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Never Mess With a Dragon's Hoard if You Want to Live

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The thing about dragons, Tony knew, was that they were hoarders. These days they might not be green or scaly or winged or fire-breathing—although he was reserving judgment on that last one—but most of them had carried their non-physical characteristics over when they’d learned to take human form, and one of those characteristics was a tendency to collect things.

Gold and gems not being in over-supply nowadays, they’d adapted, begun collecting other items. Books were a popular choice; many of the more out-of-the-way used bookstores were owned by dragons, although their hours tended to be irregular and actually attempting to buy anything would get an unwary customer subjected to a long, considering, hungry look. Stamps, jewelry, coins, porcelain figurines—there wasn’t much that a dragon wouldn’t collect. There was a certain subset of dragons—usually the older, female ones—who collected cats. There were a lot of jokes about them breeding their own food, although they weren't coming from Tony. Aside from being speciesist, cracking dragon jokes tended to give him headaches.

“Collecting” was a watered-down term, though, a human idea. A dragon hoarded. Obsessively, protectively, jealously, a dragon guarded its collection and defended it against all comers, regardless of personal danger.

Of course, sometimes the danger wasn’t to the dragon. Sometimes it was to the hoard itself.

“Didn’t give you permission to die, DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled in his ear, and Tony was too busy whimpering--which was embarrassing but better than screaming--to answer. He did manage to meet Gibbs’ eyes in acknowledgment of the order, which made Gibbs’ jaw unclench, just a little bit.

Tony really didn’t need the reminder. He had no intention of dying, especially not from a stupid gunshot that hadn't hit anything really vital anyway. He knew all too well what it would do to Gibbs to lose any more of his hoard.

Besides, the last time he’d been in the hospital he'd seen Gibbs breathe fire at one of the nurses who'd tried to enforce visiting hours on him. McGee claimed that Tony'd been hallucinating from the really good drugs he'd been given, but Tony was betting on Gibbs, and he meant to stay alive long enough to collect.