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Nesting Instincts

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In a cavern high atop a mountain resides a great beast with shining black scales, glimmering gold eyes, and a raw, rare intelligence.

The Black Dragon.

Stories travel far and wide of the beast’s great claws, his sharp teeth, his earth-rumbling roar. None dare defy him.

“Sid! Sid, you dick, give back egg!”

Drawn from his thoughts, Sid huffs. Sometimes he really wishes no one would defy him. It might make life easier.

“You dare speak to me thusly?” He draws his shoulders back and lifts his head. Steam billows from his nostrils and he’s certain he makes a fine picture.

Unfortunately, his guest doesn’t seem to notice. Sid tries not to pout.

“Yes, I dare. I dare cause you steal egg. Again .”

“Geno—”

“We talked about this, Sid.” Geno is looking up, and up, and up, and glaring at Sid so fiercely it makes Sid wince. The reaction irritates him. Though cave trolls are one of the tallest bipedal beings in the land, it doesn’t change the fact that Sid dwarfs him ten times over.

It doesn’t seem to matter in the face of Geno’s glare.

“I can’t help it,” Sid says, looking away from him.

“Excuses. Now give back. We need eggs to sell so mama and I can eat.” Geno shoves a hand out.

“I could hunt for you!” Sid says, curling protectively around his stomach. If he hides his stomach, maybe Geno won’t see where Sid’s hidden his egg. Not that Geno doesn’t already know where it is. It’s not Sid’s fault he has instincts. Instincts that tell him: take, hoard, nest, mine .

It’s just unfortunate that his instincts have decided to hoard the creations of the most stubborn creature on the planet. Which is saying something, because for the longest time, Sid had thought that was him .

———————

They’re not real eggs is the thing. They’re wooden and carved and beautiful . Sid first saw them when he was looking for a new cave. The mountain he’d decided on was full of other creatures scurrying about, living their lives, trading, surviving. As a dragon, Sid is meant to be solitary. He knows this. It’s why he has his cave. He couldn’t help but be fascinated by the little creatures, however, so he found himself nesting much closer to civilization than he’d meant to.

The first time Sid met Geno was possibly Sid’s fault. Maybe. Sid was in a relatively humanesque form, making his way around the town at the base of a giant mountain, when he saw the shop. The displays caught his eye first, but it wasn’t until he stopped for a closer look that instinct rose up and clawed at his belly. Yes. This. Perfect. His .

He didn’t mean to sneak into the shop and sneak out with one of the eggs on display. He really didn’t. He just... couldn’t help it.

It wasn’t until he settled into one of his caves that he realized what a mistake he’d made.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He heard the steps before the creature came into view. His eyebrow rose at the gall. Very few beings would have had the nerve to come into a dragon’s home uninvited and unannounced.

“You,” the creature said. His voice was thick and heavily accented. Sid catalogued his height, his face, his thin wrists and large hands and thought: troll. Cave troll. “Thief.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“No. No pardon. You’re thief. Give.” The troll held out his hand with an unimpressed look.

“I’m not a thief,” Sid said. He shifted very slightly, trying to hide his recent acquisition without crushing it. The troll glanced down and back up at Sid’s face, expression unchanged. Dammit.

“Papa is mage. He spells eggs until sold. I know you have egg, so give it back.”

Sid stared down at the troll for a long time. “Your father is a— Aren’t you a troll?”

The troll stared back at him. “I answer question if you give back egg.”

Sid really wanted to know, but— “I don’t... I mean...” Something painful twinged in his gut: a memory, his mother. We are more than our instincts, Sidney. He’d always tried to live that way with varying degrees of success.

He tried not to forage too much in dragon form and deplete resources. His human form was easier to feed anyway. He was also a good defensive measure. He always liked to hoard people more than things. Protecting creatures meant he got to keep them.

The egg thing though. That was a new development. One he hadn’t dwelled on much. He had taken the egg, set up residence, and tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his gut anytime he looked at his recent acquisition.

The egg was just so beautiful. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He wanted it to be his. It should be his. Why shouldn’t it be his?

He shook his head violently. No. No that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t his. He didn’t get to own things. Things must be earned, not stolen. He was more than his instincts.

He sighed. Reaching under his belly, he pulled out the egg and handed it out. “I’m sorry,” he muttered.

The troll didn’t see to mind his claws at all. He took the egg and wrapped it carefully in a cloth from his belt and tucked it away quickly. “Papa is mage. Mama is troll. Mama carves, papa protects. Makes good business.” The troll looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you.”

Sid snorted and curled into himself, drawing his tail over his eyes. He didn’t want to look at the troll anymore. He almost didn’t care that the troll kept his word. What did it matter that he made a troll happy? Who cared about smiling? All Sid could think about was the hollow, aching feeling in his stomach. He gave it away. It was his and it was perfect and he gave it away .

“You shouldn’t thank me for stealing,” he muttered.

“I’m thank for returning. You didn’t have to.”

Sid peered at him suspiciously over his tail. “Yes, I did.”

“Didn’t,” the troll said and kept smiling . It was awful. “So I give you something. My name is Evgeni, you can call me Geno.”

The first name tickled Sid’s tongue. He could taste the power in it. “You are either very brave or very stupid to give your true name to a dragon.”

Geno smiled at him. “I trust you. You gave back egg.”

Sid snorted. “Stupid, then. I stole it in the first place, what does it matter that I gave it back?”

“Could have said no. Could have scared me off. Could have eaten me.”

“I somehow doubt I could scare you,” Sid said and then considered the last statement. “And I wouldn’t eat you. I like living here. If I ate you, I’d have to move.”

“If you use true name to hurt me, you have to move too,” Geno said and shrugged.

He had a point. “Fine. Whatever. Now you have your egg back. So leave.”

Geno went to do so but paused. He looked back at Sid. “Why did you take?” he asked. “If you like living here, if you want to stay, why steal?”

Sid pulled his tail back up over his eyes. That was the exact question he didn’t want to answer, so he wouldn’t.

Except he could tell Geno wasn’t leaving. He stayed there for so long Sid’s cave started to darken as dusk fell. Finally, he heard a long sigh and footsteps.

“It was beautiful,” Sid murmured.

The footsteps paused, then continued, and Sid was alone.

———————

The problem was, Sid couldn’t stop thinking about the damn troll after that. He found himself pulling his tail in, shortening his claws and teeth, curling himself up into something resembling human, and heading into town.

The townspeople knew who he was. It was hard not to stare at a too-angular human with hair black as pitch and bright gold eyes. Still, they treated him decently, which was more than Sid had expected. He meandered around shops, found the latest news, bought a few trinkets that he didn’t need but looked nice, and visited the mayor.

Sid had known the mayor for a long time. It might have influenced his decision to settle down in the area. He’d found a strange enjoyment in visiting and seeing Mario married, with kids, his kids grown, his kids getting married. It was a reminder of the movement of time. Human lives lasted for such a short time, but they accomplished so much. They created, they destroyed, they endured, they survived, they thrived . It was a fascinating thing to behold.

He also visited the mage on the outskirts of town. While Sid often wondered if their friendship continued solely for the rare scales Sid provided Flower, he couldn’t deny the benefits of having a mage for a friend.

Flower was also a terrible gossip, which meant it didn’t take long before Sid knew everything about the cave troll known as Geno.

He was from the other side of the world. Somewhere Slavic. Sid wondered if he’d ever flown over Geno’s homeland. It was possible, but despite the ridiculous strings of Latin Sid had heard Flower spout, Flower couldn’t pronounce the name of the place whatsoever. Geno had moved here with his family to escape a war, and while no one knew why they hadn’t moved back, Flower assumed it was due to desertion status.

Also the fact that they made a rather decent amount of money selling their carved wooden eggs probably helped. There was enough income here that the arts were appreciated, and Geno and his mother created some of the most gorgeous delicate things. His father helped the town with minor magics, and there was an older brother, Denis, who was a traveling peddler. He would take some of Geno and Natalia’s creations to sell or trade in other cities and would visit every once in a while with new goods and tales, though Sid had never met him.

The family was, Flower said with a rather obvious wink, here to stay. Sid resented the insinuation that his mild curiosity was anything more than that, and left soon after.

Still, he couldn’t help but wander past the shop he now knew to be Geno’s. It was at the very base of the mountain, carved in deep. It had a shop front and door, but Sid often wondered if the inner rooms were more stone than wood, more troll than human. He assumed the humanesque front was to appeal to more patrons. The town was mostly human after all.

His gaze caught on the displays: soft swirls, hard precise slashes, deep speckled pinpricks. They ranged in colour and size but all were egg-shaped and polished until they gleam.

Sid had travelled by air and even by land to some of the farthest reaches of the earth. He’d made his way past civilization and through time itself, and in all his life he’d never known that it was possible to make something so simple into something so heartbreakingly beautiful.

In the middle of the display sat his downfall. It was a bright, devastating white. Surrounded by tiny lights that Sid knew were magic in nature, the egg gleamed. It was not wood, it couldn’t be. It looked like it was stone. Marble probably.

It had no faultlines, only etched curves. It was perfect.

Sid fell.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I could hunt for you.”

“We don’t need dragon to hunt, Sid. Need eggs to sell, and it hard to sell eggs when dragon is stealing them.”

“I’m not stealing them! I’m—”

“Hoarding without permission. Stealing.”

Geno stands there and waits. He knows Sid will give the egg back. He has no reason to doubt it. He’s been back at least once a week to see Sid since their first encounter. Sid doesn’t mean to keep stealing his eggs. He gets bored, so he goes for a walk. That he always walks by Geno’s shop is an accident. That he always sneaks in and comes home with a heavy pocket is also an accident.

This egg, though, is perfect. It’s beautiful and it gleams . After careful consideration, Sid realized the etchings are similar to dragon scales. How is he supposed to resist an egg that’s practically made for him?

“Sid.”

Sid reaches under his belly and pulls out the egg. This time, he wrapped it in cloth for protection. The marble felt more delicate than wood and he was terrified of breaking it. He hands it over, trying to ignore that he feels like he’s carving his own heart out as he does so. It’s his . It’s perfect, it’s flawless, it’s gorgeous, and why shouldn’t it be his?

“Thank you,” Geno says and tucks the egg away. He walks over to the table and chair Sid procured on his last visit to town and sits. “Now tell me about day.”

“No.”

Sid .”

No .” Sid is upset. He’s upset and he’s hurt and he doesn’t want to talk.

“You get table and chairs for self? No. You want company. Now I’m company. So talk to me.”

Sid stays silent. He won’t talk. He doesn’t want to. He won’t.

Geno sighs and gets up. “Okay. See you next week.”

“How is your mother?” Wait, he didn’t mean to speak. Oh, damn it all.

Geno’s smile is brilliant. “Mama is good. She and Denis find new buyers for eggs. Is how we get marble. Maybe we’ll get different rocks? Who knows? Is exciting, though.”

“That’s… That’s nice, yes.” Sid doesn’t know what to say. He’s not exactly good at small talk. Especially not when he’s trying to talk to someone small. His human form might be easier for this, but he’s too nervous to change. He doesn’t know if Geno has ever seen his human form. Anytime Sid has been in town, only Geno's mother was in the shop, and it’s not like he would bother to be humanesque in his own cave.

It’s a strange feeling of insecurity, and he doesn’t like it. Geno isn’t even human. Why would he care what Sid looks like? Why would he care about Sid at all?

His thoughts are black and brooding, but he’s drawn out as Geno keeps chattering. He talks about how his papa has developed new tracking spells, and his mama hopes eventually they’ll have enough gems to experiment, and Geno looks forward to being given another bit of marble. “This one not perfect. Next time will be better.”

“It’s perfect,” Sid snarls helplessly. He turns away as Geno’s eyes go wide.

“Sid…”

Sid curls up on himself and hides his face. “I’m tired now. Go away.”

“Okay, Sid.” Before he leaves, Geno presses a hand carefully to Sid’s tail. There’s a clack on the floor, but Sid doesn’t look up to investigate until Geno is gone.

The spot where Geno touched him feels like it’s burning. Right beside the spot, resting on the ground, is a cloth-covered egg. Not the marble one but a beautiful cherrywood instead.

Sid shakes as he picks it up. He memorizes every facet and curve and sets it to memory. He breathes on it softly, marking it as his own.

Geno didn’t forget this one. Sid didn’t steal this. Geno… Geno gave this to him . This is his . His his his .

He carefully wraps it, minding his claws, and curls around it protectively. He’ll have to get a lockbox. Something to keep it safe when he goes into town. Until then he’ll make sure to bring it with him.

He hums happily as he closes his eyes and naps.

———————

He finds a small box at one of the markets. It’s rather plain, but the lock is sturdy, and Sid has no qualms trading one of his scales for it.

“You know, you could make a killing if you ever actually sold your scales,” Flower says. He tagged along today, citing a need to get out of the house. Sid thinks he’s more likely hoping to find a gift for the girl he’s courting.

“I do sometimes,” Sid says. “For the most part, though, people are willing to accept a barter.”

“Except trolls apparently.”

Sid glares at him. “Excuse you?”

“Oh come on. Everyone in town is well aware of why Geno goes traipsing up to your cave every week. Why don’t you buy the eggs instead of stealing them?”

“I don’t mean to steal them,” Sid mutters. Flower looks at him, unimpressed. “The ones I like are never for sale.”

“You’re kidding.”

Sid shakes his head. “I’ve never gotten an answer as to why, but I’ve gone in before with actual money and every time I’m told no. Next thing I know I’m frustrated and still left wanting, and then

“Then you steal the egg.”

“It’s instinct . I can’t help it! Half the time I’m already home before I realize what I’ve done. Geno comes to get them anyways, so I tell myself what does it matter if I hold on to them for another day or two?” Sid sighs. “I’m trying. I really am. I haven’t gone by the shop in a week.”

“Wait. If they know you steal the eggs, why do they let you in the shop?”

Sid shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s always Geno’s mother that’s around, not Geno. Maybe she’s really trusting? Or she knows she’ll get them back.”

“Seems like a lot of effort. Especially considering Geno’s dad could spell you out.”

“I have no idea. For the most part, his mother just keeps trying to feed me.”

“Really?”

Sid shrugs. “I think she thinks I don't eat enough. I don't know. I’m trying, though. I really am.”

“I know you are.” Flower pats his arm. “Now come and help me find a new scarf for Vero. Her old one got rained on.”

“Aren’t you a weather mage? How did you let that happen?” Sid watches a flush paint over Flower’s cheeks and starts snickering. “You messed up.”

“You have no proof. Now help me find a scarf.”

“So long as you help me avoid Geno’s shop.”

“Deal.”

———————

The problem with staying away from Geno’s shop is it means not seeing Geno either. Not that Sid wants to see him, since every time he does, he has to carve out part of his heart. It’s almost easier to avoid the shop and temptation.

It means Sid spends a lot of time in his cave alone, though. He consoles himself by taking his egg out of its chest, unwrapping the cloth, and studying it.

It’s gorgeous. Similar to the marble egg, it has markings like scales. Sid wonders if Geno made it specifically for him or if he’d just had a spare on him when he came to get the marble egg back. He wonders what happened to the marble egg. It had disappeared from the display the next time Sid went to check. He had to go home immediately and sulk after that.

It’s not fair that the eggs Sid wants are ones he can’t have. What are the odds that would happen every time?

Sid only finds himself trapped by the most beautiful of the eggs, though. So it’s fair to assume the most beautiful ones would already have buyers or possibly be commissioned. Still, it’s frustrating to be turned away every time.

He has this egg, though, he thinks and watches his claws as he strokes it. He has this one perfect egg. A gift even. It’s his. It’s his forever.

Geno gave him this egg.

“Sid?”

Shock, instinct, egg, protect, hoard, nest, mine . He clutches the egg to his chest and snarls before he can help himself.

Geno looks up at him with wide eyes.

Sid rears back. “Geno.” Geno’s not supposed to be here. Sid hasn’t taken anything. He hasn’t been to the store in a week. He doesn’t have any eggs except the one Geno gave him, so why is he here?

The only egg he has is the one Geno gave him. Geno is here, and an egg is here, and Sid is so used to Geno taking them back that he finds himself baring his teeth. “It’s mine. You can’t— I didn’t steal it. You left it. It’s mine .”

Geno keeps staring at him. “I know? Was gift.”

Right. Geno didn’t say anything, but Sid knew that. Still. “Why are you here?”

“To say hi?”

There’s a long pause. Sid finds himself relaxing. He curls up, resting his head on his forefeet. He tucks the egg under his hindfeet, though, and encases it with his claws. He may be relaxed, but he can’t stop himself from instinctively protecting his egg. He’s too turned around and unsure of what’s happening, and he can’t open himself to trusting Geno.

Geno walks up and doesn’t hesitate before placing a hand on Sid’s nose. Sid would barely notice the touch except for how it seems to sear through his skin. It’s the smallest of pressure, and Sid finds himself leaning into it. He barely notices Geno stagger back, too focused on following the strange heat he can feel.

“Easy,” Geno murmurs and pets his hand down Sid’s nose. “Easy.”

Sid hums and pushes forward again. Geno falls this time, right onto his ass, and Sid blinks at him. Oh, oops.

“Sorry,” he says and pulls back.

“Is fine,” Geno says and hauls himself back to his feet. He grins at Sid. “You’re like giant cat.”

Sid growls, but Geno keeps grinning. He walks over to the table and chairs and takes a seat. “So tell me about week. Must be busy. No stealing this week!”

Sid shrugs and tries to act nonchalant. “I’m trying. It’s not a big deal.”

“Is a big deal. Thank you.”

Sid is very glad dragons don’t blush. “What did you do this week?” he asks to divert the conversation.

“Same as usual. Made eggs with mama.”

Sid watches Geno’s hands fidget and wonders if he needs a distraction. Maybe Sid could get him something to do when he’s here? What would Geno like? He’ll have to think about it.

“I noticed the marble one was gone.”

Geno smiles at him. “Yes, went to important client. Was impressed dragon had it. Paid extra.”

Sid snorts. “You’re kidding.” Geno laughs, and Sid doesn’t bother asking for confirmation. He’s not surprised. Creatures get weird about dragons. “Glad I could help, I guess.”

“Why you not come to store this week?” Geno asks.

Sid raises an eyebrow, as much as he can as a dragon anyway. “I would have thought you’d be grateful to not have to walk all the way up here.”

Geno snorts. “As if I walk. Papa has wind magic. I fly.”

“But you’re a troll. How can you use magic?”

Geno rolls his eyes. “I’m half-mage. I don’t make magic, but I can use.”

Wait, that can’t be right. Trolls have been magic-null since the beginning of time. Sid is pretty certain he would have known if that had changed. “How does that work? How are you half-mage, half-troll? How were you even birthed?”

Geno lifts an eyebrow. “You should know. Dragons have magic eggs, right?”

Sid shrugs. “I guess. It’s just not very common for bipedals to be able to meld themselves.” It is decidedly uncommon. Sid has only heard of dragons being able to merge magics together to create another being, and Sid was under the impression it was because dragon eggs were already made from magic. To be able to meld two parts together, especially with one being magic-null, would have to involve a staggering amount of work and patience and intelligence. All of which dragons have a plethora of. For a bipedal to take that time, a human especially, is impressive and strange. Sid had been under the impression that Mrs. Malkin had her children through some other means: a surrogacy or something similar.

“You underestimate,” Geno says. “Don’t need to be rude dragon to use big magic. Magic is easy if smart enough.”

Sid snorts. “Right.” He doesn’t know why he would be surprised at Geno’s flippancy. Geno has always been rather nonchalant about magic. He seems to view Sid’s impressive feats as commonplace. If his father was able to create both Geno and Geno’s brother in his lifetime, that makes much more sense. Geno also has a tendency to answer most questions he’s asked with ‘magic.’ Sid is certain there are questions he truly doesn’t know the answer to, but he knows sometimes Geno is being purposefully obtuse.

“So why you not come to store this week?”

Sid stares at him for a long moment. “You realize I’m trying to not steal your things, right? Staying away is the easiest way to do that.”

“Hmm, Mama misses you. Says you’re nice. Likes to talk to you.”

Sid blinks at him. He was unaware that Geno’s mother liked him. That was strange, right? People shouldn’t like the thieves that come to their store. Though maybe that’s why they haven’t spelled him out yet.

“I suppose I could stop by,” he says slowly. He feels like this is a trick.

Geno smiles brilliantly at him. “Good! Will tell mama. For now…” He reaches in his bag and pulls out a wad of cloth that he sets on the table.

Sid’s breath catches.

“Is gift. Maybe if you have your own you won’t steal this week?” Geno says. He tongue is sticking out of his mouth as if he’s well aware how little of a deterrent this will actually be. At least he doesn’t have unrealistic expectations.

Sid tries to play it cool and waits until Geno walks out of his cave to dive for the cloth. He almost breaks the table as he scrabbles for it but unwraps it as carefully as he possibly can.

It’s some sort of dark wood, probably walnut, carved with flowers. The center of each one is inlaid with a white stone that Sid is certain it’s marble. Like the other one, he carefully breathes his claim onto it as he memorizes every curve.

“You like?”

Sid jolts out of his examination. He looks up and sees Geno at the mouth of the cave. His face is oddly blank.

If dragons could blush…

He can’t help but murmur, “It’s beautiful.” He feels something curl up from his stomach when Geno smiles.

“Good.”

Sid’s eye is caught on the tiny marble stones again. He feels oddly guilty. An egg like this would fetch a handsome price. He scrabbles at his tail, he always has loose scales and his tail can stand to lose a few. “Here, let me—”

“No, is gift!” Geno backs away as Sid holds out a scale. It gleams in the dimming light: the deepest black streaked with gold. It’s arguably beautiful and Sid knows this. He knows what his scales are worth. He knows what an egg like this should be worth.

To Sid it’s priceless, but he can’t let Geno give him something that could feed his family for months. Stealing the marble egg was an accident, but he knew he would never keep it. This is something Sid means to keep and he can’t just take it .

“Please, Geno. I can’t. It’s too much.”

“Is gift,” Geno says again, expression turning mulish. Curse the stubbornness of trolls. “Can’t pay for gift. Is impolite.”

“Look, I would pay for the eggs if I could!” Sid says. “It’s not fair for you to give me an egg to keep me from stealing them if I’m only stealing them because I can’t pay for them!”

There’s long pause. Geno’s face scrunches up as if he doesn’t understand, and Sid can appreciate the feeling. “Only stealing because— What you mean can’t pay for them?”

Sid turns away. “The eggs I want are never for sale,” he mutters.

“Who says?”

“Your mother.”

Sid looks up at the noise Geno makes. It’s followed by a stream of words that’s definitely not in Common. As Geno… curses? in his native tongue, his consonants become thicker, the words more blurred and vehement than Sid has ever heard Geno speak. Normally Geno is very particular with his words, but this is a rather impressive string of exclamations.

Sid wishes he had a clue what Geno was saying. “Umm—”

“Meddling Mama,” Geno finally says in Common. “Sorry, Sid. Is not your fault. I’ll fix.”

“Fix what? Geno?” Sid watches as Geno stomps out of the cave. Sid follows after him in confusion. “Geno?”

He reaches the mouth of the cave and his jaw drops as he watches Geno hurl himself off the edge of the mountain. A gust of wind roars past and settles under Geno as he floats down the mountain and towards town.

In the growing darkness, the lamps in town light up and Geno becomes no more than a flickering speck, a reverse firefly that Sid can barely track. Sid watches for a long time until Geno disappears. He assumes Geno is heading back to the shop, but it’s too late now to investigate. His curiosity will have to wait until tomorrow.

For now, he settles back in his cave and muses on the thought of a troll that can use magic. At least until he remembers his gift. Then he finds himself caught in how different the marble looks without natural light and only Sid’s eyes to reflect against it.

———————

The next morning, Sid braces himself before walking down the path to Geno’s shop. He has Geno’s two gifts in his pockets, a hand on each, and he hopes it will be enough to deter his instincts. He has his own eggs, he shouldn’t need to steal any more.

That’s the hope anyway.

He tries not to look at the window before he enters the shop and fails miserably. He’s caught on the newest display. An egg in robin’s blue and decorated with tiny feathers. Each feather is marked with individual barbs and sharp detailed shafts. Sid is struck by a vivid image of Geno, with his huge hands and keen eyes, carefully etching out each pattern. His tongue would be caught between his teeth, his eyebrows furrowed. Every part of him so big, yet in his hands the most fragile, delicate creation.

Sid is struck breathless by the thought. Geno would be so careful, so tender, so sure. His hands would be so certain . Sid shakes his head furiously and enters the shop, trying to keep himself from being distracted. He’s here on a mission after all.

A mission that lasts all of a minute once Natalia Malkin notices he’s in the shop.

“Sid!” she exclaims. She smiles at him, wide and full of teeth. On anyone else, it would be intimidating. Well, to anyone else. Sid is rarely intimidated, and Geno’s mother is the kindest creature Sid has ever met. It makes sense her son is so lovely.

Sid tries to forget that thought and smiles instead. “Privet, Mrs. Malkin.” He may not speak any of the Slavic languages, but he can make an attempt.

“Mama,” she says with a stubborn look.

“Mrs. Malk—”

Mama .” She reaches out and clasps his face. She leans in and kisses him on both cheeks. “Come. Eat.”

Sid is fairly certain the only Common Mrs. Malkin knows is comprised of reprimands and food. She certainly seems to think Sid doesn’t eat enough if the way she stuffs him every time he visits is an indication.

In honesty, if Sid didn’t have such a problem with instinctual thievery, he’d probably visit more often. Dragons don’t need to eat cooked food, but it’s an indulgence that Sid appreciates. He can’t understand why Mrs. Malkin has decided to feed a thief, but Sid isn’t going to argue.

He’s on his second plate and third cup of tea when he remembers what he came here for. “Is Geno around?” he asks.

Mrs. Malkin shouts something to a back room and Sid hears Geno call back. She shrugs and points, shaking her head at Sid. He’s probably working, then. Sid clears his plate and stands up despite Mrs. Malkin’s protests. He shakes his head as she holds up the teapot, and she sighs.

“I don’t want to bother him. I can come back.” Sid’s curiosity can wait a week. If Geno still comes to visit. Sid is going to try really hard not to take the blue egg in the display. His fingers are already twitching, but he shoves them in his pockets and clings to the eggs Geno has given him.

Mrs. Malkin shows him to the front and he can’t help but ask, “The egg in the window. The blue one? How much is it?” He points to the display.

Mrs. Malkin shakes her head and Sid bites his tongue against the disappointment. “No sale.”

“Please. Mrs. Malk—”

Mama .”

Oh, fuck it. “Mama,” he murmurs. She freezes for a minute, before looking up at him with wide eyes. “Please?”

Her mouth quivers. She mutters something in Slavic before shaking her head again. “No.”

Sid tries not to break the eggs in his pocket as he clutches them. It’s not fair. It’s not fair . He can pay for it. He could pay for the whole shop if he wanted. Dragon scales are worth a fortune. Why is it on display if it’s not for sale? Why does he always want what he can’t have?

He stays silent. “Very well, Mrs. Malkin,” he says and turns to leave. He ignores the sad noise Mrs. Malkin makes.

Mama ,” he hears from behind him in a voice that is decidedly not Mrs. Malkin’s. He spins around and Geno is standing there with a terrible look on his face.

Mrs. Malkin winces, and it’s like watching a spell backfire when the shop explodes in noise.

———————

Sid has no idea what is going on, except that Geno is shouting and Mrs. Malkin is shouting and Sid would leave but they keep pointing at him and he keeps freezing instead.

He’s a dragon, dammit, he shouldn’t be too nervous to leave. This is ridiculous. They’re not even speaking to him. He hasn’t done anything wrong and he’s free to leave whenever he wants.

Geno seems so upset, though, and Sid can’t bring himself to move. He stands and waits as mother and son yell until they’re hoarse. Every once in a while, he stares at the blue egg in the display and has to stop himself from filching it during the distraction. He’s trying to be good .

Finally, Mrs. Malkin throws up her hands and stomps out of the store, back into the house proper. The silence, after so much noise, is almost more deafening.

Geno sighs. “Sorry, Sid.”

Sid has no idea what to do. This is why dragons are solitary creatures , he thinks frantically. “It’s… fine?”

“It’s not fine. Mama’s lying. Egg is for sale. All eggs for sale.” Geno throws up his hands in a gesture very reminiscent of the one his mother just made.

It takes Sid a moment to get back on topic, and then he’s very confused. “Wait, I don’t understand.”

Geno sighs again. “Mama likes you. So she lies.”

Sid blinks once, twice, tries to parse that information, and fails. “She likes me, so— I don’t get it. She doesn’t want to sell me eggs because she likes me? Wait, is it so I’ll come back? I mean, I’ll come visit even if I buy eggs. I’d probably visit more to be honest.”

Sid watches as Geno goes a interesting shade of red. Sid hadn’t considered that trolls could blush, and faced with it now is making his stomach twist strangely.

“It’s not so you visit,” Geno finally says slowly. “It’s so I visit you.”

“But you visited me anyway,” Sid says, still not getting it. It isn’t until Geno goes even redder that Sid figures it out. “Oh.” He steps forward, and for the first time since they met, he sees Geno look at him with fear.

“It’s fine. It’s not big deal. Mama meddles,” Geno says. He keeps babbling inanely, his Common turning to gibberish as Sid approaches him. He never steps back, though. Despite his fear, he stands his ground.

Sid respects him for that. He reaches a hand out and watches Geno freeze. He doesn’t flinch, but his eyes go wide when Sid cups his cheek.

“You gave me eggs,” he murmurs, and Geno nods. “For all you knew, I was just a thief and still you gave me them.”

“You’re not just thief. Not just anything.”

Sid smiles and leans in. He wishes again that his human form were taller until Geno tips down and meets him halfway. Then he’s distracted by the strangest sensation of soft lips against his. He pulls away in confusion.

“Oh, is that how that works?” he asks.

Geno frowns. “What did you think?”

Sid shakes his head. “It’s fine.” He knows what kissing is, even if he’s never done it before. He presses his fingers to his mouth, but it doesn’t feel the same at all. Who would have thought that the sensation of certain skin on skin would feel so good?

“What do dragons do?” Geno asks. His arms have settled around Sid’s waist and they feel good too. He’s been hugged before. Mario’s kids hugged him all the time. Mario himself has indulged every once in a while. Flower has as well. It’s not the same this time. This isn’t a friendly hug. This is a different kind of affection. This is—

He leans in and very carefully rubs his cheek against Geno’s. He finds himself pressing his face into Geno’s neck not long after. He doesn’t know how well scent glands work in human form, but if this doesn’t mark Geno as his, he can always do it again as a dragon. The size difference might be an issue, but he’ll figure it out.

His lips brush against Geno’s neck by accident. Geno moans and his hands grip tight at Sid’s hips. Sid’s not entirely sure what’s going on, but he knows that Geno likes it. Something in him flares hot and he steps back, head spinning. Protect, take, nest, mine . He shakes his head.

“Sid?”

He looks up and Geno reaches out to cup his cheek. He breathes carefully and presses into the touch. He can smell a sharp tang in the air, Geno’s arousal, and it worries him. Sid feels something, certainly, but at the end of the day, he’s a dragon. He doesn’t really understand what’s happening. This feels like flying. It feels like sunshine reflecting off his scales and warming his wings.

It's what he needs, but he doesn't need anything else. He doesn't think it's the same for Geno. He can smell the difference.

“Sorry.”

“You don’t like?”

Geno moves to step back, but Sid crowds into his space again. He likes the way Geno grabs at him. Likes the way Geno holds him like he wants him. Likes the way he can look down and see where Geno’s arousal is proven in the strain of his pants. He just doesn’t feel the same burning need. It’s just pleasant.

“I like it,” he says finally. “I don’t think I like it as much as you.” He takes a pointed look at Geno’s pants.

Geno laughs. “You’re dragon. I’m not expect sex.”

“Well, I’m not opposed to the idea,” Sid says and watches as Geno’s eyes go wide. The smell of arousal thickens and Sid almost wants to laugh.

“But you’re not—” Geno looks down.

Sid shrugs. “Well, no, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Besides, it’s pleasant enough.”

Geno snorts. “Show you pleasant enough,” he says. He leans down and kisses him again.

Sid hums. It still feels just good, but that’s okay; it’s enough for him. It’s enough that Geno likes this. Geno’s arousal is thick in the air and that’s nice too. That Sid can affect him this way. “Shall we go to bed?” he asks. That’s what’s supposed to happen next right?

Geno pulls back, his expression strange. “Um, we wait? Maybe court?”

Sid shrugs. “We don't have to wait. I'd like to try it with you.” The expression doesn't change and something clicks in Sid's brain. “Unless—unless you'd rather wait?”

Geno looks at the floor. “Don't have to.”

Geno .” Sid steps in and nuzzles his cheek. “I can wait. Whatever you need.”

Geno nods awkwardly. “It's not I don't want.”

Sid can still smell his arousal, dampened now, but still lingering in the air. “I gathered. Is this a comfort thing? I didn't think trolls cared that much about nudity.”

Geno chuckles. “Naked for sex is different than naked.”

“If you say so.”

“Just because you not wear clothes—”

“I'm wearing clothes right now!” Sid gestures to his pants and shirt. He even remembered shoes today. Though that's mostly because he stepped in a puddle while leaving his cave this morning.

“Today, yes.” Geno grins at him, tongue sticking out of his mouth.

Sid shrugs. “It was only the once and no one seemed to mind that much.”

Geno steps in and kisses Sid's nose. It's a nice sensation and Sid smiles. He tips his head up and Geno takes the hint, kissing his nose again, then his cheeks, then his mouth.

“Because you're lovely,” Geno murmurs.

Sid feels his cheeks go warm. “You're not bad yourself.”

Geno shrugs. “I'm troll. I'm okay.”

Sid gapes at him. “Geno. You have to know… you're beautiful,” he says softly.

He watches Geno go bright red. He turns his face away, and Sid bites his lip. Carefully, he leans up and presses his lips to Geno's cheek. It feels hot against his skin.

“You are. You're beautiful and lovely and mine .” The words slip out of him carelessly and he bites his tongue. That wasn't what he meant to say. He has no claim over Geno. Geno is his own being, his own existence. He's not a thing for Sid to own.

He wants to, though. He wants to possess. He wants to take . He wants every single thing that Geno is to be his to have and to hoard and— He shakes his head.

Geno grins down at him. “Yours,” he murmurs softly.

His instincts flair red-hot again and he has to keep himself from shifting. He wants his true form there in this moment so he can roar his claim so loud no one would ever dare to think of opposing him. Geno is his. His . Hoard, nest, claim, mine .

He nearly bites his tongue bloody as his skin itches wildly, scales sprouting. He claws back into his human form with willpower alone and glares at Geno. “You shouldn't say that,” he tells him. “Not here.”

Geno’s tongue pokes from his mouth and he chuckles. “Why not?”

Hoard, claim, mine . “Because you have a lovely home and if I shift right now, you'll have had a lovely home.”

Geno winks at him, the jerk. “Trust you.”

Sid reaches up and pulls him down. He sees Geno's eyes go wide, but Geno doesn't resist as Sid buries his face in his neck, rubbing his face over Geno's skin. He needs to make sure everyone can smell him. He needs to make sure everyone knows . Flickers of magic escape him and settle into Geno's skin, and he can feel the way Geno responds. Sid can actually feel the magic Geno possesses and it's heady. He feels it weave into his magic, and he hums.

“Not the only one who can claim,” Geno mumbles.

Sid nuzzles his face in closer and closes his eyes, content.

———————

They don't have sex that night. They don't have sex the next time Geno visits either. By the third time Geno has come to visit, Sid is starting to wonder if Geno is being noble or just stupid.

There's a small part of him that worries Geno has changed his mind but no. Sid can smell his arousal when he visits. Particularly after Sid has shifted into his human form and is naked while he finds clothes, and again after Sid has shifted back to his true form and scents Geno thoroughly before he goes home. Honestly, Geno smells like want almost all the time, and Sid is growing impatient.

It means that the next time Geno visits, Sid licks his lips when he smells Geno's nerves. Now, finally. Sid has scented Geno so thoroughly that no one could doubt his claim, but he thinks he could get it to settle if Geno stayed longer. If he stayed the night.

It's why he nearly groans in exasperation when he realises what Geno is asking. “Courting,” he says.

Geno nods with his eyes still wide and terrified. “Yes.”

“We've known each other for months, and you want to court?” Geno nods again. “ Why ?”

It doesn't make any sense. They claimed each other, they're compatible. If Sid could figure out how to meld their selves together for eggs, he would have talked to Geno about creating a clutch already. Why do they need to court?

Bipeds are so strange, he thinks. Still, Geno seems to think it's important considering how nervous he was when asking Sid. So he nods and maybe gains a glimmer of understanding when Geno's face lights up.

He closes his eyes and pulls into himself. Tail, teeth, and claws all twist inward along with his mass, until he’s left with his human form. He makes sure to scent the air thoroughly when he's done. He might not entirely understand sex, but he definitely appreciates Geno’s arousal. It makes him feel wanted, it makes him want to preen.

He finds clothes instead. Geno's rather insistent on them nowadays, whereas before he was fondly exasperated about Sid’s clothing mishaps. There's a loud choking noise and a flicker of arousal behind him when he bends over for pants, and he grins.

When he's dressed, he turns to Geno. “Okay, I'm ready.”

There's a long pause. Too long for the situation. “N-now?” Geno stutters.

Uneasiness grows in him, and he wonders if he has gotten this wrong. “You asked.”

“I meant— No, is fine. We go.”

He says it's fine, but the fear in his eyes has Sid shaking his head. He feels wrong-footed, and it makes him hesitate. As much as he's impatient, he's aware that he really has no idea how any of this works. He knows he likes Geno and wants him however he can have him. If that means taking his time, then he can do that. “Some other time.”

“No, we go.”

He'd argue more, but Geno has a stubborn tilt to his jaw, and Sid realises it's futile. While he appreciates the way Geno's jaw goes sharp, it means there will be no reasoning with him.

So they go.

It's… nice? It's not very different from what they usually do. At least until they get to the market and Geno refuses to let Sid pay for anything. It's a strange development, and it leads to Sid paying more attention.

Geno is much less casual than usual. Not just in demeanour but appearance. He's wearing a strangely pleasing shirt, and his pants look pressed, and is he wearing shoes ?

Sid surreptitiously sniffs the air. He smells Geno's sweat, which is stronger than usual and focuses around his pulse points. Nerves, possibly. There's also a faint hint of lavender?

It's almost as though Geno dressed up just to ask him to go out. Not to take him out, just to ask. It's strange but sweet, and Sid finds his cheeks going warm. His sniffs again to catch the whiff of lavender and finds himself walking a little closer to Geno.

The scent of sweat grows, and Sid watches as Geno wipes his hands on his pants before shakily reaching for Sid’s. Though it's still a bit damp, Sid laces their fingers together anyway.

There isn't much conversation, but Geno seems to relax the longer they hold hands. By the time Geno walks him home, the mood is quiet but calm. Sid thinks he understands the appeal of courting as he toes off his shoes at the mouth of his cave. It wasn't really any different from when he goes to town, but the company was pleasant and his fingers tingle from having held Geno's hand all day.

He turns back to Geno and smiles. “This was nice.”

Geno's nod is awkward and Sid wonders what he could possibly be nervous about now . Until he thinks about it. Oh, yes, that would be nice. He'd like to keep Geno here tonight. He's not sure how they'll do this since he doesn't have a bed, but he's sure they can figure it out.

He's waiting for Geno to make an offer. To take off his shoes, even. Instead he steps forward carefully, cups Sid's cheeks in his hands, and kisses him.

It wasn't what Sid was expecting, but he's fine with action instead of words. Geno makes very interesting sounds whenever Sid kisses him, and Sid would definitely like to find out what other noises Geno can make.

Instead, Geno pulls back, and Sid blinks up at him in confusion.

“Good night,” Geno murmurs, voice hoarse.

Sid blinks again. “Good night?” he asks.

Geno nods. He leans down and kisses Sid once more, softly, before he turns and walks away . Sid makes a very confused noise, but Geno keeps walking, and Sid is left standing alone, watching Geno magic his way down Sid's mountain.

“What the hell ?” Sid asks, but there's no one there to answer.

———————

Sid never gets an answer to his confusion. He asks Flower, but Flower laughs and laughs and says something about the propriety of trolls that Sid doesn't understand at all.

“Just take it day by day, Sid. There's no point in rushing is there?”

“We've known each other for months, how is it rushing?”

“Knowing someone is different from courting and definitely different from sex. There's more emotion, more connection.”

“Yes?” That's the whole point, isn't it? He wants that connection with Geno. He wants to take everything Geno is and bundle it up and keep it forever. He wants to be so close no one will ever wonder if Geno is claimed or not.

Flower stares at him. “You really don't get any of this do you?”

“No? That's why I came over.”

“I thought it was for the pleasure of my company.” Flower throws a ridiculous pose and Sid snorts. Flower shrugs. “Look, there's not much I can say. If you want something from Geno, you should ask him.”

Sid nods and stands up. “Right. Good advice. Thank you, Flower. Say hi to Vero for me.”

“I didn't mean right now,” Flower says but waves him off. “Yes, yes. I'll tell Vero, and I'll see you soon. Good luck!”

Sid nods and leaves with a determined spring in his step.

———————

He still doesn't know what to do, however. Talking to Geno sounds like a good start, but any time he tries to bring up the idea of sex Geno goes red and changes the subject. If Sid couldn't smell his arousal, he'd wonder if Geno weren’t interested.

He walks to Geno's shop and takes a moment to examine the window display before knocking on the door. Mrs. Malkin answers, and Sid watches her face twist before she looks away.

Oh right, they hadn't exactly parted on pleasant terms last time. He thinks he can fix that, though. “Is Geno in?” he asks, and Mrs. Malkin nods and shows him in. “Thank you, Mama.”

Her head jerks up, and she stares at Sid long enough that he wonders if he got it wrong. He bites back a yelp when she reaches out and pulls him into a hug. She pets his hair, murmuring to him in Slavic, before she kisses the top of his head. When she lets him go, Sid feels his throat go tight. The affection is staggering, and he's not sure what to do with it.

Thankfully, Mrs. Malkin seems to have composed herself. Sid watches her wipe her eyes carefully before pointing at the back. “You go.”

Sid's eyes go wide. “I can't—” He's never been in the back of the shop. He's never seen Geno's workshop. He hasn't been invited. He can't just interrupt. Mrs. Malkin is insistent, though, and she pushes Sid until he goes.

He's tries to be quiet as he makes his way to the back. He lightens his footsteps and the curtain parts with barely a murmur as he steps into the room. He has to bite back a gasp.

The room is both brilliantly and dimly lit, changing gradients from one side to the other. The lights are small and magical, bobbing gently in place as they find every crack and facet in the room.

There's a lot of cracks. The whole room is stone: the walls, the tables, the chairs. The tables are covered with cloth and ladened with varying sizes of rock in different shapes. One table looks like it’s specifically for eggs. Some have designs, some don’t.

A table at the back catches Sid's eye in particular. It glimmers in the light, and Sid sees mostly marble but also garnets, sapphires, pearl, and what looks like an opal.

It's also where Geno is. He's not sitting in a chair but is on the floor, contorted into a strange configuration of limbs. His face is almost as twisted, and his tongue is between his teeth. As Sid watches, he very carefully scrapes at an egg between his fingers.

The egg is half the size of Geno's hand and so black it seems to consume light. Sid is caught, helplessly watching as Geno beckons one of the globes of light and waits until it's so close that every facet of the egg is visible before he starts scraping again.

Under the light, Sid can see every notch Geno has made. They aren't as sharp as Sid is used to seeing, but maybe it's a first etching. Still, Sid traces each mark where Geno has carved out intricate scales. The patterns on the scales are distinctive, and it makes Sid's breath catch.

He thinks Geno is carving him. He can't be sure, but it's a hunch he can't shake. Instead of asking, he continues to watch.

It's just— Geno's hands are so large, but his fingers are so deft and precise. He spins the egg with a practiced ease, and even though he should look foolish holding such a tiny egg and knife, his movements are so sure and precise that it leaves Sid breathless.

This is how it starts. This is how Geno creates. This is how he stole Sid's heart.

Sid doesn't move for so long he lungs have almost seized and his feet ache by the time Geno sets the egg down. Geno looks up and he doesn't startle, though from the way his eyes widen, he's definitely surprised.

Sid watches Geno's cheeks flood with colour, and aches with wanting.

“Sid.”

He doesn't say anything else but continues to stare, and Sid walks over. He sits in front of Geno and glances between Geno's face and the egg in his hands.

“New project?” he asks, and Geno nods before handing him the egg. “No, I couldn't—”

Geno presses it into his hand and curls his fingers over it. “It's a gift. It's not finished, but it's for you.”

Sid looks down at the egg in his hand in awe. He was right. This is his . He examines it so closely his nose presses against the smooth gemstone. He vaguely hears Geno chuckle, but he's too enraptured to care.

He thinks he can see Geno's plan. The soft markings that will be grooved out, the careful planning. It looks like Sid’s scales and he wonders if that's the intention.

“It's perfect,” he murmurs.

“Is not finished yet,” Geno says, holding his hand out.

It takes a long moment for Sid to give the egg back. He's fairly certain he only does because he knows he'll get it later. Just in case, he breathes on it surreptitiously.

When he looks up, Geno has raised an eyebrow and is staring at him, unimpressed.

Sid shrugs. “You said it was mine.”

Geno shakes his head. “Possessive,” he says.

“Only when I know it's mine,” Sid says. “I give things back if I have to.”

Geno leans in and kisses his cheek. “I know you do.”

Sid looks down at his lap and tries not to smile. He fails miserably, but he can't bring himself to mind. Not with Geno.

Geno pokes his cheek, and Sid snorts. “So why you here?”

“Oh, your mother said I could. I'm sorry. I tried to tell her I could wait, or come back, but she was very insistent and—”

Sid . I don't mean why you in workshop. I mean why you here?”

“Oh.” Sid watches as Geno gets up and sets the egg in a basket on the table. His fingers flex involuntarily, but he calms them. It's his egg. He'll get it back. “I wanted to ask you out.”

He tears his eyes away from his egg at the strangled noise Geno makes. When he looks over Geno's cheeks are pink and his mouth is hanging open.

“You do?” Geno's Adam's apple bobs when he swallows. “I mean, yes. Yes, okay.”

“Great. So let's go.”

“Now?”

Sid is confused when Geno gestures to himself. Geno looks like he does most days: dressed in shirt and pants for working and covered in rock dust and sparkling flecks from various stones. Sid's seen him walk around town like this before so he's not sure what the issue is.

“Yes?”

Geno swallows again before nodding. “Okay. Give me a moment.”

He leads Sid out of the workshop and Sid finds himself drinking tea with Mrs. Malkin while he waits for Geno to do… whatever it is he's doing.

When Geno returns, he's cleaned up and in a nicer shirt, and he smells vaguely of lavender again. Sid is about to mention that he didn't have to dress up, but he keeps sniffing the air instead. He really likes the smell, and Geno gives him a soft smile when he catches him.

Sid tries not to flush. Okay, maybe he can understand the appeal of dressing up. He also thinks he likes the idea of Geno dressing up for him .

He valiantly ignores the absolutely delighted look on Mrs. Malkin's face and instead concentrates on putting his shoes back on. He also ignores how she looks incandescent when Geno laces their fingers together.

At least he doesn't have to worry about Geno's family liking him. Not that he was worried, but it's something Flower brings up constantly when it comes to Vero, and it makes him wonder if he's supposed to have worried. The point is moot anyway.

He squeezes Geno's hand and bites back a ridiculous smile as they leave the shop.

———————

By the end of the day, Sid has a plan in mind. It's just the execution that's eluding him.

When Geno turns towards Sid's mountain, Sid stops him. “You walked me home last time, it's only fair I return the favour,” Sid says and Geno's cheeks go pink.

“If you like,” Geno says quietly, but he's smiling.

It cements Sid's certainty that this is what he wants. Maybe he won't like it as much as Geno, but he's certain he'll still enjoy it. He wants to know everything about Geno. Every inch of his body. Every noise he can make.

He walks Geno home and kisses him on the doorstep until Geno is gasping.

“Can I come in?” Sid asks. He's not sure how to ask for what he wants, but from the way Geno shivers, he thinks Geno gets it.

“Don't have to. I can see you tomorrow maybe?”

Sid frowns. He can smell the arousal in the air, so thick it's heady. He knows Geno wants him, so what's the problem?

Under the heavy scent of want is something else, though: sweat. Damp and cloying. Finally, Sid gets it. “You're nervous,” he murmurs.

Geno goes red and starts stammering. “Um. I— Is fine. I know you're not—”

“Geno, it's okay. I'd like to try. I like you and you like sex so I want to.”

Geno stares at him with wide eyes. “But... Mama said three walks are traditional. I don't want to move too fast.”

Oh good god. “Is that what this is about?” Sid shakes his head. “Bipeds are so weird .” He shoves Geno inside and toes off his shoes.

“Sid—”

“I want you,” Sid says and Geno sucks in a breath. “I don't care if sex is something I don't understand. It's something you like, and I'm more than willing to do this for you.” He kisses Geno on the mouth this time.

Geno pulls back. “Don’t have to.” His voice is hoarse with want.

“I know . I want to.” Sid smiles and shoves him carefully. “Come on. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.”

“My parents—”

“Your walls are stone, Geno,” Sid says, pushing him again, “And I’m fairly certain I can spell the walls silent if we need to.”

Geno’s flush spreads from cheeks to ears, but he nods slowly and leads Sid back into the house.

———————

When all is said and done, Sid still isn’t sure what the point of sex is in terms of himself.

In terms of Geno, though…

“We’re doing this again,” Sid murmurs against Geno’s shoulder and grins sharply at Geno’s whimper. God, the noises he makes.

Sid might not understand sex, but he likes Geno and he likes this. He likes the way Geno fell apart underneath him. He didn’t realize how many new expressions and sounds he could wring out of him.

The way Geno shook underneath him. The way he arched and cried out. The new ways his mouth formed Sid’s name. The way it parted silently on gasps and loudly on moans. The taste of him on Sid’s tongue. The salt of his sweat. The dazed need in his eyes.

So many new noises and movements all for him. Just for him. Only for him.

Take, hoard, nest, mine.

He didn’t ever really get hard, but need roared up in his stomach and clutched at his heart. The need to mark. The need to claim. Mine .

He took Geno, slick and hot and hard, inside himself and rode him until he felt the proof of his claiming in the ache in his hips and back. Until Geno spent inside him and it slowly slicked down Sid’s thighs.

He can still feel the stickiness and thinks that sex is very messy, and if it weren’t for Geno, he wouldn’t understand the point at all. Right now, he’s content to catalogue his aches and the marks he’s left on Geno’s skin as Geno naps. Sex has worn him out it seems. That fine; it leaves Sid uninterrupted time to memorize every inch of Geno’s skin.

“Eggs were mine,” Geno says some time later. Sid makes a curious noise. “All the eggs you steal. Were mine. Never Mama’s.”

Sid hums to himself. “Well that makes sense in a way. My instincts must have known we were compatible.”

Geno snorts. He tugs Sid closer and Sid goes willingly. Geno is very warm and rather firm, and while Sid is used to sleeping in a cave as a dragon, he’s a bit cold in his human form. “Always instincts with you. Can’t just say you like.”

Sid frowns. “Of course I like you. That’s the point . I like you, so I wanted your things.”

“Dragons make no sense.”

“You make no sense,” Sid says, pouting.

He can’t resist when Geno tips his face up for a kiss, though. “I like you too,” Geno says.

Sid shifts, settling in closer, and kisses Geno again. Takes the way Geno hums into his mouth, the soft touch of his hands, the feeling of his skin for his and his alone.

Yes, mine , he thinks.

Geno's mouth goes slack against his, and when Sid pulls back, he realises Geno has fallen asleep again. He chuckles to himself and decides if Geno is going to sleep, Sid might as well clean up.

It would have been a good plan if Geno didn't cling him when he tried to move. Instead of getting up, Sid finds himself trapped, and he sighs. It wasn't the plan, but he apparently has no choice but to wait.

He ignores the voice that suggests how easy it would be to pull free and settles in closer instead. He's trapped. He can't move at all. He'll have to stay in Geno's arms, what a tragedy.

He could do without being sticky, but it's a sacrifice he's willing to make. He closes his eyes and finds he's more sleepy than he thought.

He drifts off content.

———————

He planned to ask the question weeks ago, after the first time they had sex. Instead, they were woken up by Mrs. Malkin calling them for breakfast. It was delicious, even if Geno was embarrassed for some reason, and Sid completely forgot about it until the next time he came into town and talked to Flower.

Flower was thinking of proposing and that was when Sid remembered. He would've asked that day, but Flower said to wait for some reason. Something about patience that Sid didn't understand, but he trusted Flower, so he waited.

He waited a whole two weeks. He's rather proud himself.

“So we should make eggs,” he says to Geno one afternoon. They're in the workshop, Geno working on a random wooden egg. For some reason, he determined the finished egg he was making for Sid should be a surprise and never works on it when Sid is around.

Sid's not fond of surprises.

He's fond of Geno, though, so he's waiting. With varying degrees of patience. He honestly asked about eggs to distract himself from the other egg he wants to ask about.

“You want me to teach you to carve?”

Sid frowns. “No? Well, maybe. That could be intriguing, but no. We should have a clutch.”

A loud crack echoes through the room and Sid looks at Geno's hands where he's jabbed the knife so deep into the egg that the wood cracked. Thankfully, he missed his hand or that would be a mess.

“C-clutch?” Geno stammers, face going red.

“Yes? I mean, it might take some time to figure out the proper configuration to meld our magic, but I'm certain we could do it.”

As Geno continues to sputter, Sid wonders if this is what Flower meant about patience. Despite their short existence, bipeds seem to take the longest time to make decisions.

Not that Geno is going to live a short existence. Trolls live longer than humans and Sid will be helping that longevity along with his magic. Still, Geno seems to take after his human father. Slow, careful consideration until his troll side comes out and then he's the most rash creature in existence.

It's oddly endearing.

“Well, think about it anyway,” he says. He's not overly bothered. “It will probably take me a couple of years to figure it out.”

“If it takes a couple years, why ask now?”

Sid shrugs. “Well, I'm not going to go through the effort if you don't want offspring.”

Geno gives him an odd look. “You would be okay with that?”

“I mean, I'd like offspring. I'd like them with you. However, this is a decision we both have to make. I can wait.”

Okay, that's a lie. He'll probably figure out how to make a clutch with Geno anyway. He'll wait until Geno is ready for offspring to tell him. He's fairly certain Geno wants children so it shouldn't be too hard convincing him.

From the way Geno bites his lip, Sid thinks he won't have to wait long.

“You say will take a couple years?”

“Give or take.” He watches Geno carefully as Geno thinks about it. He digs his nails sharply into his palm and is grateful how dull they are in his human form. He won't push. He won't, but he wants .

“Okay. Okay, you research. Then we see.”

Sid grins at Geno and laughs at Geno's yelp when he tugs him in and kisses him. “Thank you,” he murmurs between kisses. He can already see it. The way the magic would start, the traits they could pass on. If he works Geno's form in right, maybe their offspring could actually have some height in their bipedal form.

He kisses Geno until Geno starts making interesting noises, and well. Sid hadn't planned on sex today, but surprises aren't all bad, right?

“Sid, we can't— Workshop. Mama.”

Geno's excuses are weak and it has Sid smiling. As if Mrs. Malkin would ever interrupt. She winked at Sid as she pushed him into the workshop. Sid is fairly certain they're fine.

“Please? I want to hear you. I want to feel you,” Sid murmurs in Geno's ear and watches Geno shiver.

“You sure you don't like sex?” Geno asks, voice breathy as Sid crawls into his lap.

“I like you,” Sid says.

Geno groans and hauls him in. It's all either of them say for a while.

———————

Later, after Geno has gotten sticky and gotten Sid sticky by proxy and they've cleaned up again, Geno makes a curious noise. “Sid?”

“Hmm, yes?” Sid is distracted smearing his fingers through the mess on Geno's stomach.

“Why do you like me?”

Sid looks up, confused. “I think I'm missing some context here. Because I do?”

Geno makes a face, and Sid isn't sure how he's supposed to have answered the question, but he thinks he answered it wrong.

“No, but— Is just instinct? Or something else?”

“They're the same thing, aren't they? I mean, instinctually I want you and your things, which means I like you.”

“That's not how I feel.”

“Well, no, you're not a dragon.” Geno stays silent, and Sid curses. He doesn't know how to answer this. “Instincts are important to dragons.”

“You say you fight them, though.”

Sid hums and tries to find a way to explain. “Well, yes. When they're wrong. Stealing is wrong. Rampaging is wrong. The world evolves quicker than a dragon's biology and we have to learn and grow to survive.”

“So, what is this?” Geno asks softly, gesturing to the two of them. To the patterns Sid has swirled into Geno’s stomach with his come.

“This is good . My instincts aren't wrong this time. Or complicated. I've gotten it right.” He thinks that should be enough, but Geno stays silent, and he starts to babble in fear. “Isn't it enough that I like you? That I want to have a clutch with you? That I want to spend the rest of my life with you? Dragons don't commit easily, you know. Choosing a mate is— It's permanent. It's forever. You're mine . That's important.”

Geno gives him a strange look. “Sounds like love,” he says.

Sid huffs. “Yes?” Isn't that the whole point?

He watches as Geno's expression morphs into a grin. It's bright and blinding, and Sid still doesn't understand, but Geno is happy again, and that's all that matters.

Geno leans in and kisses him softly. “Sid?”

“Yes?” Sid asks, tone snippy. He can't help it. He still doesn't understand what this whole conversation was about.

“I want a clutch with you too,” Geno says softly.

Sid blinks. And again. It takes him a moment to process what Geno said. “Really?” he asks. He thought it would take more convincing. He thought it would take until Sid was able to show him mock-ups. Possibilities of what their children might look like. What they could create together.

“Wouldn't say if didn't want,” Geno says and nuzzles at Sid's neck.

Sid melts helplessly. He can't help it when Geno gives him things that are so obviously draconic in nature. “Oh. Oh, alright then. I'll work on it.”

Geno kisses his neck, and Sid loves that too. This combination of dragon and troll interaction. “Okay. We have plenty of time.”

“We have a couple of thousand years at least,” Sid says, smiling helplessly at the thought. Thousands of years mated. Him. Mated. He never would have thought he'd find this so soon or even at all.

Geno pokes him. “You have a couple thousand. I have few hundreds.”

Sid blinks slowly before he figures it out. “Oh, I guess I didn't mention that, did I?”

“Mention what ,” Geno says, voice alarmingly gruff. Right. Geno doesn't exactly appreciate surprises. This will be an interesting conversation.

Still, Sid figures he has thousands of years to talk his way out of arguments with Geno. He can't wait.

For once, he and his instincts are in perfect accord.