Laurence honestly hadn’t intended it. He’s slept at Temeraire’s side, like so many nights before, and shifted in his sleep, like so many nights before. When he wakes, in the grey fuzz of pre-dawn, it’s to his dragon’s tense, aborted fidgeting.
“What’s wrong?” he murmurs, and Temeraire lets out a hiss, stiffening and then relaxing under him.
It’s only when Laurence’s speech is muted by something around his face that he realizes that he’s nestled into the crook of the dragon’s great neck - right beneath the intricate frills of his ruff.
“I’m sorry,” comes Temeraire’s strained voice, from above and below and around Laurence’s body, furious with embarrassment. “Your hair - and your breathing, it-”
Just as he says that, Laurence lets out an involuntary yawn, and as his warm breath drifts across the scales normally hidden under his ruff, Temeraire lets out a whine.
His distress is clear. Laurence can’t help but rise to his knees and press his forehead against the side of Temeraire’s own, unspoken comfort. “Now, then.”
Temeraire is still twitching. When Laurence moves out fully from under his ruff, he makes a low sound in his throat - but it quirks up to a question when Laurence yawns again and shifts back closer to him.
“Laurence?” says Temeraire, soft, uncertain.
“We can’t have you distracted today,” says Laurence, only just enough of an excuse for himself. Temeraire, who’s more discerning than Laurence even when he’s fully awake, wouldn’t be fooled if not for the hand Laurence lays on one of the outer ruffles around his neck, offering it a long, firm stroke. A deep, rumbly purr surges up in Temeraire’s chest, and his claws leave deep scores in the ground ahead of him. Laurence, settled against his foreleg, feels his huge, sinewy muscles flex as the claws contract. He swings a leg over to straddle it, like mounting a horse, and locks his thighs around the dragon’s limb for purchase as he sets about his task.
Ridiculously, it’s almost like stroking an animal, if the animal were coated in smooth black scales and bigger than most ships. Laurence runs his hand down the thickest of the frills, questing. At Temeraire’s pleased growl, he presses his hand a little firmer, petting the frills and stroking the edges of them with the tips of his thumb and forefinger. They’re soft, and as Laurence has well avoided touching Temeraire’s ruff before now, he takes the opportunity to explore. He pets down the length of one frill, then the next, motions even and regular, listening to Temeraire’s sounds rise and fall with the pressure of his touch.
Temeraire’s body, too, is moving more rhythmically than before under his attentions, and somewhere in Laurence, something is stirring with liquid heat at the dragon’s rumbly groans, the arches of his back when Laurence finds a particularly good spot, the flex and relax of his foreleg between Laurence’s legs. Temeraire is rarely silent, but in this moment he’s noisy enough that anyone within half a mile could hear them, and Laurence silently sends up a prayer of relief that they’re far from much but mountains and sheep. Temeraire - recklessness, according to the Latin, at least. He’s always favored the French translation, boldness , but in this moment the dragon seems to be tossing caution to the wind and - and in Laurence’s distraction he only realizes with a start that Temeraire is pushing up against his hand, impatient.
“Could you-” Temeraire’s voice is rough, smoky, and close enough to a whisper to send a shudder down Laurence’s spine. “Could you - nearer to my neck-” His voice dissolves into a growl, and Laurence nods, scarcely trusting himself to speak.
His fingernails dig into the folds of Temeraire’s ruff, scratching and rubbing vigorously. Temeraire’s entire body has started to undulate, pressing and rocking against the earth below him. Laurence tears away from his task for a moment to watch in awe, but Temeraire’s distressed noise of protest is enough to draw both of his hands back in, deep inside where the folds meet, the softer places where Temeraire’s neck gives under his firm touch.
Struck by a moment of inspiration and remembering the position where he’d woken up, Laurence wonders if Temeraire would respond well to the touch of his mouth. Ruefully, he realizes that his own blunt teeth would be less than a scratch against Temeraire’s hide, soft scales or not. Instead, he shifts from his position on his leg to crawl half-inside the frills. He presses his mouth against the hot, dark recesses of his ruff, whispering meaningless words of encouragement that he doubts Temeraire can even hear and rubbing both his palms hard against the sensitive dips and recesses of Temeraire’s neck.
The effect is instant. Temeraire’s huge head rears up - and for a terrifying moment, Laurence fears that he’ll be flung from his body like a limp doll, cast off by the dragon’s involuntary movement - but then Temeraire's head jerks back down, forehead pressing itself to the earth as great shudders rack through his frame. Laurence clings on for dear life, massaging at the tenderest parts of Temeraire’s fluttering ruff and drawing out his spasms until he’s finally still.
A quiet moment passes before Laurence shifts out from his ruff. Temeraire’s eyes are closed, and his shoulders are rising and falling rapidly. Further down the bulk of his body, his hind legs are splayed out to either side. It’s a little comical, until Laurence thinks about how desperately the dragon must’ve been rutting against the ground under his touches, and then it’s something else entirely.
“Good,” Laurence says, unsure what else to say. He strokes Temeraire’s shoulder, simple comfort now rather than pleasure. He’s straining in his own pants, he’ll admit, but - no need for any of that now that his dragon is satisfied. Laurence shifts a little, attempting to hide his own arousal.
Temeraire, of course, isn’t fooled. Once his breathing has begun to even again, he lifts his head and looks straight down at Laurence, sharp blue eyes piercing him straight through the chest.
“Now you need relief as well,” says Temeraire, in a voice that slices through Laurence’s veins. It’s ridiculous, because this is Temeraire , his longtime companion, one Laurence would trust his life to without a second thought or indeed a first, one whom Laurence witnessed just the other day go cross-eyed and sneeze because he’d accidentally inhaled water in the lake, Laurence shouldn’t feel like a pinned butterfly under his gaze, but-
Iron-sharp claws close around his torso, the cruel hooks gentle and precise to perfection, and Temeraire’s other foreclaw slices through Laurence’s breeches. Suddenly, Laurence is bare, trapped in Temeraire’s immovable grip. He isn’t sure what he’s expecting - he isn’t sure of anything about this morning, actually, but then Temeraire’s long, forked tongue is between his legs and it all comes achingly easy.
His tongue is hot and wet and slightly rough, and Laurence gasps in a manner utterly unbecoming of a captain. Temeraire licks indiscriminately, enthusiastically. As the quick strokes of his tongue press into Laurence and draw his arousal up from simmering coals to leaping flames, Laurence can feel his flush rising all the way up his cheekbones. A high quaver falls from his lips. “Ah-”
Temeraire stops licking at him for a moment to demand, “Make that noise again.”
Laurence would refuse, on a million principles of propriety and shame and becomingness , but Temeraire’s tongue curls around him and pulls, insistent. Another moan tears itself from his throat, and his legs jerk up, knees involuntarily bumping Temeraire’s chin.
Temeraire isn’t injured by the blow, but he draws back, clearly indignant, and before Laurence can apologize, his legs are pinned down by Temeraire’s other claw. “Stay still,” he orders, a little bit petulant, and bends his head again, licking at him with renewed vigor.
It’s like that, utterly helpless to resist the strokes of Temeraire’s tongue or the smoky scent of the dragon’s breath surrounding him, that Laurence shudders out an orgasm onto his tongue. Temeraire holds him still through the washes of pleasure, watching with eyes that are sharp and intrigued and deliciously, smokily hungry.
“We should do that again,” he announces, once Laurence has recovered a little. “Soon.”
“You,” sighs Laurence, still a little breathy, “are far too much trouble.”
It’s a yes, and judging by Temeraire’s low rumble of laughter, he knows it.