, he worked on untucking it from Finch’s trousers, his naked body pressed close, his excitement evident as the slow undulation of his hips ground his cock into Finch’s groin.

“Courtship begins with a dance,” Reese murmured, rubbing his cheek against Finch’s. “If we were dragons, we would wind around each other, long, sinuous bodies entwining, the air filled with music as our scales rubbed together, a sound often described as a room full of violins, each playing a different song. To a dragon, there is no sweeter sound.” He finished working Finch’s shirt free and began sliding it down his arms, letting it fall to the floor. Finch tensed as Reese’s hands began to wander up his back, but those warm fingers moved over the ridged scars without pause, seemingly content just to touch, to hold.

Moving slowly, Reese circled Finch, eager fingers exploring, his body maintaining contact, like he was trying to mimic his natural behavior. It was certainly the most unique approach to sex that Finch had ever experienced, and he felt awkward, not knowing what Reese wanted him to do, but he was happy to allow Reese free rein to express his draconic side. It was the least Finch could do.

Reese stopped behind him, pressing firmly against Finch’s backside as his arms slid around Finch’s waist and he began unbuckling Finch’s belt. Heart beating hard and fast, Finch could feel himself trembling, his eyes closing as Reese’s lips brushed the shell of his ear, his breath tickling the fine hairs on Finch’s neck. Reese kissed and nuzzled and licked the side of his throat, sending shivers down Finch’s spine as he rumbled softly.

“Is it all right if I bite you?” Reese asked suddenly, his voice low.

Finch blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Not hard. I won’t hurt you. I just want to feel my teeth against your skin, to leave my mark on you.”

“Is that a dragon thing, or just your personal preference?” Finch asked, trying to postpone having to answer.

“A dragon thing,” Reese said. “After mating, a dragon’s neck will bear scores from their partner’s teeth, the scales scratched so deep they’ll have to be shed many times before the marks go away. Sometimes scales are even removed from the skin completely.”

“Doesn’t that hurt?”

“A bit. It’s more painful than having a hair plucked, but not as bad as having a fingernail ripped out.”

Finch could think of no more pertinent dragon-related questions to ask, so he swallowed hard and gave his head a faint nod. “All right, then. You can bite me– Oh!” Finch gasped as Reese’s open mouth pressed against the side of his neck, his teeth digging into the flesh as he rumbled his pleasure. Finch felt his pants sliding down his legs, forgotten as Reese returned to caressing his body, his hands sliding up to pinch and tease Finch’s nipples, making him shudder and moan, his head spinning as Reese slowly bore down, his jaw closing by fractions as the pressure grew uncomfortable, and then the discomfort climbed toward pain.

Finch suddenly realized what a perilous position he’d allowed himself to be put in. As strong as Reese was, he’d have no trouble biting through the flesh, tendons, muscles, and arteries. A severed carotid would mean almost certain death; he’d bleed out in a matter of seconds. Finch didn’t think Reese would deliberately hurt him — although there was always that venomous little voice in the back of head, whispering all his worst fears and cruelest self-doubts — but if he got carried away, if the dragon took over…

His eyes squeezed shut, Finch couldn’t hold back the breathless whimper that filled his throat, the sound escaping his parted lips. Reese’s arms tightened around him, but his jaw relaxed. He went from biting to kissing and sucking, licking the aching indentations in Finch’s flesh. That spot was hot and tingling, surely the biggest hickey in history, when Reese finally turned his attention elsewhere, nipping and sucking a trail down onto Finch’s shoulder.

“Will you do something for me?” Reese asked, his words muffled against Finch’s shoulder.

“If I can.”

Reese eased his hold and moved back around to face Finch, still not quite letting go. “Will you mark me?” Finch moistening his dry lips and nodded, leaning toward Reese’s neck. “Not there,” Reese said. He kissed Finch again, and then, as though it pained him to do so, he took a step back. He dropped to one knee and helped Finch out of his shoes, socks, and trousers, leaving him standing there with just his black silk boxers tented over his crotch. Rising again, Reese took Finch’s hands in his and drew him over to the bed. Finch watched, his mouth going dry, as Reese lowered himself to the mattress and stretched out, his stiff cock swaying over his belly as he crooked one knee and turned his leg outward.

“Here,” Reese said, one hand softly stroking the smooth skin of his groin where leg joined hip. “Please, Harold.”

His cock already straining against the black silk, Finch licked dry lips as he regarded the nude man before him. “You said dragons are tactile creatures, yes?”

“Oh, yes,” Reese whispered, spreading his legs farther as Finch climbed onto the bed, kneeling between them and bracing his hands on either side of Reese’s chest. His fused vertebrae made things a little awkward, but he managed, bending his elbows as he leaned down and captured one of Reese’s nipples in his mouth. With a strangled cry, Reese arched his back, writhing and rumbling as Finch licked and sucked at the pert nub. Releasing the pebbled flesh, Finch worked his way down Reese’s chest and stomach, leaving a trail of wet kisses and strawberry red hickeys on the tanned skin. He paused to kiss and rest his cheek against the raised pink scar on Reese’s abdomen — the first time he’d almost lost him and the night he’d realized how much he’d come to care for the reckless young dragon.

Reese grew still beneath him, one large, strong hand sliding through Finch’s hair and cradling the back of his neck. Suddenly, Reese laughed, a rumbling chuckle that vibrated through his whole body. Finch raised his head and arched an eyebrow.

“I was just thinking,” Reese explained, slowly combing his fingers through Finch’s hair, “about all the times you’ve come to my rescue. And now you’re doing it again, like my own knight in shining armor, except in the stories the knight usually ends up slaying the dragon. I found the irony amusing.”

“Good thing this isn’t a fairytale, then,” Finch said with a crooked grin, “because I don’t know a single one where the knight and the dragon become intimately involved.”

“It happened more often than you’d think,” Reese said, his eyes flickering and his lips quirking mischievously, “they just didn’t write about it.”

“Oh, that’s right — you’re eight hundred years old. I bet you were a holy terror, battling knights and kidnapping princesses and raiding villages.”

“Not me,” Reese replied. “I was about three feet long when all that was happening — not real intimidating. Besides, I was hatched here in what would become America. In what is now the state of Washington, actually. My ancestors came across the ocean from Europe at the end of the last ice age. Less competition and far fewer humans. If you want, I’ll tell you all about it sometime. Like maybe over breakfast?”

Finch smiled. “I’d like that.” He bowed his head again, planting a soft kiss at the top of Reese’s thigh. “Here?”

“Yes,” Reese moaned, “and don’t be afraid to bite hard. I want the mark to last. I don’t care if it hurts.”

“I do,” Finch murmured, nuzzling the silky skin. He brushed his lips against the crease where thigh and body met, then pressed his mouth to the firm flesh and bit down. Reese cried out, but he didn’t sound hurt, and from the way his cock twitched out of the corner of Finch’s eye, it wasn’t pain he was feeling. His feet shifted restlessly and he grabbed handfuls of the comforter beneath them, his knuckles turning white as Finch increased the pressure, a shudder rolling through his taut body as he rumbled low in his chest.

“That’s it, that’s it — harder,” Reese panted, every muscle in his body rock hard as he lay shaking beneath Finch. Finch’s jaw was starting to ache, but he bore down once more, startled by the sudden coppery tang of blood on his tongue. Pulling back, he stared down at the thick red drops that welled up from the wounds he had made.

“I- I’m sorry,” he said, reaching for his handkerchief before he remembered that his pants were lying on the floor. “Don’t move, I’ll get the first-aid kit.”

“Harold–” Reese caught him by the wrist as he started to get off the bed. “It’s all right. It’s just a little blood. Are you okay?”

“Me?” Finch asked, nonplussed. “I’m not the one who’s bleeding!”

“But you’re the one who’s upset about it,” Reese said calmly. “It won’t get infected and I’ll try not to get blood on the bed, so you don’t need to get the first-aid kit.”

“I’m not worried about the bed,” Finch said, exasperated.

“You won’t catch anything from me, either.” Reese reached up, cupping Finch’s cheek in his hand as he wiped a smear of blood off his lower lip. “Even in human form, I retain a dragon’s immunity to most diseases. And I heal quickly, as you ought to remember. So there’s no reason for you to be upset about this. Harold, please.”

The note of desperation in Reese’s voice forestalled any further argument from Finch. He fell silent, trying to see things from Reese point of view. “You enjoyed that,” Finch said softly, not a question and certainly not an accusation. “You like that I did it, that I drew blood. It’s what you wanted.”

Reese lowered his gaze and nodded, looking thoroughly ashamed of himself. That wasn’t how Finch had wanted to make him feel.

“All right,” Finch said finally. “As long as we’re on the same page. This just illustrates how important communication is going to be between us. We’re very different, and I’m not always going to understand what you feel or want, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn. Okay?” Reese looked up at him like a kid who’d just been told that Christmas had come early.

“Okay, Harold.”

“Now, are you going to get me out of these boxers, or do I have to do everything myself?”

Reese grinned at him and climbed off the bed, trading places with Finch. Lying back on the bed, Finch removed his glasses and handed them to Reese, who placed them safely with his shoes beside the wardrobe. His blurred vision didn’t stop Finch from watching Reese approach, leaning over him to slip warm hands under the waistband of the shorts. Finch drew a bracing breath as Reese’s fingers ghosted over his ass, dragging the boxers down his legs. Reese paused, the shorts around Finch’s knees, and Finch could tell he was looking at the extensive scarring on his hip.

After a moment, Reese slid one hand back up the outside of Finch’s thigh, his fingertips tracing the thick ridges. Finch could only stand the attention for a few seconds before he pulled away. Reese drew his hands back and Finch had to glance away; his vision wasn’t bad enough to obscure the hurt on Reese’s face. Silence hung between them thick as a brick wall.

Finally, Reese reached back out, placing his hand over the scars again. “I don’t think they’re ugly,” he said, his voice low. “I think they must have hurt you a great deal, and I think that’s why it bothered you so much when I bled. I also think you’re not the only one who is trying to learn here.”

“You’re right,” Finch said, his voice soft. “Those scars are permanent reminders of the pain and loss that I suffered and caused. I hate them, I find them repulsive, and I don’t believe that anyone else could find them otherwise.” It was the most open he’d been with anyone in a very long time and Reese seemed to realize that.

“I find them…there,” Reese said. “They exist. The only reason they bother me is because of how they make you feel. You’ve suffered enough; I don’t want to see you in pain anymore. You deserve better.” He finished sliding Finch’s boxers off and climbed onto the bed, covering Finch with his body, his arms sliding beneath Finch’s back as they kissed. Finch wrapped his arms around Reese, one hand combing through Reese’s thick black hair, the other gliding up and down his spine before daring to caress Reese’s fine, muscular ass. Apparently, the dragon wasn’t the only tactile creature in the room.

Finch was groaning, panting, his hips rocking of their own volition, grinding his cock against Reese’s rigid shaft, their eagerness leaving a slick smear on his stomach as the pre-come leaked from their cocks. When Reese finally raised his head, leaving Finch’s lips kiss-swollen and tingling, it was all Finch could do not to shout Yes! in anticipation of Reese’s next question.

“Are you ready?”

“I’ve never been so ready for anything in my life,” Finch responded, drawing up his good leg and reaching down to pull the damaged one back as well, but Reese rose up, placing a hand on Finch’s knee as he climbed off the bed.

“Not like that,” Reese said. He fetched the little brown paper bag from off the floor and pulled out a bottle of lubricant, the plastic seal crackling as he peeled it away. “Lie on your side. I want you to be completely relaxed and comfortable.” He helped Finch arrange the pillows under his head to support his neck, his hands wandering over Finch’s body from shoulder to knee as he eased himself down on the bed behind Finch.

“How does this feel?” Reese asked, softly kissing the back of Finch’s neck.

“Perfect,” Finch said. He couldn’t even begin to describe how good it felt, how right.

“Like we were meant to be together,” Reese murmured, much to Finch’s surprise.

“Yes. Exactly.” He expected Reese to explain how it was dragon pheromones or something creating a mating bond between them, but apparently Reese was too preoccupied. Finch felt cool, slippery fingers slide between his cheeks and rub against his opening. He groaned and pushed back against Reese, encouraging him to get on with it. This wasn’t his first rodeo. He and Nathan had been very close in college, until by mutual decision they had agreed to just be friends, Nathan so he wouldn’t disappoint his conservative Texas parents and Finch so he could focus on his studies.

Reese worked one, then two fingers into him, probing deep and stretching the tight ring of muscles. Finch was trembling inside, his breaths coming short and fast as Reese withdrew his fingers and Finch felt the head of Reese’s cock press against his entrance. He concentrated on staying relaxed as Reese wrapped one arm around his waist, holding him close as he eased inside. They both gasped as Reese sank smoothly into Finch’s welcoming body, the sensation of being joined, of being filled by his lover, was enough to take Finch’s breath away. Even the best times with Nathan never felt that good.

A low, pleased rumbled issued from Reese’s chest, rattling Finch like a roll of thunder, as he adjusted the position of his arms, sliding one beneath Finch and reaching around to stroke Finch’s straining cock, while the other hand slid over Finch’s soft belly and furry chest, showering him with attention. Reese began to rock his hips, finding a strong, steady rhythm that filled Finch with a constant, trembling ache, the pleasure building within him like a volcano about to blow.

“Oh- Oh, John,” he panted, clutching at Reese’s arms, his blunt nails digging into Reese’s skin. “I’m- I’m gonna– Oh, I can’t- I can’t hold on–”

“Don’t hold back,” Reese growled, his lips against the rim of Finch’s ear. “I want to make you come, Harold. Come for me.”

Finch wasn’t sure if it was Reese’s command or just a culmination of the overwhelming physical sensations his body was being subjected to, but he cried out, his voice loud in the small room as he erupted, spilling himself into Reese’s hand and onto the bed. Coated with his own thick, slippery seed, Finch shuddered and moaned as Reese stroked him through the waves of ecstasy, his hips twitching with each satisfying spurt.

Breathless and light-headed, Finch collapsed bonelessly back against Reese, his heart pounding against the inside of his chest as he struggled to form a coherent thought. “That…that was…amazing…” he finally managed.

“I’m glad,” Reese murmured. “All I want is to make you feel good.”

“What about you?” Finch asked, becoming aware of the solid length of Reese’s cock still buried inside him. “Did you…?”

“No.”

“It’s okay if you do.” Finch stroked a hand back and forth over the fingernail marks he’d left in Reese’s arm. “I want you to.”

“Not yet,” Reese said, his voice low. “There’s one more thing I have to do before we can truly be mates, and then, if you still want me to, I will.”

“Of course I’ll want you to. I want this to be just as good for you as it was for me.” Then Finch realized how Reese had begun that sentence. “What else do you have to do?”

Reese pulled out of him and sat up, gently rolling Finch onto his back until Reese could lean down and kiss him, deep and passionate. There was something desperate in that kiss, like Reese feared it would be the last one they ever shared. Finch caught him by the back of the neck, his other hand cupping Reese’s cheek as he kissed back.

When Reese finally pulled away, he had tear tracks on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Finch whispered, wiping at the dampness.

“Dragons can’t cry,” Reese replied, his voice hoarse. “I love you so much, and I will never hurt you. Don’t forget that.”

“John, you’re scaring me,” Finch said, a chill racing over his skin as Reese climbed off the bed and backed toward the door, his dark blue eyes flickering as he stared at Finch as though unable to tear his gaze away. Finch struggled up, ignoring his own nakedness as he limped toward Reese, a weight in the pit of his stomach. Reese stared at him for a moment more, the longing in his face almost painful to behold, then he pulled the door open and stepped out. “John, wait,” Finch called, but Reese closed the door behind himself.

Finch hobbled over and jerked the door open, emerging into the empty hallway. “John?” Reese didn’t answer, but a noise drew Finch’s attention toward the landing at the top of the staircase. He glanced down at himself, making a face at the sticky white smears on his skin, then turned and hurried back into the room to retrieve his glasses and his boxers. Pulling the shorts up, he headed for the stairs, determined to give Reese a piece of his mind about failing to communicate properly, but the lecture died on his lips as he emerged from the hallway into the open space of the landing and was confronted by the gleaming, serpentine body of a thirty-foot long sapphire blue dragon.

He was mostly neck and tail, with only about a third of his length being a body about as thick as a human waist, his front and back legs no longer than Finch’s, but thick and muscular, with five powerful toes on each foot — three facing forward and two back — each tipped with a black, razor-sharp claw. Heart pounding, Finch tipped his head back, leaning backward as he followed the long neck up, the dragon’s head towering over him. Dark blue eyes crackled with silver lightning under heavy ridges of thick scales, his head crowned with twin spiral horns of gleaming black, his long snout filled with inch-long, conical teeth.

Finch ran. He hadn’t thought it possible for his battered body to move so fast, and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but all the adrenaline coursing through his body sent him flying down the hall without even feeling the pain in his hip. He lunged into the crash room and slammed the door, leaning back against it as he tried to figure out what was making the strange wheezing sound in the room. He was alarmed to realize that it was himself, gasping for air. Putting his hands on his knees, he closed his eyes and tried to focus on taking slow, deep breaths. He needed to calm down. He was safe, he assured himself. The dragon wasn’t going to hurt him. It was just Reese, after all–

“John!” Finch shouted, forcing himself upright and jerking the door back open. Now he felt the pain, like an icepick jammed into his hip joint, as he lurched back down the hall, a sick emptiness forming in the pit of his stomach as he emerged onto the landing and found no sign of Reese, the dragon or the man. “John? John, where are you? I’m sorry!”

“You don’t have to be sorry, Finch,” came the reply, Reese’s voice distant but clearly him, even though it carried a resonance that it hadn’t before. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let you get involved. Just take Bear and go home. Forget this ever happened.”

The library echoed terribly, but Finch could still get a general direction of the voice. He descended the stairs and headed down a dark, little used corridor, past offices and reading lounges and rooms full of neglected shelves.

“I can’t forget, John,” Finch said, well aware that Reese would be able to tell he was looking for him. “And I can’t leave. I made a mistake. I reacted without thinking and I am so, so sorry. I’ve just never seen you like that before, not in person. Please, give me another chance.” Reese didn’t answer, but Finch heard a thump and a rustle coming from a room ahead and to his left. He hurried to the doorway. “John?”

“Don’t come in here, Finch,” Reese said, a note of panic in his voice. In the dark room, all Finch could see was an overturned sofa. He took a step forward. “Please, Harold. I couldn’t bear to see that look on your face again.” No doubt about it, Reese was in the room, his voice coming from behind the sofa. Finch reached out, feeling on either side of the doorway for the light switch. Luckily, the bulb in the overhead lamp still worked.

As the golden glow filled the room, Finch moved slowly over to the end of the sofa. He could see the tip of a long, whip-like tail lying on the threadbare carpet, then it slipped out of sight. Finch followed, rounding the end of the sofa to find the dark blue dragon coiled on the floor, his scales covered in dust as he tried to hide under the sofa cushions. Finch couldn’t stop the tears that stung his eyes.

“Oh, John,” he whispered, sinking to his knees near the long, horned head. He started to reach out.

“Don’t,” Reese said, the anguish in his voice tearing at Finch’s heart. “Don’t force yourself to touch me. I’m too different. I’m hideous. I’m a monster.”

“No, you’re not,” Finch said. “You’re beautiful.” He placed his hand on Reese’s neck, the scales smooth and cool to the touch. He let his fingertips glide along the dorsal ridge, then turned his attention to Reese’s throat, the scales smaller, like wave-washed pebbles, except just under Reese’s lower jaw, where a shadowed hollow of bare, leathery blue skin was exposed. He gently touched his fingertips to the skin. “What is this? Were you hurt?”

Reese raised his head, tilting it back so Finch could get a better look. “That’s where I speak,” he said, the skin tightening to reveal several corded structures underneath. “I don’t have lips and a tongue to form sounds like a human, so they have to be made in my throat. The lack of scales allows for a wider range of sounds to be made.”

“Like a bird,” Finch said, fascinated. He raised his hand to trail his fingers along the underside of Reese’s lower jaw, only to have Reese pull away.

“I’m glad I’m so interesting,” he said. “When you’re done gawking, could you please just go away?”

Finch stiffened, taken aback, but then he remembered what he was dealing with — an adolescent dragon in the throes of teenage angst. Crossing his fingers that he wouldn’t get his head bitten off, he grabbed Reese by one of his twisted horns and gave him a slight shake. “I said I was sorry. Maybe if you’d been a little less theatrical and a bit more forthcoming, I could have been prepared to walk out and find a dragon standing in the middle of my library. As far as instincts go, ours are a bit rusty, but we humans still have them, and you can’t blame mine for kicking in. Now stop being such a damn drama queen and finish making me your mate.” And even though his heart was already pounding, Finch dared to shove Reese’s head to the side and lean down, sinking his teeth into a ridge of scales along the curve of Reese’s jaw.

They were softer than he’d imagined, like biting into plastic, but as his teeth scraped over the surface, it made a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, making Finch break out into full-body goose bumps, every hair standing on end. Beneath him, Reese rumbled, and Finch’s heart crawled halfway up his throat before he realized that it wasn’t a growl, it was a contented dragon’s purr.

His jaw began to ache and he let go, tracing his fingertips over the marks he’d left in the soft surface of the scales. “I love you, John,” he whispered, nuzzling the scaly cheek as he pulled Reese’s sinuous neck against his chest, running his hands up and down the muscular length. There was a bit of drag, a roughness to the scales when he brushed them the wrong way, but not like he would have guessed. Reese’s scales didn’t overlap like shingles, like plates of armor, but fit together snugly, like cobblestones.

“Could you love me…even like this?” Reese asked.

“Of course,” Finch answered automatically. “It doesn’t matter what you look like–” He stopped, all the pieces suddenly clicking into place. “Is that what you have to do to finish making me your mate? Make love to me in this form?”

“It only needs to happen once and then I will never ask again, you have my word.”

“All right,” Finch said, surprising Reese and himself by how calm he sounded.

“Are you sure? It would mean my cock inside you…and a dragon’s penis isn’t shaped like a human’s.”

“Will it fit?”

“Yes.”

“Then it’s okay. John, I meant what I said — I love you and I will do whatever it takes to help you.” He kissed Reese on the side of his muzzle, then climbed to his feet, using the sofa for support. Once up, however, his analytical mind took over. “Um…how do you propose we do this, exactly? Should we go back to the crash room so I can lie down?”

“That room is too small,” Reese said, slowly uncoiling himself, his scales whispering as they rubbed together, sounding a bit like distant violins warming up. “Were you terribly uncomfortable on your knees?”

“No, and if I kneel on a cushion, it should be fine.” He wanted to ask if it would take long, but that seemed insensitive. He stripped off his boxers and knelt on one of the dusty sofa cushions, bracing his hands on the floor so that Reese could mount him.

“Spread your legs a bit more,” Reese said, lining up his sinuous body alongside Finch. Finch widened his stance as much as he could without putting a strain on his hip. “That’s good. Now, let’s see if I can…” He trailed off, his neck twisted around as he watched himself thread his long tail between Finch’s spread legs, sidling closer until they were hip to hip. Reese straightened his legs, rising up out of his crouch, and stepped sideways, so he straddled Finch. Finch closed his eyes, waiting.

Reese shifted backward, until he was sitting on his rump, with his tail slung forward between both of their legs. Finch opened his eyes as he felt a heavy scaled forefoot on his shoulder.

“Rise up on your knees and sit back on me,” Reese said, pulling carefully at Finch’s shoulder, mindful of the four-inch claws. Finch allowed himself to be maneuvered, his heart beating faster as the smooth, scaly body pressed against his ass, a slight bulge beneath the small ventral scales working between his parted cheeks.

“Is that it?” Finch asked.

“That’s my cloaca,” Reese said, coiling his body around in front of Finch. “It’s the opening where my intestinal, urinary, and reproductive tracts all end. Here, lean on me.”

Finch rested his forearms on the widest part of Reese’s body, just back from his shoulders. “I know what a cloaca is. I just didn’t realize that dragons had them.”

“Birds do. So do reptiles. Dragons are kind of like both, but not really either. Are you comfortable?”

“Yes, actually. You make a nice chair.” He laughed, trying to dispel his nerves. It didn’t work.

“Just try to relax,” Reese said, twisting his head back around so he could gently rub his long muzzle against Finch’s cheek. “I’ll be quick.” Finch started to tell Reese not to rush on his account, but forgot what he was going to say as he felt the bulge beneath his ass begin to move. Something cool and slick pressed against his opening, and he shuddered as it eased inside. “Do you want me to stop?” Reese asked.

Finch shook his head. “No, it’s fine. Just a little…different.”

“That’s only half of it,” Reese said, which Finch didn’t quite understand, until he felt something rub up behind his balls and push past them. He glanced down, staring at the long, shiny pink phallus that pulsed between his legs, throbbing in sync with the cock buried deep in his ass. Half of it…

“You have two cocks?” Finch asked.

“Technically, it’s called a hemipenis, but yes, I have two shafts. Don’t worry, you only need to have one of them inside you for the mating to be complete.”

“Oh,” Finch said. He hesitated, then reached down and touched the slippery shaft. “Does that feel good?”

“The tissue is filled with nerves just like a human penis,” Reese replied, panting slight, the lightning dancing more rapidly within his dark eyes, “however, since the organ is held within my body, it doesn’t get stimulated much and is very sensitive.”

“So this must feel really good,” Finch said, wrapping his hand around the exposed hemipenis and giving it several gentle strokes. Reese rumbled his pleasure, his eyes closing, but the light still glimmering through his eyelids. Finch could feel the muscles beneath his ass flex and both cocks withdrew, only to thrust forward again as a different muscle group tensed. It felt like someone was kneading Finch’s backside as Reese found a rhythm, working Finch’s tight and sore muscles even as he was filled again and again by the long dragon cock. He couldn’t stop himself from moaning, his hips rocking as he pressed down with each upward thrust.

Suddenly, Finch cried out, his whole body bucking as the most indescribable, intensely pleasurable sensation that he’d ever felt washed over him. Reese stopped thrusting, but it didn’t stop the tingling feeling in his ass, or the vague notion that something about Reese’s cock had changed. Gasping for breath, he looked down at the other hemipenis, dragging his shaking hand up the shaft to the head, which had inexplicably become knobby, covered in sizable, rubbery bumps. He touched one and flinched back as a tingling sensation crept up his hand, almost like–

“Electricity?” he asked, glancing over at Reese, at the dancing lights in his eyes.

“It’s not enough to do any damage, but I’ll try to restrain it.”

“Don’t you dare, you daft lizard,” Finch said, each breath shuddering through him as he held tight to Reese’s body and rocked himself back and forth, biting his lip until he tasted blood as he fucked himself on Reese’s cock. He glanced up to find Reese watching him, an indecipherable look on his draconic face. “Do I have to spell it out for you?” Finch asked, his voice tight as he fought to hold back the tide of ecstasy threatening to break free within him. “I like this. John, it feels amazing. I want you to fuck me and I promise, you’re going to get sick of me begging to ride the dragon, because I don’t think I could ever get enough of this. I want you, John. I love you.”

Reese brought his scaled nose close to Finch’s face, his forked tongue slipping out to flick against Finch’s lip, tasting his blood. Finch let his lips part, one hand rising up to caress the dragon’s face as he kissed the hard, unyielding lips. Dragons might not be able to kiss, but Finch damn well could, his tongue sliding against Reese’s as the forked muscle darted in and out of his mouth.

Finch moaned as Reese began thrusting into him again, the knobs on the head of his cock rubbing inside Finch and discharging the electrical buildup, the sensation making Finch’s toes curl and his body tremble. He reached down, pulling Reese’s second shaft against his own and stroking them both. Reese began to rumble in his chest, his long tail snaking back and forth across the floor.

Suddenly, he pulled his head out of Finch’s grasp, an electrical storm raging in his dark eyes as he lifted his nose toward the ceiling and bugled, the sound ringing out like a silver trumpet. His long body jerked, steely muscles bunching as he came, thick strings of pearly white semen splattering his sapphire scales as the cock in Finch’s hand erupted, and Finch could feel just as much pumping deep within him, cool and slippery.

The sensation tipped him over the edge and he arched his back, adding his own contribution to the mess. Finch wasn’t quite sure what happened next. One second, they were lost in orgasmic bliss, and the next Reese whipped his head around, his jaws parting. Finch caught a flash of pearly teeth, and then he felt Reese bite down across his chest, from his left shoulder to the right side of his ribs. Maybe it was all the endorphins and adrenaline in his system, but it didn’t even hurt. All he could feel was a heavy pressure, making it hard to draw breath, and a warm tickling as blood ran down his front and back.

Slowly, he raised a hand, placing it on Reese’s lower jaw, which was across his chest. Reese rumbled, and a moment later the light bulb overhead exploded, showering them with sparks and glass. The dark room lit up with blue-white light, arcs of electricity dancing over Reese’s body and leaping out to scorch the sofa, the shelves, the walls, tongues of flame licking at the ancient wallpaper and upholstery as smoke filled the air. Finch could feel his skin prickling, could smell hair burning, and then everything went black.

It was only a few minutes before his eyes fluttered open, the smell of smoke thick in his nostrils. He felt strange, disconnected, and for some reason, he was lying on the floor. He wasn’t sure if he could move and if it turned out that he couldn’t, he wasn’t ready to know yet, so he remained still. Across the room, he could see Reese, the dragon using his thick-scaled feet to smother the smoldering holes in the wallpaper. Reese glanced around, then turned toward him, slinking over with his head held low, his eyes dark, the electric flicker almost gone.

“I’m sorry,” Reese said when he noticed that Finch’s eyes were open. “I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t know this would happen.” Finch started to ask how bad it was, but just trying to open his mouth was a struggle. His jaw felt heavy and stiff. Was he burned? “Don’t try to talk,” Reese said. “That’s going to take some time. I think. I don’t know how this is supposed to work. I’ve never heard of it happening before. I mean, of course I’ve heard of it, all dragons have heard the story, but it’s just a story. It’s a fairy tale dragon parents tell their hatchlings, it’s not supposed to happen!” He sounded nearly hysterical and it was scaring the hell out of Finch.

Summoning all the strength he could muster, Finch drew his arms beneath him and pushed his shoulders up off the floor, raising his head as high as it would go. He inexplicably found himself looking down on the room. Reese slowly straightened up, his long neck bringing him eye to eye with Finch. Finch swallowed hard and tried to lick his dry lips, but he had very little spit, a slender forked tongue, and no lips. Heart pounding, he turned his head, looking back at himself out of the corner of his eye.

The long, serpentine body of a deep, dark purple dragon shifted with agitation, the slender tail snaking across the floor as Finch pulled his feet under him and stood, staggering slightly as he tried to comprehend that standing now involved four feet on the ground. He lowered his head, twisting his neck around until he could see the smooth amethyst scales, each one reflecting the flickers of lightning in his own eyes.

“Harold?” Reese said, his voice quiet.

Finch turned back toward him. He started to open his mouth, then closed it again. “I’m a dragon,” he said, his own voice issuing from the bare skin at his throat. It was strange, talking without moving his mouth, but not really something he had to think about. In fact, the less he thought about it, the easier it was. “You turned me into a dragon.”

“And I’m sorry,” Reese said, lowering his head penitently.

Finch’s head was spinning. “How?”

“I don’t know…”

“What does the story say?”

“It was so long ago, I can’t– Wait…It’s about a dragon. Usually a lonely dragoness in a land without any other dragons. She takes human form and goes to live in a city, but on the way she’s attacked by bandits or pirates or something. She doesn’t have the energy to change back to a dragon and it looks like she’ll be killed, when a handsome prince comes to her rescue. They fall in love and are married and live happily for many years.

“Then, one day, the dragoness reaches sexual maturity and must find a mate. She tells her husband the truth about what she is, but he loves her so much he offers to be her mate. She reveals her true form to him, but his love is truly unconditional. They mark each other and share blood, then they mate and in their combined throes of ecstasy, she bites him and he turns into a dragon and they live happily ever after.”

Reese looked up at him. “If I had thought for even a moment that the story might be true– but I didn’t even remember it. I haven’t heard it in more than seven hundred and fifty years.”

Finch looked back over his slinky, muscular body — looked with eyes that could see without glasses, his head turned one hundred and eighty degrees on a neck without pins — and flexed a hip that had never been shattered. He turned back to Reese.

“You really are a daft lizard,” Finch said, taking an unsteady step toward him, and then a stronger one. “You have no reason to be sorry. I can see. I can walk. I can do this.” He twined his neck around Reese’s, their scales rubbing together and sending a pleasurable shudder racing through his amazing new body, stopping with his cheek resting against Reese’s. He felt that happy rumble in his chest and it took a moment to realize that the sound was coming from him. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“I could have killed you,” Reese said. “I didn’t know that this would happen, I was just overcome with a need to bite.”

“If I can ask you to forgive me for being overcome by my instincts, then I can’t very well hold it against you when you fall victim to yours.”

Reese began to rumble and rolled his neck, the entire muscular length rubbing against Finch. “Do you know what this means?”

“I’ll be able to wear a dozen ties at once?”

“Yes,” Reese said with a laugh, “although good luck tying a Windsor knot with your new claws. No, I was thinking that, since you’re now a dragon, you won’t have to worry about little things like illness and old age.”

Finch swallowed hard. “How long did you say dragons could live?”

“Ten or twenty thousand years. Or more. There’s a dragon in Turkey who claims to be twenty-seven thousand. Harold? Are you all right?”

Finch had unwrapped himself from Reese and taken an unsteady step backward, almost stepping on his own tail. Twenty thousand years. He tried to think back over the past twenty thousand years of human history, and then to imagine where technology and innovation would take them in the future. Men on Mars? Colonies on the moon? World War III? The slow death of the planet? The possibility that he could live to see it was staggering. But would he?

“We could still be killed though,” he said in a low voice. “Tomorrow, we both could die.”

“Well, we’re a bit tougher than the average human, but yes, we’re still only flesh and blood. Mortal.” He stretched out his neck and rubbed the side of his muzzle against Finch’s cheek, a comforting gesture. “This changes things, doesn’t it? Do you want to quit?”

Finch just stood there, staring at him, an ache in his chest as he struggled to form the words he desperately wanted to say. In the end, he couldn’t. “How can I?” he asked. “The thought of carrying this knowledge, of being consumed by the guilt, for the rest of my human life was unbearable. To bear it for two hundred lifetimes? I think I’d rather die tomorrow.”

“I know,” Reese said. “You just looked like you needed to say it. Now, how about we try to get you back into human form so we can get Bear and go home? I don’t know about you, but I want sex and food, although not necessarily in that order.”

Finch laughed, but the heaviness in his chest remained. “I am hungry, come to think of it,” he said. “I had just eaten lunch before all this started, too.”

“Shape-shifting takes a lot of energy,” Reese explained. “We’re going to be absolutely famished when this is over, so try not to eat Bear, okay?”

“I wouldn’t!” Finch exclaimed, recoiling in horror. “Would I? John, am I going to have to worry about eating people now?” Now it was Reese’s turn to laugh.

“Just teasing you, Finch,” he said. “We have pretty strong predatory instincts, but we’re not wired to see humans as prey animals. Or dogs, for that matter. Deer, elk, rabbits, fish — especially fish — are our main prey. Maybe we can even go hunting sometime. It helps to blow off some steam and quiet the natural urges.”

“It’s good to hear that I won’t start stalking Fusco any time soon,” Finch said dryly, lashing his tail to show just how un-amused he was by Reese’s joke.

“That sounds like it could be fun, actually,” Reese said, his eyes flashing. “Later, though. We’ve got work to do.”

It took the better part of an hour for Finch to change back into a human. The change itself didn’t take that long — barely longer than the blink of an eye, actually — but trying too hard made it more difficult than it needed to be. It didn’t help that Reese kept describing the process in reverse, as his experience stemmed from changing from a natural dragon into a human, and Finch needed to do the opposite.

When it was done, they both sat on the dusty floor, covered in cold sweat, completely exhausted, bare-ass naked, and for Finch, at least, immensely relieved. He couldn’t believe that a prison could feel so comfortable, that he’d be so glad to return to his broken body. The dragon was wonderful, powerful, and freeing, but this was home. He found his glasses and his boxers, he and Reese leaning heavily on each other as they climbed to their feet.

“My place or yours?” Reese asked as they slowly made their way back upstairs to the crash room.

“Very few of mine have any food in them,” Finch said, placing a hand over his gurgling stomach. “Isn’t there a butcher shop a few blocks from your loft?”

“My place it is,” Reese said with a chuckle. “You want pork, lamb, veal–”

“Steak,” Finch said, pausing halfway up the staircase to catch his breath. “Lean and thick.”

“Rare?” Reese asked, stopping beside him to wait.

“I’m not sure if I’m ready for that yet,” Finch replied. He took a deep breath and soldiered on. “Medium-rare. Just throw it into a hot skillet and let the outside brown. It seals in the juices.”

“Stop talking about food,” Reese said, pretending to wipe saliva off his chin. They dressed and gathered their things, Reese tucking the bottle of lube into his coat pocket with a grin and wink at Finch. There was just one more thing that they had to do.

They stood outside the closed office door, just staring at it for a moment. “What if he’s afraid of me now?” Finch asked, running Bear’s leash through his hands.

“He won’t be,” Reese said, placing a reassuring hand on Finch’s shoulder. “He wasn’t afraid of me until I started changing, and now that that’s over with, he should be fine.” But he still remained back from the door as Finch limped forward. Finch opened the door, then drew back, not wanting to make the dog feel trapped or threatened.

“C’mon, Bear,” Finch said, patting the side of his thigh. “Where’s my good boy? Do you want to go for a walk?” He knew the Dutch commands to order Bear out of the office, but he didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. Luckily, the ‘W’ word did the trick. Bear poked his head out from under the desk, his ears pricked forward. Finch jingled the leash and Bear came trotting out of the room. He paused a few feet back, his nose twitching as he scented the air, then bounded over, licking their hands before turning a few excited circles and barking happily.

Finch glanced over at Reese, both of them smiling in relief, and then clipped the leash onto Bear’s collar. As they headed down the hall toward the stairs, Reese reached out and took Finch’s hand, their fingers entwining. Finch rumbled with contentment. Dragons really were tactile creatures.

27 Comments
  1. Plink42 permalink

    It’s amazing how you can get me to read something I’m normally not interested in and get me to enjoy it. I’ll admit I thought the dragon-sex was kind of out there, but the rest of it was romantic and sexy, just how I like it. Thanks for closing the year so memorably. πŸ˜€

    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it, in spite of the dragon-sex (which was definitely out there, lol)

  2. Dragon sex might be out there but love is love. I really expected kind of a sad ending…Harold being human,, his life would only be a brief moment in Reese’s dragon life….leaving Reese alone…oh so sweet Harold’s total love for Reese allowed his being changed into a dragon so they can be together for a dragon’s life.

    • Oh by the way…thank you for some more Katica POI fiction

    • Quite right. I’m a firm believer in love is love. ^_^
      When I first started writing this story, I hadn’t intended to transform Finch. I was going to give it a happy-for-now ending with the bittersweet realization that Reese wouldn’t have Finch for very long. It wasn’t until the middle of the dragon-sex scene that I thought of it, and luckily I’d already done the marking and blood, so it was easy to put the pieces together. That’s one thing that I really enjoy about my writing process — I tend to throw in random things and details, and by the end of the story, I usually manage to tie almost everything together in a way that I hadn’t planned. Sometimes it blows up in my face and I have a hundred loose ends, but when it works it feels amazing. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the comment! ^_^

  3. LOVE it! How creative and yet scientifically sound!! LOL…

    Fave lines: β€œI’ll be able to wear a dozen ties at once?” and “Apparently, the dragon wasn’t the only tactile creature in the room.”

    What a wonderful way to end the year, indeed! Kudos to your eggnog plotbunnies! πŸ˜€

    • Thank you! One of my favorite parts of writing fantasy is trying to make it seem ‘real’. Of course, it leads to many strange Google searches, LOL

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story.
      Happy New Year!

  4. managerie76 permalink

    I really liked this and I HATE…*HATE* fantasy.
    So Brava!

  5. Sam Rawana permalink

    A perfect story to arond off the year. Is there going be any more? And Harold makes really a lovely dragon. Thank you!

    • Thank you! I think there might be a sequel or two. I hadn’t planned on it, but the plot-bunnies came after me again last night, lol!

  6. Denise B. permalink

    Well…. this was the first time I’ve ever read fanfic. I love dragon shifter stories and this was good. I really liked it! The ending was so perfect. Reese won’t be alone…awwwww. And Bear’s happy, too. Good job.

    • Thanks for checking out the story! I’m glad you enjoyed it. ^_^
      I’m such an animal lover, I had to make sure Bear would be happy. XD

  7. I NEVER thought I would enjoy this story so much or at all. I was reading because it was a POI story by an author I enjoy.but it was funny (“…more ties…” and terribly romantic.

    • Aw, thanks for giving it a chance. I’m glad it didn’t disappoint. I was a little concerned that it might be too extreme for some people, but so far all I’ve gotten are positive responses. ^_^
      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Mamahub permalink

    As you know, I read this earlier on Livejournal and “squeeeee”-ed myself silly over there. But I wanted to let you know again here how fantastic and creative and awesome and amazing this fic is, and you are as an author. You are definitely one of the preeminent Rinch authors that I know, and I am so happy that our show continues to inspire you. I’m definitely looking forward to more from you, and additional chapters of this wonderful piece (pretty please!!). πŸ™‚

    • Yes my ears are still ringing from your squeals. Just kidding. πŸ™‚ I just wanted to join you in saying pretty please, Katica? I’ll send you a giant cookie!

    • Aw, thank you so much! ^_^ The show definitely does inspire me, but it’s the love of the fans and the friends that I’ve made that keeps me writing. I love sharing my work with your guys. ❀

      And yes, another chapter is in the works. I think I'm going to call it 'Dragon Training' πŸ˜€

  9. Cindy permalink

    Dragons in the library! I loved it – sweet and hot. Reese turning Finch into his “mate” was a nice twist at the end. It begs a sequel. (As an owner of boxturtles, I also appreciated your descriptions of semi-reptile dragon sex. They do bite, rub and clunk among other things.)

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. ^_^
      I think there will be a sequel. I must have been kidding myself to think I could ever write a one-shot, LOL. (Thank you! I love studying animal behavior and using it to help the realism of my stories.)

  10. L'oiseau permalink

    Hi. I’m really happy to read a new story Reese / Finch written by you. This fic is just beautiful, i love it.

  11. wow…I just found you’re site here. You are an amazing and very talented author. Interestingly enough, I am very fond of dragons, and have been collecting them since an early age. I always fathomed a fantasy crossover with POI and I can’t believe I found one! Keep up the great work!

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