It wasn't often that visitors to the breeding ground came close enough to Watson's cave to disturb him. Even stranger was that these two humans didn't appear to be aviators at all. The taller of the two had wildly curly hair and a long dramatic coat that Watson approved of whole heartedly. The other human was wearing a bland suit and was carrying a black umbrella and with a snort Watson categorised him as 'government' and turned his attention back to the taller one.
“I honestly don't care, Sherlock. Mummy has given permission after your latest stunt for my involvement and I'm only trying to allow you to live your life in a way that makes you happy while still making sure no stunts like last time happen again. Obviously, if none of the dragons will accept you, then you're free to go, but you must try. If human means are no longer enough to keep you safe, draconic means are the ones to try next.”
The tall one, Sherlock, didn't respond. It was a bit hard to tell from this distance, but Watson thought that the expression on Sherlock's face was incredibly petulant. Despite himself, he crept forward to peer more closely at the humans. He'd sworn to not take a captain after the first Great War, but it had been ever so long, and he was ever so lonely. And they didn't look like soldiers, and he didn't think there was a war on, so maybe it would be safe to at least talk to the tall human. His eyes looked like the Channel and for the first time in years Watson felt the urge to spread his wings and just fly.
Sherlock had rarely been more furious with his older brother. Then again, Mycroft was rarely this infuriating. At least being snatched off the streets of London and bustled off to this god forsaken wasteland in the North of Scotland was a new experience.
He wasn't expecting this venture to do more than waste his time. Any dragon foolish enough to approach would, by virtue of location, be captain-less and therefore either have endured the loss of a previous captain or have never been harnessed in the first place. Sherlock was confident that he could exploit either situation to make sure that he remained free of any scaly tag-a-long, unlike his brother's unfortunate encounter with Anthea.
A shadow passed above them. He and Mycroft were forced to halt their progress towards the tiny covert that serviced the breeding ground. Mycroft was already looking insufferably smug, and Sherlock felt his expression grow even more mulish.
“Hello. Why are you here?”
“Seeing as you've been listening to our conversation for the last several minutes, you already know the basics of that. You've also got us at a slight disadvantage as you somehow were not included in the dossier for the breeding ground my aide prepared.” Sherlock suppressed his glee. Someone was going to have a very bad day once he and Mycroft returned to London.
The dragon scratched at the ground between its fore-claws. “Ah, yes. I'm Watson and really I couldn't help but hear. You walked right by my cave. Why are you trying to find a dragon willing to accept Sherlock as a captain?”
Mycroft had paled the moment Watson gave his name, and so Sherlock was forced to step forward. “My brother is over reacting to a tiny bit of danger on my latest case.”
“Serial suicides that were actually serial murders. It turned out to be the cabbie playing a form of Russian Roulette and I was the only one observant enough to see the obvious, as per usual.”
The dragon's golden eyes had widened and it had slinked closer in interest. Sherlock swept his gaze across its surprisingly small form. It was only about twice the size of a large horse, by far one of the smallest dragons Sherlock had ever seen. Like many British dragons it appeared to by a hybrid of some sort and had brick red scales. The five fingered fore and back claws ended in wicked talons the colour of bone, a colour repeated in a short frill of spines across the back of Watson's skull. The dragon also had several large spikes, presumably for defence, toward the end of his tail.
“Surely not the Watson? Of the 12th Aerial Division?”
Something about that niggled at Sherlock's memory, likely something he'd deleted long ago, before he'd managed to perfect the process. The dragon preened at the recognition, as the beasts were prone to do.
“I am.” He turned a large eye to better face both brothers. “Would you like to see my treasure? You wouldn't be allowed to touch, especially the medals, but I would be happy to show them to you, if you liked.”
“No, not this time.” Mycroft still sounded shaken to Sherlock, though he doubted anyone else would be able to pick up on it. “I think that I shall need to make some calls from the covert. Come along, Sherlock.”
“I think not. I have not had the opportunity before to see a dragon's treasure and I'm sure the data will prove invaluable.” As would the chance to aggravate Mycroft.
Sherlock moved to follow as Watson happily lead the way towards his cave. The movement of the beast was coiling and sinuous, a bit like how he imagined a sidewinder would move if it evolved legs. The grace of the image was only marred by the limp Watson had in his right foreleg, the large scar at his shoulder the obvious cause. Unfortunately, Sherlock was not familiar with draconic size variations to extrapolate what kind of weapons would have been able to cause such lasting damage in a dragon of Watson's size.
It was only once they'd reached the final lead up to his cave that Watson remembered he had chosen the cave originally due to its lack of accessibility to humans. He shifted his weight, glancing over at Sherlock. The human was intriguing certainly, but could he really tolerate him on his back? Not for the first time, Watson wished he'd been more the size of his heavy weight sire and could just lift the human in a claw.
“I don't think I'll be able to climb that.”
“Ah, no. I expect not. I'll fly you up, but you'll have to hold on very tightly because my harness is in the cave.”
Crouching, Watson did his best not to flinch as Sherlock clambered onto his back. It was strange to have the weight and warmth of a human on his back after so long, but he found that instead of feeling like he was betraying his captain's memory, it was a comforting feeling. As he leapt from his crouch towards the mouth of his cave he felt Sherlock clench his thighs against Watson's neck and did his best to make the flight gentle. He was a bit impressed that the human hadn't screamed as a lot of first time flyers did.
Sherlock was feeling reluctantly impressed as he allowed Watson to point out various prize pieces in the collection. As a hoard of war memorabilia, he thought the dragon's nearly rivalled that of several higher end museums. He supposed that with both captain and beast fighting, the medals would pile up twice as quickly, but this still seemed excessive.
“Harry and I were a good team until the end.” If he was out of his element dealing with human emotions, Sherlock felt it only fair that he was utterly lost when it came to comforting a dragon.
“The first of the Great Wars was very hard for everyone, but for Harry and I everything seemed to go wrong. She got hit with one of those pepper gun variations on one run and by the time we made it to the hospital it was too late to save her eyes. After that she tried to keep up a brave face when I was around, but she couldn't hide the scent of the alcohol and finally one night she just, well she just slipped away.”
That at least, was something Sherlock knew the correct social response for. “I am sorry for your loss.”
“It was long ago.” Despite his words, the sideways gaze Watson gave him was filled with pain. “I flew solo for the rest of the war, against that empire that had taken Harry from me, but after that I didn't have the heart for it. I certainly wasn't interested in another captain then and nothing's changed since.”
Watson blinked. “Pardon?”
“You're considering what it would be like if I were your captain and I warn you know to put it from your mind. While you may have grown bored with life at the breeding ground and are perhaps see my brother's scheme as a way to escape the boredom, I am the last man any dragon should want as a captain and the last man who would ever desire the role.”
Watson's face turned out to be incredibly expressive and the crumpled expression it took on more than conveyed his dismay. “You wouldn't want to be my captain? But I have so many medals, I'm sure I could be helpful in whatever it is that you do. And I am a very fast flyer, here help me with my harness and I'll show you.”
“I am a consulting detective, the only one in the world. A dragon wouldn't be able to accompany me to crime scenes, so you would likely be alone much of the time. And between cases I sometimes don't talk for days and I rarely sleep, trust me, it's better for everyone if you stay here.”
“But surely sometimes it would be helpful to see the crime scene from above. I'm much better than a taxi, just come on a little flight, barely a hop even, and then you can decide.”
Sighing, Sherlock resigned himself to indulging the creature. He was apparently susceptible to the so called “puppy-dog eye” effect, much to his own disgust. The dragon snatched his harness up and between the two of them he was shortly kitted out and ready to go. They were poised at the lip of the cave, and Sherlock felt the adrenaline begin to pound like it did when he was chasing a criminal through the twisting alley ways of his beloved city.
That was, of course, when Mycroft decided to interrupt.
“Sherlock, do come down from there. I've someone for you to meet.”
Sherlock sighed and patted Watson's muscular neck gently. The flight down with the harness in place was much more pleasant than the trip up had been, though he doubted that Watson would've allowed him to fall to his death. When they landed, Sherlock had to fight to control his expression as he caught sight of the monstrosity Mycroft wanted to force him into partnership with.
The dragon was obviously some sort of Regal Copper mix and easily out weighed the manageable Watson by a good ten tons. There was no way Sherlock would be able to afford to feed such a creature only taking the interesting cases presented to him, and Mycroft knew it. He was counting on this whole ordeal to end with Sherlock not only to wind up tied to a dragon harness for the rest of his life but to also be forced into taking cases offered by the government and Mycroft to afford to feed and house the beast. That he'd somehow managed to miss this before was a testament to how unlikely he'd thought it to be until they'd arrived and it had been too late.
Watson was rumbling near silently between his thighs, like a car idling. Undoing the carbines, Sherlock slide from the dragon's back and was surprised to feel the level of tension being restrained in Watson's muscles. He laid a calming hand against the dragon's shoulder, and with a snort Watson seemed to pull some level of calm from the gesture.
“This is Sebastian, Sherlock. He agreed to meet with you.”
Before Sherlock could respond, Watson cut in. “You may not have him Sebastian.”
“And why would I ever listen to one so small as you? Especially a small one who I do not recognise from the flights we ran against the Luftwaffe.”
Watson's teeth were really rather alarming this close, Sherlock noted, resisting the urge to back away. “I did not fly over Germany in the last Great War because the generals would not have let me fly so far afield without a captain. Besides which, the Blitz was on and any available dragons were needed to defend the capital.”
Sebastian huffed and thrust his chest out, flaring his wings half open. “And why would they care about where you fly so long as you weren't flying against England? You obviously aren't a long-wing cross so you can't be an acid spitter and the only British fire-breather is the egg of Temeraire and Iskierka.”
The sudden release of tension beside him made Sherlock turn in surprise. Watson had gone from furious to quite obviously amused in the space of just a few seconds, with no apparent reason.
“Yes, my sire and dam were very much disappointed in my size. They thought that I more than made up for it with the Xiaofang Jufeng.”
Sherlock was uncomfortably aware Mycroft was now enjoying his shock just as much as he'd enjoyed his brother's earlier. This tiny dragon was the holder of the single most feared ability ever bred into a dragon, the Xiaofang Jufeng, the Fire Hurricane that resulted when the power of the Divine Wind and the fire breath of General Iskierka.
“Of course, my eggs have all be larger than me, but then none of them have inherited my abilities. The generals are always trying to figure out why that is and what cross would breed either ability true, and I'm always willing to oblige.”
It was very small comfort that Sebastian seemed just as shocked as Sherlock to find out that this utterly unremarkable dragon was the Scourge of the Sky, the single most prolific breeder of the British Isles and the second most decorated combat dragon in history.
“As for Sherlock, I will have him for my captain, or no one shall.”
Sherlock opened his mouth, though he wasn't really sure if he was planning on protesting or accepting what was clearly the inevitable, when a massive explosion at the covert rocked the ground beneath their feet. He was on Watson's back and had his carbines attached as fast as thought. They were in the air before the dust had a chance to settle.
This was not the careful jaunt to and from the cave. This was Watson moving from point A to B as fast as his wings could carry him, Sherlock clinging to his back and slowing him not at all. He was aware, vaguely, that his teeth were bared in a massive grin. The landing would have knocked him arse over tea kettle if not for the carbines. Detaching himself took barely a moment and he was free to run towards the blast zone.
Sherlock was electrified. There was no reason to attach the covert. The minimal staff only inhabited the buildings at night so the attack was not aimed towards them, there were no eggs left to harden here, and the buildings themselves were easily repaired as all things that were regularly around heavy weight dragons had to be. The only conclusion was that the attack was directed towards Mycroft or himself, which could mean only one thing.