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Meddle Not In the Affairs of Dragons (Lest They Meddle in Yours)

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In truth, until Temeraire is elected, he is rather alone in his district; there are so very few dragons living so far from the coverts, even now. Temeraire rather uncharitably- though perhaps not incorrectly- suspects that it is precisely such a dearth of draconic residents that has led to many areas being declared dragon districts at all. No dragon can hold an office if there are no dragons in residence to take the post, after all. Yes, for those first few months, Temeraire is very much alone. Of course, he has his dearest Will, and Tenzing, who has so graciously opened his home to them both, but Will and Tenzing are so very caught up in being retired and reasonably well off and very much in love (of this he is quite certain, though neither of them seem willing to realize, or even admit their shared regard) that neither of them make for terribly good conversation at all, nevermind good debate.

Indeed, Temeraire thinks to himself, it’s rather a wonder they manage to get anything done at all. They seem to be quite content sighing at one another and sharing meaningful glances over dinner before retreating to Tenzing’s study for a drink, at which point Temeraire always excuses himself post haste. He loves them both dearly, truly he does, but honestly Temeraire cannot for the life of him understand what has gotten into them; surely he was not this bad with Mei, or Iskierka- surely not.

He tells Perscitia as much when she visits, but she only snorts into her tea and boasts of how imminently sensible her Wellington is, as thought Temeraire is not wholly and inescapably aware of the man’s utter insanity.

“Anyway, I am not so certain it is any concern of ours.” Perscitia says primly, and Temeraire hisses at her, aghast.

“Perscitia, Will is my captain-”

“You are retired.” Perscitia interjects, but Temeraire continues on undeterred.

“My captain and my dear friend, and Tenzing is also very dear to me, and both of them have made it more than obvious that they are really quite terrible at looking after themselves. What else would any self-respecting dragon do in my position?” he says, and Perscitia settles back on her haunches.

“Mind their own business, most likely.” she says loftily. Temeraire puts her off as a lost cause and huffs at her as she flies off. Clearly she’s yet to grasp the true gravity of the situation. Iskierka only laughs at him, long and hard and terribly crude, when he speaks to her, and proceeds to go on at length about her Granby and his goings on with Little as though she hadn’t lost her captain a hand. Perhaps a more sensible companion would understand his need to watch out for Will and Tenzing, and to ensure their mutual happiness. He writes Mei, who replies with her congratulations and also encloses a letter from Ning. Temeraire spares a moment of pride for his daughter; she has grown into a fully fledged celestial with a magnificent ruff of black and plum, and her heavenly flame has subdued even the most outspoken of Mianning’s dissenters. Still, Mei only wishes Will and Tenzing prosperity, and Ning only mocks her long suffering father in that coyly polite way of hers. It does seem that Temeraire will, as ever, have to take matters into his own claws.

Temeraire decides at last, and after much deep thought on the matter, that honesty is the best approach. A direct confrontation of the matter is most likely to lead to the desired outcome, and so the next day he invites Will for a leisurely flight over his district. The weather is lovely, and Temeraire feels quite magnificent in his harness- black leather over steel for stability, and two discrete straps to hold his platinum breastplate in place. There are accents of blue and gold tooled into the leather, beautiful sparkling flashes of blue topaz and yellow diamonds that glimmer in the mid-morning sun. It was a gift from the Son of Heaven as thanks for Will’s aid and to honor Temeraire’s successful siring of a celestial dragon. It matches very well the flying jacket that Mianning had gifted to Will, and it brings out the gold of his hair and skin and the blue of his eyes in a most dashing way.

They make large circles around Tenzing’s land, sweeping further out into the countryside as the sun climbs into the sky, and once Temeraire has Will trapped aloft he launches his assault. The wind is barely present, a gentle and quiet breeze, so Temeraire needs not shout to be heart, a balm to his dignity after the cruel sting of Ning and Iskierka and Perscitia’s barbs.

“Will, dear one,” he says gently, as Will basks in the sun from his spot aboard.

“Yes, dearest?” Will says, barely raising his voice.

“I am terribly happy here with Tenzing.” he ventures, and Temeraire imagines he can feel the warmth of Will’s gentle smile.

“And I am glad of it.”

“Only, are you happy as well?” Temeraire ventures, and Will chuckles.

“I am with you, and we are at peace,” he says, brushing a hand along Temeraire’s scales. “I am content.”

“Then Tenzing is a good mate? And you are happy with him?” Temeraire asks, and Will sputters and abruptly tumbles to the side. The harness pulls taut as Will is pulled against it, and Temeraire cants to the opposite side to ease him upright.

“Why, whatever made you believe that- that Tenzing and I- that we- that is not even legal, Temeraire!” Will stammers, and Temeraire sighs.

“Oh, but you have broken so many other laws, and none of that mattered much at all. It doesn’t hurt anyone, after all, and Perscitia and I have decided to petition against such laws that ban it. Little and Granby do perfectly well, despite having to suffer Iskierka’s dreadful moods, and Minnow and Bellusa are quite content as well. And I do not see how it matters even one bit to anyone else if you and Tenzing are mates.” Temeraire says, absolutely certain of the truth of his words.

“And yet you have seen fit to trap me aloft and ask me these very questions.” Will says, sounding terribly exasperated.

“Oh, but not even you understand it, do you? I must know, Will, for if we are to stay with Tenzing for very long I must be certain that you both are quite happy, and happy with one another as well. And anyway, I have seen how you look at each other- you are quite compatible, you must know.” he says, and Will sighs.

“We are both men, dearest. Our regard for each other, romantic or not, is simply impermissible.” he says.

“Bother and nonsense- it does not signify in the least. And besides, it is not as though every mating is intended to produce an egg- though I wouldn’t mind terribly if you did make one. I should very much love to be a caregiver for your egg, who is bound to be far more sensible than my own. Not-” he says hurriedly, “that I am upset with how Ning has grown up, but she is terribly rude, and so very forward at times. Most certainly that is Iskierka’s poor influence on her.” Temeraire asserts, and Will begins to laugh, a warm and happy sound that Temeraire loves, and will never hear often enough.

“Oh dearest, you are certainly unique.” Will laughs, and Temeraire preens at the praise.

“So you will mate with Tenzing? I shall give you my blessing, of course. I only wanted to be sure that this is what you wanted as well, and that you are happy.” Will places a warm hand on Temeraire’s scales.  

“I promise you, dear one, I am happy here. With you, and with- with Tenzing as well. I daresay,” Will pauses, sighing softly, tenderly, “I daresay I have never been happier in my entire life.”

Temeraire is so immeasurably pleased by the sincerity and contentment in Will’s voice that it’s only when they return to Tenzing’s estate and Will makes his escape that he realizes Will never actually confirmed anything at all.

Clearly, he decides later that evening, more decisive action is required.

 Temeraire is utterly thrilled to find that in just a fortnight the dragon population of his district has grown from merely himself to a pride-worthy fifteen draconian citizens, including an all too proud Arkady and a yet-again brooding Wringe. Truly, he admires their dedication; perhaps they shall be able to help him convince Tenzing that a fete is in order. Surely the birth of the district’s first dragon is a cause worthy of great celebration, and Arkady and Wringe would doubtless be thrilled at such an honor being bestowed upon one of their hatchlings.

He contacts Perscitia post-haste, not, of course, to boast of his continued good fortune, but to inquire after her own. Perscitia, embittered lizard that she is, only replies with a pointed inquiry after the state of Will’s marriage bed, and a comment on Wellington’s continued good health and political success. Temeraire very graciously does not destroy her letter in a fit of pique, but nor does he reply to her damnable barb. Surely she understands that Will is, at heart, an immensely private person, never given to Wellington’s sheer ostentation.  And besides, Will and Tharkay’s relationship would not yet be so widely accepted as Temeraire wishes- his discretion is merited, though not terribly preferable. Perhaps Will simply needs another display of Temeraire’s love for him, and his great trustworthiness; it has been almost a fortnight since he last presented Will with a fitting gift. Maybe something with lapis, or jade? He shall have to write Iskierka- insufferable though she may be, she has impeccable taste.

Temeraire is delighted to gift to his dear Will a wonderful coat the very next week; Iskierka’s input was grudgingly accepted, but the final result is simply marvelous. The coat itself was easily acquired from a reputable tailor in town with Tenzing’s aid, and Temeraire himself engaged a promising young seamstress to add to his chosen embellishments. She seems rather unused to working with gold thread, but her work is more than adequate, a filigree of gold vines lining the cuffs and hem. She also added a wonderfully satisfactory inlay of precious green jadeite (generously gifted from his honored mother) and clear blue lapis. It is wonderfully striking against the deep bottle green of the formal jacket, reminiscent of the aviator’s coat in color if not form.

Temeraire presents it to Will with an excited flourish; Will is, understandably, speechless.

“Dear one,” he finally manages, “is it not a bit excessive?’ he asks, and Temeraire blinks a bit, glances down at the jacket, then back at his captain.

“Assuredly not!” he says with utter surety. “It is perfect for formal occasions, which you will undoubtedly attend, and the color accents Tenzing’s own favored finery quite well. I also chose the lapis to bring out your eyes; they are quite lovely, you know. I am sure Tenzing would agree with me in this manner.” he says, and Will’s face goes pink, the slightest hint of color rising to tint his sun-bronzed cheeks.

“Temeraire, it is a lovely gift to be sure, but it is not quite the done thing to have matching, or even complimenting, outfits for two bachelors.” Will manages, and Temeraire flattens his ruff in disappointment.

“So you will not wear it then?” he asks sadly. “Not even just the once, that I may see you in it?” he pleads, and Will sighs.

“For you, dear one, I shall.”

The coat is just as lovely as Temeraire had hoped, and it is most gratifying to note the way Tenzing’s eyes linger on Will’s broad shoulders as they fill out the coat, the way the gems accentuate the slim lines and straight back of his captains form when Temeraire calls him over to admire his handiwork.

“Now, onto the matter of the coming season,” he begins once the two men are done staring soulfully at each other.

“The season?” Tenzing says with a laugh. “Surely you don’t mean to come out, Temeraire?” he says, and Temeraire shakes his head.

“Goodness, no, but certainly we might host a ball, or at least a dinner party? A small fete? It would be wonderful to see all of our dear friends, and my pavilion is certainly fine enough for any number of guests, wouldn’t you agree?”

Temeraire’s pavilion is certainly very fine indeed, made of pale stone and dark wood with a beautiful pagoda roof like his pavilion in China. There are paintings and hangings decorating the cedar-lined walls, and the marble inlay on the floor is surrounded by soft rugs at one end, complete with a sitting and dining area for human sized guests. There are countless books along the walls, set in shelves of mahogany, and a fine stand for Temeraire’s talon sheaths that he might read and write at his leisure without risking his collection. Many of the books are sized for human hands, but Temeraire is well pleased with them also, for Will gladly reads to him any time he might wish it.

‘Yes, it is quite a marvel, Temeraire, but a party is quite an undertaking, especially for a reclusive bachelor, a war hero, and a dragon of parliament.” Tenzing says. “We are not, the three of us, the hosts that many would desire.” Temeraire huffs dejectedly into his tea, ruff twitching, and taps one massive claw against the floor.

“No, I should think we are much better hosts than any guest should even dream of meeting!” he says and Tenzing laughs, a treasured sound so very dear for its brightness and rarity.

“Perhaps we should start a bit smaller- a dinner party for intimate friends, rather than a society fete?” he suggests, and Temeraire huffs again, but his ruff flares out, betraying his excitement.

“If we must, I suppose it will do.” he mutters into his tea. Will is speechless; Temeraire chooses to believe it is out of sheer delight.

Tenzing takes one look at Temeraire’s tentative guest list for his “small dinner party” and laughs until it seems he might cry. Temeraire has proposed to invite his entire formation, their crews in full, a great many landed gentry in his district, and close to half of parliament.

“Temeraire, a small party has perhaps twenty, maybe thirty guests. Perhaps you might consider removing a few individuals from the list? I am sure they will recover from the hurt.” Tenzing manages at last.

“How am I to choose, though?” Temeraire says with a plaintive sigh, and Tenzing considers the proposed list.

“I do believe we can do away entirely with inviting your new parliamentary fellows; a gathering such as this is better suited to dear friends and family. One could also argue that inviting Lung Qin Mei, your mother, and General Chu is rather unnecessary, as they would not be able to attend on such short notice.” he proposes, and Temeraire frowns.

“Would it not offend them, to go uninvited?” he asks, drawing an absent design in the dirt with one sharp claw.

“Not at all, my friend,” Tenzing replies. “Different parties for different people. I, for example, can expect to be invited to several balls simply because of my title, but I shall not be offended in the least when the Earl of Wiltshire does not invite me to a night of dinner and music with friends. Despite their rather amusing strictures, the rules of society can, on occasion, work to one’s favor.” he explains, and Temeraire hums thoughtfully.

“So I might not invite Celeritas, but I should invite Lily and Maximus?” he says, and Tenzing nods.

“Just so, my dear. Now, let us determine who among this great number we may politely ignore for some time yet.” Tenzing says, chuckling as he unfolds Temeraire’s list and settles in to help the dragon. Temeraires’ massive head arches over him as the peruse the list together, Tenzing blissfully unaware of the considering glances being sent his way, and of the gleeful ripple in Temeraire’s ruff as Will watches them from across the lawn.

Slowly, slowly, but as certain as ever, Temeraire considers his humans, and plans.