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All the Oceans

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Sir Howe calls Temeraire a Sui-Riu.

Laurence has never seen a dragon of the like, and certainly this makes sense, if Temeraire is Japanese. Howe exclaims for ages over his short wings, and waddling legs, and his shockingly overlong body. Despite initial assurances that the dragon's limbs would become proportioned over time, Laurence had begun to suspect he was rather deformed; now the thought leaves him a little chagrined.

Most famous, though, is the news that Temeraire is a water-spitter.

“We've never had one in England!” says Howe with delight. “The aviators will be delighted... Oh, it is a pity he cannot fly.”

A dragon that cannot fly? The wings are small, surely, but... “Not at all?”

“Well, some have been known to fly a very short distance, or to manage an awkward kind of glide; but generally, no.”

Laurence hides his dismay, and Temeraire says blandly, “That is quite alright; I think I prefer the water, anyway.”

The aviators who finally arrive from Dover the next morning are less sanguine.

“How would we even get him back?” mutters Admiral Portland, baffled.

“He could swim,” Laurence points out, and the man looks almost affronted.

Temeraire is fascinated by the admiral's huge Regal Copper, Laetificat, a burly and riot-colored creature who looks rather more like the type of dragon Laurence had expected when he found a giant egg in the Amitie's hold.

“I don't even know what we would do with you,” Portland adds, a bit baffled.

Temeraire bristles. “I imagine I would fight, of course! I am an excellent fighter. Or, I will be; Laurence said so.”

“Hmm,” is the only reply to this. “ - Well, perhaps it is best you are with a navy-man; we did bring over an aviator, who thought to take you on; but he wouldn't want to be chained to the sea anyway.”

“As though I would have wanted him,” Temeraire cries, and Laurence thinks that he rather has a point.

The aviators finally declare that they need to go back to England for further instructions. “And, listen, I did not mean to offend,” the admiral tells Laurence before they leave, with warming earnestness. “Only, it is damned strange to see a dragon that cannot fly - but it is still famous to have him at all, of course. I have an idea that... well. Whatever is decided, know that you both will always be welcome at the coverts.”


 

More than a week passes, and then Laurence leaves Temeraire on the beach and goes to see Croft when he spots the Winchester flying overhead.

“Yes,” Croft is saying when he enters. “Yes, I quite agree...”

“Sir?”

A courier looks at him, a bit wide-eyed, and hastily departs.

“Just the man,” says Croft absently. “Hmm.. yes...” He seems to be inspecting a letter. “...Yes, I quite see! Captain. You will not be going back to England; no.” He mumbles a bit more to himself, and then declares: “The dragon is a sea-beast, is it not? Congratulations, Captain Laurence; you retain your post.”

“I beg your pardon, Sir?”

“It cannot fly, your beast, but the brass back in London have hashed things out. If the aviators do not much want you, I am sure we can put the beast to use. Imagine how fast he could take a prize, right from under-water...”

Laurence can almost see the man calculating his portion of these imaginary shares. “I see,” he says flatly. He does not, however, protest; certainly this is better news than he has hoped for. Isn't it?

Eventually, it is decided that all other officers will be told that Temeraire was handed-off to an aviator, and Laurence will merely return to his duty.

“Because a secret,” says Croft, with annoying smugness, “Is most secret when even your friends aren't aware of it...”