“I heard you were still interested in Dragons, my beloved,” Talia said ever so casually, a glint in her eye that Dick distrusted immensely.
“You heard correctly,” said Bruce carefully, clearly thinking the same thing.
Talia was too powerful a noble to offend needlessly, but Dick couldn’t help but bit back a comment. Everyone knew not to just bring up Dragons with the Waynes, or in Gotham in general. Many of the neighboring kingdoms thought they’d made up the tale and that the young Prince had simply run off. Dragons were thought to be fake or at least extinct. The alternative was too terrifying for most people.
Dick had been there though. He’d shot arrow after arrow only to have them shatter harmlessly off thick scales. In the end, he’d had to watch in helpless rage and horror as his little brother- his Little Wing- was carried off in one of the beast’s claws.
Years later, they were still no closer to knowing why the creature had targeted Jason and no one else. They’d found the burnt remnants of his protective charms and the shreds of his clothes outside a small horde of valuables and a scary pile of bones. They’d had to accept that Jason was dead after that, but afterwards Dick devoted himself to learning the mostly forgotten art of Dragon Slaying, swearing to himself that he’d kill any of the creatures if they so much as set a claw into Gotham.
It had been years since then, but the grief still burned bright for both him and Bruce, even if having Tim around helped.
“I recently found myself in possession of a dragon,” Talia said, “I remembered that you held a grudge against the creatures and thought I might offer it to you as a token of my family’s undying loyalty to the crown.”
Dick saw Bruce tense ever so slightly and he shared the sentiment. A Dragon? What was Talia playing at? And when had the al Ghuls ever been loyal to anyone but themselves?
“Might I remind you that the Crown does not take bribes,” Bruce began slowly after a moment.
“Don’t insult me, beloved,” scoffed Talia, “It is, as I said, a gift. No strings attached.”
Dick doubted that very much.
“Very well,” Bruce said after a long pause, “Dick will inspect this… gift in my place while we continue with negotiations.”
“Perfect, Ubu shall show him the way,” Talia said with a dismissive flick of her had. Very rude, considering he was the Crown Prince, but Talia still refused to acknowledge him as a true heir since he was adopted and the al Ghuls were famously finicky about bloodlines.
Dick was surprised when they stayed inside the castle. Definitely not the Dragon that had taken Jason then: the thing would never fit. Still, he checked his knives as he walked. Bruce would never openly endorse it, but as far as Dick was concerned, one less Dragon in the world would be a blessing for everyone. Bruce knew him and he knew what Dick would do when he sent him to 'inspect' the gift. He'd also be very surprised if Talia also expected it. But it wasn't like they could afford to let it just terrorize their citizens. Dick had never taken any joy in hunting, and it bothered him slightly that the beast would be bound when he did the deed. Still, he wouldn't make it suffer. He was prepared.
He took that statement back the moment he was led into a room and saw the creature: Dick wasn't prepared for this at all.
Dick couldn't get over how small it was. Barely bigger than a dog and cowering in the back of the cage it was being held in. It bared it's teeth and snarled testily when they approached, but Dick could tell the little thing was freaked.
It also looked like a miniature of the dragon that had taken Jason. Dick had studied enough about dragons to know they were typically pretty diverse in markings and colors, especially considering how few of them were left. He’d bet his sword that this was a direct offspring of the beast that had robbed him of his little brother.
The thought crossed his mind that it would be almost fitting if he killed the creature here. A fair trade, right?
But as he approached, the small dragon began shaking and screeching. Snapping it's teeth and trying to look as big and fearsome as something so small could.
"Pay it no mind," Ubu said, "It makes such a din because it is of a lessor, contaminated, breed. Proper Dragon's are much more dignified."
That struck Dick as a very odd thing to say. Strangely, the little Dragon did quiet slightly, almost like it understood, though it became even more agitated. Dick knelt down in front of it. His original plan had been to get this over with as fast as possible but... he hadn't been expecting such human like emotion in a beast. All the texts agreed that Dragon's were extraordinarily intelligent, but this was something else. It's fear and gaze felt too human.
He knew right then and there he wasn't going to be able to kill it.
"Hey little one," Dick said in a soothing voice with a slight smile, "You don't need to be scared anymore, I'm going to take care of you until we can figure out where your parents are."
The little Dragon might even lead them back to the Dragon who took Jason if they played their cards right. It had been years, but he knew both he and Bruce longed for some kind of closure.
"Sir-" Ubu started wearily. But then… something truly extraordinary happened.
The dragon transformed into sniffling toddler.
“Don’t be fooled by it’s tricks,” Ubu warned seeming even more agitated, glancing at the door, “it will still kill you given half the chance. Even the young are still monsters.”
“I didn’t realize the al Ghul’s were so knowledgeable about dragons,” Dick said lightly, reaching for the latches of the cage, “you certainly didn’t volunteer any information when the Prince went missing.”
That got Ubu to clam up.
“Let's get you out of there,” Dick murmured opening the door. Dragon or not, he wasn’t going to keep a child in a cage. If he paid for it, he paid for it.
“You can’t mean to let it live?” Ubu said in dismay, “The abomination need to be stamped out.”
“And have the dragon’s family burn Gotham to the ground in retaliation? I don’t think so,” Dick said.
The way Ubu grimaced confirmed the theory.
Following a hunch, Dick extended a hand into cage, held limply to show it was no threat.
“Hey there little guy,” Dick tried another smile, “Want to come out?”
Cautiously, the toddler sniffed his hand and then cautiously crawled towards him before extending its arms up to be held. The boy clearly was used to some sort of human holding him in this form at least some of the time, which struck Dick as very odd. Dick picked him up and the toddler quickly curled into his arms, rubbing its face on his shoulder and trying to hide from Ubu. Dick murmured soothing things until the dragon-child settled and stopped sniffling.
Not only was Dick completely incapable of harming the dragon, if anyone else tried he was going to raise hell.
“Let’s find you some clothes and snack,” Dick said, carefully standing with the boy.
The toddler perked up at the suggestion of food, and Dick was struck this time by the fact that he understood not just tone and intent, but the language of Gotham.
“That will be all, Ubu,” Dick dismissed the reluctant guard, walking down the halls with the dragon-child feeling eyes on his back until they were out of sight. Once he was gone, the little boy stopped hiding and began looking around curiously at everything they passed.
Dick was all set to think he was more well behaved than any human babies he’d encountered when the toddler practically lurched out of his arms.
“Da!” he babbled excitedly, “Da!”
Dick tried to keep hold of him, but the baby transformed back into a dragon and wriggled out of his grip to take off down one of the halls.
“Dammit,” Dick cursed as he took off after him. Fortunately, it seemed the little dragon was after something specific and not just running away. Dick wasn’t sure how he’d have explained to Bruce that there was a dragon baby lose in the castle. He found the baby chittering and scratching excitedly at a familiar door.
Dick swallowed around a lump in his throat. What was it about Jason that dragon’s seemed to find so enthralling?
“There’s no one there, little guy,” Dick sighed, crouching down, “he’s… he’s gone.”
The little creature blinked up at him without comprehension.
“Here,” Dick said opening the door for the little guy to bound eagerly inside, “there’s no one here.”
The dragon snuffled all around the room several times before it came to the same conclusion. Then it transformed back into human form and began to sob.
“Da,” the little boy wailed, “Wan’ Da!”
A terrible thought began to form in Dick’s mind as he shuffled a little closer and took a closer look at the crying boy.
That little double curl in his hair, the way his nose scrunched up when he cried, his eyes- the little dragon’s fucking eyes-
“Oh god…” Dick covered his mouth.
They were the exact shade and shape as Jason Todd’s eyes.