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second meeting

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Laurence sees Lieutenant Dayes across the yard for exactly two seconds before his view is shrouded by a dark black wing.

Temeraire herds him back protectively, looping his huge body around Laurence in a way that should be comical but manages to seem threatening, instead. Looking up, Laurence is startled to see his new ruff spreading and widening, the fan-like ridges around his face standing rigid as he glares across the field.

But it is the low hiss that builds within the dragon's throat that makes Laurence anxious. “My dear, whatever has upset you?”

He asks this, though he can take a guess; Temeraire's furious whisper does not manage to be quiet at all. “They have brought back that awful Lieutenant, Laurence,” he says. “Who lied to me, and said such unpleasant things; they will not take you away, they will not. I will kill anyone who tries.”

“There is no need for that,” says Laurence hastily. But Temeraire just releases another snarl.

And he refuses to let Laurence leave even when Dayes must have moved away, insisting that “I will not let them get you alone,” as though the Corps will take him out back and shoot him, or something ridiculous. At last Laurence must resign himself to the coddling of a paranoid dragon and leans back against Temeraire's shoulder, drowsing against the warm scales.

He wakes sometime later to the sound of arguing.

“ - if he is hurt, Temeraire, hiding him won't - “

“He is not hurt! I will not let anyone hurt him, that is why he is here with me.”

“Oh, lord,” the voice says; Laurence recognizes Granby's resigned tones. “Did something happen?”

“Yes,” Temeraire says. “I saw that awful man Dayes, and I know they will lie to me again, and try to take Laurence; well, I will not let them.”

“No one is trying to take Laurence!” Granby exclaims. “Lieutenant Dayes has been transferred to serve with Nitidus; that is all.”

“In our formation? No. I will take Laurence away if he is here to stay.”

“There's no need for that,” says Granby hastily.

Temeraire seems to be escalating, and Laurence reflects that it might not be best to wait out the situation; might not be possible, in truth, for Temeraire does not seem to calming. Glancing around his scaly prison, he hitches himself over Temeraire's foot and starts to climb up the dragon's body, soon scrambling over his wide back.

“There is certainly a need, and – Laurence, whatever are you doing?” Temeraire twists and tries to grab him, and Laurence darts away, jumping. He lands heavily next to Granby, stumbling, and the Lieutenant catches his arm.

Temeraire seems if anything more distressed. “Oh; are you hungry? I did not think.”

“No, my dear,” says Laurence with exasperation. “But I cannot live under your wing forever, and I assure you there is no danger, none whatsoever.”

“But you could live here forever,” Temeraire corrects, “and you should, if that awful man is anywhere around.”

“Would it reassure you if I were to speak with Lieutenant Dayes - “

“No!” Temeraire bursts, and this time Laurence cannot stop himself from being lifted into the air, hugged to the dragon's body like a coveted toy. “No, you must not.”

“Lord, Dayes is not worth the fuss,” Granby scolds. “I know him perfectly well, and he is not such a scrub that he would try to interfere with you.”

“He lied to me,” Temeraire sulks. “He said nasty things – that Laurence hated me and wanted a ship instead of a dragon, and that he would be happier elsewhere, and he tried to take my chain...”

Granby, Laurence is glad to see, looks rather appalled by these accusations; it is somewhat comforting to know that his own fury, though long-since cooled, was not misplaced. “And I hope you know, dear, that he was entirely wrong,” Laurence assures.

“Oh, of course; but it was still not pleasant to hear.” Temeraire gingerly sets him down at his side, tail wrapping forward to separate him from Granby. Sighing only slightly, Laurence looks over to his Lieutenant.

“I'll talk to Lenton about transferring him,” Granby decides.

Laurence is surprised; he would not disrupt a man's career in such a manner, no matter how offensive he might have been. “That is not necessary.”

“Of course it is,” Granby says. “Only look at Temeraire; the formation can't function if he is stuck fussing.”

Temeraire, when Laurence turns, is so completely unrepentant that this can't be argued. Sighing, he allows Granby to go, and only then does the dragon seem to relax fully.

Temeraire bends down his huge head to nudge at Laurence. “I am sorry to have kept you here all day, Laurence; but I am not sorry to make Dayes leave. Do you think me very silly?”

Laurence tries to imagine being separated from Temeraire - never allowed to see him again, as he feared would happen in Madeira. A coldness grips his chest, despite all the unlikelihood of the notion.

“It is not silly at all,” he says, softly. “But I would not willingly leave you, my dear. I promise that.”

Temeraire nudges him again, humming, and Laurence reaches out to stroke the dragon's soft nose. Temeraire stretches out more comfortably, wrapping one long foreclaw around Laurence. And they sit there until the sky grows dark, and the dragon's great blue eyes slowly slide shut.

Laurence presses himself against Temeraire's side, and can admit, just to himself, that he is very glad Dayes will not be staying.