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Sacrifices Must Be Made

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John wasn’t entirely sure what the etiquette was for offering yourself up to be eaten by a dragon. The others from the village were far too scared to follow him up the mountain, and he couldn’t very well chain himself to a rock.

He settled for standing at the edge of one of the larger cave openings. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he yelled “Hello!” into the cave. He could hear his voice echoing in the depths.

Well, if it was there, it had certainly heard him.

John was high enough up the mountain now that nothing grew but bits of moss and some unhealthy looking evergreens bearing scorch marks. He moved a number of yards away from the cave entrance and sat cross-legged on the rock, leaning back against one of the innumerable outcroppings surrounding the opening. No point in being uncomfortable while he waited.

It probably wasn’t a surprise that he started to drift off. It was one thing to stress before you reached a decision, but once you’d settled on a course of action there was no point worrying, and he’d been tired to begin with, after the mess of last night.

He’d just decided it couldn’t hurt to close his eyes for just a moment when the ground under him began to vibrate. His eyes opened and he scrambled to his feet just in time to see a great bloody dragon emerging from the cave.

It was one thing to know there was a dragon about, and that the dragon was big... even to see it flying over the village... but quite another to see it up close, so John thought he could be forgiven for instinctively backing up, which of course led to him tripping over the rock and falling hard on his arse. “Bloody buggering fuck that hurt.

Having been distracted from the dragon by the pain, he was now distracted from the pain by the dragon, whose head was now a few feet from his and whose eyes were looking directly into his own. For all they were a striking grey with catlike vertical pupils the length of his hand, they were full of a fierce intelligence that told John that this was definitely a thinking creature. He suddenly felt vulnerable in a way that had nothing to do with the curved teeth as long as his fingers or the razor sharp talons the length of his forearm.

“You ‘hello’d?” it said, a deep rumbling voice that echoed through John’s body. Probably a he dragon, then, some part of John’s brain decided.

“Erm, yes. That is to say... that would be me. Hello.” John stood up and brushed himself off. “I’m here to offer myself as a human sacrifice.”

“No,” the dragon said, and turned to re-enter the cave.

“Now wait just a bloody minute,” John said angrily.

The dragon ignored him.

John grabbed a nearby rock and threw it at the dragon’s backside. “Oi! Dragon!”

The dragon stopped, whipping his long neck around to face John without turning the rest of its body.

“I have climbed this whole. bloody. mountain. to get here, you overgrown lizard,” John said, landing a pebble right between the dragon’s eyes.

“Are you honestly suicidal?” the dragon hissed in annoyance, a thin ribbon of steam coming from its mouth.

“I came up here to be eaten by a dragon,” John said, “I’m hardly expecting to be improved by the experience.”

“And why, pray tell, did you come all this way to be consumed, the flesh torn from your body whilst you still live, your limbs ripped from your torso by my claws and teeth, your bones cracked open for their marrow and gnawed upon, to lie broken and forgotten on the floor of my den...” The dragon moved like an overgrown cat: slow, deliberate, and strangely graceful despite his massive size. He stalked around John in a circle as he spoke, punctuating his words with hot dry puffs of breath that ruffled John’s hair and clothing.

Up close, John could see the scales that had looked iron black at a distance gleamed pewter grey as they caught the light.

“No, I came this way to save my village. We haven’t got any treasure to offer you, and if this keeps up we won’t have any sheep either, ta for that, by the way, so the only thing left is a human sacrifice, so here I am.”

The dragon sat down in front of him, his head still slightly above the level of John’s. “I believe the traditional gift is a virgin sacrifice.”

"Yeah, well...” John’s cheeks went a bit red, “it’s a small village, and there’s not really much to do when it’s not harvest-time.”

“Not even trying with you, though, were they?” the dragon said, amused. “Oh, wait... you’re here for someone else, aren’t you? As a stand-in.” He cocked his head consideringly. “Odds are it’s a female, if we’re being traditional, but not your sweetheart or you’d just marry her to save her. Still, close enough you’d offer your life for hers... ah, a sister, perhaps?”

“My sister, Harriet,” John admitted. “They were going to send her.”

“So she’s a virgin, then?”

John turned redder. “Well, in the technical sense of being a woman who hasn’t slept with a ma... look, can we not talk about this?”

“Is that how you got the black eye, then? Trying to defend her?”

John reached up to touch his left eye gingerly. “Might’ve pointed out that if they were going with those sorts of ‘has not lain with a man’ technicalities, probably around half the men in the village would be eligible as well. It went downhill from there.”

“So what did your opponent end up with?”

In spite of the pain it caused around his cheek, John grinned. “Two black eyes and a broken nose. And his brother won’t be eating any solid food any time soon.”

The dragon snorted, causing a thin jet of flame to shoot out of his nostril.

“That’s brilliant, though.”

“This?” the dragon said, and lifted his head to send a bright stream of flame skyward. John stood, transfixed by the colours.

“Beautiful...” John said, licking lips that had gone dry so near to the heat. “That’s... gorgeous, actually. As well. But I was... the thing you did. Working it out about my sister. That was clever.”

“For a dragon?” the dragon said, arching an eyebrow ridge at him. “A slavering beast?”

“Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“No, I’m meant to be putting your limbs in mine, aren’t I?”

“As. I. was. saying,” John said, refusing to be dissuaded, “That was clever. Cleverer than anyone in my village is, certainly.”

“Low standards,” the dragon said dismissively, but his ear frills perked up a bit. He was surprisingly easy to read, given that he was both an individual and a member of a species John hadn’t actually encountered prior to this.

“Not good with compliments, are you?” John said, a bit affectionately.

“I don’t get many. My interactions with humans tend to be defined primarily by screaming and fleeing. And occasionally, among the particularly brave or stupid, weaponry. You are an aberration.”

“For offering myself up as supper?”

“For talking to me.”

“Sounds a bit lonely.”

The dragon’s frills flattened against his neck and he reared his head back as though struck. “Do you pity me, human?”

“No, I just...”

“A wounded ex-soldier so desperate to find meaning in his miserable life...”

“Look,” John said, “there’s being a dragon and then there’s being an arsehole...”

“... that he volunteers to be eaten alive...”

“Right, yes, I hadn’t forgotten that, thanks...”

“...just to protect his drunken sot of a...”

It was at that point that John slugged him. Doubtless under any other circumstances he’d not have done much damage, let alone have landed a shot across the snout of a ruddy dragon, but the dragon had really not been expecting it, and John had bad days. The dragon’s head actually snapped back slightly from the force of the blow.

“Must you always resort to violence, you tiny... tiny thing?” the dragon demanded.

“Must you always be such a giant prat?” John countered, rubbing his left hand firmly with his right. “Bloody jaw’s made of granite, too. You arse.”

Oh god. He’d just punched a dragon. He’d just punched a dragon. That he’d been chatting with. And that wasn’t even the most absurd thing he’d done today, just the latest in the long string of absurdities... John started laughing. It began as a chuckle, then, as he gave up trying to contain it, quickly morphed into a rather embarrassingly high-pitched giggle.

The dragon began chuckling as well, a low sound that seemed to reverberate through John’s chest, and of course that set John off again. “It’s no wonder you can’t get any dragons to eat you, with an attitude like that.”

“I’ll have you know I’m highly in demand among gryphons,” John said through another fit of giggles, “and there’s a wyvern a few miles to the east that’s been eyeing me up for months now.”

“Well, they can’t have you.”

“Oh?” John asked.

“I’ve got first crack, haven’t I? Droit de seigneur or some such.”

“I thought you didn’t…” John said, voice trailing off as he registered that the dragon was serious.

“I’ve changed my mind. Dragon’s prerogative.”

“Yeah, well... I did offer. And I... I have been enjoying this conversation. Actually. Surprisingly. One of the best I’ve had in... a while. Thanks for that.” John closed his eyes, body unconsciously moving into a soldier’s stance as he tried to prepare himself. “So... whenever you’re ready, I suppose.”

“Oh, no, not here,” the dragon said and scooped him up, his massive hand easily wrapping around John’s torso. John’s eyes flew open and his hands grabbed at the scaled digits for support as the dragon bounded back with him into the cave.

The dragon ought to have been slowed down by having to use his forelimb to carry a grown man, but he still moved like a horse in full gallop. He wove around cave formations, under low ceilings, leaping over chasms, and, at one stomach-dropping point, jumping off a ledge into a controlled glide through what must have been a vast underground cavern. All of this was done in darkness, a black far blacker than John had ever seen the night sky and unrelieved by moon or stars.

John lost track of time as they moved, reveling in the rush of cool air on his face and the feeling of speed, of flying. He was absolutely powerless, but at the same time safe as houses, held tight by an incredible creature somehow capable of moving like this through the underdark.

“Stay still,” the dragon said, setting him down. The echoes of his voice suggested they were in a large cavern. John held himself relatively still as the dragon moved around him, lighting a scattered assortment of lamps, candles, and braziers with short bursts of flame, leaving bright aftershocks in John’s vision as it adjusted to the new conditions.

“That was... that was insane,” John said, panting. “Absolutely mad.” He bent forward, hands on his knees and chest heaving slightly as he caught his breath. He grinned up at the dragon. “Absolutely... incredible. Thank you. Most fun I’ve had in ages.”

The dragon looked surprised, before practically preening. “That’s nothing,” he said, clearly pleased. “You should try flying.”

As John’s vision adjusted, he began looking around the dragon’s… den? Chamber? Just calling it a cave felt too simple, too… animal for something this sophisticated. Piles of coins and finely wrought gold objects testified to a dragon’s traditional preoccupations in an almost perfunctory fashion, but there were also areas of… well, one area looked like an apothecary shop, while another bore more than a passing resemblance to an alchemist’s, complete with a stuffed crocodile.

A few pieces of beautifully carved furniture were scattered around, as were tapestries on the walls and floor, pillows, bookshelves and wall niches full of scrolls and texts… all in all it looked rather like a giant magpie with few scruples had spent several hundred years collecting anything that caught its fancy.

And now he’s apparently collected you, John thought. “This place is amazing. Did you carve it out yourself?”

“The initial formation was natural, but I’ve expanded it a good deal over the years to suit my needs.”

John walked around the space in a bit of a daze, too overwhelmed to concentrate on any single item. He could hear the dragon continue to talk, dashing about and moving things in the periphery of his vision, but his mind wasn’t processing the words.

Sometime during his mad journey he’d realised that while intellectually, he’d accepted he was heading to his death, he didn’t actually want to die just yet. Nor did he particularly, when it came right down to it, fancy being consumed alive. It wasn’t the absolute worst way to go, but it would hardly make his top ten.

Still, he’d made a deal. And he was comforted by the knowledge that tonight, after dark, Harriet would be taking all of their rather paltry combined savings and fleeing the village, in case the idiots there got any more bright ideas.

It just seemed such a bloody shame. He wanted more time. Hell, he wanted more time with the dragon, who was… well, a bit fascinating, actually. More than a bit.

“Please God, let me live,” John said under his breath, an unexpectedly quiet refrain for words once screamed aloud on a battlefield. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the dragon whip his head around to look at him from the cave nook he’d been moving things about in. Bloody buggering fuck, had he heard? Cracking job dying with dignity there, soldier.

“You’re thinking. Stop it, you’ll hurt yourself,” the dragon said, moving to stand in front of him.

John crooked an eyebrow. “Careful, any more charming and I’ll mistake you for a Siren.”

The dragon made a tremendously put-upon expression. “Humans.”

“Dragons.”

“Before we begin... What is your name, human?”

He didn’t usually bother to wonder what the farmer might have once called the mutton in his stew. But… it was nice, to think he would be remembered by the dragon. “My... It’s John. John, son of Walter, for what it’s worth.”

Sherlock bowed his head formally. “And I am known as Sherlock, John Wat’s son.”

“Pleased to have met you, Sherlock.” He was surprised to realise that it was, in spite of everything, actually true. Once again, he closed his eyes and stood straight, arms at his sides, waiting for the end.

“One more thing, John...” and the dragon’s voice was now practically purring his name, which did some very odd things to his insides that were not entirely fear-related, “When you were counting the eligible men of the village... which half did you count yourself amongst, John?”

“The... the non-eligible half...” John licked his lips nervously, but kept his eyes shut. “Surprised you... hadn’t worked that out already.”

“Oh, I knew that. I was wondering if you’d admit to it. You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, John.”

And then the dragon’s voice, low and rumbling in his ear, close enough to feel the hot moist air on his cheek and smell the hints of sulphur and smoke, but so much less... monumental than it had been just a moment ago... “Of course, you’re not the only one with a few surprises...”

John could feel his heartbeat speeding up. He tilted his head back unconsciously, baring his throat.

A tongue traced a path from his collarbone to the shell of his ear. It was warm, wet, rough, felt amazing, and was, he couldn’t help but note through the warm haze beginning to coalesce in his abdomen, significantly smaller than the dragon’s should have been.

“You taste delicious,” the dragon... Sherlock... rumbled.

John’s eyes snapped open. “You...”

The dragon was no longer a dragon. He wasn’t exactly a human, either, for all that he was now generally human-shaped and sized: even in the dim light of the cave there was no mistaking the horns growing out of the dark curls on his head, or the tail flicking back and forth like a cat’s, or the ridiculously predatory expression in his grey eyes that was currently aimed directly at John.

John licked his lips again. “You... you know, they never mentioned this part in the stories.”

“Imagine that,” Sherlock said, and it was even easier now to identify a smirk on the inhumanly beautiful face, all pale planes and angles and practically glowing in the flickering light.

“You’re naked.”

“And you’re aroused.”

“So this is...” a thing. Which was happening. With this insanely gorgeous... John risked a glance down... okay, apparently his eyes weren’t the only things that looked predatory creature.

“Unless you’d prefer the more traditional definition...”

“No, no, this is fine,” John said quickly. “Perfectly... unnnf!” He found himself suddenly flat on his back in one of the banks of cushions, breath knocked out of him by the six-ish feet of lithe heated flesh now straddling him. John opened his mouth only to find it invaded by Sherlock’s tongue as hands... and ah, the tail was apparently prehensile... began roughly stroking up and down his body.

Well, sod this, John thought. He was, after all, no shrinking virgin, and he’d never been one to back down from a fight. He began retaliating, nipping and worrying the dragon’s deliciously full bottom lip with his teeth. He felt the answering rumble of approval move through his chest from where they were pressed tightly against each other.

John shoved his hands between them to yank at his belt, because Sherlock clearly had the right idea about not wearing any clothing. Sherlock must have agreed, because he very helpfully began raking his clawlike nails across John’s tunic and breeches, ripping and tearing at the clothing. He wasn’t careful enough to not leave welts on John’s skin as well, which would have upset John if it hadn’t felt completely amazing, leaving John’s body arching up involuntarily against Sherlock even as his hands struggled to remember how the bloody hell the belt’s metal fastening worked.

Sherlock growled, which sent another pulse of heat through John’s body and why the hell wasn’t he naked yet and grabbed John’s arms, pinning them above his body with one hand. The other yanked at the weakened fabric, splitting the tunic down the middle and pushing the fabric to the sides before doing the same to the rest of the material foolhardy enough to come between a dragon and his prey, leaving John wearing only sleeves, boots, and that damned leather belt.

Sherlock released John’s arms and slid partially down his body, leaving John’s torso suddenly cold, bereft now of both clothing and Sherlock’s overheated flesh. John groaned and reached down, burying his hands in Sherlock’s soft curls and grabbing at the base of his horns.

Reaching the belt, Sherlock bit into the leather and pulled, tearing it in two with teeth and jaw still sharper and stronger than any human’s.

And those inhuman teeth and mouth and lips and tongue were now inches away from John’s cock and John was half out of his head with raw want.

“Thought you said...oh God... something about eating me...” John gasped out, tone somewhere between desperate and challenging. His fingers were white where they gripped Sherlock’s horns.

Sherlock nipped hard at John’s inner thighs. John spread his legs wider.

John...” Sherlock sighed, his breath ghosting hot over John’s erection. “You are extraordinary.

And then Sherlock’s tongue was finally finally and it was apparently thick and long enough and flexible enough to wrap around his entire and god it was hot and wet and textured just the right side of rough as he wrapped it around the base and dragged it slow so slowly up up up to tease at the by this point quite sensitive actually head and John felt like screaming because it was too much, it was morethan he’d ever but it still wasn’t bloody well enough and his eyes were squeezed tightly shut because he didn’t dare look down and his hands moved from Sherlock’s horns to twist silky black curls around his fingers and pull.

Sherlock moved back slightly to grab John’s legs and hoist them over his shoulders, removing the minuscule leverage John had managed on the soft surface. He was, if possible, even more vulnerable now, with only his head and shoulders touching ground. The rest of him was suspended in air, held up and exposed by the dragon. A shiver passed through John’s body, and he grabbed at Sherlock’s forearms to steady himself, tight enough to bruise, tighter than he would have dared with any other partner. He could do almost nothing else, his body tense from arousal and the awkward position, his legs unable to gain leverage from their place on Sherlock’s back. He was as effectively trapped as if he’d been held down instead of up, and oh that was another lovely mental image.

Sherlock’s hands held firmly onto John’s hips as his head came back down to rub and lick briefly at the base of John’s erection. Before John could do much more than moan in approval, he’d moved on to do the same to his testicles, taking each into his heated mouth and then pulling back slowly to release them into the cool cave air.

When the dragon was apparently satisfied that he hadn’t missed any spots, which was fine and nice and John would be sure to admire his thoroughness at a later date he moved lower yet, nuzzling as he went, his hands sliding down from John’s hips to grope his arse.

And then he was pulling the cheeks apart slightly to explore the cleft with his tongue and oh John had been touched there before but not like that, not rough and wet and hot and perfect, especially when it passed over his oh yes right there.

“Shhherlock!” he hissed, teeth unwilling to unclench. “You... please!” And Sherlock, brilliant, amazing, gorgeous Sherlock, apparently knew what he meant, because he felt the tongue pressing against him and into him, and oh but that was more than a bit of alright.

As Sherlock’s tongue continued its explorations and ministrations, John’s brain gave up on words entirely, instead roughly translating each of Sherlock’s actions into moans of varying tone and pitch. Drops of sweat ran down his flesh from where it was pressed against Sherlock, leaving tracks of warmth on his skin, chased by cold, evaporating in the cool dry air. Sherlock made a low rumbling noise that John could feel moving through his body into John’s. John groaned in response, the vibration passing back and forth between them, echoing until he could no longer tell where either of their bodies began or ended. He felt full, stretched open, and Sherlock’s tongue was still moving in him, twisting and pressing. It was overwhelming, it was like being in battle; body moving without thought, awash in frantic energy and needing more.

Then Sherlock’s tongue rubbed against a spot that had John seeing stars with his eyes shut. It was too much, John’s body was too on edge, had been too keyed up for too long. He was close, he was so close, he was on a sword’s edge of pleasure and pain and he was going to fucking fall... and then he felt Sherlock’s tail wrapping around his cock...

There was pain, and discomfort, and tension, and warmth where Sherlock was touching him and cold where he wasn’t and now overriding it all was this sensation, an intense pleasure that radiated outward and burned away everything else like a fire laid against kindling. His body tensed, every muscle tightening as he let out one long, low keen and came.

***

“John?”

“Yes?”

“What is the average refractory period for a human male of your age and general health?”

John’s skin was covered in scratches, cuts, and welts; most of his body was sore from being tense, except for the parts sore from... not being tense. Very not tense. He knew when he woke next he’d be wearing new bruises along his back and thighs to match the one still healing around his eye. And he was still wearing his boots.

John sighed contentedly, pulling Sherlock’s still-human shaped body tightly against his, Sherlock’s back curled against his front in the nest of pillows. “You’re going to be the death of me, aren’t you?”