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The Repercussions of War

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Now you're all probably thinking "Huh, this story used to have 8 chapters. Where'd they go?" Well, to answer you're question, they've been deleted! But don't fret, they'll be reposted. This story underwent intense editing and now we're back!!

Thank you to those who are patient with me! This story is back and (hopefully) better than ever!! Whoo! Let's DO this! 

A few notes before we dive in:

1) Keep in mind the rating - "Mature" that's mostly for vulgar language *glares at Wade* and adult themes.

2) This is kind of a  really  long chapter. I love long chapters, but I don't it can be daunting to some people, so I'm just throwing it out there. This is a long chapter (roughly 8,000 - 9,000 words), so those who stay till the end, see ya down there! ;)

That's all! Now, let's get into some slow burn, medieval fantasy SPIDEYPOOL! Whoop! Whoop!

It was just past morning and Wade was already rekindling the idea of murder.

Don't get him wrong, murder was usually at the top of his mind, and right now he was very, very close to fulfilling his instinctive nature toward anything that annoyed him. But every time his fingers edged toward his knives, the righteous gleam of the Captain's presence was like a rope gently tugging his hands away. It worked, sadly. The son of a bitch wasn't dead yet. But come midday, Wade wasn't going to promise anything.

His prodigious respect for Captain Rogers was enough to keep his swords in their scabbards, but on the other hand, it did little to keep Francis' braying voice from shouting in his ear like the world's most conceited donkey.

"Top of the morning to you, Wilson," the donkey called, pulling his palfrey to a looming stop beside Wade, purposely casting a long shadow over him as if the added inches made up for his lacking height. "Forgive me, but I thought the tailor shop was back in the kingdom. I'm sure they've finished your evening-gown by now."

Somewhere off to the side, Captain Rogers was giving instructions to the members of the troop still saddling their palfreys, but he was close enough that it would catch his attention if Francis suddenly inherited a sword through his gut. His insults weren't even good (if they could be called insults at all, evening gowns were quite fun to wear), but the mere fact that Francis saw it fit to talk to him this early in the morning was offensive in itself.

Rolling his eyes widely, Wade turned from the saddle he was fiddling with in an elongated twirl and shot a painfully bright smile at his "comrade". It probably didn't get past the heavy red cowl cast over his head, but he could only hope Francis had the mental capacity to take a hint.

"For your information, Francis, " he grinned nastily at the way it made Francis's jaw clench, "my gown isn't scheduled to be ready till I get back. But don't you worry," he winked, "I'll still be the prettiest girl at the ball."

"That's not my name," Francis growled, inching his palfrey forward with a hand ghosting over his swords hilt. Wade grinned wider. The threat was as obvious as the popping vein in Francis' forehead, but it was hardly impressive. While Francis was, admittedly, good at swordplay, Wade wasn't worried about a fight. It wouldn't be his first tussle with the guy and it wasn't likely to be the last either. But with the troop prepping to leave the islands small port-side settlement, and start their hike up the steep mountain of Batl'Ar, there just wasn't time to knock ol'Francis down a foot or two.

"Oh, beg your pardon, I must've stuttered?" Wade cooed, splaying a hand delicately over his chest. "Let me try again. Was it Francy? Franchesko? My little Franny?"

The vein popped bigger and redder, and not in an erotic way. With a barking laugh, Wade went back to saddling his palfrey, adding a quick "See you on the road, Francie," over his shoulder as Francis jerked his horse away. Cause that's all the guy was. Big bark, little bite.

Now don't get him wrong, Wade still wanted to the run the pointy-end of his sword through Francis's gizzard, but it never failed to brighten his day when it was spent mocking his fellow ingrate . There was something about hearing Francis's teeth grind that made the world sing. By this time tomorrow, his teeth would be as worn and weathered as an old crones. Wade liked to fantasize about kicking his team in himself, but he'd settle for a hearty tooth-ache just the same.

Still tee-heeing under his breath, he finished buckling the saddle under the belly of his horse and stood, rubbing the brown and white speckled coat warmly. She turned her head toward him and roughly nudged his shoulder with her long nose, likely looking for the molasses cubes he kept as a treat. She only seemed to like the sickly sweet ones that made the world go all coo-coo and fuzzy when you ate them.

Not that Wade ate horse cubes on a regular basis. Just on dark, lonely nights when he was drunk off his ass, hallucinating, and wondering what the fuck made this little square so special. But you know, given that they were for horses, they weren't bad.

"Easy there, Blind Al," Wade pushed her nose away from the pouches on his belt. She had a habit of chewing on them, and he refused to lose his genitals to her horrendous sweet tooth. Not many people knew of his peculiar healing abilities, only a select few, and while it could be helpful at times - like regrowing your junk - it still hurt like a bitch. He had to waddle-walk for almost a week last time it happened.

He patted the side of her neck somewhat bitterly, adjusted his pants near the crotch, and snuck another withered glance at Francis, who was snapping venomously at his soft merry band of goons.

Sniggering, Wade leaned in close to Blind Al, as if to share a secret, "He actually expects us to call him Ajax," he jeered, and Blind Al whinnied impatiently, stomping her hooves into the dewy hillside grass. Her interests obviously weren't in the petty human name-game.

"For such an old horse, you'd think you would've mellowed out by now," he told her as he flipped the reins over her head. She nickered again, which he took as whole-hearted agreement.

Compared to the other young and fresh palfreys of the group, Blind Al looked positively ancient. She was older than every animal sharing the hillside, with her raggedy gray-streaked mane, frail-looking legs, and milky white eyes - due to going half-blind sometime in her ungraceful aging. Or maybe she was just born that way, Wade didn't know. She was as cranky as she was old, and a hell of a lot more stubborn. Why he picked her for his outing was beyond the comprehension of himself and everyone involved. With a man as tall and packed as he, everyone had expected him to fight for the stronger, younger-looking horses.

But Wade was never one to stray from breaking expectations.

He liked her spunk. Besides, she was a lot stronger than anyone gave her credit for, and has easily handled his weight since the first day he's ridden her. Which, frankly, had been just yesterday, and had also ended with him getting bucked off into a pile of manure.

Damn you, Al.

But, if he wasn't lying to himself, he'd say there was a touch of sentiment behind it too. Within the miniscule window of time they've been together, Blind Al got along with him better than most people did in his lifetime. She also listened to his jokes without complaint.

All the palfreys were born and bred right there on the island, and trained to navigate its terrain from birth. They could climb these mountains easier than any person could, with twice the stamina and strength, in half the time. The breeder even gave them his certified promise that they wouldn't be any problems. Even commended Wade for choosing Blind Al. She was the strongest of the stock, and had bred quite a few good palfrey in her day.

Blind Al stomped her hooves again, as if she knew what he was thinking about, and tossed her head, letting out a high whinny.

"Alright you cranky cuss, we're about off," Wade snipped and quickly readjusted the cowl over his nose. Snatching the reins, he lead her up the small plateau of the hill that marked the beginning of their hike.

At his back, the morning breeze trifled through their dusty corner of shacks and small storehouses that hugged the single dock of the island. Nestled in the water, rocking lightly against the long wooden dock, the immense vessel they sailed to the island on stood tall and broad-backed in comparison the the slouching buildings on land. Its starch sales were tied down as the crew onboard cleaned her up for her next voyage, which would be happening in a few days. It was a mighty boat that loomed like a castle on water, big enough to hold the creatures they were on this island to get.

Wade's fingers tingled at the thought. But that might've just been sweat. It may be morning, but humidity never slept. Sweat was already forming around his neck and back, where the thick fabric of his cloak and cowl pooled around his shoulders. His fingers were slick and wet inside his leather gloves, and he rolled his wrist and shook his fingers to loosen the build-up. He rolled his shoulders and shook his arms too, hoping vainly that it'd shake off some of his discomforts.

Sweat always irritated the scars and made the fabric its own type of scratchy, but it was a burden he learned to bear constantly, every day, if it meant keeping it on. The only times he ever went unclothed was when he was bathing or sleeping, and even then he carried his clothes in a bundle with him. Just in case.

So you'd think he'd grow use to the stifling heat.

On the crest of the hill, Captain Rogers was on his feet giving orders to saddle up, whilst getting on the cases of those who were behind schedule. His little brown-skinned squire-in-training scurried around the ranks too, helping where he could by filling the water-skins from the small well nearby.

Sitting on a palfrey beside the Captain was their leading dragon expert, Master Bruce Banner. Even sitting on his sturdy horse, Banner looked small and awkward next to the broad-shouldered and muscled packed form of Sir Rogers, with his narrow face and scraggly hair. He reminded Wade of the field mice he used to chase as a kid.

Master Banner was as shy as he was timid, especially for someone smarter than more than half the population of the Stark Province. Usually, someone of his influence would make it a point to remind everyone around him that they were inferior to his intellectual authority. At least, that's what most of the masters did. But not Bruce Banner. He didn't normally seek out conversation, and when he did, it was usually a short correction of pronunciation or fact. He kept to the background easily, never attracting unwanted attention, and had the patience of the most tender-hearted saint.

More often than not, Wade noticed, the Master dissociated from the group and spent most of him time examining plant-life or scribbling down notes in his papers, obviously more intrigued by his environment than the brutish conversation of the knights. In fact, the only ones he's ever really talked to on this expedition was Captain Rogers and the Captains little squire, Miles Morales.

But maybe there was still time to change that.

Call Wade a kiss-ass, but he wouldn't mind being in the good graces of the smartest man in the Stark Province. Maybe he could even learn a bit more about the place they were heading to. All Captain Rogers told them was that it was a place referred to as the Dragon Grounds, and that it was where they'd be getting their dragon. If Wade happened to pick up a tip or two while he was near Master Banner, then who was he to complain?

Grasping the leather reins, he planted his foot in the stirrup and swung up on the aging back of his horse. Blind Al nickered and threw her head, but balanced his weight with ease. Squeezing her sides with his thighs, he urged her into a huffy stride, toward Captain Rogers and Master Banner.

It was strange seeing Captain Rogers in anything but his Guard uniform and training gear, like the mediocre linen shirt and trousers he wore now - all pristine and clean, in opposition to the rest of the troops, Wade noted. Sir Rogers still wore his sword on his belt, but his iconic shield, known by everyone throughout the land, was missing from its normal place on his back. It was strange seeing it gone.

With that shield, Captain Steve Rogers demanded the attention and loyalty of any soldier within proximity. One look at it, and Wade was sure he could get a barrel of rats to fall in line.

However, even without it, his shoulders were square and his stride confident. His eyes alone held enough authority to snap even the most rebellious soldier in line. Case in point, Wade Wilson himself.

Despite all of his superior prowess, though, when Captain Rogers saw Wade coming, he smiled warmly and nodded in greeting. Just as he could be the most hard-worn officer Wade has ever had the grace to meet, he had the gentlest nature too. He was as humble as he was capable, and never looked down on anyone. No matter the circumstances.

Maybe that was what had drawn Wade to the Captain in the first place. He, of anyone, was someone to look down on. The things he's done was enough to disgust the most nefarious, rotten, gore-stained people in all of the three provinces. Yet, Captain Rogers had never once judged him for it. Never looked at him like he belonged on the underside of a farmer's boot. And that alone had Wade all but shoving his respect and loyalty in the Captains lap, like a faithful dog wanting affection.

Sir Rogers's greeting was quick as he returned his attention to organizing the troops. Master Banner nodded in greeting as well, somewhat awkwardly, once Wade settled his palfrey next to him, but didn't attempt a conversation.

Unfortunately for him, Wade did.

Wade slanted his hand over his eyes to block the sun's glare and took a long stretching glance over the sky. "So," he said longly, "how much farther to the site? It's not long is it?"

Master Banner shifted in his saddle, a small awkward grimace settling on his brow, but he followed the direction of Wade's eyes, as if seeing an imaginary trail Wade couldn't. "Oh - uh, if the pace of the expedition is anything to go by, there's a chance we'll make it a little before sundown," was his answer, all soft and low. Like a mouse. But by his irritated countenance, Wade deduced the Master wasn't too happy about their progress. Or lack-thereof.

The Master shifted toward Captain Rogers and enunciated loudly (in a strangely quiet way) "Which means we should probably get a move on."

When Captain Roger's looked over his shoulder, it was just shy of sheepish. "I have reason to believe that was for me?"

The Master nodded stiffly and turned his palfrey to face the invisible path. "We should at least strive to get the next site with a few hours of daylight left, thus we can properly set up camp and get a meal going. There's little we can do in the dark."

"Aye, then we should get going," Captain Rogers swung up on his own horse. He glanced over his shoulder at the organized group, shouting, "'Right, let's move out," and fell in the lead next to Banner.

Wade waited and settled in the group coming up behind them, and like that, their journey continued. Within minutes they reached the top of the hill and entered the marsh jungles.

The hours flew with Wade filling in the silence of his group with idle chatter about everything, from the fluffy clouds that took on the shape of his favorite knives, to a piece of Blind Al's shit that took on a startling resemblance to Francis's face. Around early-noon, Wade had driven off his entire group and effectively warded off the remaining groups behind him. Eventually, he fell behind the entire party altogether, trailing in isolation like a loose thread on a shirt.

Not that it bothered him. With a rapid mouth like his, he's gotten used to being ignored and brushed off. Besides, the troops were hardly good for conversation. Blind Al was better company than the whole lot of them.

At high-noon, Captain Rogers stopped the party by a stream to rest the horses and eat a quick noonday meal of stale biscuits and cheese.

It was supposed to be an innocent break before they went the rest of the way to the stop site. Yet, much to the resigned dismay of Captain Rogers, it was not without incident. As Wade stopped to wash up near the stream, Francis and his goons ambushed him and wasted no time pushing him in. They had a good laugh when Wade trudged out of the water, soaked and covered in mud, but he was hardly sour about it. The only reason he was even washing up in the first place was because he'd just finished stuffing their saddlebags with mud.

The rest of the journey went without a hitch though. As the sun climbed higher and Wade's jokes got tamer in his loneliness, his eyes trailed the sky looking for the one thing that was going to make this trip with Francis and his feather-stuffed lackeys worth it.

A dragon.

The sole reason for this hellish expedition. There was no other explanation Wade would give himself for going on the 7-day journey, by land and sea, to the Dragon Grounds with this lot - with the exceptions of Captain Rogers and Master Banner, of course.

The expedition across the Dragon Isle seas to Batl'Ar, a small island just off the coast of the Stark Province, came only once every year. The party consisted only of specially trained knights, all under the watch and order of Captain Rogers, of whom was King Stark's oldest and most trusted army officer.

See, the chance to bond with a dragon wasn't for everyone. The Knights of the Dragon Guard went through years of grueling training to prepare for such a chance. Those few years fished out the trainees incapable of handling a dragon and the stress of the Guard. Those remaining went on this very expedition to bond and bring home a dragon, which brought forth another few years of training - with their dragon this time - to learn and apply their combined skills in combat.

Naturally, there was still a catch. It was completely irresponsible to allow a dragon with just anyone. The destruction and carnage that could be wrought if someone with impure intentions bonded with a dragon were unfathomable. In consequence, every knight petitioning for a dragon had to undergo a greatly extensive test. If a participant with any criminal background tried to get in, they were instantly rejected. If it seemed as though their intentions for a dragon were anything other than pure, they were rejected. If their reasons for a dragon was selfish or impudent, they were rejected.

Wade, when hearing this bit while petitioning, had been certain they wouldn't even let him take the test. They'd take one look at him and reject him on the spot. With a background like his, they should've bound him in chains, sewn in him in a bag, and thrown him off a ship in the middle of a monster-infested ocean. It was the logical thing to do.

But, to the complete astonishment of him and his whole class, he passed. And once the test was over, there had been no time to question the sanity of the administrators, nor wonder if they've conked their heads, or question their - albeit terrible - decision to keep him on, as the next part of his training began. Besides, he wasn't about to let this opportunity slide. Once he had a dragon of his own, none of the mocking and jesting from Francis and his goons would matter. He could take his place on Captain Roger's guard, as he has been training endlessly for. He'd finally be given the opportunity to do something right with his life.

Yet, oddly, as the sun climbed the sky, Wade had yet to spot a dragon. It was said that the islands of the Dragon Isles were crawling with them - part of the reason they were called the Dragon Isles in the first place.

The other night, in the near indistinguishable tavern of the Islands inhabitants, Wade had listened in raptured attention to the stories from one of the Natives as she talked about trekking through the mountains. She claimed that you couldn't throw a rock 5 feet in the jungles without hitting a dragon.

Wade scowled at the empty sky, glaring nastily at the flock of birds that had gotten his hopes up. Maybe her information was ill-put, for he hasn't seen so much as a scaled tale in the underbrush. Perhaps her ghastly tale of a foreigner who didn't obey their rules and never returned to the settlement was a fib too.

Gradually, the sun burnt the sky orange and the party arrived at their resting site. Instantly upon arriving, the groups split into their respective jobs. Assigned knights went out to hunt for the evening meal, others retrieved water from a nearby stream, while the rest set up tents, collected wood, started fires, and took care of the horses.

Wade was disregarded, as usual. (He didn't think the other knights liked him very much.) But he was used to being left to his own devices, and took it on the nose. Besides, the other knights never knew the proper way to brush down Blind Al, anyway. He tended to her first, as was their firmly instructed priority.

He carefully removed the saddle, bridle, and reins, and set to brushing the sweat from her coat. Once old Al was taken care of and vegging on a patch of grass, Wade set up his tent and unpacked the measly weapons he was allowed to bring. They were instructed to pack lightly, but Wade hardly went anywhere without his two most prized possessions. Humming appreciatively, he withdrew the two long blades from their oiled sheaths, tossing away the thin sheets they'd been wrapped in. The sharp shnnnnn it made as they pulled free made him shiver pleasantly.

"Aww, and how are my babes doing," he cooed, running a gloved thumb over the edge of one of the blades, smiling when the steel cut through the leather easily and nicked the scarred skin underneath. But his smile turned just as quickly to a frown when he noticed a few nicks on the fine steel.

"Oh, no, no, no, no," he tsked, "Oh, my sweet babies. Hush, worry not, Sir Wilson will take care of you now," he picked a whetstone and clothe from his pack, and ran them along the sword's edge, shushing them softly, "I'll be gentle. I'll be gentle."

Once the first was sharp, gleaming, and beautiful again, he did the same to the other, keeping up with his whispers of sweet-nothings. The splay of color from the rapidly sinking sun in the steel sparkled beautifully on the blade, and had him shifting the angle to catch every bit of light greedily. When, at last, each sword was polished and sharpened to perfection, Wade carefully re-sheathed them and hid the precious bundle in a thick bush near Blind Al.

There was absolutely no way he was leaving them out with the likes of Francis around. Just for this reason, Wade kept them behind Blind Al because he knew she'd kick anyone who came near - which she'd tried to do to him at few times now, so he knew it was effective. Certain they'd be safe, he wondered past his lonely campsite to find something to sate his growling hunger.

As expected, the groups settled around different fires closed off as soon as they saw him coming, claiming there was no more room before he had the chance to tell them to fuck off - that, or impolitely impede their space because it was hilarious to watch them squirm. He didn't care if they didn't want to sit with him. He'd gladly get a plate of beans and dried meat and eat on his own, but they didn't seem to take the hint.

Fortunately, he was saved from soiling his record of minimal ally injury when Captain Rogers called him over to the fire he, his little squire, and Master Banner occupied. Grinning smugly at the jealous looks of his cohorts, Wade all but skipped over.

Sir Roger raised a cup to him in greeting. Miles Morales looked up fleetingly from tending the small skinned beast sizzling above the flames. A herb mixture had been rubbed into the meat, sending plums of heavenly aroma in the air that put all the meals of the other troops to shame. Wade tried to inhale as much of the delicious smoke as possible, which was both hunger-inducing and painful.

Coughing into his fist, eyes watering, he sat next to little Miles, swatting the smoke away when it came back around at him intent on revenge. "So, when do we eat?"

Master Banner glanced up from the bottles of herbs and sauces he was tucking back into his little pack to check their meal. "Soon," he decided after a second. "Give it a little more time," and went back to cleaning up.

Wade gave a heaving sigh. "Oh, but the hunger," he swooned, leaning against the log, arching his back like a damsel in distress. Master Banner rolled his eyes, which Wade convinced himself was out of fond amusement, while the Captain nodded in solemn agreement. Miles timidly offered Wade a tin cup, which he took with a hearty thanks, and filled generously with mead from the good-sized water-skin brought along for the journey. He sipped it with relish and relaxed back against his log, sighing in contentment.

"Someone's in a good mood," Master Banner said quietly, and Wade did his best not to preen by stuffing his nose into his mug. It was a compliment if Master Banner so much as acknowledged him, more so when he actually noticed his attitude. The Master could be so reserved that, if not for his apparent eye for detail, Wade would've wondered if he paid attention to anyone at all.

Instead of giving into his bubbling excitement, Wade tipped his head over to look at him, "Pardon, but I'm always in a good mood."

Miles snorted, but instantly froze when Wade turned his eyes on him. "Disagree?" Wade smirked.

"W-well," the squire muttered, finding a sudden interest in the fats dripping on the coals. "It-it's just that the other day you seemed kind of angry, is all."

Ah, he was observant too.

Wade shrugged and put his cup back to his lips. "Fair enough," he conceded after coming back up for air. "But we all know that Francis threw the first rock, and don't you dare say otherwise. I'll stand by it till my dying breath."

Maybe he was in an extra good mood. There was an excited bubbling in his chest whenever he thought about the expedition, and tonight was such a fine night that it was hard to be foul. Perhaps the stars were in alignment, or the old Saints were smiling down on him. Whatever it was, Captain Rogers seemed to pick up on it too.

"Bruce might be right," he said, balancing his cup on his knees, barely keeping a hold of the handle with his fingers so it didn't topple over, "You seem in a happier mood. What's on your mind, son?"

Heh, son. Wade was far from being a son anymore, given that he was almost as tall as Rogers, and just as thick with muscle. Hardly anyone worth calling "son." But while it was something the Captain referred to everyone as, it still left something warm glowing in Wade's chest. It could be just the way he perceived it, but sometimes it felt as though the Captain said it with more warmth when it was addressed to him. Like Wade wasn't just another knight in the troop. Like actually belonged there.

Or that was wishful thinking conjured up by the messed up interior of his head. Captain Rogers regarded everyone with respect and equal treatment. Wade was no different.

Still, his smile was wide all the same. "'Course I'm happier," he chirped, "by this time tomorrow, I'll be sailing home on a dragon of my own. Just thinking about those muscles between my thighs," he grinned lewdly and slapped his legs, grinning at Mile's aghast expression. "Gets me excited every time."

Steve snorted, probably used to hearing all kinds of lewd things from soldiers. That, and he was probably getting used to Wade's humor by now - poor guy. Besides, Wade's heard the Captain had a bit of dirty humor himself when he let it show. Wouldn't that be the day?

"Let me tell you, there's nothing quite as exhilarating as taking your first flight." Captain Rogers sighed, staring off into the flames with a ghosting smile on his lips.

After a minute, he blinked and shook his reminiscing off, and stared at Wade with a sudden seriousness. "But you soldiers won't be riding them for too long. Not without saddles. Without protection, those scales will chafe you like nothing," he grimaced, absentmindedly rubbing the undersides of his legs.

Wade leaned forward, propping his head on his hands with owlish, unblinking eyes. "Oh Mister Captain," he said, voice innocent and pitched like a young schoolboy, "Please, oh please tell us again how you got your dragon."

Steve rolled his eyes and picked his cup back up to hid his small grin, "How many times do I have to tell that story?"

"Not enough to get sick of it," Miles answered for Wade, interest aligning seamlessly with the older knights as he drew his legs up against his chest. "Please tell us again..uh...Sir..."

Both he and Wade had probably heard the story a dozen times already, but the Captain's story was practically legendary. Known all throughout the land, not just as a story, but as history in the making.

Captain Rogers took another prolonged drink, downing the rest of his mead, and set the cup down next to his feet. "Alright, alright" he said, getting comfortable on his rock, enacting the same from Wade, Miles, and even Banner, who settled against the log with a resigned sigh. Being around the Captain so much, he's probably heard it countless times too.

"I found Bucky during the Dragon War. King Howard had sent me on a reconnaissance mission with a group from the Hammer Province. Now I wasn't much of a soldier then. In fact," his smirk was sly, "I was a bit of a scrawny kid. I was brought along to tend to the horses and meals, while the group tracked down a rogue dragon taking out our supply wagons. When they did manage to track it down," an appreciative nod, "it really was some dragon. Big and angry, tearing up wagons and people mercilessly. Our group got in and took him by surprise. Barely managed to tie him down, though. Not without sacrificing some of our own men.

"Their mission was to take him out immediately, but my group, they," Rogers grimaced, as if he tasted something sour, "they wanted to have a little fun with him first. They poked and stabbed him with hot-iron rods, getting 'im on the soft scales of his underbelly and his wings. I finally intervened when they were gonna burn his eyes out, and, well, they didn't really appreciate that. They beat me, threatened me with the same fate, and sent me back to work. But I wasn't about to let them torture that dragon. When I had the chance, I started unlocking the chains and cutting the ropes to let him free. They spotted me real quick though. I got to his head, figuring he may as well be able to defend himself, but when I looked into his eyes, I..." Sir Rogers tapered softly, mind flying somewhere far in the past. His voice was wistful when he continued, "It was like this spark just lit up inside me. It was like I was him, and he was me. I could feel it tying us together. Linking us. It's hard to explain."

After a moment, Master Banner coughed into his fist and Sir Rogers jerked back up, rising out of the memory like the smoke to their fire, and blinked, "Oh, right, sorry, got lost there for a minute."

Wade waved him on, breathless and in awe, "Yes. Yes. Then what happened?"

"Well, it caught me off guard. One of the soldiers from my group got me from behind. Would've killed me in not for the dragon. He burst through the rest of the chains and saved me, then took out the rest of the group. I admit, I thought he was going to kill me too. But...he didn't. When he stopped, he just looked down at me, then...flew away. Flew away, just like that. Damn thing looked just about as scared as I did."

"But he did come back," Miles said, eyes round and unblinking.

"Yep. Found me again while I was in the forest tracking a buck. Didn't get the buck, but I managed to bring him back with me. King Stark, er – I suppose he was just Prince Anthony at the time, he had taken me to the side sometime ago, saying how uniting with dragons was the key to end the war. After getting Bucky, well," Steve shrugged, " I was converted to his principles of dragons and humans living together. You guys should know the rest of the story. We raised our army, brought the war to an end, established the treaty, started the Dragon Guard, yada, yada, yada."

Wade snorted. "You make it sound easy."

"Oh, it definitely wasn't easy," Sir Rogers shook his head, suddenly grim. "Definitely not."

Wade leaned back against the log, tapping his finger against his cup. He didn't think he could voice just how much that story took his breath away. It was the way Wade always hoped he and his dragon would bond. He liked to imagine looking into those reptilian eyes and seeing a being that reflected himself.

Size didn't matter when bonding to a dragon, nor shape, nor ferocity and Wade didn't try and judge by those qualities. But, even so, after the meal was eaten, the fires were out, and he lay inside his tent, his mind was filled with the images of his future dragon. It would be tall, dark, imposing, and dangerous in every conceivable way. Something that couldn't be hurt easily. Something that could keep up with his chatter, and stamina, and lust for a good ol' fight.

Wade dreamed of flying on a dragon black as night.

He should've known everything was gonna go to shit.

It was too perfect a day for it not too.

He had woken up with the faintest remnants of his favorite dream – the one where he was in brothel house, lying next to dark-haired beauty - which instantly put him in an ardent mood. Not only that, but Blind Al was acting a lot less cranky this morning, he got to watch Francis choke on a biscuit, and Steve asked Wade to ride with him, Miles, and Banner.

And they were going to reach the Dragon Grounds TODAY!

Everything was perfect.

Until it wasn't.

The jungles around them got thick and dense, while the ground turned into an upward slope as they started up the steep trail into the mountain. It was a strenuous hike, and for once Wade was feeling bad for choosing Blind Al. While the horse was strong and sassy, and specially trained to handle terrains like this, no animal should have to carry his sorry ass uphill for so long. In was this pity that had him getting off on foot as often as possible, so he could to lead her up the trail by rein. It was exhausting and extremely hot, his thick folds of clothes felt damp and weighted, but it eased whatever muted conscious he had left.

It was nearing high noon when the left side of the jungle broke off into a high cliff that overlooked a thick tapestry of tree's blanketing the earth floor, and farther past that, an ocean churned in the horizon. Wade's never been one to get anxious with heights, but even he knew that a drop from this height wouldn't be fun.

The cliff barely appeared before their party halted. Captain Rogers reigned his horse around to look over the troops. "We're nearing a testy part of the trail," he said, voice hushed and soft, barely carrying over the group. "Stay as quiet as possible. If I hear any racket, we'll finish this expedition on foot."

Next to him, Master Banner added, so quiet Wade could see the knights leaning forward to hear him, "And stay alert. Keep an eye out for any hostile dragons, especially females with eggs or dragonlings. If we encounter one, do not engage with violence," his voice was firm and full of warning. Blind Al shifted as if she could sense the tension behind his words, and Wade pat her neck.

"Easy there you old cuss," he whispered, not unkindly. "Don't worry, you'll be back in your stable before you know it." She tossed her head in doubt.

The party continued, this time quiet and light-footed. Even Francis and his soft-brained lackeys held back their usual taunts and jibes. The Dragon Grounds were no joking matter. Ever since the Dragon War ended and a treaty was established between the dragons and humans, peace has lasted, but there were only a select group of dragons willing to bond. There were other temperamental dragons (and people) who still weren't sure of the practice.

The Dragon War wasn't long ago, nearing 18 years, and the bitter feelings between their two species still ran deep. One step over the line could result in a painful death-by-fire-and-teeth or an equally painful sword to the gut.

But even with their small troop (just 15 people, including Morales, Banner, and Rogers), it was slow-going work. Occasionally, the whole party would stop so Master Banner could determine whether they were nearing a nest. Sometimes he veered them off course, and other times he lead them on. As time ticked, the taut muscles of the group softened as they began fidgeting in their seats. Heads swiveled, butts shifted in saddles, fingers drummed against thighs. The horses were beginning to sense it too. They huffed and pawed at the ground, tossing their heads and nickering nervously.

At first, it was just nerves. They were all just anxious, ready to get to the Dragon Grounds and head back home. It was unnerving how quiet this jungle was. Back on their home land, the jungles were loud and brash. There was always an ambience to it, be it the bugs, the predators, or nature herself. Here, it was as if mother nature had stopped moving. The world held its breath as they climbed the mountain, watching wide-eyed and nervous, knowing that they tread on the fine-line of unity and violence.

The silence felt as heavy as his cowl, and draped over him just as much, seeping into his skin like perspiration and making him yearn to itch. It numbed his throat; as if just one word from him could snap the fragile tenor of the mountainside.

It was this silence that made it possible to hear Master Banner's sudden inhale of breath up front. He cursed, and all of the sudden, the tenor broke.

The palfreys all reeled back with whinnying shrieks as an earsplitting roar rattled the wind and a sharp crack snapped from the forestry as the tree's to the right of them bowed. Slowly, the curled snout of a dragon rose from the shadows of the branches, scaled lips pulling back with bared fangs. A pair of reptilian slit eyes bore down at them, bright and eager like a wildfire to a dry prairie.

Master Banner cursed again, louder over the uproar, but Wade kept his focus on gripping his reins and soothing Al before she launched him off the cliff. Her nostrils were flared, milky eyes wide and strained, but she calmed to Wade's touch enough for Wade to steer her over to Captain Rogers

"What happened?" he bellowed over another ear-splitting roar.

"Got too close to a nest," Master Banner answered, struggling fitfully to keep his horse still enough to simultaneously size up the dragon. "Do NOT engage in violent combat," he grit, struggling to keep his grip on the reins as his palfey tossed his head. "She's only protecting her younglings."

Captain Roger grabbed the reins from Master Banner, helping him settle his palfrey as he glanced over the troop, eyes narrowing on the knights going for their swords.

"Stand down!" he boomed, voice easily carrying over the dragon's roar. They had all been trained under that commanding voice, and its effects were no less different than in the Training Arena. Hands instantly strayed from their swords, and every head swiveled to the Captain for orders.

The mother dragon was half-way out of the tree's now, and was edging closer to them with every minute spent in her presence. She was a big dragon, easily over 15 ft tall, with a thick hide of scars marring her faded-green scales. Battle wounds, no doubt. A possible veteran of the war. Wade didn't know her story, but damn did he want to. Her long chipped claws dug gouges into the earth, and her snarl was as loud and splitting as a falling tree. Vaguely, between her legs, he could see the wide, narrowed eyes of 3 baby dragons, all who were baring their own cute little fangs in imitation to their mother. She was just protecting her brood, that's all. They couldn't fault her for that.

Everything would be fine as soon as they moved past.

Wade did his best to ignore her and help the Captain reorganize the party, and for a minute, things seemed to be going well. Until mother-dragon decided they weren't going fast enough. She lunged forward, roar escalating like thunder over the mountain-tops. Somewhere in the distance, Wade heard an answering call.

If she attracted the help of more dragons, they would be in some deep shit. Deep, DEEP shit.

The horses were getting riled up again. They jumped and skittered, pawing at the ground and rearing in distress. Their riders could hardly keep them in control without turning their backs to the mother dragon, which went against the first rule they were ever taught. Never turn your back to a dragon, especially an angry one.

Off the side, Miles was desperately trying to calm his horse, which had tottered a dangerous distance to the cliff-side. Its ears were back, eyes blown with panic, and legs skittering feverishly. Wade knew what was going to happen before he could even warn the squire. Like clock-work, the horse lifted its back legs and bucked Miles clean off. Thankfully, it wasn't off the cliff. The boy rolled across the ground, unwillingly following the subtle tilt the ground as it took him toward the trees and stopped him barely 10 feet from the mother.

That was the last straw.

Eyes blazing, mother-dragon lunged forward, maw open as she went for the kill. But Wade was already in motion, racing across the ground just as the horse had bucked the squire, much to the displeasure of Blind Al. As soon as he was close enough, he hurled one of his hidden knives as hard as he could. The blade skidded harmlessly off the scales of the dragon's jaw with nary a blemish or scuff, but it was enough to draw her attention that her strike missed the boy by less than an inch. Scrambling up, face skew and pale, Miles tripped over his legs in his haste to get away.

Fortunately, with a bit of trial and error, he managed to get back to the group. Captain Rogers lifted him up onto his palfrey where he clutched the general tightly, shaking, close to tears, but unhurt.

Unfortunately, that left mother dragon's attention on Wade.

Her lips curled back against her teeth and Wade could feel the hot wave of her breath from where he was at. Blind Al whinnied in terror. Wade responded with another comforting pat, as good as that did.

"Easy," he murmured, but his voice only seemed to irritate her more. "Don't worry. There won't be baked horse tonight. You'd probably taste terrible and gamey anyway," Blind Al danced on her hooves, not completely convinced.

With a snap of her teeth, mother-dragon lunged for her new target. Wade clicked his tongue, jabbing Al with his heel, and she bounced away from the attack. With enough space between himself and mother dragon, Wade dived off Blind Al's back and rolled along the ground, coming to a stop on his knees. As soon as she was free, Al bolted back into the safe ranks of the troop.

Wade jumped to his feet, hands closing over his shoulders for his swords, only there was no hilt to curl his hand around. Well, shit just turned to dammit! He'd forgotten they were still in his pack with Blind Al.

A throaty growl bubbled past Mother-dragon throat, sounding somewhat amused, as she stalked forward, forcing Wade to step back, and step back, and step back until his heel hit open air and he was teetering on the edge of the cliffside. With a gasp, he leaned forward to catch something - anything - for stability. His hands caught something hard, hot, and rough. A dragon nostril. He froze, then grinned tightly at mother-dragon, going for a charming smile that felt too strained. The breath from her nose was scalding and slowly melting the leather of his gloves to his skin.

Her eyes brightened, excited, eager, and bloodthirsty. She jerked forward and slammed her snout directly into Wade's chest.

Mother nature held her breathe again. Time hung in the air. Wade felt himself fall back. Mother-dragon and her steaming nostrils flared haughtily at him as she got smaller and smaller, and that's when he realized he was falling. Then time resumed and he dropped like a stone. With greedy hands, the wind snagged his breath, and no sooner, tree limbs were snapping around him. Branches smacked his body, both crushing under his weight and cracking against his skin. Leaves smacked his face, vines caught on his limbs, jerking them in all directions until a loud pop hit his ears and his arm burst into ragged pain.

He was tossed through the trees like a ragged doll as the ground approached rapidly. He barely managed to glimpse soft tufts of grass and a few blooming wildflowers before he crushed them.

Face first.

When Wade finally found a way back to consciousness, the first thing he was fully aware of was that there was grass in his mouth.

It took only a second for the rest of his body to catch up, and the ripping sensation of pain reached his senses and he groaned, squeezing his eyes back shut. His arm was pinned under his body, likely broken, while the rest of him was sprawled across the ground like a human splatter.

Wincing, he timidly tried shifting into a more comfortable position, but that was an instant mistake. Every single muscle, bone, and piece of mottled flesh on his body seized with burning pain, and Wade wondered if somehow he had fallen into a pot of boiling grease.

"Oh shit fucker in a brothel barn," he gasped into the grass, going lax again. That was...unpleasant. Not that falling off a cliff and hitting every fucking tree in the forest was usually fun.

"Stupid mother-dragon of a bloody-toe eating troll - what the hell was with that?" Wade hissed into the dirt, voice getting higher with each new wash of pain. It's not like we wanted her stupid, small, rat-faced babies in the first place!

Hissing again, he relaxed as best he could, letting his healing take the mantle as he mindlessly nibbled on the grass. Gradually, his body came back to life, prickling like overheated sewing-needles as his skin pulled itself together and bones fell into place. For half a second, he contemplated throwing up. Nausea was one of the worst effects of his stupid healing. If he was going to throw up, just let him throw up. None of this fluctuating crap.

But at least he wasn't slowly dying a tree-skinned death anymore. That's always a plus, he supposed. Still, even feeling remotely grateful for the heal-from-all-hell curse that shit-faced, mother-fuck gave to him made him feel as though he'd swallowed something rotten.

It would've been a lot more merciful to let him die like he was supposed to.

A plum of hot breath suddenly raced across his neck and drew Wade's attention again, halting all previous thoughts. He became dully aware of a small thud drawing near, and through the corner of his eyes, a claw-like blurr stopped near his head. A dark, looming shadow fell over him, and he slowly lifted his face from the ground, grass hanging from his opened lips where his cowl had been ripped off and was, likely, caught somewhere in the trees. Squinting, he stared up at the blurry red and blue-scaled muzzle of, what appeared to be, another dragon.

He scowled, tilting his head.

The blurry red and blue-scaled muzzle of a dragon smirking at him.

Perhaps it was the way it was looking at him, or the uncomfortable feel of its hot breath, or the all-to recent experience he just had with a dragon, but an angry molten ball of goo plopped in chest, dripping down his ribs, into his heart, and Wade glared heatedly.

"If you're going to eat me, good luck with that," he spat, collapsing back into the dirt. "I'm a lot harder to kill than I look."

The dragon's shadow tilted and its breathing on him pause. A beat passed, and a sound crawled from its mouth. A deep sound from the throat, short and abrupt, but not necessarily threatening. It repeated the noise again and again until Wade realized, with an incredulous start, that the thing was laughing at him.

The goo in his chest bubbled and his glared tightened as he craned his neck to meet its face. "You've got to be shitting me," he growled, trying to blink the fuzziness from his eyes. "No, stop it. There is absolutely nothing funny about this, you little shit."

It laughed at him again. Wade propped himself up on his elbows in a futile attempt to sit up that resulted in him collapsing again when his legs refused to work. He was laughed at again.

"Know what? Know what? I don't even care anymore, you little fucker," he stuffed his face back into the dirt, "I do not care anymore. But, hey, if you are looking for someone to eat, there's this very tasty morsel just over the ridge of that cliff. He goes by the name of Francis, or Ajax if he's trying to be tough. If you're looking for someone to cook, he's your guy."

The dragon fell silent again, and for a second Wade was convinced it left. Until he felt that hot breath on his neck again as the dragon inhaled. It sniffed at his face and nudged at his side gently.

"Yes, I'm still alive." Wade snapped.

"Oh, well, what a relief," a man's voice snarked and Wade jolted back up. He looked at the dragon - which was still blurry because he's pretty sure nearly his entire eyeball had been scooped out - then around the tree's encircling them, injuries mildly forgotten. He couldn't tell if there was a guy hiding out in the trees.

"Did you just..." he glanced around again, fruitless in his efforts to spot another human being. "Did you just talk?"

Then, slowly, as if the entire world was mocking him, the dragons blurred face grinned.

The little fucker curled back its blurry, scaly lips and honest-to-the-Saints grinned at him, as if they were sharing some secret. Its body shifted and for a minute Wade thought it was getting closer. Instead, it backed up and turned, waltzing back into the shadows of the tree's, tail swishing pleasantly behind it.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Wade dug his finger in the dirt, abandoning all sense of dignity as he crawled after it. "Wait, you can't just laugh at me and leave. You-you talked, you definitely talked. Or…maybe that was your lunch speaking, but still, you-," his body spasmed, every inch of skin burned, definitely not appreciating his efforts to move. "Get - get back here you little fucker!"

The dragon stopped. Slowly, it turned its neck around and glanced at Wade, cool and dismissive. It tilted its head as if only mildly curious.

And Wade thought Blind Al was sassy.

He squinted again, trying to make out the dragon more clearly. It was weirdly shaped. Like it didn't have a clearly define body. Also, he was almost positive something was jutting out of its sides.

Wade crawled a little further across the ground. "Come on, I'm dying over here."

The dragon snorted and small puff of white smoking curled from its nostrils. It stared at him, almost as if thinking about the situation. Wade tried to ease its options with a crooked, grass muddied grin.

The dragon turned to leave the clearing again.

Wade cursed, then cursed again, and plopped back into the dirt. He sighed miserably. Stupid dragons, and their stupid issues, and their stupid babies, and their stupid attitudes.

How did the expedition party fare after the attack? If they survived it at all...

Or were they dealing with a sassy, self-righteous dragon too?

He shook his head stubbornly. No, they had to be alright. Captain Rogers AND Master Banner were there, the two most qualified people to have in a dragon attack. They had to be fine.

Now if he could just figure out a way to get back up there, things could be a lot better. Maybe he could scale the cliff. If it wasn't too steep, he could probably make it up in a few hours. If the expedition managed to get out of it alive, Wade could track them to the Dragon Grounds. But the time it took to actually find the group all depended on how soon he'd heal. He's healed from worse, but even then it had taken, at the very least, quite a few hours.

So wrapped up in his thoughts, Wade almost didn't hear the thudding of steps coming back up to him. All he could do was glance up, before suddenly there were claws wrapping around his middle, and the next thing he knew he was rising from the ground, bursting through the tree's, and soaring high over the tops.


Over his own terrified screaming, Wade heard the dragon laugh again.

Phew, that was a long chapter. Everyone here and accounted for? Even you in the back? Whoo! Alrightie! First chapter is offically edited and reposted! Hallelujah! 

The next chapter is long too (not as long), but it'll have more of this "mystery red and blue dragon" (cause we all don't know who  that's  going to be). *wink wink*

WHOO! I'm excited to get into this story with you guys! It's gonna be fun! You all better be ready for one heck of a ride! :P

That's all for now!

Chapter Text

Wade passed out two times.

Later, he convinced himself it was because of his injuries and not his complete and utter terror. But there was no way he could deny that in the few instances that he had opened his eyes during his sudden flight, he'd been terrified.

The first time he passed out happened right after take-off, when his breath was snagged and his head rushed from the sudden elevation. It probably didn't help that every single inch of his body was screaming bloody murder at him too.

He woke minutes later, judging by the fact that they were still in the air, only this time the wind speed had slowed considerably, and he wasn't feeling as dizzy. If he was still in his right mind and not hyped on pain, he'd have sworn the dragon had slowed for his benefit.

But that was ridiculous.

Hazily, he was aware that the dragon actually had an appealingly tight hold on him. He could feel its scaled limbs encasing his body in what kind of felt like a hug. Albeit, a very big, sort-of scratchy, and terrifying hug, but a hug all the same and that was kinda nice. You know, if not for the fact that he was dangling hundreds of feet in the air!

That was when he passed out the second time.

When he woke the second time, he was alone. It took him an embarrassingly long time to realize he was on the ground, and when he did, it took him several more moments to blink the disorientation from his eyes before sitting up.

It was dark out. The sun had been benighted for a sliver of moon that hung loosely over the sky. It didn't give nearly enough light to distinguish his surroundings, but he was pretty sure he was sitting in wild grass and that there was a running stream nearby. Squinting, he looked for a colossal shape in the shadows, but the dragon was nowhere to be seen.

For a moment, Wade wondered if his pain-consumed mind had cooked up that entire interaction. He'd been so mind-consumed with the Dragon Grounds lately that a hallucination about a dragon wasn't unreasonable. Sometimes his head cooked up weird shit when he was delusional with pain.

However, as much sense as that made to him, he quickly dispersed that idea all the same. Even with the small rays of light, he could tell he wasn't any near the cliffs, and there was no other logical explanation that he could elucidate on how he got there. A dragon had upped and carried him off, and was probably lurking in the shadows right now, waiting to pounce.

Around him, the dark foliage seemed to shift, and Wade quietly adjusted himself, feeling for the small knife concealed in his boot when he realized, with a jolting start, he was naked.

What. The. Fuck.

Did the dragon do this? No, it couldn't. It shouldn't have been able. That thing was huge. Big...ish. Besides, why would it do that in the first place? Yeah, Wade found generally anyone attractive, but that didn't extend to animals. He was only joking with Miles; he wasn't serious about it.

Despite the way his body shook as it recovered from post-healing, Wade felt through the grass until his fingers grazed clothe, and he eagerly pulled his shirt to his chest. "Thank the Saints," he exclaimed, quickly putting it and his pants back on. Upon further search, he discovered one of his boots nearby. Only one though. So either the dragon was hoarding its mate, or he lost it during his fall.

There was no use having one shoe, but he couldn't bring himself to chuck it. The small knife hidden in the leather pouch inside was still intact, and besides, if bad came to worse, he could always throw it at the dragon.

Scowling at the shadowed trees, brandishing the small knife out, Wade examined his surroundings. "Where'd you go, dragon?"

The silence stretched thinly. The dragon didn't respond to his challenge and the night had fallen silent again. Maybe it really was gone. He couldn't hear any breathing, no shifting, or growls. There was a chance it was just stalking him from the shadows, but that didn't make much sense. Why would it wait for him to wake up to kill him? Why not just eat him and get it over with? Why the fuck were his clothes off in the first place?

The dragon was gone.

Sighing, Wade slumped back against the rock he was propped on. He still felt so tired. As fine and dandy it was having a healing factor, it came with its own set of side-effects, one of which ran along the lines of extreme exhaustion. He was wiped out. Healing, apparently, took a lot of energy, so he always felt weak and limp afterward. Not to mention the fever and sensitized skin that came after. After getting hurt so often – and believe him, he gets hurt a lot - he'd pulled himself into a routine of sleeping the enervative phase off, and his body was unhappy to break the cycle.

Deep down he knew he should probably be concerned about the dragon's whereabouts, and why the fuck he'd been stripped naked, and where the expedition party was, but the night breeze was like a cool blanket to his piping skin. He sleepily hushed his frantic thoughts, deciding in a terrible display of his irrational reasoning that he'd worry about it tomorrow.

He closed his eyes and let his mind drift.

_~The Repercussions of War~_

It was still night when Wade was woken by a thump at his feet and the sizzling aroma of cooked meat. His stomach growled in response and he instantly sat up, blinking down at the cooked carcass that appeared in the grass. Slowly, he looked up, just as the dragon collapsed in the grass, chowing down on the rest of the unfortunate beast in a ravished manner.

He blinked several more times before his mind rose from its slumber like a demonic spirit from hell, and he scrambled back against his rock, pulling his knife out from where he slipped it in the grass. Compared to the size of the dragon, his little weapon was laughable, but Wade knew all too well that the most delicate spot on a dragon was their underbelly. Even a small cut could be fatal if it was done right. If that dragon valued its life, it'd leave him alone.

However, if the dragon noticed his violent conduct it was doing a really good job of ignoring it. It didn't even spare Wade a glance as it chewed noisily on its kill. Wade sat motionless for several more moments before slowly lowering the knife. Well, it certainly didn't act like it wanted to kill him, but you never knew.

Carefully, eyes shifting periodically back up at the dragon, he examined the meat at his feet. Tentatively, he inched forward on his butt and probed at it with a finger. "Is…this for me?"

This time the dragons shadowy frame turned idly at him. It snorted once and continued eating, which wasn't much of an answer. Wade curled his legs up, keeping them close to his chest, with the knife still in hand. He'd admit, the meat smelled good. But while his stomach yearned for him to take a piece, his rational side (now back up and running) was ringing bells in his head. What if the food wasn't for him? What if the dragon was just saving it for later? As much fun as it was sassing off to Francis, this dragon could easily bite his head off if he so much as sneezed wrong.

Besides, the thing seemed temperamental. One minute it was going to leave him in the jungle, and the next it was kidnapping him. One minute it was gone and he was abandoned, and the next it was back with food. For once, Steve's advice seemed like the ideal course of action. Caution is your reluctant friend. It can hold you back, but it can also save your life.

He'd better just keep his hands to himself.

To distract himself from the enticing aroma, Wade glanced at the brightening sky. It was still several hours from dawn, but the barest bits of light were brushing the horizon sky. It still wasn't light enough to make out much of his surroundings, but it did tell him that his hour of escape was nigh. The thin moon peered dubiously over the treetops, teasing miniscule rays of light over the dragon. The scales that caught it twinkled, but otherwise offered nothing but a sharp gleam that hurt his eyes. He could distinguish the dragon's shape a little better, but that was it. He was still pretty sure the dragon was red and blue, but that may have been a trick of his healing mind.

Wade rocked back and forth in his spot, softly humming an old tavern song. He was only on the second chorus when the dragon huffed loudly and all of the sudden craned its neck toward him, and he instantly clambered back, hiking up his rock with the knife poised back in his hands. Instead of snapping at his toes though, the dragon carefully took the meat into its mouth.

He knew it wasn't for him and still, disappointment hit his gut. His stomach grumbled woefully. If the damn thing was going to eat it, the least it could do was not rub it in his face. But just as Wade begun wallowing in self-pity, the carcass hit his stomach and he fell off his rock. The dragon made its throaty laugh again as he slowly got up, rubbing his backside sorely, as it settled back in its spot, licking the remains of blood and meat from its talons.

Glaring at it, Wade pushed the meat off so it didn't burn his skin, and rather than throwing back at the dragon – as he was tempted to do - this time he gingerly turned it over, looking for a spot that wasn't mucked up with dirt. Once he did, his eyes flickered toward the dragon as he cut it off and slowly pulled it toward his mouth. There were no signs of hostility from the dragon. It continued cleaning its claws. Partially satisfied that it wouldn't get angry, Wade put the meat in his mouth and began to chew.

The dragon stretched its legs and settled into the grass. More confident, he picked skeptically at the cooked carcass some more, pulling the dirtied burnt skin aside, that he could see, to dig in for the fleshier bits of meat. It was cooked fairly well. Bits of dark juice still seeped in some areas, and it could use some of Master Banner's spices, but Wade was far too hungry to care. The last thing he'd eaten was a few brittle biscuits from the morning before and some stream water. Those healing side-effects he was talking about? Insatiable hunger was another one.

Hmmm… how long has he been asleep? Wade was pretty he hadn't been unconscious for too long - only the previous evening and night, by his guess - which meant the expedition party had probably settled into the next site in his absence. It also meant they'd be finishing up at the Dragon Grounds today.

That is, if they made it in time since the attack. Everyone participating in the expedition agreed that the journey could be dangerous and, with their time-limit, there was a definite chance of getting hurt. It was a risk they'd all agreed to take. Captain Roger had to have known Wade was durable and could handle himself until they found him again. He'd probably take the troops out ahead to finish up the expedition before sending out a search party.

Well…if they sent a search party at all. There were some people back in the Kingdom who wouldn't mind if he didn't come back.

But Captain Rogers wouldn't leave him…right? Yes, they had to be off this island within the next three days, but surely the Captain wouldn't leave him here. The risk was great, and they had emphasized not getting separated from the troop, but would they really sail home without him?

The dragon got back to its feet and Wade tensed, scooting back skeptically as it lumbered toward the stream. He squinted, trying to distinguish anything else about his kidnapper. There was definitely something weird about this dragon. Its body was oddly shaped and lumpy around the middle, but he didn't have enough light to make out what exactly it was.

The dragon gulped at the stream, before quickly returning to its spot and curling up in the grass. But it didn't go to sleep. Its head lay on the ground toward Wade, and he didn't need to see its face to know it was staring at him. It tilted its head as if thinking and a few small rays of light fell over one of its eyes.

Wade shifted under its stare, suddenly wishing he had his cowl with him. Animals didn't normally stare at him, but the way this dragon did made his skin crawl. It was as if it was actually sizing him up, not just as a predator, but as an observer. Steve and Bruce have always said that dragons were more intelligent than people made them out to be (they had to be if they were to take part in a 20-year long war), but Wade didn't think they meant full-on human-like skepticism. It was unsettling and made his skin itch.

Still, as uncomfortable as he was, he tried to maintain eye contact. He was already flown to who knows where and stripped naked, which he still wanted an answer for, so he wasn't going to be bowed by his kidnapper either.

The shadows cast over its head and the bright color of its iris's gave off the impression that its eyes were glowing a ghostly blue, and, quite suddenly, it was hard to look away. The eyes were wide and curious, filled to the brim with questions it couldn't say.

A beat passed and Wade scowled, glaring harder until the dragon conceded and looked away.

Suddenly not hungry, he gingerly pushed the carcass away. The dragon's eyes were back on him in an instant, and it tilted its head as if confused. "I'm - I'm done," he told it. "All full. It was good. Erm… very good. A little raw, but I'm not picky, so… yeah, thanks… I guess."

The dragon blinked once and got back up. This time, Wade refused to move as it approached him. He stared up at it, craning his neck when it was right next to him, and watched it take the remaining carcass in its jaws and chomp down with one powerful bite. His nose pinched at the sound of crunching bones and squishing juices, wondering if that's what his body would sound like if he was eaten alive. He's healed from many horrible injuries, but getting eaten by a dragon? Could he even survive that? Maybe he could, but the whole thing would probably be extremely uncomfortable and agonizing.

The last of the beast went down with a wet gulp and the dragon backed up, laying down once more. Wade stared at the spot the meat had been, and scooted as well, propping his back against the rock. The dragon seemed to have satisfied itself with its early observations and curled its head back to tuck it under its wing. Only a few minutes passed and its body was heaving deeply with sleep.

Now that it wasn't watching his every move, Wade tried to uncover more of its traits, but the sun was taking its dear sweet time waking up. The sky had lightened a little, but he still had hours to go before it was good enough to make his escape.

Punching his rock lightly, as it to soften it up, he settled back against it and crossed his hands over his stomach. He supposed he could leave right now if he wanted to. If he was light enough on his feet, he could sneak through the trees and find a way to the Dragon Grounds before Captain Rogers and the party headed home. There was still a chance Wade could get his dragon too.

But leaving now probably wouldn't be the best idea. It was dark and he didn't know anything more about this terrain since the last time he woke up. He could tempt it, but would likely only get himself lost, and time was of the essence. He couldn't afford the hours, days even, it could take to forge a trail back to the cliffs on his own, especially if he started in the dark. No, he'd have to wait until the sun was up before he attempted a foray.

Just to be safe though, he'd need to leave before the dragon woke.

It wouldn't keep him here, right?

Ugh, he hoped not. It was nice that it treated him to dinner and all, but Wade had an expedition to get back to. Just as soon as the sun was up, he'd go.

He turned on his stomach, mind made up. He'd leave just before dawn, before the dragon woke up, and find the expedition party in time to get his dragon. He closed his eyes, plan still fresh in his mind, as he let his body lull itself to sleep.

Which was surprisingly easier then he thought it'd be.

_The Repercussions of War_

Wade yawned, stretching languidly as he warmed his lulled muscles. There was a knot stuck in his back thanks to the rock, and a family of bugs had a party on his skin last night, but his sleep had been better than he expected it to be. It was a lot comfier than some the inn's he's visited, that's for sure.

Blinking the mustiness from his eyes, he stared up at the sky, which had turned a flowery blue. It was already warm and gold rays of light brightened the green spading leaves of the jungle. He inhaled deeply, breathing in the crisp essence of morning. Wow. Know those mornings that felt like Mother Nature herself was on display? Today was that kind of day. Saints, when was the last time he's woken up like this?

What was this good mood? How foreign and strange. And there were no idiot comrades to spoil it for him either.

Wade froze, eyes widening. He lurched up with a curse. No Francis because there was no expedition party, no expedition party because he was kidnapped, kidnapped because he fell off a cliff. He was supposed to be escaping right now.

Damn it, he slept in.

Jumping to his feet, he whirled around, observing his surroundings. He was right earlier. He was in a small clearing, bowled in with high spading trees and thick foliage. Inside soft wild grass grew in abundance among straggling wildflowers. Off to his right, a stream sang with cool, crisp mountain water running through its vocals. Judging by the bubbling rush of the water and the subtle tilt of the ground, Wade deduced he was somewhere up high.

But his mind was easily distracted from that and the loveliness of the morning by the dragon slumbering not far from him. It was still curled up tight against itself with its wings wrapped around its body like a leathery cocoon, heaving with sleep. It was red and blue! Wade hadn't just made that up.

Shaking that away though, he glanced behind him where, barely over the tops of the tree, the cliffs loomed. Wherever the dragon had taken him, it was a long way off from where it found him. Which was odd. Master Banner never mentioned dragons kidnapping people.

Okay, now that he was thinking clearly, he had kind of egged the dragon on. Besides, it did feed him, so he could credit it that. But there was no time to express his "thanks." He needed to go.

Rolling his shoulders to burn the rest of his lethargy away, Wade grabbed his shoe and his knife. He paused when he noticed the small pile of bloodied twigs and branch slivers next to the rock. Huh, he hadn't noticed them earlier.

Now that he thought about it, there were no lumps or bumps in his skin where his body would normally heal over such things, and he was positive he had twigs sticking out of his body after the fall. Wade hesitated, before shaking his head. He'd mull over it later, he needed to get a move on. So, he turned in the cliffs direction and tiptoed to the edge of the clearing, glancing over his shoulder to check on the slumbering beast. Thank the Saints it wasn't stirring. (Not that the Saints have ever really helped him).

He grinned with triumph when he successfully made it. Okay, now he just needed to keep in this direction, get to the cliffs, either find a trail up or scale the cliffs, and find the expedition party. Should be easy enough.

But before he was free to the shelter of the jungle, a loud breaking yawn filled the silence, followed by the unfurling of wings. He froze, heart pounding. Straining his ears, Wade waited for an angry roar or thundering footsteps. The dragon must've been too sleepy to notice, though, because it was dead quiet.

Maybe it fell back asleep?

He turned and his heart instantly spiked. The dragon was staring at him. Its large eyes watched him, head tilting slightly as it waiting for his next move. Wade sucked in a breath, expecting it to charge.

But it didn't.

For several minutes they were locked in each other's gazes. The dragon tilted its head to the other side and blinked at him, eyes roaming quickly over his tensed stance. Then the spell broke. It grinned that shit-eating grin again and uncurled itself from the ground.

Ignoring Wade, it turned and lumbered across the soft grass, feet squishing through the mud of the bank as it got to the stream. Wade might've been offended with its askew behavior if not for the way his breath caught in his throat and his jaw dropped.

No wonder the dragon looked so messed up last night. It had an extra set of fucking arms.

It had the same front arms and back legs that most other dragons did, but nestled between the two sets of joints, placed slightly higher, was an extra pair of arms that padded lightly along the muddy flooring. When it stopped by the stream, each pair of arms found a hold in the dirt as it bent and drank its fill. Wade's eye's followed the graceful motion of the three sets of limbs, trying to wrap his mind around what he was seeing.

The knights were supposed to learn more about dragon cultures after their journey to the Dragon Grounds so they could better understand their dragons. Master Banner said that not all dragon's species would be the same and that a lot of them had different distinguishing qualities, but Wade had never heard of a dragon with extra arms. There were all sorts of dragon species in the Dragon Guard, jungle breeds, ice breeds, water breeds, and yet, this was so new and foreign it left his mind reeling.

As warping as it was, it was also kind of amazing. Each limb had a pristine sense of where it was going. Its movements were chaotic and mind-tripping, but fluid and graceful at the same time. It was enthralling to watch.

Unaware of his staring, the dragon stopped drinking and leaned closer to the water, as if inspecting something. Intrigued, Wade dropped his shoe and hunched down, hand on his chin thoughtfully. It looked like it was examining its face, tilting its scaled head from side to side to look at it from all angles.

Wade rolled his eyes and scoffed, "Pretentious much."

But then, to his astonishment, the dragon bent down and scooped water into its front hands and splashed it up on its face. Claws and scales scratched and clicked against each other as the dragon scrubbed its muzzle, the sound rough and grating from where Wade was crouched.

He was gaping again. The thing hadn't been admiring itself, it was washing. But that was something that people normally did. Sure animals bathed themselves, but the way this dragon did it with such humane movements.

"What are you?" he muttered.

The dragon turned again, as if hearing him. Instead of grinning at him though, it huffed, shoulders slumping. Its eyes cut down into a glare and it snorted haughtily at him, and lumbered back across the marsh ground.

Wade quirked an eyebrow, surprised with its sudden caprice, "Hey, you were the one who brought me here, remember?"

The dragon snorted again but kept its back to him. Wade huffed and stood back up. Whatever, he had to get a move on. As strange was this dragon was, it wasn't his priority. He stepped farther into the trees, risking another glance through the branches.

The dragon was shaking its body now, elongated wings flapping slightly as it knocked grass from its scales. When the shaking couldn't lose the more stubborn blades, it leaned back on its hind legs and used both sets of arms to scrape off the remaining grass and mud. Then, when it completed that, it stretched its long, thick neck, humming a gruntled sound deep inside its chest.

For a moment, Wade was tempted to stay. This was such an odd dragon. Maybe it was a species Master Banner didn't know of. Damn, wouldn't it be nice to have found a dragon that not even a Master as renowned as Bruce Banner did? That'd be a thorn in Francis's ass too, for sure. Maybe Wade could stay a few minutes...

Wait… what was he doing? He couldn't stay. Captain Rogers was probably packing up for the Dragon Grounds at this very moment. Wade needed to go if he planned on catching up to them.

Eyes shifting back and forth from the dragon, he inched toward the trees. Yet, a small irritating part of him hoped the dragon would notice.

But it was as if he no longer existed. The sassy —yet caring— attention it had for him earlier was replaced by a cold, disassociated demeanor that just rubbed him the wrong way. It was as if he was already gone.

Despite the smidgeon of rationality he still possessed, Wade found himself shouting, "Farewell!" in a tone that was so unnaturally loud it broke the tame resonance of the quiet clearing. The dragon, however, didn't even look up from where it was stretching its legs. Scowling, Wade repeated, louder this time, "FAREWELL NOW!"

The dragon stopped this time, inhaling a deep, brusque sigh, and rolled its head to the side to glare at him. But without so much as a laugh or grunt, it turned away just as quickly and continued whatever sacred morning routine it established for itself. The way it looked at him, as if Wade was nothing but an irritating blade of grass in its scales.

"Fine," he griped. "Thanks for the dinner, I'll get you a rabbit next time." And with that, he stomped back into the trees.

Still, quite unable to help himself, Wade glanced over his shoulder one more to see the dragon's reaction. But as soon as he turned his head, his feet found a dipping slant in the ground and suddenly he was tumbling. And rolling and smacking. Hitting into plants, rocks, and thick roots before finally landing in, what appeared to be, a ditch. Damn a hill to hell, he forgot he was up somewhere high.

He groaned throatily, pain pulsing from his shoulder in livid waves. He lifted his head, peering at the crude branch protruding through his shoulder, and groaned again, letting his head loll back. A few long seconds passed before the dragon's head poked through the tree's above him, peeking down from the top of the hill. It snorted at him, looking stuck between being irritated and amused.

Wade's nose wrinkled in disdain. "Someone could've mentioned there was a drop there," he snapped.

The dragon's shoulders rolled in a shrug, which Wade was convinced was an aberration of normal dragon behavior. Still, it started down the hill, keeping its stability against the steep sides by using its sets of arms to find holds on plants, trees, and rocks. Within minutes, the dragon was in the ditch too, completely unharmed, as it circled Wade observantly, its low tail sweeping serpentine trails in the dirt. A few grains swept upward into his face in a punishment of sorts.

Wade spit sand out of his mouth and shook the dirt from his bald head, which he instantly regretted when the branch jerked. The dragon did stop, but only to crouch next to him, eyes roaming over the branch. It got lower to look under him, where the branch protruded from the dirt. Its eyes mellowed, troubled, and it rose back to its full height, shifting uncomfortably its stance. It glanced back up the hill as if tempted to leave, but looked back at Wade with woeful eyes.

"I'll be fine," Wade groaned, poking at the stick. "Go back up on your hill. I don't care." The dragon didn't budge. He must've said something right, as it huffed and bent down to examine the branch again. Tentatively, one of its claws reached out, and hesitated. Changing its mind, the large hand pinned Wade's legs to the ground, while its partner held his body steady.

Wade's eyes widened, praying it wasn't about to just put him out of his misery. "Wait."

The dragon leaned it's head down, mouth opening toward his throat.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Wade shouted, squirming under the hand. "Hold up, I'm not breakfast!" His shoulder all but begged him to stop, but there was no way he was allowing himself to be feasted on.

Above him, the dragon snarled loudly, the most aggressive it's been to him since they've met, and Wade stilled instantly, hardly able to breathe as the dragon leaned down again. Only, instead of ripping his throat out as expected, it gingerly took the branch in its mouth, and with its other set of hands holding Wade's shoulder steady, it snapped it heads sideways and broke the top off.

Wade yelped, then groaned.

The dragon cocked its head, somewhat apologetically. Spitting the branch top off, its claws gently curled around him middle and pulled him up. WIth its front arms holding him and its middle arms keeping the branch down, Wade was slowly lifted off the branch. His eyes watered, and he couldn't hold back the few grunts of pain as the rough bark scraped and splintered through his shoulder, before finally popping out the other end.

When it was over, Wade could breathe again.

He slumped, hand shooting up to hold his shoulder. He took in several deep breaths to adapt to the pain, before glancing up at the dragon. "I guess that's another one I owe you, huh?"

It snorted in agreement. The middle arms wrapped around him tighter, holding him up off the ground body as it started up the hill again. Its gait wasn't as graceful this time though, now that it had to rely on its front arms and legs for sole stability.

Despite the shifting ache in his shoulder, Wade found more interest at the dragons underbelly scales. They were far softer than the outer scales and, given that he was so close, incredibly warm. If he put his ear close enough, he could almost hear the booming beat of a heart, like a roll of thunder in its chest.

It was no wonder dragons fought so feverishly to protect their underbellies. It was so soft Wade was sure he could cause some serious damage with his swords. And, oddly enough, the dragon smelled like lavender. Huh, who knew?

He strained his neck to see the dragon's face, "Hey, Ms. Dragon," he paused, "Wait...are you a Ms?" Wade squirmed to look between its legs. The dragon immediately hissed at him, one of its claws digging into his sides, and he yelped, unable to get away from the pinch.

"Okay, okay." he conceded, "You're shy. Geez. I'm sorry." The claw withdrew and Wade rubbed it sourly. "Okay, Dragon, look I appreciate all the help, I really do, but I can take it from here. Just let me down and I can go on my merry way."

The dragon's progress didn't stop.

"You can let me go now."

But it was back to ignoring him. Wade tried to appease its nature a little more, before giving up and falling back its grip. When they made it back up to the clearing, the dragon lumbered through the grass and promptly, without reason, dropped Wade in the stream. He jerked up as the water rolled over his wound, making it sting, and his senses went on overdrive from the onslaught of cold.

"What the hell?" Wade cursed, voice shrill and high as he clumsily got to his feet, tottering out of the stream. "Okay, maybe you were mad about the Mr or Ms thing, but you didn't need to pull a trick like that!" The dragon turned its long neck at him, and with its nose, pushed him back to the water. Wade stumbled but managed to stay clear of the frigid mountain stream.

"Hey, hey," he pushed the nose away. "I don't need to bathe! Go away!" The dragon snapped at his pushing hand and with more strength, forced him into the water. When Wade tried to get out again, it stopped his attempt. Finally, after several failed tries, he threw up his hands. "Fine, whatever! You win!" He plopped back down in the water and held his bleeding arm, glaring spitefully at the dragon. The dragon glared back with equal irritation, but set its attention to the stream banks and began pulling up rocks.

It plopped them in the steam, on either side of Wade. When there were few rocks to use, it shot him a warning look, and lumbered around the clearing for more, returning only to plop them in the water, until a wall of rocks appeared on either side of him.

It's building a dam, he realized.

Once satisfied with its hasty work, the dragon bent down to the water held in around Wade, and breathed on it. A rumble reverberated through its chest and long vines of steam curled from its mouth. It breathed over the water near Wade, warming the lazy current. Wade's body tingled from the sudden temperature change, but it was welcome to the cold chill that clung to his limbs. The dragon stopped to inhale, then breathed on the water again. And repeated.

When Wade didn't do whatever it intended, it lifted its head and snarled.

His face pinched back into a scowl and he crossed his arms defensively, "What? I don't speak dragon."

The dragon's head tilted to the side, as if the thought just occurred to it, before breathing deeply and nudging at Wade's bleeding shoulder with its nose, then back at the water. It looked at him expectantly.

Wade glanced at his wound, then back at the colding water.

"Ohhh." It clicked. "You want me to wash my shoulder."

The dragon jerked its head, a simple nod, and went back to warming the water. This time, Wade carefully took off his shirt (blood stained and gross) and left it folded on the bank. Kneeling in the water, he cupped it into his uninjured hand.

"You know," he said, gently scrubbing around the wound, which was basically already healed. "This water is hardly sanitary." The dragon lifted its head to glare at him, lashing its tail out so it whacked him in the head. "What? I'm just saying it's probably really gross. I mean, who knows what kind of things are in here. You could've pissed in it for all I know."

With a heated huff, the dragon jerked its head up and sourly turned away, leaving Wade to the rapidly cooling water. It stomped back in the grass, right into the place it had slept and plopped down, it's back to Wade.

Wade stepped out of the water, wet trousers fusing to his skin that sending cold chills up his arms. His shoulder was good as new, but the warm water had definitely helped relax the muscles. He put his shirt back on with moderately jerky movement and walked to the dragon. He circled its massive body with an impressed nod. It was a long dragon, not big or stocky like Steve's, but more lithe and serpentine in its arched neck and curved tail. Its limbs were long and agile too, all 6 of them, but beneath the scales, Wade could still see powerful muscles coiled.

The dragon's base color was a bright carmine red that darkened to blue toward the underbelly scales. Dark blue, almost black, rings of color grew up along the tail, stopping halfway up. Similar dark markings danced along the curves and ridges of its muscled back and continued to grow slightly up the base of its wings before fading. The wings themselves were long, probably able to hide its entire body if it tried, and connected from the shoulders to its hind legs. The bony fingers of the wings grew long, while the leathery skin between them was folded loosely against its body. The wings were a bright red too, that darkened and faded into blue. Wade's eyes climbed the ridges of the slim spikes up its neck, where two frills lay folded back against the side of its head. When he got close enough, he noticed a dark circlet of colored scales arching just above its eyes, before the dragon spotted him and bitterly turned away.

"Aw, come on, don't tell me I hurt your feelings," Wade said, trying to meet its eyes. The dragon refused and swung its tail, knocking Wade's legs out from under him. He hissed when his shoulder hit the ground, but blinked in surprise when it was instantly leaning over him, sniffing frantically over his hurt shoulder.

Wade chuckled, "Awwww, you do care."

The dragon paused, then its eyes hardened again and it resumed its cold demeanor.

Wade sat up, grinning at its stubbornly raised head. "Did I upset you?"

It turned its head again as if to further imply that it wasn't going to acknowledge him. Wade rose to his feet and tried to face it again. And again, the dragon refused to look at him. Finally, Wade sighed in elongation and sat directly in front of it. The dragon sniffed disdainfully but, if its pride was anything to go by, it wasn't going to lay its head down.

Wade dropped his own head in his hands and waited. "Okay," he said after a long stretch of silence. "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. You really are a great dragon, and I thank you for taking care of me."

The dragon blew out a hot breath and glanced at him through the corner of its eyes. For a minute it remained like that before all the hot air blew out. The dragon peered down at him if to just verify that he was sincere. And Wade was. Sure he could be a bit… much, but the dragon really had helped him, a lot actually, and he could be courteous when he wanted to be. Besides, he was trained under the honorable codes of knighthood. Sure he hadn't known that the code extended to dragons, but it is what it is.

Seemingly satisfied, the dragon relaxed and let its head drop. It curled up on the ground, sniffing at Wade with a curt nod.

Wade grinned cheekily. "See, I'm not so bad."

It snorted in obvious disagreement, but Wade noticed that its toothy smile was back.

"You know," he continued unceremoniously, picking up a small twig nearby to dig trenches in the dirt. "You remind me of a friend of mine. Her name is Blind Al. She's old and sassy, but she's got a lot of spunk. You're pretty sassy too, you know. I'm not sure if that kind of things comes with age though. How old are you?" Wade smirked. "I mean, you don't look a day over...63? 89?"

The dragon snorted, though not in an offended way. If Wade didn't know any better, he'd say it was almost amused. So, he kept talking. An amused dragon was better than an irritated one.

"Yeah, but Blind Al is probably off eating grass somewhere. I bet she doesn't even realize I'm gone. Not that I care. Sometimes I think she has a faulty memory too. She's so old, I wouldn't be surprised if she was the one to birth all the palfrey's in the stable - oh, uh, she's a horse by the way. Not human. That'd be...that'd be weird. Anyway, me and her have this weird relationship. I give her oats if she kicks Francis - don't worry, Francis deserves it anyway. Believe me, if anyone deserves to be fried and eaten by a dragon, it is him. You know, in case if ever get the taste for douchebags. Anyway..." He went on like that, talking about anything that crossed his mind. He told the dragon all about their journey to Batl'Ar, the hammocks they slept on while in the ship, about Ajax and his soft-headed goons. He even discussed the dragon itself, going as far as coming up with a name for it. "You look a lot like a spider - hey, hear me out. I mean, with all your long legs and the way you walk, you do look like a spider. All creepy crawly and gross. Come on, admit it. You're a little Spidey, aren'tcha? ...Know what, I'm sick of thinking of you as 'the dragon'. So, hello Spidey, I'm Wade- ow! Hey, no tail hitting. I thought we were over that."

He went on talking so much, it was well up to noon before he realized how late it was getting. He paused when the call of nature found him, and he stumbled off into the trees to answer that call. As he came back later, retying the leather band keeping his pants up, the clearing was empty.

"Uh...Spidey?" He peered through the trees. "Spidey? Are you there?" He didn't get a snort nor grunt of acknowledgment. Spidey was gone.

Wade's shoulders slumped, disappointed. But of course, it had to leave. It probably had important, dragonly matters to attend to. He squinted up at the sky. Besides, he had wasted precious hours of the morning talking to Spidey, and the sun had climbed a considerable distance since then. There was no doubt the expedition party had started for the Dragon Grounds.

"And your shit luck strikes again," Wade sighed. "Of course it did." He tried peering over the line of trees to make out the cliffs in the distance. Maybe he could follow their tracks back to the settlement. Wade was hardly any good at keeping an eye out for dragon nests though, and he didn't quite fancy the idea of becoming a meal.

He stopped in the middle of the clearing, where the grass was still crushed from the heavyweight of the dragon. "How am I supposed to get back?" he snapped aloud. Wade was fairly sure he could find his way back when he got to the trail from the party, but there were still miles of forest between him and the cliffs. Forests that he had never been in and hadn't a clue of which way to go without getting lost.

But he couldn't stay here either. Spidey was nice enough, but that was a bit of rare luck on his part. If it had been any other aggressive dragon, Wade would already be coming out the bad end of a dragon's behind. He couldn't stay here, he was bound to attract the attention of a predator willing to eat him.

"Come on, Wilson, you fucker," Wade grumbled, stomping toward the clearing edge. "You've gotten through worst situations before." Maybe if he went straight toward the cliffs and climbed a few trees on the way, he could stick to a straight line to where he fell. Of course, he couldn't tell exactly where he had fallen, but there was still a chance he could pick up the horse tracks on any part of the cliffs.

With his plan in mind, Wade took his first step out of the clearing when a crack got his attention. Behind him, Spidey was walking back into the clearing, something fleshy hanging from its jaws. Wade found his body stopping as something akin to joy filled his chest. Spidey hadn't left him after all!

Spidey stopped to look around the clearing before its eyes settled on Wade. It growled, not unkindly, and dropped its kill on the dirt, looking back at him expectantly. Wade turned to the thick forestry ahead of him. Well, the party couldn't have made it to the Dragon Grounds yet, so why rush? He spun on his heels and walked back.

Spidey smiled proudly at the wild beast it had gotten, the skin still steaming from where it had scorched it. Wade sat cross-legged in front of the meat, taking out one of his concealed knives to peel away the flaking black skin. He glanced up at Spidey's inquisitive eyes, "I'm not much a skin kind of person," was his excuse as he cut a piece of meat out. But before he ate it, he paused. "Uh… I can eat this, right? Like, you're not going to get mad and eat me?"

Wade could've sworn Spidey rolled its eyes. But it pushed the meat slightly toward Wade as an answer, and with a grin, Wade stuffed his cut slice into his mouth. Could still use some of Master Banner's herb seasonings, but it was still good. Spidey waited patiently for Wade to finish eating, and when he had his fill, it gulped up the remains, licking its lips with a hum. Wade found himself observing it again.

Spidey wasn't black-scaled, or stocky with muscle, or even really big - in fact, it was a pretty small dragon considering how big they could get. But it wasn't bad either. Spidey was charming in its own sassy, temperamental sort of way, and a hell of a lot nicer than Mrs. Angryscales back on the cliffs. All in all, it wasn't a bad dragon. But, Wade still needed to go.

He got to his feet, drawing the spidery-dragon's attention.

"Well," Wade said, rubbing his hands on his pants. "I - uh, better get going. My expedition party will probably made it to the Dragon Grounds soon, so I've uh, got to go." Guilt washed up in Wade's stomach when Spidey's eyes dropped in disappointment. "But hey," he added quickly, "thanks for the dinner. Both of them. And for, you knowing, helping me get better. Don't know why you did, but thanks. If you ever need anything, just fly on over to the Stark Kingdom and I'll buy you a boar or something." The silence stretched between them. Wade swung his arms awkwardly, and clasped them over his stomach, rolling on the balls of his feet. "So...yeah, I should get going."

Spidey snorted a small chuckle but got to its feet too. Wade had to crane his neck a little to see its face, and when he did, it hummed at him softly. He smiled, and for the first time, they willingly locked eyes. Spidey's eyes were reptilian and an intense shade blue, dark around the edges that lightened toward the center. Only, rather than anger or blood-lust, its eyes were bright and full of humor, and Wade had a distinct feeling this dragon was something really special. Spidey stared back at him, Wade wondered what it was seeing.

Suddenly, like a crack of lightning, the air between them snapped. Wade's feet rooted to the ground, every part of him freezing as something stirred in his chest. Unaccounted energy that bubbled and pushed to the surface of his soul, lashing out and hooking its claws deep into his heart and ribs and head, stretching outward. It was an ethereal sensation, and for just a moment, Wade was looking down at himself, gaze hooked into the friendly browns of his own eyes. Despite the fear and bewilderment he felt inside, his face was lax and calm, strong-looking but full of mischief and adventure. It took a second before Wade realized he wasn't just staring at himself, but he was staring at himself through the eyes of the dragon - through Spidey's eyes. And through the writhing strands of energy latching them, Wade could sense the same realization from Spidey too.

He could feel the dragons own energy pulsing to the powerful beat of its heart. Wade felt both of their pulled energy collide, and erupt into dozens of serpentine strands. Strands intermingled and wove together, tightening and binding, and bonding. It wove so deep, he could feel it in the far reaches of his soul. He could feel its power riding under his skin. He could even feel it tingle on his tongue. The energy snapped into place, like a piece clicking into its rightful spot, sending another tingle of energy that rattled Wade's bones. As soon as it snapped, Wade blinked and found himself back in his own body.

He gasped, teetering back, hand slapping against his chest to grasp for the bond he could still feel hooked inside him. His hands came up empty and he was left clutching the bare material of his shirt. Wide-eyed and breathing heavy, he looked back up at Spidey who was looking just as stunned as he felt.

"What..." Wade started, unable to bring his thoughts into motion, but it was enough to snap the dragon from its daze.

Spidey looked at him and stumbled back, shrinking away from Wade as if he were a threat. The grace of its limbs was lost as it tripped and fell several times in its haste to put a distance between them.

Even with their growing distance, one look into Spidey's eyes and Wade knew it wasn't enough. Panicked, the dragon took a running start across the clearing, bent its powerful legs, and shot up in the sky. It flapped its wings with the desperation of a hunted creature, and with several beats, it had fled over the tops of the trees. Wade was left alone in the clearing, staring at the spot in the sky where the dragon had been moments before.



Chapter Text


Given that he was abandoned in a clearing, in the middle of a jungle that he didn't know, with nothing but a petty knife and a single shoe, Wade could credit himself that he hadn't completely lost it yet.

Sure, the sting of rejection hurt - it was a feeling he's familiarized himself with many times now - but at least he wasn't going into a blind rage this time. Honestly, he didn't think he could even if he wanted to, not with the sheer weight of his thoughts pressing down on his mind.

It took him a while before he could stop staring at the flattened spot in the grass, and when he did, he paced the perimeter of the lonely clearing, running a hand over his bald head, while scrunching his other fist in an attempt not to punch the nearest tree. Which didn't work, because he did punch a tree, and it hurt like hell.

Still pacing, he flexed his bloodied knuckles as the bones mended. His fingers twitched and tightened with a yearning sense to hold something thick, solid, and made of fine steel. Not to so much as kill something, though that would probably relieve some of his pent up stress, but just for the simple pretense of holding something in his hand. Something heavy that could ground his mind to his body so it didn't fly into the sun and melt in a blubbering mess.

"Okay, okay," he muttered and pulled to a halt, arms akimbo and eyes on the ground. "Okay Wilson, you fall from the sky, get kidnapped by a dragon, eat with the dragon, talk with the with the dragon?" He rattled his head, "No, no, no - this can'" This wasn't supposed to happen. Captain Rogers said that dragons could only bond if they WANTED to, and all the dragons that agreed to bond would be at the Dragon Grounds, and ONLY at the Dragon Grounds.

Sure, the story of the Captain and Bucky's unexpected bond was legendary, but it was an extremely rare tale. A bond that wasn't initiated by either of them was unnatural...unless Spidey meant to bond.

Wade's shoulders slumped. That was unlikely. Spidey looked just as surprised as he did, and the dragon definitely didn't act like the ephemeral, soul-switching mumbo-jumbo was intentional. In fact, the fucking dragon fucking flew away! That didn't happen when a dragon bonded...did it?

Maybe it was some ritual Master Banner forgot to mention. Maybe it was an initiation joke at his expense. "Ah-ha got ya! Of course, I was going to come back for you. Come on, we're bonded now," and yet, Spidey had yet to appear.

"This is a really bad joke," Wade muttered sourly, picking up his pace again. What the hell kind of bond was that anyway? Was it supposed to feel like that? The piercing hook in his chest had faded since Spidey left, but when Wade concentrated, he could still sense it purged deep into his body. If he REALLY concentrated, he could sense the flow of two energies riding alongside each other, twisting and weaving and pulsing in a heartbeat rhythm.

But he didn't try to focus on that. Just thinking about the fresh bond broke the dam holding up the thoughts and emotions he was trying to keep pent in. Even the slightest stick out of place brought him close to a flood.

This couldn't be natural. A bond that felt so surreal, so ingrained, so...right. Wade's pacing halted and his hand reached up as if to graze the energy. It was if there was a whole other part to him that he was just finding out. Like waking up one day and realizing he had two hearts instead of one. A missing chunk had been put back without him ever realizing it was gone. It was...a nice feeling if he were being honest. There was something comforting about it.

"But the dragon fucking flew away!" he roared, shouting at the sky. "I mean, it's not like we were both freaked out or anything."

Seething and flushed, Wade stomped through the grass again. He paced an angry circle into the grass before his heated thoughts finally got to him, and he stopped by the stream, bending over to wash his face with its cool waters. Instead of regaining his composure though, he stared down at the ghastly human reflection mirroring him with a gritting glower. Gnarled scars disfigured his face, he had no hair, sunken eye sockets, and red irritated eyes. It was no wonder the dragon flew away. Of course, it did. What creature in its right mind would want to be bond with the likes of him anyway?

His fists clenched again, trembling against the dirt, as the horrid reflection glared at him. With a roar, he lunged forward to strangle the neck of the monstrosity bobbing at the water's surface. He didn't get a neck, but it was no less satisfying when the water was disrupted and the monster was lost in a cascade of ripples. But his petty satisfaction went ashen and bitter when the image resettled. Wade turned to the side, unable to stare at himself anymore, when he noticed something hiding in the grass.

Eyes narrowing, he peered closer to a rock near the bank.

"What the hell?" he pulled out the worn leather-bound pages of a book. Wade brought it his face, twisting it from side to side, and read the title "Alchemy Volume 5." The font was written in the same curvy script that Banner had in his books. The slender words were thin and hard to read as if a flower had written them. "What is this doing all the way out here?"

He thoughts slipped back to Spidey's intelligent eyes. "There's no way it could be...or could it?" Wade stood up, turning the book over in his hand. There wasn't a chance that Spidey was reading this, right?

Logically, there was no other real explanation that would clarify why a book would be this far out in the middle of nowhere. 'Maybe a traveler dropped it while fleeing a dragon...' he wondered. But that didn't make any sense. Batl'Ar didn't get travelers, especially this far up in the mountains. And not to be rude, but the locals here didn't look like the reading type.

But was it actually possible that Spidey had been reading an Alchemy book? Volume 5, no less. He opened it to the first page, where scribed on the inside cover were the words: Property of P. Parker,s written in several languages. Kind of overkill, but that was smart people for you. Always so paranoid.

"Well, Parker," Wade drawled, snapping the book shut. "Looks like someone got the rotten end of a dragon's attitude," the guy was probably off dying in a ditch somewhere. That, or he was severely confused about where Volume 5 of his book collection had gone. "So, Spidey doesn't just take people, he takes books too." he mused, nodding slowly. "Good to know. See, I'm learning about my dragon already."

Spidey can't be your dragon if he's not here, his thoughts reminded him and his mood instantly turned waspish. Wade lurched to his feet and was back to pacing, alternating his attention between the book and sky, waiting for Spidey to come back so he could at least offer it as some sort of peace-treaty between them.

IF Spidey accepted the book at all. Something told Wade that it would. The bond, maybe?

But no dragon came to Wade's rescue this time. By the time the sun was passing noon, Wade had given up.

"Know what? Fine!" he stormed to the edge of the clearing, "I don't need a stupid dragon anyway! I can be on the guard with or without one." It's not like people always got a dragon. Quite a few went home without one actually. Yeah, it was disappointing and confidence crushing and completely unfair that the dragon fucking flew away without him, but who cares? Wade didn't care. He didn't care in the slightest.

And because he didn't care, he was keeping the book. No shitty dragon deserved volume 5! If it wanted it back so much, I'd have to find him. Clutching his new prize, Wade carefully made his way down the steep hillside, still grumbling bitterly as he went. He made it to the bottom and headed in the direction that he hoped were the cliffs. If not, well, it's not like he'd be welcomed back into the expedition party with open arms.

He made his way along the jungle floor, stomping past brush and plants without the discretion of being spotted by a feral dragon. If it wanted to eat him, then fine, Wade was itching to fight something, with or without his weapons. If it ended with him fatally injured and unconscious for hours on end, then who was he to stop it?

He figured, with a bit of luck and time, he could find a way out of the jungles. He's been in worse situations before, he could handle this.

But as he walked, his thoughts ran back to the hillside clearing. Was it possible Spidey wanted to bond with him...unintentionally? Wade was told he could be charming, but that was one time, and it was from a blind girl in a brothel house who hadn't even touched him yet. So, maybe it was possible. The only problem he had with that was if the dragon had wanted to bond, why did it fly away? It just left him there! If that didn't scream rejection, then Wade was as blind as Blind Al.

Of course, his dragon would reject him, because even dragons had standards.

But that didn't mean it didn't hurt.

The bond flared, spreading an ache in his chest that mingled nicely with his pained thoughts, as if straining under his negativity. For a moment, Wade thought he felt a tug from his chest, right before turning a bend, and the feeling vanished. Perhaps, in time, the bond would fade too. If the bond wasn't mutually consented by both participants, then it couldn't be fully forged.

Great, now he was quoting Master Banner. Wade needed to get out of his own head before he obtained a sudden interest in what type of soil would be best for a corn plant. So, he abandoned his thoughts to a locked chest at the bottom of his churning head and let his legs carry him in any direction. If he wasn't feeling like a useless pile of muck, he might've had the integrity to find out where he was even headed.

When, to his utter surprise, he realized didn't need to. By the time the sun was sinking below the tree's, the cliffside was rising through the thick canopy of trees. Huh, it was amazing how time flew when it was spent simmering in anger.

"Phew," he wiped his forehead, "Thought for sure I was going the wrong way," he swept aside a long hanging branch and morphed his walk into a sprint. By the time he made it to the base of the cliffs, the sun had nearly vanished behind the trees. There wasn't going to be enough moonlight to sustain a climb of that height. He was going to have to wait for morning...again.

Wade slowed to scout a place of shelter for the night. After several, several minutes of fruitless searching, he spotted gold. A gaping cave appeared at the base of the cliff, partially hidden at an angle, with a wide, yawning entrance. A giant boulder, roughly the same size as the mouth of the cave, was propped nearby. Wade's grin fell as he got closer, excitement making way for suspicion.

Hesitantly, he stopped by the front of it. The entrance was black and cold looking, but with the bit of light he had left, he could tell it turned a bend a bit ways down. Humming, thoughtfully, he squat, running his fingers over the grooves by the cave mouth. He followed them over to the boulder, where it rested. Something had moved it - something strong - and definitely more than once. Again, Wade's fingers itched for the weight of his swords. Instead, he strained his ears to pick up any noise, but there was none. In fact, it was ominously quiet.

"Nope, I may be idle-brained, but I'm not that idle-brained," he turned on his heel and walked away. He'd just find a new place, one that didn't reek with darkness and imminent-death.

But as soon as his back was turned, the bond stretched, digging deeper inside him, and pulled him roughly back toward the cave. Wade gasped and stumbled, clutching the spot in his chest where it resided. When he didn't move, it pulled harder, as it determined to walk him to his death. "Dammit," Wade cursed, rubbing the spot. "Okay, okay, I get it, but damn," wincing he took an obedient step toward the cave, which instantly palliated its urgings.

Wade stopped. Were bonds supposed to do this too? Where was it taking him? What could possibly...

He halted, realizing quite suddenly that the cave mouth would be able to fit the girth of a good-sized dragon. Almost timidly, a small thought crept to the edges of his mind. Cautiously, he walked back to the cave opening, this time searching for specific flaws in the dirt. And there they were. Now that he was looking, he could see the small, claw-like trenches in the soil. He looked at the boulder. A dragon could probably move that.

His heart stopped and the bond seemed to tingle pleasantly as realization began to dawn.

"Spidey?" it was barely above a whisper, but it felt loud in his ears.

Wade wanted to blame his desire to go in the cave on the bond, but it seemed to have sated its aggression. Which scared him, because that meant it was his own actions that had him taking a step inside. He paused for half a second, glared spitefully into the darkness, and purged inside without so much of a glance to the fading sun. There were more trenches in the dirt, and Wade felt his throat tighten in anger. So this was where the little weasel was hiding! It had left him alone in a dirty clearing to pout in its own personal cave? What the fuck.

The farther in he journeyed, the brighter it got. Wade turned the bend, words already building in his throat, only to freeze. The cave opened out into a wide cavern. Inside, rather than the mangled pile of bones and corpses he would expect in any decent dragon cave, bookcases lined the walls, and long tables stretched through the room - each one brimming with books, papers, quills, and inkwells. The hard rock floor was softened with animal skinned rugs that Wade's could've found in marketplaces. Another table was pushed farther in the corner than the rest and had a few clay bowls and a pitcher abandoned on top, where nearby, an underground stream trickled into an open basin. In the middle of the room, a sturdy brazier was built, with a gentle warming fire already dancing in the hearth. It was warm enough to drive the small, night-time tingles from Wade's toes.

Gaping, he stepped closer. Within the clutter of books, tables, and fire, there was not a blue and red scaled dragon to be seen. He paused his gaping to look left and right, peering into the shadowy corners of the room, but there was nothing. In another corner, he spotted a comfy looking bed of animal skin blankets.

So, apparently, Wade's bond was off the fritz and had led him to a hunting caveman's' home. On Batl'Ar, of all places. The locals were supposed to be the only ones living on the island.

It didn't look like anyone was actually home though. Wade tip-toed farther in the room, peering curiously at the trinkets around him. It was what he imagined Master Banner's room would look like, full to the brim with contents of knowledge and discovery. He picked up a small vial with crushed plants inside. On the other table, lavender flowers were drying in a tied bundle.

Wade glanced over the scattered papers, which were scribed with observations and formulas. The writing was flowery and thin, graceful even. The writing of someone well educated, so at least it wasn't a dim-witted hunting caveman.

He picked up one paper to squint closer to the lithe writing, accidentally brushing several others off as he did. Cursing, Wade hurried to pick them all back up, chasing their floating forms across the floor, when he noticed another tunnel off to the side.

"Huh," he picked up the last paper and slapped it down on the table, peering into the new tunnel with interest. Hesitantly, he glanced toward the exit of the cave. Really, he should leave. It was impolite to sneak into another person's...cave-house? Especially while they weren't home.

But, then again, Wade was hardly ever a polite person. Besides, he'd always been a curious creature at heart. Shooting the exit a crooked grin, he strode toward the new tunnel. The farther he got, the louder the sound of the trickling of water became. Wade followed it through the darkness until the tunnel widened into another room. This one was smaller than the last and brightened with several lit candles placed abundantly around the chamber. It was steamy in there, like someone had been boiling water, and he was taunted with the fleeting image of an old crone cackling over a burning cauldron.

But beneath the hinted warmth of the candles and steam, Wade could also feel the vaporious chill of mountain water. Protruding from the wall, a wide, circular tub-like structure had been carved from the rock, nearly full of water that rippled under the small stream rushing from an opening in the wall. A lazy splash came from within, and that's when Wade noticed the person lounging inside. Through the flickering candles he spotted a sodden patch of brown hair, a slender neck, and the upper body muscles of, what appeared to be, a man.

Wade's heart sputtered to a stop. Okay, definitely not the fucker he was looking for. His bitter anger and curiosity fizzled out and, wide-eyed, he mutely tip-toed backward toward the tunnel. They would never know he was there. But, as he slowly turned, his elbow bumped a candle and it flickered, sending dancing shadows across the room that made him wince. The man in the tub straightened, sitting up in the tub, and Wade caught a red glint on his shoulder.

He paused and slowly turned back toward the man. Squinting, he leaned forward, trying to decipher what he was seeing. If he didn't know any better, and every inch of his skin was telling him he did, he would almost say that those kinda looked a teensy bit like scales. Red scales, to be precise.

The bond tingled in agreement.

Finding no threats, the man leaned back against the tub, tipping his head back with a sigh, not enough to see Wade, but enough to reveal his neck. Wade spotted twinkling blue scales peppering his jaw.

Red and blue scales.

It was impossible. There was no way that could be...

The man sat up with another, longer, sigh, this one more troubled, and to Wade's horror, started rising from the tub. He stumbled back, desperate to hold onto his clunky steps as he tottered away. But it was too late. The man turned, rising fully out of the water, and looked up, meeting Wade's eyes.

That was when Wade noticed that the man was naked. Really naked.

A beat passed.

"WHAT THE FUCK?" the man shouted and he slipped, falling back into the water with a resounding wave that splashed over the sides. Wade rushed forward to help, before backing off just as quickly. He was not going to help the man whose home he had trespassed on. He was going to leave. And judging by the loud string of gurgled obscenities from the tub, Wade guessed he'd better leave quickly.

Instead, he froze, caught between wanting to stay and wanting to run for his life. The bond was tingling more now, as if pleased, and Wade refrained from glaring at his chest for getting him into this mess in the first place.

The man shot up, far enough in the tub that the water came up to his thighs. He glared at Wade, mouth opening to likely yell at him. But once their gazes met for the second time, his eyes softened, struck with their own dawning comprehension.

He gasped and took a step back, as if struck, "You?"

Wade wanted to say something a bit more explanatory than that, like, 'Yeah, it's me," or 'Hey, how's it going,' but all that came out of his mouth was a very blunt, "You're naked..."

And, as if just realizing it himself, the man glanced down, eyes wide, as a scorching blush traveled down his neck. He cupped his groin with speed unknown to man and angled his body into the water, blabbering ferocious comments that made little sense but Wade knew enough of the tone to know that they were blathering remarks and curses. But he ignored those, trying to meet his blue eyes again if just to verify his hunch.

His gaze landed on the red and blue scales that peppered the man's skin, winking in the faint candlelight. The name whispered past his lips before he could check himself, "Spidey?"

The man paused his embarrassed cursing with a tense. Then he sagged. He turned his shoulders, meeting Wade's eyes, and held his head up with as much pride a naked man could have after being caught bathing. Through the wet strands of his hair, two tiny horns were peeping through.

"Peter Parker, actually." he said, "Now please turn around, Wade, I'd rather not," he gestured vaguely to his naked flesh, "expose myself again."


Chapter Text

Wade and Peter stared at each other over the table. Two cups of cold milk sat between them, both of which were quickly spoiling in the open air, completely untouched.

Peter wasn't naked anymore. After the whole Spidey-is-actually-Peter thing in the bathing room, Peter made Wade turn around so he could jump out of the water and had quickly disappeared back into the main cavern. After several minutes of staring at the rippling water, and blowing out a few candles- cause why the hell not, wax was getting everywhere anyway - Peter came back to fetch him after having changed into a pair of trousers and a long shirt that practically devoured him. The fabric was identical to the material the Natives donned, only a whole lot cleaner. He beckoned Wade wordlessly down the hall and sat him down at the table with the water pitcher, which he relocated to a carved out shelf.

Wade watched wordlessly as Peter disappeared down another small tunnel, hidden at an angle that made it look as though he merged with the wall, and come back with a container of milk that he poured into a small, circular pan over the brazier. The silence was thick. Peter kept his back to Wade until the milk was warm before pouring it into two cups.

It'd been a while since he set one of them in front of Wade, keeping the other for himself, but neither of them touched the drink since Peter pulled up a chair and joined him at the table. Wade could hardly be bothered with milk when he was in the deep process of figuring out this new entity.

Within Peter's drying hair, he could still pinpoint two horns peeking through the brown sodden strands. Red scales glittered on Peter's right cheek, catching the light of the fire, and when Wade's eyes moved down Peter's throat, he followed the blue scales over his jugular, down his Adam's-apple where they disappeared beneath the shirt's collar. If Wade wasn't going any crazier, he would've thought that some scales had disappeared in the time-frame Peter sat down.

But as he dwelled in observation, Peter, meanwhile, did the exact opposite, by holding his cup in both hands and stared solemnly into the milk. Wade wanted him to look up so they could make eye contact. Eye-contact always meant instant question - it was common awkward-acquaintance courtesy. But Peter's eyes remained fixated in the filming milk, so intensely that Wade was tempted to peer inside to see if there was a crystal ball hiding at the bottom.

Instead, he crossed his arms and tipped back in his chair, searching for any more dragon-like characteristics hiding in Peter's skin. The sleeves of his shirt were drowning his hands, but Wade spotted a claw peaking outside the hem. His ear was a little weird too, one was normal, but the other was oddly shaped - as if someone had taken a knife to it. Only, it looked less mangled than it did 5 minutes ago, and Wade couldn't figure out if his brain was pulling tricks on him again, or if Peter was the one pulling his leg.

But other than that, there was little he could uncover with Peter now clothed. But that did little to deter Wade's curiosity. He switched to seeking out hidden remnants of Spidey personality-wise, but the guy was huddled so far in his chair it was hard to compare him to the taller, confident dragon he'd met back in the clearing.

Wade leaned background on his stool and let himself fall again, slightly knocking the table. Peter's fingers tightened around the cup, and this time Wade knew he was deliberately trying not to make eye contact.

Well, fuck that shit. He leaned back again, and fell, hitting the table harder this time. Peter's hands jolted from the impact and milk splashed up onto those monstrous sleeves. He hissed – honest to the Saints hissed - and glared at Wade, lifting his milk-soaked arms off the table as if to show Wade the horrid consequences of his actions. But they dropped with a wet plop as Peter glowered, realizing he'd lost their battle of wills.

Eye contact. It was time for those questions.

Wade leaned forward, bracketing himself on the table innocently with folded arms. "So," he said, easy and care-free, as he flicked off a wooden-chip in the table, "Spidey, Peter, whoever the frickitty-frack you really are..."

Peter picked his over-turned cup off the ground and set it gently back on the table, slow and easy as if to buy himself some time. He pulled the sleeves of his shirt up and over his hands so the wet spots were clenched inside his hidden fist, and folded his arms in a similar fashion to Wade's, staring him in the eye. "My name is Peter, not Spidey. What do you want, Wade?"

It took all of Wade's self-control not to flip his shit right there. "What do I want?" he demanded, taking a deep, careful breathe. "Oh, I don't know, maybe I want to know what the fuck is going on! What the hell kind of person can turn into a dragon? That's not a natural thing! I've gone to every. Single. Lecture about dragons, and not ONCE did any of them mention people who can turn INTO one."

"Of course they didn't," Peter snapped back, and - oh, maybe there was a little bit of fire in this twiggy man - pun intended. "Because no one believes they exist, anymore. Which I'd like to keep that way, so if you don't mind quieting the hell down."

"Oh-oh," Wade jabbed a finger at him. "I do mind. I do fucking mind. And, no, I won't shut up, who the hell is going to hear us in here anyway? The rock termites? Your fancy-ass books? Which, let's talk about that for a second. This," Wade gestured erratically at the room. "What is this?"

"My home," Peter deadpanned.

"Don't you give me that sarcastic shit," Wade threatened, "Why did we just spend that last two days in the woods when we could've been in here? Have you seen the bug bites I got? They're everywhere because a bunch of bugs had a fucking festival on my skin. Which, let me tell you, isn't exactly a merry experience."

Peter's nose scrunched as if he was smelling something rotten. "I wasn't just going to take you back to my house, Wade. I don't even know you."

"Oh, but you'll sit and take care of me for two days?" Wade refuted hotly.

At that, Peter clamped his mouth shut and stared rigorous holes into the wood. "Technically, it was only a day and a half," he muttered through the corner of his lips.

Wade waved wildly at him to stop. "Hey, I'm too busy feeling upset to take your attitude. Which, is a big thing for me, because usually get to have the attitude. In fact, I think I'm entitled to have one right now." Peter's arms tightened across his chest, but he forced his head to tilt up, meeting Wade's gaze again.

"Fine," he said with a clenched jaw, "You have 5 questions. What do you want to know?"

"Five questions?" Wade burst, barely able to keep himself planted in his seat. "You kidnap me and turn into a dragon, and all get is five measly questions?"

"Five. Questions."

Wade was all but ready to argue the unfairness of only 5, but the look in Peter's eye told him that it would only get him so far. As of now, he was an immovable stone, and Wade didn't have the time nor patience to chip away at it. He was feeling frazzled enough as it was, and it was taking every bout of the self-control lessons Sir Rogers had been teaching him not to resort to screaming like an old banshee.

"5 questions my ass, I got a fucking list," he muttered with a glare but huffed back in his seat. There were a lot more than 5 questions, so much so, that it was a chore just to rifle through them to pick the best ones. Like, where this cave came from? What were all these things? What was he doing here and not in the port-settlement? Why was he here in the first place?

But there was ONE that he was definitely hung up on.

Wade leaned forward again, arms crossed on the table in an effort to keep still. Peter looked tense and on edge. It reminded him of an agitated dog, like one move would make him either bolt or bite, maybe both, and there was no way Wade was letting that happen again.

"So, what are you exactly? And before you give me some stupid, half-cooked answer, I'm talking about the whole dragon-human shifteroo shit. Explain that to me."

Peter tugged on his sleeves, blowing out his cheeks as his eyes roamed to find an answer in the rocky ceiling. He mulled over the answer for a minute, before slowly saying, "I'm a draeconus. I am both dragon and human. I was born that way, so I've always been able to do it."

Wade waited for him to elaborate, but after several long seconds, it was obvious Peter wasn't offering anything else. "Wait, that's it? That's all I get?"

Peter shrugged unhelpfully. "There's not much more you need to know. And technically, those last two count as part of your questions, so you only have two left."

Wade jumped from the table, "Like hell I do!" and this time his cup toppled over and sent milk sprawling over the table-top, where it ran over the edge and pooled on the ground. "Shit!" he growled and spun in a jerky circle for something to clean it with.

"No, it's fine, just leave it -" Peter tried, but Wade ignored him and grabbed a dirty shirt left on the floor nearby. He muttered angrily, rapidly, as he mopped up the milk, and slapped the soaked-shirt back down on the table, right between them. He plopped back in his seat and glared.

"I have four questions left,"

Peter glared back. "Two left,"






"Fight me!"

"Oh my g-" Wade refrained from leaping over the table by pinching the bridge of his nose. Only Francis ever got him this irritated. But comparing Peter to Francis was a bit unfair. However stubborn he was, Peter didn't deserve that insult. Still, he was a giant pain in the ass 'cause all Wade wanted was answers and Peter was hell-bent on giving him the exact opposite.

Peter held his decision for a few more seconds, before his clenched fists softened and he sagged back in his chair, fiddling with the wet shirt on the table, "Fine." he conceded. "Fine! We'll compromise. You can have three left."

An argument was already growing on Wade's tongue but he bit it back. Better than two, he supposed. Just a few minutes with him, and Wade could tell Peter was as stubborn as any mule. Maybe even more so than him. Maybe. There would be time to test that later. "Okay, fine you fucker. For my third question, why didn't you just bring us back here when I was 'recovering'?"

"Well," the stubborn wall fell back a tad and Peter shuffled on his butt, suddenly awkwardly, "I wasn't completely lying before. I really don't bring people I don't know here - or, anyone be honest, I'm surprised you found it."

Wade stemmed the urge to rub his chest where the bond tingled. It was that blasted thing that all but dragged him there in the first place. He shrugged, suddenly feeling self-conscious himself. "Well, I mean - I didn't plan on coming in here. See, my chest was acting funny and the bond was, well, kinda snapping at me, and it was like, leading me and - and..." he slowly trailed off when a peculiar look grew on Peter's face. Wade fell back in his chair, wishing that he'd sink into, and, subconsciously rubbed the spot where the bond resided. "I - I mean...uh..." he coughed, and beckoned for Peter to keep talking, "continue..."

" I was saying, I don't normally bring people here. Besides, you didn't know me as, well," he gestured to his face, "Peter, so it'd be kind of weird for me to bring you into a place full of human stuff."

Well, he supposed that made sense. If Spidey brought him here to begin with, it'd be strange to see a dragon with a cave full of books, cups, and milk. There were the old tales that dragons harbored treasures, but the only treasure Spidey seemed to have was that collection of animal-skin blankets in the corner and a complete volume of Alchemy books - minus book 5 of course. Which, Wade actually still had.

"Oh, that reminds me," he withdrew the book from inside his shirt where he kept it safely tied with the cord around his waist, and held it out to Peter, "I think this belongs to you."

Peter gasped, all wide-eyed and cooky, and all but snatched the book out of his hands. quickly thumbing through it, "Please tell me you didn't lose my page," he flipped to a page stuck with a small scrap of leather and snapped it just again, holding it close to his chest with a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness." After a long second, he must've realized Wade was still there and added, almost sheepishly, "Uh...thanks…I forgot I, uh, brought it with me."

Wade shrugged, "Yeah, I figured you might like it back. I mean, whatever would you do without volume five, amirite?"

Peter chuckled, a little more to himself than Wade, "Yeah, I guess," and got up to return the book to its kin. The smile on his face was nice, and Wade decided that he liked it a lot better than arguing. Peter had a pleasant ambiance about him when Wade wasn't so irritated with his lack of crystalline answers. But, that also brought him back to their former conversation. "So, about my fourth question."

The smile on Peter's face vanished within an instant. "Oh, right. Okay." He went back to the table with his hands clasped, said, "Well, let's finish this up," and gestured for Wade to take his seat.

Wade sat down too, already wishing they could go back to the book-thing. Arguing, as good as he was at it, just didn't sound like fun right now. Bantering, now that sounded like fun, and Peter seemed like a good bantering-partner when he didn't look two-second away from shredding Wade. Which, huh, not as horrifying was a sane person would think. But that'd have to wait for later, if at all.

"Okay, my fourth question is..." he let it drag off, not to be ominous, but because he wasn't sure if he even wanted to know this last one.

After several long seconds, Peter tapped his fingers impatiently, "Well, what is it"

Wade swallowed and began playing with the wet shirt; fiddling with it, squeezing milk back onto the table and drawing meaningless designs into the wood, eyes downcast. "Why did...why did you leave me in the clearing? Back when we bonded," he sounded smaller than he intended.

It was Peter's turn to be silent. His fingers were back to playing with the hem of his sleeves, before finding a quick interest in the grooves of the table. His stool squeaked as his shifted, and he coughed several times into his fist before any words actually came out, "Well..." his voice was small and pitched, and he coughed again to get rid of it. "Well, I - uh...I guess I, it just freaked me out, I guess. I mean, I didn't expect anything like that to happen, and it was just so…sudden. Like, I knew the whole 'bonding' thing with you humans was happening, that's why I was down by the cliffs. I didn't want to get involved so I tried to stay as far away as I could, but then you just came crashing down and - and that's not even pertaining to the question anymore, is it?" Peter pulled the sleeves over his hands and up to his elbows, as if ready to dig into something dirty, before drumming his fingers on the table and pulling them back down. "Okay, I just don't know. It was instinct, I guess. I just...I just had to go. Clear my head. Get my thoughts back in order."

"Okay," Wade nodded slowly, he could understand that. It was kind of a lot to take in. "But, did it ever, I don't know, occur to you that I was just as freaked out? I didn't expect to bond with a random dragon in the forest either, ya know."

At least Peter had the decency to look guilty. "You're right," he said, looking down. "It wasn't just me. I guess it kind of...came on suddenly and I panicked." It looked like the truth, but when Peter rushed to his feet and scooped up their empty cups, deliberately avoiding eye contact, Wade had a feeling there was more to it than that.

"Okay, you have one more question," Peter said as he washed the cups in a small basin.

Wade knit his fingers together and lay his head on his hands. He pursed his lips, staring at the scales on Peter's neck. Yep, there were definitely less than before. More questions piled on his tongue, but he stubbornly swallowed them back. Peter peaked over his shoulder to quirk an eyebrow at him.


Wade hummed, tilted his head, and squinted, "Ya know what? I don't think I'm gonna use my last question yet."

Peter halted his needlessly rough scrubbing of the cups. "W-what?" he whirled around. "You can't do that."

"Of course I can," Wade retorted with a snort, "You never said I couldn't."

"That - that is - no. You have to use them all now."

Wade got up and leisurely strolled across the room, clasping his hands behind his head. "Nuh-uh," he sang, and behind him, the cups dropped in the basin and he heard the patter of feet storming up to his back.

Ooh, look, he mused, I riled the beast. But he was wholly surprised, however, when a strong hand gripped his arm and spun him around with strength he wasn't expecting. He barely had time to catch himself on the table, when Peter had grabbed a fist-full of his shirt and pulled him down to eye-level.

"Look," he growled. "I'm sorry about leaving you in that clearing. It was a shitty move. But I'm not going to have this hanging over my head. Besides, what gives you the right to just waltz right in here and demand all of this? We barely even know each other, at all, bonded or not, and I won't compile everything there is about me and just give it to you."

"Okay, one, damn you are strong. Like, what do you eat as a dragon, cause shit, I need some of that. And two," Wade grabbed Peter's wrist and twisted, relinquishing the hold on his shirt, spun Peter around and pinned him against the table. "I have a few moves myself, so don't think I won't fight back. And three, why not? At least give me a list so I can piece together something to go off of. You're leaving me in the dark here. You're hurting me Spidey...again... "

"Whoa - hey, that was not on me," Peter snapped, "You're the one who fell down the hill." He shifted his foot and rammed his heel into Wade's leg, the blow giving him enough leverage to escape Wade's hold.

"OW!" Wade clutched his - likely bruised - calve, and hopped one-legged on the ground. "What the actual fuck! Come on, we were playing you little shit!"

Peter looked only a little sorry. "Whoops," he said impassively, lifting his chin, "Guess I play a little too rough."

That earned him a chuckle. "Well, lucky for you I heal fast."

Peter nodded, this time in thought. He leaned back against the table, watching as Wade rubbed the sore muscle with a pout. "I've been meaning to ask you about that," he said. "How do you heal so fast anyway? That fall should've killed you."

"Don't act so disappointed," Wade chuckled, but before Peter could rebuke he said, "Now how is it fair that you don't have to answer questions, but I do? Sorry Spidey-Petey, but I just can't reveal stuff about myself, you know, for reasons."

"Fair enough," Peter huffed, but Wade could tell he was disappointed not to know. Which he didn't even feel sorry for. Maybe that'd teach him for being so hard to work with.

The bruising on his leg was already gone and all aches had disappeared. Wade balanced his weight on the leg, just to make sure, and when he noticed Peter watching, he spread his arms out in a grandiose sweep and exclaimed, "Tada!"

There it was, a smile. Small and hidden when Peter looked away, but it was there. Wade grinned. He liked small-talk more than the arguments, it was a lot nicer to experience, and it probably wouldn't end up with him getting kicked again. Which, damn, Petey had some strength in those limbs. He wasn't exactly twiggy, as that shirt would lead him to believe, there was definitely muscle on his frame, but not enough to slam Wade into the table like that. Where the hell did it come from? Bruce was going to be over the moon when Wade told him about this.

Which, huh, now that his mind had broached the topic, what happened with the expedition party. Did it all go according to plan? Maybe dragon/people like Peter were a new thing this year. He hoped Steve wasn't too worried. Francis was probably having the time of his life though, and would go back to the mainland telling the woeful tale of Sir Wilson the Fuckup who had plummeted to his death.

Wait...hold on a flippin-flappin second...if Wade was here...then who was taking care of Blind Al? Oh shit, if Francis got anywhere near her, he was going to get a pair of swords shoved up his ass. Nobody got to mess with Blind Al, nobody. And his swords...oh someone was going to get really fucked up if they touched his swords. Oh, someone was gonna find out how it was to die in the worst possible ways imagined, and not even Steve the Honorable could save them.

As Wade went through a mental list of killing methods, his bloody fantasy was interrupted by a disgruntled, "I'm sorry for kicking you in the leg," and every weapon and splatter of imagined blood disappeared with a loud, mental pop as Wade realized Peter was still standing in front of him.

Wade kicked his gory thoughts into a corner and smiled, "D'aww, it's okay Spidey. I forgive you...and I'll forgive you about the hill thing too."

"My name is Peter, and, no, that wasn't my fault. You were the one who wasn't watching where you were going."

"Because someone didn't tell me about it," Wade said and bopped Peter's nose, which in turn, scrunched as if Wade had just flicked him with water. A bubbly laugh floated through Wade's chest, but he held it back. Now that the real serious stuff was over, for him anyway, his instinctually goofy-nature was ready to take back the ropes. Or maybe he was just tired. It'd been a long day, emotional day.

Peter's mouth opened to argue before he must've decided better of it, and clicked it shut again. With a huff and an eye-roll, he went back to the basin and dried the cups with his shirt. Meanwhile, Wade stretched his legs and strolled among the trinkets and tinctures sprawled enthusiastically around the tables. On one table, a row of bottled herbs and liquids were organized in long, neat lines, each labeled with its designated name. Wade picked one up, rustling the brittle leaves inside, when he noticed the pair of thick glasses sitting by an opened book.

"Oh," he squealed, picking them up gently to examine them through the firelight, "Spidey are these yours?"

Peter whirled around, eyed widening horrifically when he saw what Wade was holding, and stabbed a threatening finger in his direction, "Put those down! I need those, Wade. I mean it!"

Wade ignored him and positioned the sturdy frames on his nose, peering through the frames with a look of acumen. "What? Embarrassed that the big, strong dragon has glasses," he bent down, fingers pinching the frames so they didn't slide down his face, and squinted at the labeled bottles. "Oh yes, I can feel the intellect stirring within. Hey Petey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about the soil type of mushrooms?"

Peter snatched the glasses off Wade's nose, "No," he said, bringing the glasses with him to the safety of his animal-skin bed. "I want to go to sleep. Today has been a really..." he thought for a second, "weird day, and I'm ready for it to be done."

"Weird the dragon-human says," Wade snorted, "Now that I can agree on." He yawned and stretched, pulling his arms high over his head. "Yep, I think I'm ready to be done too," How long has he been in this cave? Maybe there was enough sunlight left to find shelter. He could always just camp out under the stars, like the good ol' days, but bugs seemed to think of his skin as a nice texture to party on so that didn't sound particularly appealing.

He strode over to the exiting tunnel, in a heated mental debate on whether to climb a tree and risk spiders or stay on the ground where the night crawlers prowled, when the bond snapped at him in reproach.

"Whoa, hey!" Wade warned, looking down at its vicinity. "Stop it. Stop it. We're not doing this again,"

Footsteps behind him, "Wade, where are you going?"

Wade whirled back around, spreading his arms out in a what-does-it-look-like gesture. "Heading out for the night," he said. "We did just decide on sleep, right? I didn't make that up?"

Peter shuffled in his bare foot and scratched his neck awkwardly, or at least tried to. It must've been pretty hard with the bundle of blankets in his arms. "Well, you - you don't have to be out there..." he muttered, "I mean. There are no bugs in here, and I know you said something about bites, so..."

Wade blinked. "" The blanket hit his face.

"So, you can sleep in here," Peter said over his shoulder as he began the nonchalant work of tidying up his tables. Once again, Wade was acutely aware of his habit of avoiding eye-contact.

"It's the least I can do anyway," Peter continued, "After making you sleep outside last night."

Wade ran his hand over the soft material of the blanket. "Oh," he swallowed. "Uh…thanks Spidey -" his eyes snapped back up, brows furrowing. "Okay, hold a sec, why the hell was I -" he stopped himself. Last question, he couldn't waste it. "I woke up naked last night," he stated, bluntly, "Kind of weird..." 

Peter sputtered, nearly dropping the vials in hand, and turned a luminous shade of red. "I - I was only getting the splinters out! Excuse me for thinking about your well-being! I'll be sure to let them heal over next time!" He snatched more vials in his hand and stomped across the room.

Wade laughed, holding his palms out, "Easy, I wasn't getting mad. Just wondering. Of anything, it was kind of...sweet. Weird, really weird, but sweet. Thanks, Spidey."

"Peter," Peter sighed, but the red in his cheeks had gone down.

"Same thing."

Peter muttered something like, "No, a very big difference actually," but Wade was too busy settling on the ground to really pay attention. The fur was so soft and silky on his skin and absolutely heavenly. Most of the ground was already covered in rugs, so it was nice to know he didn't need to worry about any hard rocks or creepy bugs.

For a while, Wade watched Peter tidy up the room, trying to imagine what it would be like to see him transform into a dragon. It would be fucking awesome, he was sure, but also wondered if it hurt. Or if it tickled. Or if it was just something as normal as flexing an arm. So many questions, but only one left to ask. Oh, the cruelty.

The minutes stacked on Wade's eyelids and they began to fall. He was fast asleep before he even realized why he couldn't see Peter anymore.


Chapter Text


Peter POV

Like every morning for the past 8 years, Peter woke up in the creeping hours of dawn. The interjoining line of night and day, when nocturnal animals returned to their homes, and the sun cast its light on the high mountains. Conveniently, and much to his relief, it was also before Wade, the human splatter on his floor, woke up.

He crept through the room quietly, feeling like a thief making his escape, which was ridiculous, cause this was his home, and he was in no way, a thief. But that did little to staunch his soft tip-toeing around the tables, nor the occasional glance toward the heap-of-a-man passed out in a large pile of furs, waiting for the moment that his stifled breathing might wake his guest.

Well, if he could be called a guest. Peter hadn't exactly invited him, but didn't turn him away either, so maybe they were just acquaintances sharing a particularly perplexing conundrum.

Saints above, it's been a while since he's been in the real company of another human being. He scrambled to remember all the lessons and manners taught to him by his aunt through childhood, but doubted opening doors for company and offering to bring in firewood counted in this particular circumstance.

It was as though Wade's very presence was uprooting the systematic life Peter's growth used to. Even getting out of bed was a chore, with Wade spread out so close to his bed, a lot closer than he was when Peter went to sleep, with animal-skin blankets askew around and under him like a steel-trap that might snap on him the moment he stepped in.

Wade's chest heaved in heavy slumber, mouth parted slightly, and from the broad width of his shoulders to his immense feet poking out past the blanket, it was like watching a giant beast slumber. Peter was surprised that Wade ended up being so tall. Sometimes height was lost to him while in dragon form.

Sure, he's never been the biggest or tallest dragon in the nest, but he was still taller than people, and seeing Wade's towering height after he'd gotten used to being bigger was daunting. Even in sleep, Wade's girth was there, spread out in his limbs, torso, and legs, making him a broad human pile on at Peter's feet.

Taking a soft, easy breath, he stepped over the long, bent legs sticking out from the blanket like fallen logs, and once he was in the clear he tiptoed around tables, bookshelves, and baskets, until he made it to the kitchen corner. He stopped only a few times on the way, once to grab a pair of suitable clothes, another to get a passiflora fruit from the reserves he stored in baskets near the wall, then to grab his shoes, and finally to grab his small knife next to the basin.

Tucking the knife in the cord around his waist and biting the apple to hold it in his mouth, he slid his shoes on, cast one last look at Wade, and bustled into a slim, near discreet opening in the wall. There were dozens of tunnels connected to the main cavern of his home, all so well hidden in shadows a corner it took a keen eye to pick them out. Despite living there for so long, he suspected that he had yet to uncover them all.

It was dark and cold in the tunnel, as most of them were, and the farther in he went, the more the ground sloped under his feet, until he was forced to keep one hand on the wall to prevent from slipping. A short while passed as the rock softened and was replaced with hard-packed dirt. He's traveled the tunnel enough times to pick his way along as easily as if he could see, and sometime later, the ground leveled out again as the thick darkness began to recede. He slowed as he came to the covered exit.

Peter pulled apart the twisting vines and leaves that draped over the opening like a long, intertwined blanket, and popped his head out to look around. The jungles outside buzzed with the noise bugs and occasional high-pitched croon of morning birds, but it was quieter than the bustle of the day. He stretched his senses, his inner-spirit shifting a little as his hearing strengthened, until he pinpointed the sweet, crooning hum of the Crooked Spined Beetle.

Because of the prolonged presence of dragons on Batl'Ar, the crawlers and bugs have grown accustomed to having them around. As long as the dragon was calm and at ease than other species had no need to fear. The only bug that still went quiet when a dragon was near (whether it was calm, sleeping, or angry) was the Crooked Spined Beetle.

Satisfied that he wouldn't be seen by anyone of his second-species, Peter clambered the rest of the way out of the tunnel. Adjusting his shirt and smoothing his bed-ridden hair, he quickly repositioned the vines and leaves over the exit so it was hidden once more, before disappearing into the thicker jungles. He wore his dark-stained clothes, dappled with the greens, purples, black, and browns of the islands less vibrant colors so he wouldn't be as easily noticed.

Even as he carved open the passiflora fruit and munched quietly on its sweet seeds, keeping his steps deft and soft, he couldn't help but look over his shoulder, half-expecting Wade to come tromping through the trees after him. Looking away again when he didn't appear, Peter tried swallowing down his scruple with each bite, but it only made his tongue sour. He wasn't sure how he felt keeping Wade holed up in his cave. So many valuable things that could get broken, and would take him weeks (months even) to replace. Besides, he doubted the idea sat well with Wade either. Peter could likely come home to Wade attempting to dig himself out with a bowl, and his bowl supply was limited as it was, so that wasn't particularly ideal.

But the last time Peter left his cave open a squirrel had gotten in, and the mess it left behind took hours to clean-up, and countless bottles and dishes to replace. Not to mention the ruined baskets and dwindled food supplies. No, that was a nightmare Peter wasn't excited to revisit, so the boulder would stay up for now. Hopefully, he'd make it back before Wade wakes.

He took a deep breath to reassure himself, smoothed his dull colored shirt, and picked his way quietly through the jungles. The sun had yet to rise over the tree top canopies, casting dark shadows on the ground floor, but through the occasional break in the branches, yellow-rays of sun hit the peaks of the high mountains, tall and clothed in thick green, while a thin fog hung around its base like loose cotton. The sky was brightening, and Peter wagered he had enough time to make his rounds before dawn officially broke and dragons began rousing. Thankfully, jungle-dragons were heavy-sleeping species.

Bugs chirped and buzzed in hidden alcoves around him and a few night crawling animals darted within the trees and bushes as he approached, but none approached him. Still, as he picked his way along the faint trail carefully, he kept his senses open for the sound of clicking scales, hissing, or rustling wings.

Whether or not he wore the jungle clothes of the Natives, just being out here alone could cause suspicion, and he didn't need a bunch of nosey dragons poking into his business. He wasn't too worried, though. It's been six years and he hadn't been caught yet. There were a few close calls, but so long as he was careful and split his time between human and dragon evenly, neither the Natives nor the dragons would be any wiser that he was there.

With that in mind, Peter scowled at his trail, lips pursing at the way it was slowly carving a path through the jungle due to frequent use, which wasn't good. If anyone were smart enough they could follow it back to his hidden tunnel, and one unexpected visitor was enough for him, thank you very much. After this, he was gonna need to mix it up a bit. There was no way he was going to leave a trail for natives and lost creatures, of any species, to find and follow.

And he definitely didn't need another person wandering into his home while he's in the baths. That awkward memory was going to stay with him for the rest of his life. He was never going to be able to bathe in peace again!

Because would if it happened again? He'd be caught off guard and completely vulnerable. Peter shuddered, bothered by the thought. It unsettled him down to the bone. Besides, it was too awkward for his anti-social nature to handle.

Which was why he still couldn't believe he was bonded to Wade. How did that even work? A bond could only be issued if both of its participants were willing to undergo it. Furthermore, draconus can't bond. It's fact. Peter had been dissociating himself for the past week because he didn't want to be caught up in this whole thing. The dragons that didn't want to participate in the ceremony usually just hid out in the jungles or caves until it was over, that way they weren't confused with the ones that did want to bond. Since he was a draconus, and couldn't bond anyway, he wanted to avoid the whole thing altogether.

He planned on staying in his cave for the week so he didn't get mixed up in that mumbo-jumbo nonsense, as he did every year, but he was four days into it before the cave walls drove him crazy. Staying in hadn't been a problem before, but it felt as if ants were crawling through his clothes. He needed to get out, stretch his wings, breathe fresh air, be anywhere but in that stuffy cave. So, he humored himself and took a break from his seclusion. Just as long as he was away from the Dragon Grounds, he would be fine. All he wanted was a quiet place to read.

A small place, just below cliffs, was the ideal spot. Humans didn't often like heights and there was a mother dragon with a nest just above him, which the group of humans would likely steer clear of. It was nice and warm, and so long as he was privy of prying eyes, both human and reptilian, nothing would go wrong.

But he was only there until noon when there came a commotion from the cliffs. The mother was incredibly protective of her young, so much so that she nearly attacked Peter a while ago as he was scaling the cliffs, while in dragon-form no less. He hadn't thought much of her roars at first, figuring it was just snake or big cat that riled her, but how wrong he was.

The next thing he knew, something was screaming, falling through the air, smacking into branches, and landing feet away from where he was. Peter was so startled, he accidentally reverted to his dragon self. Which had been irritating, because he was wearing his human clothes at the time, which inadvertently ripped, and he hadn't thought to bring a spare.

He identified the splat on the ground as human. A messy pile of broken limbs and bloody twigs and ripped flesh. He had no doubts that it was dead, which was saddening if he were being honest. He knew the mother dragon had her qualms against people, but did she really need to take it so far? The thing had only been a human. Small, fragile, and easily breakable. Throwing it over a cliff seemed like overkill. Literally.

Maybe he should put a sign up there sometime, a warning at least. But there was nothing he could do for this human now. He rolled his shoulders, preparing to shift back when the fleshy pile twitched and started to move. Which, admittedly, freaked him out even more. Last he knew, people couldn't survive a drop from that height. Sure he tended to isolate himself from…well, everything, but the human species couldn't have evolved that much in his daily, weekly - monthly? - absence.

Weary, he moved closer and sniffed at the should-be-corpse, and while the stench of blood and near-death was there, somehow the guy was alive. Garbled noises made it past the mess of a jaw, and from what Peter could make out, profanities and curses was the message. To his miraculous surprise, he noticed the cuts and gashes healing over, some with pieces of bark still inside. Ouch. Bones clicked together as if trying to mend, making him wince in sympathy.

The thing - man - tried to rise, and went slack almost instantly, planting himself, face first, into the grass. Peter got closer and sniffed at him again, only this time the man noticed. When he glanced up, he looked so astounded and bewildered Peter couldn't help but laugh.

Thing is, he never intended to take the guy with him. He looked like he was healing fine (as freaky as amazing as that was), and the whole bonding thing was still going on, so the last thing he needed was some guy from a neighboring kingdom thinking he was a bonding dragon. Only, when he tried to leave, the guy called to him asking for help, and every lesson and teaching from Peter's childhood came back in one unfailing swoop. He looked back, going for nonchalance, to quickly assess the guy again.

He looked like he'd be fine.

So Peter did leave. He managed to ignore the guy for a few feet before guilt grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around. The rational side said to leave and let the guy go about his business, but the other part, the softer side, thought back to the guy, helpless and hurt on the ground, and that was all it took.

Peter stomped back, grabbed the guy, and they took off. He had to take it slow, cause the guy was still injured and bleeding, and was almost to the cave when he realized he couldn't bring the man there. That was his home, full of his human stuff, and this guy had no idea he was a draconus.

Nope, the cave wasn't an option.

Thankfully, he knew of a small, isolated little clearing on top of a hill that would do just fine. When they dropped in, the guy was unconscious again. So Peter took the time to shift back, get him comfortable and dig those pieces of bark and wood from his flesh and realign any bones that looked misshapen. Which had required stripping the man for the most part. After that, he shifted and went out for a snack.

He accidentally left his book by the cliffs too, and decided to bring it back to the clearing, in case he got bored, before taking off again to find something to eat. Hunting took longer than he expected and it was well into the night when he returned. The guy, who'd been sleeping, woke instantly as soon as Peter dropped his kill - freshly cooked because Peter was fairly sure most people didn't eat raw meat.

The guy was skeptical, Peter was tired, and they fell asleep. That was how it went. He expected the guy to leave as soon as he healed, and while he did try, he only ended up hurting himself again. Peter told himself to leave and let the guy find his way out of the jungle, but something got him to stay. The guy - Wade he went on to introduce himself - was actually kind of nice to hang around. He was annoying as hell, somehow finding a way to grate on everyone one of Peter's nerves, but there was something in his attitude, his demeanor, that got to him.

Was it possible he actually enjoyed Wade's antics? Maybe. It was never quiet between them. Wade simply didn't allow it. The way he talked alone might've been why Peter stayed. It was nice to have someone fill the silence for a change.

But that still didn't explain why they bonded. That wasn't supposed to happen, especially to Peter. Even Wade looked surprised. And maybe it was the fact that they were both so shocked that drove him into a panic. If Wade didn't mean to enact it, and Peter didn't try to enact it, then what the literal hell? It shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have worked. Draconus's COULDN'T bond, that's what he was taught.

All Peter knew was that he needed to get away and FAST. So that's what he did.

But it was like no matter where he went, there was no escaping it. There was a feeling in Peter's chest, like a rope tied around his ribcage, that stretched the farther away he got. He knew the other end was tied to Wade, knew it like it was instinct, but it only made him want to get away more. Even now, as Peter crept through the forest, he could feel it stretching tighter and tighter as if threatening cave-in his chest. Sometimes it seemed to thrum or snap, as if angry at him for leaving Wade, and he wondered if it felt the same on Wade's end.

Peter was all-too-happy to brush those thoughts to the side as he got to the first snare. The trap was sprung and by the looks of it, something had been inside, but the trigger was a little off center and the animal was long gone. With a sigh, he quickly reset it and reached into his knapsack, scattering an array of nuts and dried berries on the ground. He covered up the trap with a few leaves and twigs, then crept away to check the others.

Maybe he should just go out hunting in his other body. It was still dark-ish, so it'd be harder to see him. Still, it was incredibly tough to hide bright red and blue scales in a place mostly composed of green, granted the vast array of colorful flowers and fruits. Sometimes it irritated him that he was so brightly colored. Hunting (and hiding) as a dragon would be so much easier if he could blend into the surroundings, and while he still landed prey, it was hard to stalk animal as a two-ton, red and blue beast that looked like it belonged on a silver chain necklace.

Unlike the most dragons of the jungle, Peter didn't share their varying shades of green, brown, grey, and purple, so camouflage was out of the question. Some of them had bright, tropical colors, to ward off predators and enemies, but those were generally smaller dragons, with high places in the trees to call their home. In fact, his lusterful red and blue scales stood out so well among the jungle he could be spotted from miles away, even if he were in a field of tartago and azullilo flowers. That kind of vulnerability made him yearn for his home.

It was hard recalling the characteristics of the region he was born into. In fact, he grew up in two. Varying between the habitats of his mother and father. He could remember the warm feel of the sun on his skin, and high sand dunes of the desert, where his red scales had a better chance of blending in with the red clay mountains. He could also recall the cool waves of the beach, frolicking in the ocean, burrowing in the sand, and catching fish.

His parents, draconus like him, weren't separated, but being two different species of dragon, they liked to travel between their lands. Peter spent the winters in the desert where his mother grew up, and the summer at the ocean where his father was born.

It was amazing being in so many places, getting to see so many things with his parents, and he learned so many things along the way. But it was because of his mixed DNA that Peter had a hard time fitting in anywhere. Many of the water species, especially the ocean dragons that resided in the deep depths (as his father did), had the ability to glow in the water. Something Peter sort-of inherited. He didn't glow, but it gave his scales more luster than the rustic reds and pale browns of desert sand, so hiding within the dunes didn't work that well. Anyone could see his bright scales from miles away, so long as the wind was blowing in the right direction. And he didn't inherit the webbed fins or gills of his father, so he couldn't truly reside in the oceans unless he wanted to drown himself. Besides, at the time, ocean dragons fetched a high price on the bounty market, so he couldn't live out on the beach, or stay above water for long periods of time for fear of being spotted.

Without a safe habitat to coincide with, it left Peter vulnerable. It left his family vulnerable.

But that's what happened to mixed-breeds. Peter wasn't the only one, but he was one of the lucky few to make it to adulthood. He couldn't say he was mad about who he was though. He loved his parents, for however long they were alive, and they tried to make it work. And it did, for a little while.

There was a chinchilla in the next snare, still alive. His stomach dropped and his tongue soured. Sighing, he carefully loosened the trap and grabbed it by its head as it squealed. Grimacing, he quickly curled his hands around its head and neck, looked away, and jerked. Its death was quick and painless, but that didn't stop his stomach from squirming. He secured it to his best and moved on. The next few snares were empty too, but the last held a relatively large blue-tailed parrot-bird.

He reset each trap, baited it with a few berries, some with pieces of meat in case a small beast went by, then headed back to the cave. By then, the sun's rays had reached the treetops, casting flimsy veils of fog below and around surrounding marshes. It was a cool morning, pleasant, with chirping birds and the fresh, crisp scent of rain. Peter would've enjoyed it more if he didn't have the bodies of his prey thumping against his thighs.

Hunting, even as a child, made him queasy. He liked meat, a lot actually, but actually seeing the animal die is what didn't sit right with him. It was easier as a dragon when instincts and the plight for survival were more dominant. Then, he was merely a creature fending for life, hunting for its next meal. As a human, he had to watch the body go still, see the light leave its eyes. He didn't like that. But either way, it needed to be done. It didn't strike him so much to give up meat entirely, but enough that he did it lightly while human.

They would make for a good breakfast though. Wade was probably up right about now, snooping through Peter's things, wondering where he was, so Peter pushed his guilt to the side and headed in the direction of his cave. He knew the surrounding land like the back of his hand, and with the guide of his senses, he made it to his concealed tunnel in record time. Glancing over his shoulder, still listening for the Crooked Spined beetle, he moved the vines to the side and disappeared into the tunnel.

The journey back to the main cavern was fast, and when Peter crept through the opening and peered inside, he was wholly surprised to find Wade still asleep. Either yesterday had really wiped him out or he was a late sleeper. He'd make a good dragon, that's for sure, Peter mused, shaking his head.

He tiptoed inside, dropped his bait-bag on the table where it belonged, and put his fresh kills in the first basin for washing. Rolling up his sleeves, he made meticulous work of scrubbing the chinchilla's hide, before migrating it to the dry basin carved into the rock, to be skinned.

He found the cave years and years ago when he just turned off the ripe age of 18. Judging by the way it was hollowed out, he deduced it was once the temporary home of a mountain dragon. A big one. Only a dragon with the strength to carve through thick, solid rock could come from the mountain terrains, where they often nested in self-made caves and caverns. But the dragon occupying the cave had long since moved on when he arrived, leaving it for Peter to claim.

Due to its location near the Cliffjumper Falls, a string of waterways carved through the mountain, many of which settled around the cavern. Its abandonment might've had something to do with the cavern's frequent flooding, but when Peter grafted basins and self-made tunnels, hours and hours of cruel work that a dessert/ocean mix like him had no business doing, those drained into a small underground river nearby, and flooding was no longer a problem. He included a tub that drained slowly under an easy flowing stream, so he would always have fresh water to bath in. And if he ever wanted it warm, he'd stick hot coals in the water and voila. After that, it was just about making it home. At the time all he had was a measly little bag of supplies, a thin blanket, and a packet of flower seeds.

He added on over the years. A giant brazier was included to drive away the cold-water chill. As he hunted more animals, acquired more skins, he made himself blankets and stuffed his old knapsack with feathers for a pillow.

Peter quickly skinned the chinchilla and laid its furs on the leather cord strung between two of his bookcases to dry. It'd make a good pair of sleep-shoes. He then separated its remains into white meat, dark meats, fats, and bones, guts etc... Then plucked the blue-tail and did the same.

Drying his washed hands on his pants, he grabbed a cooking pan stored under a table (taken from the Native settlement) and set it over the brazier to heat up. The dragon that grafted the cave was smart and included open channels for the smoke to rise out of. Adding meat from the chinchilla, some fat grease to slick the pan, and a few gathered spices to give it a little flavor, he set to making breakfast.

It was when the aroma filled the room did Wade finally begin to stir. It started with him rolling over, shifting in the blankets, then groaning loudly as he stretched. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and yawned. Peter waited patiently by the brazier, stirring the food and casting the odd look at his guest, waiting for him to return to the land of the living.

He did. Give or take a few minutes. Peter waved lightly at him, gesturing to the sizzling meat. "Breakfast is almost ready."

Wade's eyes instantly brightened and he licked his lips, stumbling out of the furs. "A dragon and a cook?" is the first thing he said, "What aren't you, Spidey?"

Still with the nickname, it looked like. Granted, it wasn't the worst thing Peter's ever been called, but he still liked to keep his dragon-life and his human-life separated by a distinct line. Calling him Spidey, a Wade-dubbed dragon name, only put him in a dragony mindset, and he didn't want to deal with the urge to eat the raw meat sitting near the basin.

"Peter," he corrected. "Saints, Wade, it's not that hard."

"Eh," Wade said, making a so-so gesture. He sat at the table, the one they used the other day for their little game of questions, twiddling his thumbs and kicking his immense legs out in front of him like an oversized, muscly toddler.

Astonishing enough, the silence stretches for several minutes, and Peter could almost convince himself that it was a normal day in his cave, cooking himself a breakfast, preparing for another day in the life of him. Then there's a giant heaving sigh at his back and the illusion sputtered out, like a weakly sparked flame.

"Soooooo, anything I can do to help?"

Peter looked at the fragile, clay-made plates near the basin, the glass vials with herbs he'd gathered throughout the jungle (some borrowed from the settlement), the fragile, breakable things that could fall and splatter, resulting in days of lost work. He shook his head, "No, I got it. You just stay there,"

His legs stopped kicking, but Wade didn't seem necessarily put-off. He shrugged and leaned back into the chair, craning his neck to look at the food. Peter grabbed two plates and scooped several spoon-fulls of the meat on both and added a few berries he gathered a few days ago. Wade sat up eagerly, eyes bright and excited. It was at that moment that Peter realized that there was another squirrel in his cave. A big, muscly, 6'something-tall, human-embodied squirrel.


He stopped to grab some wooden spoons and forks, stifling the urge to shoo Wade outside, as he watched with his head supported by a hand, none the wiser. When Peter approached the table, Wade took on a casual smile, eyes going smooth and easy as an air of innocence enveloped him.

He leaned forward, hands bracing his head, and asked sweetly, "So, where'd you go this morning?"

Peter almost dropped the plate. "Uh – wa - what?"

"This morning," Wade repeated, taking the plates from Peter's hand in case he might actually drop them, and placed them in their respective spots, "You left. I'm just wondering where you went."

"You were supposed to be asleep," Peter scowled, plopping in his chair and clutching the spoon with a vice grip.

Wade grinned, looking particularly pleased with himself. "I have skills," is all he said. Not the explanation Peter could be satisfied with, but he supposed that's how Wade felt too. Peter withheld information, so did Wade, and it wasn't unreasonable. He didn't want to come off like he should get all the answers and not reciprocate. There are just things that Wade shouldn't - can't - know. Things that Peter couldn't say without serious repercussions. It's better that they're both in the dark. There are fewer complications that way.

He tried to eat their breakfast in silence, but, as Peter knew, Wade didn't sit well with silence. Ever. He squirmed on his stool, making no effort to hide his delight in their food as he munched noisily and looked over the small trinkets filling the room.

"Anyway, you didn't answer my question," he said, looking back, "And just for the record, this isn't my last question from our little game last night. You don't have to answer this one."

Annnd, there went that plan. Having this last question hanging over his head was really beginning to bother Peter. It made his stomach queasy and his palms sweaty, and he didn't like it. When people had something on him, something they could use anywhere, anytime, made him want to jump off a cliff.

He impaled a piece of meat his fork and chewed it grumpily. Wade waited patiently, eating his breakfast with a bit more mercy as he watched Peter. Practically drawing an answer out of him. Peter wiped his mouth with the cloth left there from last night, unable to pinpoint why exactly it bothered him so much to answer the stupid question.

All he had done was go out and rebait traps, it was nothing worth keeping a secret. Maybe it was the fact that Wade knew he went out that bothered him. Peter prided himself in knowing everything in his surroundings, from the running waterways within his home to the jungles outside. He thought Wade was asleep, but the man could've gone out and followed him, and Peter wouldn't have been able to tell. That felt like a jab at him. An insecurity that he wasn't as capable as he thought he was. That everything they had warned him about, told him that he was, was correct.

That he wasn't being as careful as he needed to be.

"You didn't follow me out there, did you?" Peter demanded, then flushed red realizing how paranoid that sounded. All over baiting traps, no less.

"Noooooo," Wade drawled out, slow and skeptical. "Why?" his eyes adopted a mischievous light. "Is there something you're hiding out there?"

"Wh-what? No - no, there wasn't anything out there. I was just wondering cause you could've and -" Peter's cheeks reddened further. Saints, what was up with him? A few years without human contact and he couldn't even talk right. "I - I was rebaiting traps is all. Nothing is out there. Nothing. I was just wondering if you did, you know, follow me," He stuffed more fruit in his mouth to keep himself from rambling on.

Wade grinned again. A grin Peter can't quite discern. "Alright," he said, letting it all go with a shrug. "I mean, I guess I could've guessed since you came back with those animals."

The conversation tapered off, much to Peter's relief. He finished off the rest of the meal and settled the plate in the basin, the one next to the innards and guts he needed to take out. Wade finished up his own plate, but went in for another healthy scoop after all but begging Peter.

"Yes, of course, you can," Peter had said, "I made it for you too you know."

"Awww, thanks Spidey. You really know how to get to a man's heart."

"Peter. Peter, not Spidey. How many times do I have to say it?"

As Wade finished off the rest of the pan, Peter sets to packing up his travel bag. He takes a couple of cleaned vials, as well as a book about herbs and plant life, and another about alchemy. He finished off with his own journal, a writing utensil, and a few pieces of dried meat and fruit.

One step toward the exit had him pausing though. Should he tell Wade he was leaving? Sure he didn't know the guy, but he was still a guest in Peter's home. Walking out, knowing that Wade was awake, without an answer or explanation would be rude. He sighed and slumped around, feeling almost childish in the way his arms flailed out and his feet stomped.

"I'm going out," he called, catching Wade's attention where the man was fiddling with the blue feathers. "I'll be back soon."

"Wa - Wait," Wade shot forward, stumbling over a few baskets, much to Peter's displeasure, and crossed the threshold toward him. "I'll come too," he passed Peter, going toward the furs where he begins a desperate search through the blankets.

"Why?" Peter watched as he held one shoe triumphantly. "I'm not really doing anything."

"Well, whether or not you're doing anything sweetie," Peter blushed, because where did that come from? "I'm just sick of being in here. It's driving me crazy. You know, like, crazier."

"Oh," Peter muttered, hiding his flushed cheeks by stomping toward the tunnel leading outside, the one Wade actually knew about. "Heaven forbid that happening."

Wade finished putting on his shoes and jumped to his feet with puerile energy. He linked his arms into Peter's and skipped through the tunnel, all but dragging Peter along, unlinking them only so Peter could move the boulder out of their way (using a big of dragon strength that made Wade get all wide-eyed and open-mouthed). Afterward, he linked their arms again.

A part of him wanted to be irritated and yank his arm away, but there was something endearing about it, so he allowed it. It has been a while since he spent the day with someone, and having someone to talk to wouldn't be so bad. It was a bad idea. He knew that. Discretion was his motto in life. Lay low and don't draw attention, that way he wouldn't be found. Wade wasn't even wearing jungle-colors, so he stood out.

But the bond was humming in his chest, like the purr of a big cat, and it felt nice. He still listened for the Crooked Spined beetle and was satisfied when he picked it out among the bushes.

Wade skipped them off into the tree's, humming a merry tune, and Peter did his best to ignore as the bond happily hummed along.




Chapter Text

Wade POV

"Where are we going?" Wade asked for what was probably the bazillionth time, looking past Peter's tensed shoulders as they both tromped loudly through the thick spading leaves of the jungle. Well, Wade more than Peter, the other who's footsteps carried lighter and masterfully across the ground, as if this was something he's done dozens of times before.

Peter barely spared a glance and purposefully walked faster, either because of Wade's loud talking or his even louder steps. He pulled a branch to the side as they passed and let it go, barely missing Wade who ducked in time to avoid getting a face-full of bark and bugs.

"I told you, you didn't need to come," he whispered sharply. "I'm just restocking on a few herbs, that's all."

"Yeah, okay, you said that, but I want to know where we're going? And just so you know, in case you try it again, I don't want to be stuck in that cave all day. It's so boring in there." Wade said, keeping close to Peter's heels. He had a lot more faith in his guides' sense of directions than his own. Besides, that way he'd be better prepared for any more devilish plants Peter swat at him.

"Who says you're even going to be staying in my cave any longer?" Peter whisper-snapped back. "Shut up or I'm leaving you here."

Wade scowled and looked around, "Why are you whispering?"

"Shut. Up."

"Fine, fine. Whatever." Wade folded his arms and sulked after him, muttering lowly, "I just thought this was gonna be fun."

It was just past morning when they left and they'd been walking for so long. Through the thick canopy provided by the tree's, slivers of light hit the ground. They were stalking through a particularly dense part of the island, with hardly enough space for Wade to walk without bumping into a tree or a loud bush. Peter managed it pretty well, but he had practice. Besides, his footwork was a lot better than Wade's.

But whenever the branches broke, just slightly, he could see more of the sky. The sun had traveled a fair distance since they began their walk, meaning it was probably around mid-day now. The air was warm and moist, more so than usual and bordering on uncomfortable. Wade's been at sea long enough to know that a storm was brewing. Peter knew it too and kept glancing at the canopy as if afraid the rains would descend at any moment and disrupt his oh-so-precious herb-gathering.

Wade tugged at his shirt collar and wiped sweat from his forehead, but otherwise, it wasn't too bad. He was used to wearing layers in hot weather and the heavy sweat that came with it. To be honest, losing his cloak from the cliff fall was kind of nice. The cooler temperature was definitely a pleasant change from the sweltering heat he's begrudgingly grown used to.

Huh, now that he thought about it, he hasn't been wearing much to cover his skin for the last couple days. In fact, he wasn't so bothered that his skin was showing at all. Wade's walk slowed and he stared at the back of Peter's head, brows furrowing in thought. He hadn't been concerned about Spidey seeing them when he was a dragon, because animals didn't judge people on their looks. But now that Spidey was actually Petey, which was still kind of weird, that brought a whole new perspective to it. Peter's been consciously aware of his "skin condition" from the start, which was unsettling because Peter didn't seem put off by it.

Wade pursed his lips, rolling that thought around in his head. It usually took people time to get used to the way he looked, even when they were willing to give him the time of day. He's even managed to catch Captain Roger's off guard on a few occasions. But Peter, he hadn't commented on it once. Hadn't even shown signs of discomfort when Wade got close.

Maybe he got used to it as a dragon and it gave him enough time to hide his true thoughts.

Or, a strangely happy little voice whispered. Maybe he doesn't care that you look like a pile of rotten guts.

He scowled harder.

The hair in the back of Peter's head bounced as he walked, especially when he took large steps over logs and looping roots. Wade hurried forward, reclaiming his spot behind him, and leaned forward, looking for any hint of horns among the strands. He didn't see any, despite the way he tried to discretely turn to see Peter's forehead, who quirked an eyebrow at him within the first 2 seconds he was spotted.

Settling back behind him, Wade folded his arms and pursed his lips. Come to think of it, the scales were gone too. As of now, there were no hints of Spidey being anywhere in Peter's skin, and there was nothing that gave away the fact that Peter had, at one time, been a legit fire-breathing dragon.

"Hey Petey, I got a question - and no, you don't have to answer it if you don't want to," Wade didn't fail to notice the way Peter's fingers gripped his journal. "What happened to your horn and scales? Cause, there were definitely horns and scales on you the other night."

"They shifted back," Peter answered quiet, yet curtly.

"Okay, but why were they there in the first place? Once you shift back aren't you, like, supposed to shift all the way back? Like immediately?"

Peter didn't answer at first, but stopped Wade with a gesture and peeped through the bushes. After a moment, he relaxed and motioned for them to keep going. "It actually depends," he said before Wade could repeat the question. "Sometimes certain attributes shift back slower, depending on how long you've been in your dragon form or how often you shift between the two. Honestly, a few scales and horns are pretty minor considering how much worse other drae-" Peter abruptly clamped his mouth shut and turned to glare at Wade, as if he'd been betrayed.

Wade hummed, tapping his chin and dancing on his heels. "Others?" he repeated innocently, "So, how many more draceonus are there?"

Peter whirled back around, staring fixedly on the messy trail they were making, and Wade didn't need to see him to know his lips were in a strained flat line. After a few tantalizing moments, he took in a small breath and kept walking. "That's none of your business."

Wade held out his arms as if to placate the tension. "Alright, alright, I get it. Discretion is key. Gotta keep the secrets close to the tunic, blah, blah, blah."

Peter didn't honor him with an answer that time and purged on silently. Wade followed with a grin.

When he didn't think too carefully about what he was saying, Peter could be quite chatty.

For someone so reclusive and reserved he liked sharing information, whether he did so knowingly or not. Well, for someone who didn't answer questions very well at least.

Wade wasn't sure how long Peter's been on his own, but it must've been some time. He knew touch-starvation when he saw it. Peter hadn't let go of his hand till they were quite a distance from the cave, and when he finally did, it was slow and hesitant, like he wasn't sure how to let go.

It was something Wade could sympathize with. Not many people liked to touch him either, so any contact, whether it irritated his skin or not, was usually welcome.

"So, what are these herbs we're finding?" he asked, diverging the topic as his eyes lingered on Peter's hand, watching it sway loosely at his side.

"Just…just a few of them. You probably wouldn't know them anyway." Peter whispered.

Oh, come on, Wade huffed, it's just plants!

Out loud he said, "C'mon Spidey, it's not like I'm going to figure out your deepest darkest secrets through the spices you put in your food."

Peter seemed to contemplate that for a minute before sighing, somewhat hesitantly, "Well, they're not really herbs, you could say. I'm…I'm restocking my lavender plants."

"Ohhhhh," Wade enunciated, half glad Peter actually answered and half teasing. "Lavender, eh? Hey, is that why your cave smells so much like it? Especially in the bathing room? I was actually surprised the first time I walked in there."

Peter ducked his head, messing with his hair a little, "Yeah, it's - it's a good fragrance, and it, uh - it helps with headaches too, so..."

Wade nodded, pretending to find that interesting as he brushed aside a few low hanging branches. "Ah, I see. Hey, does shifting back into a human give you headaches? Is that why you need it?"

"Actually, I've had a bit of a headache since last night," Peter grit out, "A big one. Comes in the form of a tall guy sleeping on my floor. It likes to play with my things and follow me around."

"Oh..." Wade grinned sharply, "Hope it's not contagious."

Peter blew out a hard breath from his nose.

"You know, I heard lavender is also good to bathe in. There are these sweet ladies from this brothel I went to once, and they always bathed with lavender petals and oils. It smelled amazing, and no headaches! Like you said. You know…huh…. " Wade paused, eyes narrowing at Peter as a thought crossed his mind.

"Actually, now that I think about it," he said and leaned forward, sniffing at Peter's hair again, who jerked away with a curse and swat at Wade's nose. "You smell an awful lot like lavender too."

"Well no shit, I have vials of it!" Peter sputtered, quickening his pace. "Come on, we're wasting time."

Wade caught up easily and grabbed his wrist, sniffing at the skin there. Peter jerked it back, all but hissing at him. "Stop smelling me, you weirdo!"

Wade's grin widened eyes lighting. "Oh. Oh. You bathe in lavender, don't you? That's why you're getting it, huh? You ran out of bathing oil." His answer was Peter's face flushing a brilliant red, almost on pare with his scales, before he whirled around and stomped away.

"Whoa, hey," Wade called after him, "it smells great! There's no judgment here! I happen to love the smell of lavender."

"Whatever," Peter growled, the loudest he's been since they entered the jungles. "That - that doesn't matter. And, for the record, there is nothing wrong with smelling like lavender. It's a perfectly natural, good smell, so - so - you can just -"

"Hey," Wade caught up to him, grabbing his elbow softly to slow him down, but Peter instantly yanked it back, hissing at Wade, and holding it close to his chest as if he'd been burned. Wade held out his hands, palm up, and stepped back, giving him space. Wade took in his alarmed eyes, his squared stance, and the way his skin seemed to be hardening in the light. "I'm sorry," he said, slowly, "If I offended you. And for touching you without permission. I'm sorry. There's no judgment here. I honestly don't give a shit if you smell like a pretty flower. It's pretty fucking great, Petey."

Peter didn't relax for several moments, every muscle tensing as if he were two seconds away from bolting. After a while, he slowly relaxed. "Okay," he whispered, still clutching his arm to his chest. "Well...thanks, I guess." He turned away stiffly, cheeks still red, "I - I know lavender is usually seen as a woman smell, but -"

Wade maneuvered around him so they were facing each other, "Woman smell, my ass. Who the fuck cares? It's just a smell. And if anyone has problems with it, they can kiss my perfectly perfumed ass."

Peter tilted his head, smile hesitant but probing at the corners of his mouth. "You're ass smells like perfume?"

"Only on special occasions when I aim to please. Or, you know, pleasure," he winked, "Besides, I found that both men and ladies like a little something that smells nice, and it's hard enough finding a willing partner. I might as well do my best to, you know," he gestured to his face, "make up for this." It was all true, but he still scanned Peter's face. Searching for clues or outward signs that gave away any thoughts about his skin.

Instead, Peter said, actually sincere, "Well...thanks Wade," and gave him a small, questionable smile. He didn't look as tense as he kept walking so Wade considered that progress. With a little hop in his step, he followed the scent of lavender.

They walked a while longer until the trees began to recede and the ground hardened under their feet. They were barely a mile or so from the small, drier grassy areas of the south side of the island when Peter gasped and took off in a run.

He stopped some little ways ahead, skittering to his knees despite the stains it left on his pants and the scrapes on his skin. When Wade caught up, he peered over Peter's shoulder to catch a glimpse of his treasure.

It was a plant. A small bushel with long green stems, brightly in bloom with deep purple flowers that bunched close to the top. Peter touched the petals with gentle, adroit fingers.

"Wow, I haven't seen one so far inland before. This - this means they might be spreading farther out! Yes!" Suddenly giddy, he opened his journal and quickly scribbled down a few notes. "If the lavender plants start spreading out toward the jungle, that'd make harvesting them so much easier."

Wade rolled his eyes, getting back to his feet. "Whoop-de-doo."

It took Peter a few more minutes of happy gushing before Wade prompted him up. After which, Peter dragged him farther out into the drier lands, where the ground was peppered with green and yellow wild grass. Here the purple flowers were more abundant.

Finding a suitable spot, Peter set to the prestigious work of extracting the flowers and stems and settling them carefully in his bag, while Wade spent the time smelling the flowers and building small monuments of grass. Once Peter finished and Wade had several large piles to show for his efforts, they headed back to the jungle, aiming for the cave.

Their little adventure was a little less adventurous then Wade would've hoped, but he learned some new things about Peter so it was okay. Besides, he hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and Peter was insistent to get back to the cave to start harvesting the lavender petals as quickly as possible. Which meant no food breaks. Getting back to the cave faster meant getting a snack quicker.

But, as they returned to the leafy foliage, little bit by little bit getting closer to the mountain, Wade couldn't help but trace its ridges with his eyes. There was no doubt that the expedition party was on their way back to the settlement now. Hell, they were probably there right now, preparing for the voyage home. As much as Wade liked Peter's sassy company, just thinking about the training arena and his small, private little room back in the training camps hit him with a surprising weight of homesickness.

Odd, it's been a while since he's ever felt homesick for something.

He must've stopped talking for a while because just a few minutes later Peter was turning to look at him.

"Hey, you okay?" he asked, adjusting the strap of his bag as if he were handling a baby. "You've been a little quiet."

Wade shot him a smile, but it didn't feel as authentic as he was going for. "Just fine, Spidey. Just…just thinking of things."

Peter grimaced, probably because of the nickname, but followed his gaze to the mountain, looking between the two. "You wondering about the group you came with?" he asked.

"Yeah," Wade admitted, shoulders slouching, "That, and I was kind of looking forward to seeing the Dragon Grounds. I've never actually seen a group of wild dragons. Trained ones, yeah. But not wild ones. Thought it'd be kind of interesting."

Peter fingered the strap thoughtfully, still looking at the mountain. His gaze fell to the jungle floor, pinched and thoughtful before it softened and he met Wade's eyes, "Well, let's go then."

Wade blinked at him. "What?"

"Let's go. We can stop by Batl'Ar real quick. I mean, the bonding dragons are probably gone by now, but you might be able to see the grounds at least."

"But what about your flowers?"

Peter spared his bag a loving glance, "It'll be okay. A small trip won't hurt. I even know a way to get there faster. It'll be fine."

Wade searched his faces for any lies before it broke with a wide grin. "Awww, Spidey," he preened, "Can I give you a hug? Please? Please!?"

Peter flushed, but stepped back. " Not right now."

"That's okay," Wade said, wrapping his arms around himself, "That is the nicest thing you've done for me since we've met. And that includes letting me sleep on your floor."

"It's no big deal, honestly."

"You say that but I don't think you mean it," Wade said, hugging himself a little tighter, before letting go. "Well, let's go! The Dragon Grounds await!"

Peters straightened his shirt and smoothed down his hair. But Wade was wholly surprised when he, somewhat awkwardly, offered his hand to Wade, "To make sure you don't get lost." Was his explanation.

"Hey, if you don't want me to touch you, that's okay," Wade said, softly, eyeing the hand as if it might flake under his gaze.

"Hands are fine," Peter said, suddenly finding an interest in the trees around them.

Carefully, afraid he might run, Wade grabbed the offered hand and Peter instantly relaxed.

Touch-starved, yet he doesn't like being touched, Wade mused. He was gonna have to keep that in mind. Peter allowed Wade to pull him forward, despite the fact that Wade was probably pulling them in the wrong direction.

"But first thing's first," Peter said, face flushed and tone exasperated, "You have to be quiet. For the love of Anthromni, just walk lightly."

He sounded irritated, but Wade caught the way he tried to hide his smile.


Chapter Text

Peter POV

Why was he doing this?

No, better question, why did he tell Wade he'd take him to the Dragon Grounds at all?

Peter had always been someone recognized for his intellect, especially back in his original home, but by Xnmeta's scales, he's stupid.

Sure, the whole bonding ordeal was technically over now, but that didn't mean the rest of the jungle dragons weren't still on edge. It wasn't just the paranoia that he and Wade might be mistaken as willing bondee's that made it so dangerous, but because A LOT of the dragons around here still carried grudges from their ancestors. If a human had any sense, they'd bolt out of these mountains the moment the Bonding Period was over.

That's why the human settlement was so small. Batl'Ar was just one of the numerous islands dotting the seas near the coast of the Stark Province and belonged to a great cluster of islands known as the Dragon Isles. The human/dragon pact agreed to leave the Dragon Isles free and untouched from humanity, as a safe haven for the dragon species. Batl'Ar was the only exception because it was the only island close enough to the mainland that made the humans feel safe.

The dragons hadn't wanted to venture far into human territory, and humans didn't want to sail blind into the Dragon Isles. Batl'Ar was the closest meeting point for both worlds and served as the agreed location for the Bonding Period. The settlement was small because Batl'Ar was still dragon territory. The native dragons agreed to leave them be as long as they stayed in the settlement. The only time the rules didn't apply was during the Bonding Period, or when the Natives needed to gather food. 

Which was why Peter was so worried. Wade was loud and brash, and would - without a doubt - cross every ethical line without even realizing he'd just insulted an entire race of dragons. Besides, just the sight of him and Peter could cause a frenzy among the dragons. They didn't know he was draeconus. For all they knew, two humans were just waltzing around in their jungles without permission.

But looking back at Wade as he followed Peter's footsteps while explaining the complexity of weapon maintenance, Peter couldn't help the irritating swell in his chest that made him want to do this anyway. Wade looked so sad when he mentioned the expedition party and Peter didn't like seeing that. Not at all. Sad Wade was a weird Wade.

Well, a weirder Wade.

Besides, when Wade looked down, eyes downcast, with his hulking shoulders slumped, it made Peter's chest ache - the bonds fault, probably. Besides, what was a little detour? The Dragon Grounds wasn't that far off, and as long as they were careful and didn't bring attention to themselves, they should be fine.

Keeping one hand secure on his bag, he occasionally patted the pocket to make sure his lavender plants were still there while using the other hand to move foliage aside and direct Wade through the zig-zagging trail fading into the mountain. A lot of the trails were over-grown and hidden, having earlier been forged by travelers and mountaineers before the treaty was even created. There were dozens of them hidden around, and Peter found great pleasuring in finding them and mapping them out for his use. 

"Easy, watch your step," he advised, steering Wade over a high bend that slanted downward from their path. One small slip and they'd find themselves dangling off a cliff.

They were walking up a high trail carved into the side of a sheer mountain. It was small, barely fitting the width of a single man on its path, and was so high up most people wouldn't see it, and if they did, it looked like nothing but a weathered groove in the rocks.

"Yikes," Wade said, looking down over the side where the tips of the trees rose like jagged spikes. He inched closer to the rock wall, glaring down as if spiteful.

"Yikes, indeed," Peter agreed, "Would hate for you to fall off a cliff or something."

He could feel Wade's deadpan on his back, "Aye, more jokes. Watch out Spidey, at this rate you'll find yourself warming up to me."

"You wish," Peter said, inwardly grumbling about the nickname. Again. Honestly, how hard was it to call him Peter? Every time he said Spidey it made him want to nose-dive off the cliff and go flying.

This is why he didn't socialize. The smallest things could tip a draeconus off into shifting. A strong scent of meat, if they're hungry enough. A loud noise if it startles them. A name they're referred to while in dragon form.

It may not seem like an issue to Wade, but Peter didn't know how to explain it without giving up information he wasn't supposed to.  It was the kind of information that would shun him from his fellow draceonus and send him reeling into some serious consequences. Well, shun him more than he already was, anyway. He was already dealing with the consequences of his actions, he didn't need to add "talked too much to the wrong person" to the list.

Unfortunately, Wade was extremely easy to talk to.

"We're almost there," Peter said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Wade hadn't fallen to his second death yet. Wade beamed at him and gave him a reassuring thumbs up, as if knowing what he was thinking, and Peter looked away when he felt the strange urge to 'thumbs-up' back.

Don't get attached, he warned himself. It's bad enough having ONE human friend, I don't need two.

Bond or no bond, this - whatever this THING between him and Wade was - wasn't going to keep going. Wade had a life, Peter had a somewhat-life, and judging by the forlorn look Wade got whenever he talked about the Stark Province it was easy to deduce that he was missing his home.

Peter didn't want to keep that from him, no matter how tight or painful the bond between them stretched. It'd just have to get over it because they were two different people going in two different directions. As simple as that. 

"Hey, Spidey-Petey, did you bring any food? I think we passed our noon meal. It takes a lot of food to keep up with this much crazy, you know."

Peter rolled his eyes but dipped into his bag. He knew this trail well-enough that he didn't have to worry about falling. Besides, even if he did, he could shift and fly away before hitting the ground. His only problem would be ripping his bag and revealing his secret in the process.

"Uh, I have some dried fruit," he said, slowing his gait to turn around and hold it out to Wade, who took it all too eagerly. Peter watched him shove the fruit into his mouth and rolled his eyes, but was unable to stop a smile. Why did Wade require so much food anyway?

Peter knew he, personally, needed a lot of food to keep both himself and his dragon side healthy, but Wade seemed to eat more than any normal human. Peter wondered if it had something to do with his healing capabilities. Or if it had something to do with the scars.

But he couldn't bring himself to ask about it. Wade seemed sensitive about the subject. Besides, it sounded like a personal story, and he's never been the best at talking to people. When they got mad or frustrated, he usually only made it worse. So, he'd better just keep the questions to himself.

The path was getting slimmer, which meant the more danger they were in of an imminent death. But it also meant they were nearing the top.

"We're almost to the cliff edge," he said over his shoulder, "The path gets pretty narrow so stick close to-" Wade didn't need to be told twice and instantly moved forward, close enough to touch Peter if he wanted to, and Peter jumped, "to the wall Wade. The wall. Not me!"

Wade blinked, cheeks tainting pink. Blushing, he took a longer-than-necessary step back and fused himself to the wall. "Right, right. Sorry. I didn't mean to - I..." he rubbed his head, trying to brush it off with a shrug and a teasing grin. " Just - you - you look so cuddly and cute. Couldn't help myself." But his grin was too tight and his shoulders were tense. The way his eyes glanced toward the edge made him looked almost panicked. Of course, he's hesitant about being up here. Last time, he plummeted to his should-be death. Peter swallowed, feeling both awkward about his outburst and guilty for bringing Wade up there.

"It's - uh, I..." he coughed into his shirt and turned around. "Just - just follow me, we're almost to the top."

Wade nodded wordlessly.

When the edge came into view, Peter said, without turning, "Just a forewarning, the Dragon Grounds aren't as nice as you're imagining. They're kind of bland, to be honest."

"We shall see, Spidey. We shall see."

Another urge to sprint into the nearest canopy and hunt something down for dinner. But Peter swallowed another rebuke, still feeling bad about his last snap at Wade, and distracted himself by hastening the pace. Their path leveled into smooth ground as they stepped onto the top of the cliff.

Evening was approaching. Given a few more hours it'd be nightfall. Perhaps that path was a bigger detour than he thought. But Wade's smile was back as he stared at the overlooking tree's spread out below them, where the sea glistened in the far distance, and the calls of animals floated through the air as they finished their last tasks for the day, and suddenly it was okay. 

Honestly, he didn't seem like a bad person. Sure he could be a bit pushy, and rather talkative and rude, but he was also respectful of Peter and his boundaries, and made good conversation when he wasn't trying to trick him into giving up information. Wade deserved to smile.

"The Dragon Grounds is just over the high-rise over there," Peter said, pointing out the high mound of dirt ahead.

An excited gleamed brightened Wade's eyes and his stride quickened.

"Well come on, Petey, don't you want to see the wild dragons?"

"Right," Peter rolled his eyes, "Because I've never seen one of those before." Still, he followed Wade, shaking his head in amusement when the other man started skipping merrily.

But as they make it over the high rise, Wade's excitement faded. As Peter said, the Dragon Grounds weren't that interesting. It was a large, rugged plane of rock that over-looked a high cliff. The ground was scorched and scratched from fire and talons, and the only plants that grew were prickly and jut out from the cracks in the rocks. It was dull and barren.

Seeing Wade's expression fall made Peter wish it was something better. If he could, he would've made it a beautiful open field, filled with lavender flowers and palm tree's, with a wide waterfall cascading into a pond over-swept with lily-pads and exotic plants. He wished it was something as extravagant as Wade was expecting. But a field would burn up and the plants trampled if the Bonding was done there. Hard rock was the best option.

Peter looked down, finger playing with the strap of his bag. He shouldn't have brought Wade up here at all. What was the point if he was just going to crush is fantasies?

"I - I told it wasn't very interesting," he muttered softly, "It's one of the best places for the bonding though, cause the rocks can't catch on fire and the dragons can fly in from the cliff. It's an easy escape for both species too, if anything were to go wrong."

Wade didn't respond.

"We - we can go back down now, if you want," Peter continued, his fidgeting increasing with Wade's solemn silence. "I - I need to start harvesting the plants anyway, and we're both probably kind of tired. Well, I'm kind of tired. I don't know about you, you can stay up, but...look, the Dragon Grounds are not one of the bright spots in this place. There's this really awesome cove near the beach I could show you. It's definitely a lot better than this rock, anyway, and -"

Wade turned back to him, smile small, but genuine. "Hey, it's not so bad. Kind of anti-climatic, I'll admit, but whatcha gonna do?" he strode forward, inching toward the cliff, with his arms folded. Peter hesitated, before following.

"Besides," he continued, dreamily, "I guess I shouldn't have been expecting much. The way Captain Rogers spoke of it made it sound like a fairyland, but I guess anywhere you get a dragon is pretty special. I mean, just imagine," his voice slipped into something more self-indulgent, "what it would be like to see a dragon land over there and realize it was the one. The one I'd train with, fight with and bond with...wouldn't that be amazing..."

Peter was surprised by the sudden flare in his chest.

"But I'm you're bonded!" He wanted to say, which took him by surprise so violently he had to bite the inside of his cheek and take a step back from Wade. The bond twitched, as if unhappy with Wade's thoughts too, and Peter distracted himself by lifting the flap of his bag to check his plants.

"Yeah," he muttered, trying to pass off as nonchalant. "Yeah, what a shame."

After a few moments, Wade perked up again. "Anyway, thanks for bringing me up here Petey. I know your plants are probably shriveling like a bunch of old bats right now, so I appreciate it. Come on, we can head back now."

He spun on his heels and strode toward Peter.

"Well, shall we," he held his arm out as if to escort him down. Peter thought about disregarding it, but Wade's mood was just lifted and he didn't want to make him feel worse. Besides, his skin was interesting to touch. So he took the arm, albeit begrudgingly, and Wade smiled.

"I am totally warming up to you."

"The only warming up that's gonna happen is tonight when I take another bath."

"Do I get to interrupt that one too?"

"Only if you want to sleep outside tonight."

They were almost back up the rise when something caught Peter's eyes. He didn't notice when they first arrived, but from this angle, he could definitely see something white sticking out from under a rock. He let go of Wade's arm to pick it up.

It was a piece of rolled up parchment.

He brushed dirt off squinted at the word hastily scribbled on the front.

"Oh," he handed it to Wade, "It's for you."

Wade pursed his lips but took it. He looked it over skeptically, before opening it and straightening it out. As he read it, his eyes crinkled and his grin widened.

"It's from Captain Rogers!" he exclaimed, crinkling the paper excitedly in hand. "Look. Look at this, he figured I'd get to the Dragon Grounds on my own. He had faith that I'd make it here. This is AMAZING SPIDEY! Captain Rogers has faith in me!"

Peter grinned, not wanting to mention that he had no idea who that was.

"Look, look," he continued, pointing to a line on the parchment. "He says they've headed back to the port and that he'll try to stall the ships as much as he can. He cares! Ah, this is so great." He hugged the letter to his chest as if absorbing the words into his skin, before delicately refolding it and sliding it into the band around his waist.

Whoever this Captain Rogers was, Wade sure looked up to him. A pleasant filling spread through Peter's chest. He appreciated that this Captain had faith in Wade. Saints know, he deserved it. Besides, it was the happiest Peter's ever seen him.

"Come on," he smiled, pulling Wade toward the ridge. "We should get back before sundown."

Wade all but agreed, though he was still fawning over the letter like a love-sick dame. His excitement seemed to carry through the air and everything seem much more lively. The sun cast a warm light that warmed Peter's skin, and a pleasant breeze drifted through the foliage. It smelled of an incoming storm, but the aroma was fresh and pleasant.

Come to think of it, he was quite glad they decided to come up here after all. 

Or, he was for a moment. Just as they stepped on the path leading down, a crunching noise in the underbrush reached Peter's ears and he stopped, looking over the tree's skeptically. Wade kept going a few paces more before he realized Peter wasn't with him and turned, eyeing him warily.

"Uh...Spidey? Something wrong?"

The name only put him more on edge and held a finger to his lips, looking around the buzzing plants. He listened for the Crooked Spined Beetle.

It had gone quiet.

His eyes landed on a shadowed patch of trees, where a pair of sharp yellow eyes stared back, and no sooner, a roar erupted from a fanged maw. Trees bent to the side as a giant, green scaled dragon emerged from its hideout, teeth-bared and eyes furious. Peter recognized it instantly.

It was an old cranky veteran that lived in a cave not far from here. It generally left the Dragon Grounds alone during the Bonding Period, but Peter knew all too well that it set up refuge here to pick off any stragglers. He's almost tussled with the old dragon a few times, just because the thing was as mean as an angry hive of hornets, and tended to attack anything that moved in its general vicinity.

"Ohhhhhhh, shit," Wade said, craning his neck in awe.

Ohhhh shit, indeed.

The dragon took a step forward, roaring so loud it sent a wave of hot air over their faces. It's scaled nose was wrinkled and sneering, mouth salivating, with its eyes fixated hotly on Wade, who, with the bigger build and scars, likely looked more like an intimidating threat. The dragon took a step forward, baring its teeth at Wade, and Peter felt an unfamiliar flair of anger. He stepped in front of Wade, baring his teeth back.

"Petey, what are you-"

"Stay behind me," Peter told him, which might've been funny given the fact that Wade was almost a good few inches taller than him, but he was no less grateful when Wade took his advice.

Peter backed them both up as the dragon inched closer.

Slowly, arms almost of their own will, he took off his bag and handed backward to Wade, who took it curiously.

"Head toward the path, Wade," he said, "quiet and slow. Be careful and don't make any sudden movements."

"Yeah, okay, but what about you?"

Yeah, what about him? To this old withered scale bag, Peter was nothing but another human. He couldn't turn into a dragon in front of it, he'd blow his whole cover. The life he made for himself would be useless if the jungle knew he was a draeconus.

But he couldn't let Wade get hurt either. This dragon was terribly bitter about the war, and would spare no expense in killing him. Both of them. Wade might be able to survive a fall from a cliff, but could he survive getting eaten alive?

"I'm gonna keep its attention," he said, shooing Wade off, "I'll be fine."

Wade looked as though he didn't quite like that idea, but backed up nonetheless, taking slow, begrudging steps.

As much as Peter wished the dragon would consider him more of a threat, it wasn't fooled. Its eyes flickered to the side, just for a fraction of a second at Wade, then it looked back at Peter and another wave of heat swelled between them. Peter barely dived to the side just as a column of flame swept over his head.

When it receded, Peter sat up feeling much more irritated. His clothes were singed and hot and would've combusted into flame if he'd been any closer. Fortunately, as a draeconus, he was a bit more flame retardant than most people.


Oh shit, Wade!

Peter jumped to his feet, looking desperately for a pair of broad shoulders and a dirtied shirt. He found it a good few feet away from him, where Wade was groaning on the ground, curled in on himself. His skin was spotted with red, angry blisters and Peter winced as if he'd been burnt himself.

Wade was a nice guy, he didn't deserve this aggression! Who did this dragon think it was anyway? Peter was sick of it's haughty, violent attitude. Why couldn't it just let the past stay in the past. The blasted war was over, for crying out loud.

His fists clenched and he pried his eyes from his Bonded. It took a lot to get him angry, but seeing Wade on the ground like that opened a fiery pit in his stomach. "Son of a BITCH!" he shouted and ran at the dragon. It saw him coming and huffed, eyes amused as it snapped its teeth, eager for an easy kill.

But Peter was having NONE of that. He stared at the dragon, dead in the eye, and felt a shift in his body. It snapped something inside him, as if he'd just been hit with a whip. When he was younger the sensation had been painful, but it was a process all draeconus got used to the more they did it.

He embraced that sensation, welcoming it on with gritted teeth. Now that he thought about it, his whole body felt out of place. Two legs? How weak. No fangs? That wouldn't do.

His entire body shuddered as his bones hollowed and expanded. His skin hardened, his face elongated. Claws grew from the tips of his fingers, fangs emerged in his mouth. He felt as though he'd just stepped into a bonfire, and it was burning up his old body to make room for a new one.

Seconds later, he slammed into the green dragon, who was so startled with the sudden transformation it went down easily. Peter threw his weight on top of it, shoving it into the ground harder, just to be sure.

This creature, he thought, looking the dragon over with disgust, this low-life beast dared try and attack HIS Bonded? It burned HIS WADE? For absolutely no reason at all!

Like grease in a fire, something scalding filled Peter's veins and he snapped at the dragon, dangerously close to the soft scales under its jaw. One bite and he could rip the jugular out. He maneuvered his limbs so he had a sure-footed stance on its wings, with the other four holding down its chest and arms. It was completely immobilized and vulnerable. His chest swelled, heating up with a wave of fire of his own. Most dragons could resist heat, but it would be easy to burn his soft scales.

That'd leave a good message in case it tried to attack Wade again.

But, looking down at the wide fearful gaze of his elder, Peter's expression softened. How could he think of harming another one of his kind like this? He was draceonus, so he was still part dragon. All his life he was taught to help, not hurt. What would his family think of him?

The fire in his chest couldn't just be swallowed down though. So he let it out, scalding the ground just above the dragons head, making it recoil and whimper from the heat, angling its soft scales away. For good measure, he punctuated his message with a guttural roar in its face that made the dragon simper and bow its head, a sign of defeat.

He stared into its eyes, growling lowly, to make sure its lesson was learned. After a moment of waiting to make sure it wouldn't attack again, Peter pushed off and scurried over to Wade, careful not to step on him as he stood over him with his wings open and flared. Now it knew that this human was under his COMPLETE protection, and any threat against his Bonded wouldn't be tolerated.

The dragon kept it's uneasy gaze on him as it got to its feet, now with a particular distaste in its eyes. Peter growled at it, challenging, and it looked away, scampering meekly back to it's den of trees.

Peter stood over Wade still, somewhat paranoid that it'd come back anyway.

He was snapped out of his skepticism when a voice below him said, "Holy SHIT!"

He looked down where Wade was gaping at him in astonishment, lying propped up on his elbows. "You - you just - the things went - FIRE - and then you - you - DRAGON - and it - WOW!"

Peter bowed his head bashfully, but looked away with a snort. Wade was being dramatic again.

He stepped away so he wasn't concealing Wade anymore and crouched down on his two front legs to get a better view of him. His skin was still red and blistered, but it was healing fast. Most of them were already gone. That's a relief. He didn't like seeing people hurt.

He got back up and peered behind them at the aclove of tree's, growled at the eyes hidden within, and stepped toward the cliff. He shook his wings to get rid of the stench of-of the dragon, taking a deep breath of air. He inhaled the scent of the pines, dirt, and salt. A rustle of wind sifted over his wings and beckoned him toward the cliff edge.

His clothes were torn. Good. They were irritating anyway. Restrictive of his movements, itchy, and terrible. Why he'd wear them all the time anyway? Scales were so much better, and provided way better protection. Sometimes, he wasn't sure why he stayed in human form so often.

The sun was descending fast. The sky was burned orange and red, but was quickly fading into purple. The nocturnal dragons would be waking soon. Wade was already nearly burnt alive, and Peter didn't need him getting attacked again. They needed to get to the cave quickly.

And the quickest way was down.

He smiled a toothy, dragon smile and looked down at Wade, who was still gaping. He lowered his neck so they were eye-level, basking pleasantly in how much taller he was now.

"Spidey?" Wade muttered. Peter hummed. That's correct, he wasn't really Peter anymore, was he.

Spidey. He liked it. He wasn't quite a spider, but he was smaller than most dragons. Besides, there was a reason people were prone to fear spiders, however small and gangly they could be.

Spidey. Yeah, that sounded good.

"That was...that was so awesome," Wade exclaimed, eyes brighter than they were when he'd read Captain Rogers letters. Spidey preened. "The way you-you transformed, and man you kicked that dragons ass. Look at it, whimpering and fleeing. Wow!"

If Spidey were human, he probably would've been blushing brighter than the sunset. Instead, he nudged Wade with his nose affectionately and looked over the cliff, gesturing with his head.

Wade looked between the two, suddenly apprehensive. "You're not going to throw me down there are you?"

Spidey rolled his eyes. Of course, he wouldn't do that. Wade was going to throw himself off. But they did need to get a move on. He backed away from Wade, giving himself enough running room, and surged forward, tucking his wings to his side and plunged off the cliff-side.

The air cut around him as he dived, halfway down to the bottom he unfurled his wings and caught a mighty gasp of wind that carried him up. When his momentum softened, he flapped several times and rose in the air. He soared back up the cliff and circled Wade, watching his jaw-drop.

His Bonded didn't move for several seconds and Spidey roared at him, not too harshly, and dived down the cliff again. Wade watched curiously, inching toward the edge as he scratched his head.

The bond in Spidey's chest thrummed as if to get his attention. He could feel his connection with Wade now, better than ever. A coiled piece of rope that synced them together, too strong to tear and too thick to fray. Spidey probed at it a few times, before gripping on to it timidly. It was hazy and shaken, but the bond immerses into him, filling his body with a pleasantly warm sensation that tickled under his scales like bubbles to water.

Jump, he said and felt the message carry back to the ground, where Wade jumped back with a loud curse and looked around crazily as if he'd seen a ghost.

"Did -" his eyes returned to Spidey, "Did you just fucking talk to me?"

Jump, Spidey repeated. His hold on the Bond was slipping. The connection was their, but he couldn't communicate for long. It was getting exhausting.

"What...WHAT? I'm - I'm not jumping off a cliff? You know how bad that went last time."

Will catch you, Spidey said before the thread connecting his thoughts to Wade's broke.

Damn, that Bonded stuff was tough to hold on to.

Wade tilted his head as if thinking about it. Given a moment, he threw his hands up in a defeated manner, countenance one of crazy excitement, and took off in a run. Spidey grinned and roared his encouragement, beating his wings hard as he followed Wade's movements. 

"YOU BETTER FUCKING CATCH ME!" Wade yelled as he leapt over the side. Spidey roared back as a thrill of energy shot up his spine, and dived nose-first through the air. Wade was falling fast, screaming, with his eyes clammed shut.

Spidey waited till he was barely above him, veered to the side, and twisted again, wrapping Wade securely within his second arms. He made sure Wade was tucked tightly against his underbelly, before unfurling his wings and catching a high drift of air, and their descent stopped as if they were being lifted by an immense hand.

As soon as their speed slowed, Spidey flapped his wings and they soared. The air was cooler as night descended, and in the distance, clouds were collecting fast. Immense, dark, and menacing - they were in for a mighty storm.

They were only flying for a few minutes when they neared the cave. Before they descended, Spidey looked down at Wade, who was tangled around his claws, clutching with white-knuckles, but staring at the world around them with eyes wide like a child.

Oh yeah, he was unconscious last time he was carried like this.

He slowed his flying so Wade could see without so much wind buffeting his face. His eyes were like saucers as he drank up every detail.

They neared the cave. Spidey veered up the side of the cliff, and instead of landing on the ground, he hovered in the air and carefully dug his claws into the cliff side, easily finding the junctures and dips in the rocks. Careful that Wade wouldn't hit the rock wall, he tucked his wings back in and crawled down like a lizard, and landed safely at the mouth of the cave.

He let Wade go, watching in amusement as he stumbled to regain his balance before slowly turning back around.

"That. Was. Fucking. AWESOME!" he exclaimed. "I mean, for a minute I thought you weren't going to catch me, but you did. Thank you for that by the way. I appreciate not being skewered by branches again."

Spidey dipped his head and turned back toward the cave. The opening was still open, much to his chagrin. He didn't like the idea of other creatures getting into his home. He nudged Wade toward the cave, waited until he was inside, then grabbed the boulder near the entrance and rolled it in front of the cave mouth.

Once it was secure, he turned around with a huff. The cave was too full of human stuff to really compensate for his size. So, he tapped into the other side of him. Another crack split through his body and he was shifting again. He shrunk this time, bones thickening as they grew smaller, wings shrinking, horns disappearing until he was his human self again.

The only thing left of Spidey was a large patch of scales covering a large expanse of Peter's chest, and the bony ridges of a spine still protruding from his back, but even those were beginning to fade into his skin. Wade was waiting for him back in the main room, arms crossed over his chest with a wide smile.

He handed Peter a blanket, because - right, he was naked again. He quickly wrapped it around his waist, trying not to flush in embarrassment, and scavenged for an extra set of clothes.

He was mid-search before he stopped, eyes widening. "My bag! Where's my bag?"

"Easy," Wade laughed, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder to stop him from racing back outside. "I put it on the table. Don't worry, your flowers are safe."

Peter glanced across the room and, true to his words, his bag was sitting on the table they'd eaten breakfast off of, completely unscratched. He breathed in relief.

"Oh, thanks Wade."

"You're thanking me?" Wade said, incredulously, "You're the one who went all dragon-y on that asshole! Thank you. I mean, that was AWESOME."

Peter was able to blush properly this time. "Er...thank you. It was - it was no problem. Really."

"No problem my ass, you were all like," he made loud growling noises and swiped with imaginary claws, "And he was like, oh no don't hurt me, and then you were like, 'Then you better go away,' and he was like-" he made dramatic sobbing noises and pretended to faint.

Peter whacked his shoulder. "That is not what happened."

"That's exactly what happened. I was there. I remember."

Peter laughed to himself and found a dirty pile of trousers - the last one in his stock - and quickly pulled them on. He was headed toward the basin and food storages, stomach rumbling for food, when he halted, breathe staunching.

He slowly brought his hands up, slapping the sides of his face in horror. "What did I just do?" He whispered to himself. "Oooooh dammit. Damnit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit." He paced in a wide circled, tugging on his hair frantically.

How could he have been so careless? That was such a reckless and stupid move to pull. "Xmneta help me," he said, banging a fist on the table. "Why am I so dim-witted!?"

"Whoa, whoa, easy there," Wade said, appearing by his side. "What are you talking about? Calm down. It's okay."

"No!" Peter said, holding a finger in his face, "It's not okay. It's the farthest it could be from okay. This is...this is the worst thing that could've happened."

"What are you talking about? If it's about my storytelling, okay, I admit I was a bit dramatic, but-"

"No, that's not it," Peter flapped a hand on him, pacing the floor again. "That dragon saw me shift. It knows I'm a draeconus now! Shit! Shit! Shit! Fuck!"

This is bad. So very, very bad. He's been so careful. For years he's been tip-toeing about the island to keep his secret. Kept himself isolated as best he could. Sure, he made one or two mistakes in those years, but nothing quite like this. His entire foundation here was about to be uprooted. The likelihood of that dragon keeping his muzzle shut about Peter's true nature was little to nothing. They were going to be on his doorstep by morning. He barely made it out the last time, he couldn't afford to be chased off again.

"Whoa, hey, listen to me," Wade grabbed his face, shocking Peter out of the panic he was diving head-first into. "Calm down. Easy does it. Just breathe for a second Petey, you're about to pass out."

He was feeling light-headed. Wade led him to the table and sat him on the stool, and nudged the other one over to himself. With his hands still on the sides of Peter's face, he rubbed his thumb over his cheek lightly. A soothing touch that brought Peter back to the ground.

"Now," Wade said, slow and carefully, "Why is it so bad that that dragon saw you shift?"

Peter winced. Just hearing those words out loud made him want to throw up. "They can't know," Peter whispered, "They can't know I'm draeconus, Wade. I can't - I'm not supposed to-" he took a deep breath that swelled tightly in his chest.

He wasn't supposed to tell Wade either. The words pushed against his lips, dying to get out, but he swallowed them back down. There were too many lives at risk if he said anything. The more people that knew, the more dangerous it'd be. Not just for him, but for all draeconus.

Sometimes, he wished he'd never left at all.

When he didn't go on, Wade sighed as if he expected that much. "Alright, here's what we're gonna do," he said, "I'll make dinner tonight. I want you to go sit at your desk and harvest your flowers. Can you do that? We don't want them to go bad, remember?"

Peter's eyes found his bag and returned to Wade's face. He nodded.

"Good. Now go on, and if I hear you pass out I'll have to wear your glasses until you wake up. You know I will."

Peter nodded again and Wade left him go. Numbly, he retrieved his bag and sat himself down at one of the other tables. He spread the flowers out around him and set to work cutting off the soft petals. His fingers shook as he worked, and his mind fumbled so much it was a wonder he didn't cut himself.

When they were more-or-less cut, he piled them into a bowl and stuck the stems in an opposite pile.

At his back, Wade was singing a loud, obscene tavern song as he swayed his hips to imaginary music and cut vegetables. He was acting nonchalant and casual but looked over at Peter ever so often to make sure he wasn't unconscious.

Despite the hysteria banging on the door, Peter forced himself to focus on his task religiously. Not sparing himself a second to dwell on what happened. He wasn't sure how much time passed before the aroma of food filled the space. A few more minutes went by before Wade clapped, snapping Peter out of his daze, and beckoned for him to join him.

Peter dropped the stem he was holding and plopped into the chair by the table.

It's been a long day and his stomach growled hungrily, but just the thought of eating made him nauseous. Anxiety ate away at his stomach like ravenous wildcats.

"Here we are," Wade said, piling his plate with a mound seasoned vegetables and a few chopped up pieces of meat. "You don't mind eating vegetables, right?"

Staring into the wood of the table, Peter grabbed his fork and impaled a carrot roughly. He chewed it mindlessly, swallowed, and grabbed another. He was gonna throw up, but Saints he was hungry.

Wade stared at him, eyebrows knit and lips turned down in worry. But he didn't comment and nibbled on his own food too.

They eat in silence. When the table wouldn't give him the answers he needed, Peter glanced past Wade at his food baskets, which were still pulled out. He was almost out of vegetables. That meant another trip to into the Native's storage pantries.

Or, at least, that would mean another trip to the food storages. Not so much anymore...

He had wanted to start his own garden. There was a grove nearby that he could've sown for his own plants. He's been reading up on books and plant types to figure out what would grow well in the soil, and what wouldn't. There were a few things he planned on trying out to keep animals away.

It would've been a nice project to keep his mind occupied when he wasn't hunting, studying, or making oils. But he would've had to wait for the next planting season.

Not that any of that mattered anymore. He wasn't going to get to make his own garden. Hell, his cave was as good as gone already. Right now the dragon species were probably rallying to chase him out of the jungles. Why wasn't he packing up?

One glance around the cavern and he knew he would have to leave behind most of his stuff. He'd have to pack sparingly. Couldn't take all his books or oils with him. He might be able to take one of his fur blankets, but it'd have to be small. He didn't have any more clean clothes, but even those he'd have to pack lightly too. He'd have to run fast and quick. Lose them in the thicker tree's before flying off once he got to the coves. They might chase him across the ocean for a while, but they'd fall back eventually.

After that...well, he had no idea.

"I can see you panicking from over here," Wade said, snatching Peter's attention.

Peter grimaced and set down his fork, appetite lost for good. And what was he going to do about Wade? The guy had no idea what was going on, or what he got himself into. Peter might be able to get him to the settlement, but was it worth the risk? The dragons might plow the port over in rage, thinking that the treaty has been violated.

Maybe they'll be so preoccupied with chasing Peter, Wade could go around back and meet up with his expedition party.

"Hey," Wade said gently, and Peter peaked up at him. "I don't know what's going on Petey-Pie, and I know your probably not going to tell me, but I'm here for you."

"We don't even know each other," Peter mumbled down at the table. "It's only been a few days."

"And that's good enough for me," he set his fork down, face grim and determined. "Nothing's gonna hurt you, okay? I won't let it."

Peter's face fell in his hands and he groaned, "What am I going to do? This was my home, Wade. My home. And now I can't..." his shoulders sagged.

This time Wade fidgeted and he picked at his plate. Twisting his head to the side, he scratched at his neck and flicked a vegetable away. "You could..." he started, but grimaced, cheeks flushing. "You could...come with me..."

Peter stared at him.

"To the mainland," Wade continued, looking at his food fixedly. "I mean...we're Bonded, so they won't think twice about you being there. I'm part of the dragon guard, so I can get you food and clothing. I won't let anyone bother you either. I think Captain Rogers would understand."

And Peter, with that simple, stuttery sentence, suddenly felt like a rabbit in a snare. Wade was watching him now, eyes hesitant and timid, but wide and expecting an answer. Peter's words were cluttered back in his throat.

Go back to the mainland? With Wade?

That was...

That was not an option he had considered.


Chapter Text


Wade POV

Wade lingered in the hall leading to the bathing room the way a virgin might linger outside a brothel house. Nervous and timid of what lay beyond, and perhaps even a little guilty of what he wanted out of it. He twisted his fingers together, rubbed them across his head, picked aggressively at the scars on his face, and peaked out into the main cavern.

Peter picked his way through the desks and bookcases, piling his arms high with various items and trinkets. He muttered low to himself as he worked, picking things up, turning it from side to side, before either adding it to the pile or returning it to its spot. The way he rushed from place to place, eyebrows knitting together and lips just shy of a frown, reminded Wade too much of his mother when she knew his dad was on his way home.

And just like his younger self, he stepped out into the open, hands bunched in his shirt, "Anything I can do to help?"

Peter looked up at him as if he'd forgotten Wade was there at all. He hesitated, shifting the weight in his arms as he glanced at his treasures, but shook his head. "No thanks, Wade. I've got it." And carried on without another word.

Wade nodded quickly and his shoulders bunched. He stepped out of the tunnel to lean against the wall, arms crossed too tightly on his stomach to be normal, and curled his tongue in his mouth as the familiar putrid taste of guilt crawled up his throat. Peter had been unable to meet his eyes the whole night, ever since Wade suggested he go to the mainland with him.

Not that Wade could blame him. If his entire world had been ripped at the seams, he would've been resentful too. But however peeved it made Peter and guilty it made Wade, it was obvious that neither of them could stay here anymore. Wade because his time in Batl'Ar was coming to a close, and Peter because...well, Wade didn't know. But Peter said he couldn't stay there himself, and Wade was going to take his word for it.

He didn't know what was going on, or why Peter's existence was threatening toward the other dragons, but Peter had been two-seconds away from a full-blown panic and Wade had been struggling to find a way to ask him to leave for the mainland the entire day.

In hindsight, blurting out his proposal probably hadn't been the best way to ask. But seeing Peter panic like that made Wade panic. As soon as Peter started talking about his home as if he were already gone, he hadn't been able to stop himself. Captain Rogers said he had a bit of a habit of speaking his mind, however brash or inappropriate his opinions were, and Wade was already aware that he had a loose tongue. He hadn't been able to help himself.

Something he regretted instantly.

For a while, all Peter did was stare at him; mouth gaping, eyes wide as if trying to wrap his head around the very idea. Wade stewed in his embarrassment for just as long, suddenly wishing he had his cowl back. Somethings were just better when he could hide behind a piece of clothing.

Who did he think he was asking such a thing? Peter barely knew him. He barely knew Peter. Fate may have bonded them, but that didn't mean Peter owed him anything.

All Wade did since arriving was rip Peter's world up from the roots. He had bonded with Spidey, even though Peter told him it should've been impossible. He infiltrated his cave and snuck up on him in the baths even though he wasn't invited inside. He gave Peter the idea of taking him up to the Dragon Grounds, where they were inevitably attacked and Peter's secret outed. And, now, Wade was trying to take him back home with him.

Saints, he was a terrible person, wasn't he? How could he ask this much of Peter? In fact, why hadn't Peter kicked him out yet? Wade had way overstayed his welcome and Peter was probably only giving him a place to sleep out of courtesy.

When Wade stripped it down to its bare essentials, this was all just a terrible, no-good, very bad idea, and he wished he never said anything in the first place.

Then, quiet as a cat, Peter whispered, "Okay," and if Wade had his knives on him, he would've stabbed his own thigh to make sure his brain wasn't playing tricks.

"What?" He repeated, and Peter huddled in on himself, arms curling over sides as if he'd been drenched with a bucket of cold water.

"Okay," he said, louder. "But I'm not going as Peter. If you came here to bond with a dragon, then it'd be strange if you showed up with a person; and I'm not telling anyone else who I am," that was when he looked Wade in the eyes; eyes dark and firm and immovable, "And neither are you. This is our secret, Wade. Got it?"

Wade nodded several times before he figured he should answer. "Yes. Yes, of course. I won't tell anyone. I promise."

"You'll only address me as Spidey to people, and don't treat me any different than the other knights with their dragons. As far as you know, I'm just another dragon training to be in the guard."

Wade wanted to argue that Peter was anything but "another dragon" even if he wasn't a draceonus. But he understood what he was saying. He couldn't treat Peter like a special case. Couldn't talk to him like he was another person. To Captain Rogers and the rest of the knights-in-training, he hadn't even spoken to Spidey/Peter at all.

"Got it," Wade said, "You're just another dragon heading to the Dragon Grounds when I found you."


After that, they discussed strategy. Together, they came up with a story that'd explain how they found each other and bonded, and where they've been all this time. Even after their story was laid out in broad detail, Peter quizzed Wade on everything to make sure it stuck. After that, they discussed what they'd do once they made it to the mainland. Peter agreed to train with him, but he made sure Wade understood that he wasn't promising to stick with it.

"I'm relocating," he'd said. "While I scout out a place to go, I'll stick with you and the guard. But as soon as I find another suitable home, I'm gone. Don't try to follow me. And if you tell anyone what I really am, I will hunt you down and skin you alive."

He said it in such a sharp, dangerous tone, Wade didn't have trouble believing every word. As much as seeing Peter leave would sting, Wade owed it to him to let him go. It wasn't fair to try and tie him down. Peter was obviously running from something and Wade didn't want to be the one to trap him.

So he agreed.

Ever since they came up with a plan, Peter's been busy storing away his things. He couldn't take anything back to the mainland and Wade could tell it was eating him up inside. When he thought Wade wasn't looking, Peter trailed his hands over his books, almost lovingly. When Wade asked him about them, he muttered on about how he'd acquired them from the natives over the years. Some he had even written himself. He took the majority of his oils, spices, and alchemy trinkets and stored them far away in a hard-to-see tunnel near the bathing room. But everything else was left out in the open.

It was quite some time before Peter finished putting away his most valuable possessions, and when he did, he stopped not far from Wade, hands hanging limply at his sides and shoulders drooped.

"They're probably gonna burn everything," he muttered, eyes roaming over the leftover desks, bookcases, furs, and baskets.

For some reason, that made Wade's heart ache and he looked over the expanse of the cavern. He hadn't been here for very long, but he'd grown attached to the cave. It was homey and nice, and the smell of incense and lavender was soothing. It pained him to think that it'd all be burnt to ash. Besides, this was Peter's home. The time and effort put into everything before Wade's eyes. He could understand how devastating it was to leave everything you've worked so hard to build.

"I'm sorry," he said, coming up to stand next to Peter, holding his hands unsurely in front of him, "I didn't mean for...I shouldn't have..." he sighed, looking down at his shoes, "You don't deserve this, Peter."

Peter sniffed and rubbed his nose quickly. "Well," he said, clearing his throat roughly and turning away from Wade to wipe at his eyes. "What's done is done. We've better hurry if we plan on making it back in time. Besides, it's been a while so the news has probably spread by now."

"Yeah," Wade said, following as Peter headed toward the back where the basin stood. On his way past a table full of drying lavender stems, he noticed Peter's glasses sitting on the side and picked them up, turning them over in his hand.

"Hey, Petey, why aren't you-" he was interrupted by a dulled, angry roar that could only come from outside. Close behind it, a thud came from the main tunnel of the cave. Peter and Wade whipped in its direction as an ominous quiet followed. Seconds later, another thud hit the rock and a CRACK filled the silence.

Peter grabbed Wade's hand, eyes wide and panicked again. "Come on. Come on. They're here," Wade mindlessly slipped the glasses into the inside pocket of his pants as Peter pulled him into a tunnel near the back that was hidden unless seen at the right angle. Peter went in first but kept a firm grip on Wade's hand as he led them through the ensuing darkness.

"They came sooner than I expected," he muttered to himself, sounding cross even though Wade couldn't see him. "I thought the anger would've ebbed a little by now," at their backs, the thudding continued until there was a louder crack and a victorious roar.

Peter cursed and pulled Wade faster. They descended down a slanting path of rocks that recquired Peter to let go of his hand so they could climb their way down. As soon as they were on even ground again, Peter found Wade's hand and they kept going. The farther they went, the lighter the cavern became, until an opening appeared in the rock, overcast with vines and leaves.

They crouched near the opening as Peter peaked out of the vines. Wade looked down at their still intertwined hands and was wondering Peter hadn't let go when another roar ripped the air outside, followed by a swoosh that could only be a burst of fire. Peter flinched and gripped Wade's hand tighter. So, maybe it was more for him than Wade. He squeezed Peter's hand back, and Peter glanced fleetingly at him from over his shoulder.

Peter smiled a strained watery smile, and let Wade's hand go. "Alright, we've got to move fast," he whispered. "As soon as I shift, get on my back and I'll fly us down to the docks," He peered outside the green curtain again, while grabbing the hem of his shirt and lifting it over his head. He discarded the piece of clothing on the ground, and Wade looked away, clamping a hand over his eyes when his pants soon followed.

"Whoa! Warn a guy next time."

"It's nothing you haven't seen already," Peter huffed, and for some reason that made Wade blush. He hid his red cheeks behind the hand already on his face, hoping Peter couldn't see it. Saint's, it wasn't like he was a virgin. He's had sex before, with many people - more in his earlier years than now, thanks to his skin. But still, he should be able to see a man naked without blushing like it was his first time.

Besides, it's not like he even had sex with Peter. He just happened to see him naked while he was bathing. That was it. That was all. There was nothing to be embarrassed about here.

He cleared his throat and fanned his face lightly, hoping it might get rid of the unwanted coloring, "Aye. A plan. There's the plan. Yep, I'll hop on your back as soon as you shifted and we'll head off. Sounds like a good strategy. Got it. Good. Wonderful." He gave Peter a thumbs up.

If Peter noticed his behavior, he didn't say anything. He peered out of the vines once more, tilting his head as if listening. "Can't hear it," he grimaced. "Too many dragons around for it to make a sound. Alright, we'll just have to take the risk," he looked over his shoulder, "You ready?"

Wade nodded. "Let's go."

Without further hesitation, Peter burst from the tunnel, in all his naked glory, and instantly began to shift. Wade followed him out, eager to watch the transformation again, only to stumble on a branch on his way and face plant the dirt.

"Ow, no, wait!" He jerked from the ground, scrambling to get back up just as Spidey turned over his shoulder to peer at him. "Dammit, I didn't get to watch! Can you do it again? Just one more time?"

Spidey's look gave him a very clear no.

Wade groaned and stood up, "Fine. Let's go."

Spidey bent down, angling his shoulders so Wade could clamber on. Using Spidey's leg as a ladder and the joint of his wing as a hand-hold, he lifted himself up on Spidey's back, in the space between the ragged bones jutting out of his spine and his wings. He gripped the spines tightly and pat the side of Spidey's neck.

It was a dark morning. The sky was overcast with purple and black clouds, with winds the buffeted the tree's and their branches as if determined to make them bend the knee. A storm really was coming. In more ways than one.

"Alright, good to go."

Spidey gave a rumble of affirmation and unfurled his wings. But to the right of them, the ground exploded in a burst of dirt and fire, and Spidey stumbled to the side, roaring in surprise. A slithery, serpentine dragon was climbing down the mountainside, eyes pinned to Wade and Spidey, baring its teeth under a snarling nose. It inhaled, preparing for another blast.

Beneath him, Spidey's body rumbled. Or vibrated. It was a low grumble that built in his throat before unleashing a powerful torrent of his own fire. It wasn't as large or intense as the other dragons' was, but it was enough to make it shy away to get a better vantage point.

Spidey took the opening to climb swiftly up the mountainside, just like he did the other day. He didn't stop till he was high enough that they looked down on the tree's and kicked off the wall of rocks, flapping his wings. They hit the air roughly, dipping low enough that Spidey's legs caught on the tops of the canopies, ripping branches and leaves apart before he gained altitude and they glided over the tops. A flock of small, bird-like dragons flew out of the trees in a panicked group. But instead of dispersing, they gathered around Spidey, squawking, and growling.

They dived down and nipped at his underbelly scales and raked their claws over any part of his body that they could find. Spidey roared, veering sharply to the side.

The little dragons weren't the only ones on their tail. For the past few days, the jungle had been desolate of dragons. An empty rumor of the tall-tales from the mainland. Now, those rumors had gained life. Dragons were flocking them from every direction. Wade could see them moving below in the tree's - some small, fleeting shadows, and others big, hulking masses. Like creatures beneath ocean waves. Some roared at them from the mountain tops, baring their teeth with their claws gripping the rocks in hostility. Others were already in the air, swooping down at them with their maws unhinged and open for the kill.

"Uh, Spidey," Wade said, but he was already in motion.

Spidey dived and dodged the claws of a bulky brown and purple dragon, and narrowly avoided getting his neck bitten by a smaller, lithe dragon with iridescent green scales. He wasn't as lucky the third time, when a large dragon rammed into his side, veering him off course. Wade yelped as his grip on Spidey's back loosened, and he squeezed his legs around Spidey's sides as he nearly toppled into the open air. They fell a distance before Spidey regained his bearings and flapped quickly to stabilize themselves.

Almost instantly, he was hit again. At least this time he was expecting it and the effect wasn't as bad. But he was getting panicked. Looking left and right, flapping harder and desperate for a way out. Wade gripped onto the spines, gritting through the way they bit into his hands. They just needed one opening. Just one.

But the longer they stood out in the open like this, the more dragons swarmed them. Emerging from the forest like an infestation of hungry rats who've just sniffed a feast. They needed to act fast and soon. But how? Wade wasn't any use up there. He didn't have any weapons or ideas. He was as small and useless as a flea clinging to a dogs fur.

They were as good as dead.

Maybe the Saints were looking out for them. Or maybe it was just a stroke of dumb luck. But a sudden zip in the air had them all pausing. It was a low, menacing feeling that tickled Wade's skin and would've made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end if he had any. A moment passed, then a bright jagged burst of light arched through the sky, filling the clouds and the space around it in a wave of intense heat and light. It was there and then gone, but it was bright enough to blind their attackers. A loud, grueling boom of thunder followed, rattling the very skies.

Wade blinked the bright spots from his eyes, hissing roughly. Judging by the way Spidey was shaking his head, he deduced he was affected by the lightning the same as him. But through his blurry, blotched vision, a break had appeared among the dragons group as they flapped viciously to account for their lost sight. Through the opening, Wade could see a blurry black spot farther away.

The settlement. The rules of the treaty applied there. The dragons couldn't attack the settlement without treading through the agreement made through the dragon-human pact.

"Over there," Wade bellowed over the wind, pounding against Spidey's scales in the direction they needed to go.

Thankfully, Spidey got the message, and veered them sharply to the left, zipping out of the disorganized dragons and making a crazy fly for the settlement. A few of them followed, but the rest held back, flapping blindly.

Wade rubbed his eyes, willing them to heal faster. The dragons were gaining on them. He doubted another stroke of luck would give them a chance at escape. It was now or never. But, as his eyes searched the rolling waters of the dock, his stomach dropped.

The ship wasn't there. It was gone. Captain Roger. The expedition party. They already left.

Wade turned his gaze to the open ocean where, sure enough, a large vessel was cutting through the water. "We've got to catch up to them," Wade yelled as loud as he could, pointing out toward the sea even though Spidey probably couldn't even see him.

Spidey roared back. Or maybe it was just a warning to ward off the other dragons. He couldn't really tell. But Spidey shifted their direction, and soon enough, they flew past the settlement, where a wide crowd of natives had gathered to pinpoint what was happening on their island.

Wade looked down at the mass of people, spotting the familiar faces in the crowd that he'd talk to in his first days there. There were a few he didn't recognize though. A few servants, some old fishermen with rotted looking clothes, and a foreign dude with a funky mustache. But they waved back at him, no less. The bar-lady Wade had gotten close to whooped loudly, swinging her fishnet hat in the air.

"Good for ya, Wade!" she screamed over the wind, just loud enough that Wade could hear. "Ya got a dragon!"

He whooped back, pumping his fist in the air, then they were flying over the water. Wade looked over his shoulder. The few dragons still pursuing him were falling back, losing interest now that they were off the island. In the distance, a pillar of smoke rose near the mountain cliffs, and Wade frowned. Looks like Peter was right. They were burning the cave.

Sighing, he turned back around, hunkering low over Peter's back so he wasn't blown off. "We made it," he muttered, watching as the ship drew closer. "That was a close one."

Spidey roared victoriously.

Wade lay his head down on Spidey's neck, settling his racing heart. "Don't look down," he muttered. "Don't look down. Don't look down. Don't fucking look down, you'll regret it, Wilson."

He looked down and instantly regretted it.

But not so much because of the height but because of the huge, black shape rising from the depths of the waves. "Aw shit," Wade said, just as the water erupted, spitting out the large form of a monstrously huge dragon. "Fucking hell!"

Its scales were pitch black, like spilled ink. All except the scales on its left arm, which were a bright silver color that glinted even in the shadowed morning. Dammit, Wade forgot about Bucky. Captain Roger's bonded dragon had stayed with the ship the majority of the time, making sure it wasn't attacked by bitter sea dragons while they were docked. He normally would've followed them u the mountain to the Dragon Grounds, to ensure their safety, but Captain Roger's decided it'd be better to leave him behind to defend the ship. Especially after a particularly daring bottom-dwelling dragon had almost managed to rip a hole in the bottom.

If there was one thing to know about Bucky, it was that he was huge. A colossal of a dragon. The biggest one Wade's ever laid his eyes on to-date, with a reputation that preceded the Tri-Kingdom land. No dragon had ever challenged him and actually won, except for the dragons in the original Dragon Guard.

Spidey made a small, weak little squawk and quickly doubled back, dancing around Bucky's impressive wing-span when they almost knocked him out of the sky. His bout of pride from out-flying the other dragons faded and he hovered nervously, tucking in on himself with barely enough wing-power to keep them in the air.

Not that Wade blamed him. He was this close to pissing his pants.

A pair of intelligent black eyes glared at them as Bucky opened his jaw, displaying rows upon rows of jagged teeth, and let out a guttural roar that swept over them like an angry wave crashing on the beach. Wade pressed his face into Spidey's neck, clapping his hands over his ears. Saints, is that what thunder actually felt like? Damn.

Spidey made a noise like he wanted to roar back, but it came out as a small whimper. He ducked his head, body shuddering.

"Fuuuuuck," Wade rasped, stuck between utter terror and complete awe.

Bucky opened his mouth again, chest rumbling, and Wade knew what was coming next. So, this is how he was going to die. Roasted alive with his dragon. Well, it was nice while it lasted, at least. Spidey seemed to come to the same resigned conclusion and grumbled somewhat sourly as if to say, 'wellthis might as well have happened today.'

Just before it could build though, a sharp, metallic clanging sound made Bucky pause, and he tilted his head. He maneuvered so he was looking down at the ship and cocked his head at the man banging his sword against his shield.

Wade followed Bucky's gaze and sagged in relief. Captain Roger's was gesturing wildly for Bucky to leave them alone. "It's okay," he shouted, "They're with us, Bucky. We've got a couple of tardy students."

All pretense of aggression rolled off Bucky's frame like droplets of water and he grumbled, almost rolling his eyes. He looked back at Spidey and Wade, huffing as if to say, 'can you believe this guy,' and coughed back the building fire in his chest. Shaking himself as to get rid of the residue flames, he looked at them one more time, grumbled something that could've been a warm greeting, before arching his body and diving head-first into the water. The resounding wave knocked against the ship, making it bob.

Captain Roger's gestured up at Wade, beaming from the helm of the ship. "Well," he shouted, "Get on down here, son. Let's see your dragon."

Wade rubbed a hand over his face, so relieved he could've kissed someone. The first person he saw. "Yes Sir, Captain, Sir!" He patted Spidey's neck. "Let's land, Spidey. Watch out for the sails, though."

And Spidey did, somewhat dazed. Likely still in shock from their near-death experience. With directions from Captain Roger's, they landed on the ship deck. By now a crowd had amassed, looking eagerly at the new arrivals. Wade recognized the faces of his fellow students among the ship crew paid to take them to the island. Around the deck, a few dragons peered at them curiously too. Not as many as there should've been, Wade was confused to find.

He slid off Spidey's back, and almost fell when he landed on his feet. "Fuck," he cursed, gripping his inner thighs and groin. He hadn't noticed with all the excitement going on, but Captain Roger's warning was right. Spidey's scaled had completely torn through his pants and chafed his skin into a raw, red mess. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," he hissed, "You were right. You were so right."

Captain Roger's laughed heartily as he descended the stairs leading up to the helm of the ship. He clapped Wade on the shoulder when he was close enough and turned him so they were facing each other, "Aye, it sounds fun flying until you've actually done it. Don't worry, we'll get you a saddle in no time."

"Much appreciated."

Master Banner completely ignored Wade and came shouldering roughly past Captain Roger's to look over Spidey with an excited gleam in his eye. "Hello there," he greeted, smiling up at Spidey with a mixture of intrigue and wonder. "Look at you," he breathed, "You must be a mixed breed, huh. A cross between Sand Sleeper and Reef Dweller, I'd say."

Spidey looked down at Master Banner like he didn't know how to respond. He glanced over at Wade, then back at Master Banner, and shifted on his feet, warbling under his breath. He looked so much like a little schoolboy under the gaze of a teach it almost made Wade laugh.

"Kind of nervous, yes?" Master Banner laughed, "Don't worry. You're perfectly safe here. Sorry about Bucky. When you tell him to protect the ship, he takes his job seriously."

At that, Spidey grumbled grumpily and looked over the edge of the ship as if to glare at the hidden dragon below. Master Banner extended a hand toward Spidey and asked, "May I? It's my job to look over every dragon and make sure they're healthy-eeeeeeee! Hey, what with this?" He demanded gesturing to the cuts along Spidey's belly and scrapes on his scales.

Spidey hesitated but allowed Master Banner to surge forward and peer worriedly at the wounds he'd received. "What'd you do?" He demanded, looking at Wade.

Wade held his hands, "Nothing. I did nothing."

"Damned knights," Master Banner snapped, "thinking just because you've got a dragon you can treat it like some common animal. Can't believe this! The sheer incompetence!" He examined the cuts and given a moment he got back up, "They're not fatal. Just small flesh wounds. They'll heal up easily. I might have some salve I can rub on them to help, though."

Still grumbling under his breath, he ran his hands over Spidey's limbs, testing the joints to make sure they were all working okay. He plucked a few stray leafs from beneath Spidey's scales, before moving to his legs and examining his joints, scales, and claws. Once satisfied, he moved to his wing joints, rubbing the muscles there firmly, and making Spidey grumble low with approval.

"I saw you flying from the island," he was saying to Spidey as he worked, "You must've been flapping pretty hard. I saw some of those dragons chasing you, so you must've been over-exerting yourself. Your wings are more for protection and intimidation than flight, am I right? Be sure to take care of them. You've strained your wings joints and muscles a little, but," he finished up with a clap, and rubbed Spidey's neck warmly, "I think you're all good."

Spidey grinned. Not his toothy, snarky one, but more of a pleased upturn of his lips, and nudged Master Banner affectionately, whom chuckled and pat his head.

Wade let out a harsh breath, "He hasnt' done that to me yet."

"Bruce has a way with dragons," Captain Rogers said, patting his shoulders. "They all end up being his friend one way or another. Don't take it too hard. Sometimes, I think Bucky likes him more than me."

Wade scoffed, "Unlikely." He's seen Captain Rogers with Bucky. The two were practically inseparable. Wade couldn't imagine two living, breathing, beings with a better dynamic than them.

"I'm impressed you made it back," Captain Rogers said, "Sorry about having to leave you like that, but I expressed the rules quite clearly. I couldn't make any exceptions."

Wade grinned tightly, trying not to think of their crazy ride over here. "No biggie. I get it. I mean," he took out the note still miraculously tucked away into his belt. Peter's glasses thumped in his pocket and Wade made sure to angle the clothe away so no one would notice the bulge. "I got your note. So, it's all good."

Captain Rogers looked at the note somewhat surprise." You still have it?'s good that you made it there, then. I figured you'd find a way to the Dragon Grounds on your own. You're pretty resourceful."

Wade bit his tongue to stop himself from dancing a jig right there on the deck. Captain Roger was supportive in every way, but true praise from his was rare. Something to be treasured like fine diamonds and pearls. He tucked the note back in his pants, along with the praise, and clasped his hands behind his back, rolling happily on the balls of his feet.

"Bruce," Captain Rogers called, pulling the Master's attention from the frills on the side of Spidey's head, "C'mon, we've got to check over our food supply and figure out tomorrow's rotation."

Master Banner sighed, "Very well," and begrudgingly let Spidey go to follow Captain Rogers below deck. "You've got a mighty fine dragon," he told Wade on his way out. "Don't abuse himHe's over-exerted himself enough today as it is."

Wade stared at Master Banner's back. That was the most the Master has ever talked to him before. Granted getting giddy over a scolding was strange, but still. He strode over to Spidey with a skip in his step, "He says your a mighty fine dragon," he cooed, and Spidey snorted.

Though, he didn't look as confident now that Master Banner was gone. The ship-hands had slowed to observe the new arrivals but had gone back to work as soon as Captain Rogers left below deck. But the eager, curious faces of Wade's fellow knights peered at them through a rough circle, not quite converging on them yet, but tauntingly close. There were a few of the dragons curled up on deck, including a monstrously big one that was napping in the corner, and were up too, sniffing and peering at Spidey curiously.

Peter shuffled under all the attention, curling his wings tighter to his body. "Hey," Wade soothed him, patting his neck, "It's okay. Just ignore them, alright. Pretend they're not even there."

Wade wished he could've taken his own advice when a familiar voice from the crowd jeered, "Aye, Wade. Thought for a second you might've been gone for good. Clumsy of me for getting my hopes up."

Oh. Right. He forgot about the douche bag on board. Wade liked to pretend Francis didn't exist, and sometimes it actually worked. Unfortunately, it was all-too disappointing when his fantasies were shattered. He spun around on his heels, one hand still on Spidey's neck, and pulled a cheery smile, "Francis. I see you didn't get eaten by a dragon. How unfortunate for all of us."

"What've you got there," Francis goated, ignoring Wade's statement in favor of looking Spidey over as if he were observing a stock of cattle. His face pinched, fingers on his chin, "So you did find a dragon willing to put up with your bullshit. A little on the small side, wouldn't you say?"

Wade glowered at him but kept patting Spidey. More for himself, than anything. "Size doesn't matter, Francie. I think you, of anyone, should know that, because," Wade gestured to Francis's groin and made a small measurement with his hand, "you know."

A laugh rumbled from the crowd and Francis flushed. "And how would you know? Been laying with cocks again, have you?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," Wade said, shooting him a quick wink and blowing him a kiss.

Francis's nose pinched in disgust, "Good to know that your as disgusting inside as you are on the outside," and gestured to Wade's face.

For the first time since arriving on deck, Wade realized that he wasn't wearing his cowl. His face and arms were completely bare, showing off the rough trenches, scabs, and scars littering his body.

His hand lifted, wanting to pull the hood that wasn't there over his head, only to hover in the air and drop back at his side. His eyes flickered over the crowd, suddenly apprehensive as a mighty urge to run below deck hit him. Dammit. He's gotten so used to having it off, it had completely slipped his mind that he'd be coming to the ship bare-faced. He didn't like the vulnerability licking up his spines. It was different with Peter. With these people, he could see the lingering looks they gave his skin. The pity in their eyes; the revulsion on their face.

He crossed his arms over his chest, tightly, scowling at them each in turn. He met Francis's gaze, who was smirking now, almost triumphant over Wade's discomfort. Wade glared at him, refusing to look away. No matter how much his skin itched icy-hot with the feeling of eyes roaming over it. No matter how much the weight of their judgment settled on his shoulders like a sopping wet cloak.

Francis's smirk widened, just a fraction, and Wade couldn't hold it anymore. He looked away, shame and odium dripping sludge in his chest.

Francis chuckled, "Now, how about we see what a real dragon looks like," he turned and whistled, shouting, "Oi, Angel Dust."

The large dragon in the corner lifted her head, dark, dulled eyes picking Francis out of the crowd before getting to her feet. She lumbered across the deck. She was larger up close. Not nearly the height or size of Bucky, but still impressive. She had dark purple scales, almost black, with speckles of white dotting the expanse of her folded wings, like stardust. The jagged horns crowning her head and spine were pristine and white, like starch, dry bone.

The crowd split as she walked up behind Francis, eyeing Spidey up and down with an amused glint in her eyes. Not a friendly amused, either. But an it-would-be-amusing-to-pummel-you look. Spidey growled under his breath, wings shifting as if preparing to take off.

Or scare off. Master Banner did say his wings were more for intimidation than flight.

"This is a dragon," Francis gloated, patting the thick muscle of Angel Dust's arms.

Where Spidey was small and lithe, Angel Dust was large and bulging with muscle. Powerfully corded limbs that could easily crush a full grown man. She rumbled at Spidey, and whatever she must've said made Spidey growl back.

"Easy," Wade soothed him again. The last thing they needed was to get in a fight. He didn't need to get in trouble moments after he got there. Besides, as Master Banner said, Spidey must've exerted himself a lot to get them off the island. He needed to take it easy.

Francis, on the other hand, did nothing to stop Angel Dust from baring her teeth and stepping toward Spidey. She got only one step before Spidey hissed and the frills pinned to the side of his head unfurled, large and quivering in the wind. Angel Dust recoiled, teeth disappearing behind a startled noise.

Wade looked up at Spidey's snarled face and grinned, "Looks like my dragons got a few of his own tricks."

Francis's own surprised withered and he glared, hand going for his sword, when a sharp, disapproving shout appeared above deck.

"What's going on over here?" Captain Rogers demanded, emerging from below deck.

Francis stepped back.

"Nothing," he said, tension gone with an airy smile. His hand dropped from his sword and was placed behind his back, like a kid hiding a stolen piece of bread. "Just welcoming our good friend back, Captain."

"Well, get back to work. These decks won't swab themselves."

"Yes, Sir."

Like that, the crowds dispersed. A few cast long looks back at Angel Dust and Spidey, as if disappointed a fight hadn't broken out, but obeyed and went back to their jobs.

While they did have a crew to maintain the ship, Captain Rogers insisted the knights pull their own weight. This trip wasn't for fun, after all.

"Wade," Captain Rogers said, stopping Wade in his effort to avoid attention, "A word, please."

Wade's shoulders slumped, Great, in trouble already. He didn't even do anything wrong. "C'mon," he sighed, motioning to Spidey as he trudged up the steps to the stern of the ship where Captain Roger's was heading. "May as well get this over with."

Spidey followed close behind him, almost skittishly so. He was already so tense after the dragon attack, so the confrontation with Angel Dust probably hadn't done anything to soothe his paranoia. The stairs were barely enough to fit him as he kept his snout close to Wade's back, similar to a child hiding behind its mother.

Wade approached the Captain with his arms out in a widespread gesture, almost like a hug. "Yes, Captain?"

"Just making sure your settling in," Captain Rogers said, patting the actual Captain of the ship, a hard-faced man who went by Morrie, on the shoulder and leaving him to the helm. "Noticed a crowd had formed. What was that about?"

"Just Francis being Francis," Wade shrugged, "A bad apple if there ever was one. You know, my mama always said; put a bad apple in the barrel, and soon you'll have nothing but a whole lotta rotten fruit. I say we toss him overboard and-" Captain Rogers gave him a hard look and Wade glowered. "Alright. Fine."

"Same thing happens every year," Captain Rogers said, steering Wade to the side of the ship, where he leaned against the hard-wood railing and looked down at the rolling churn of the ocean, "there's always competition over who has the better dragon. To be honest, the dragons like to fight over who has the best human - according to Bucky anyway. But everyone settles down eventually."

It wasn't rare to hear about the mental bond between Bucky and the Captain, allowing them to communicate through their thoughts, but it was a treat every time. Every dragon rider would eventually learn how to communicate with their dragon the same way.

But Wade scoffed, crossing his arms over the railing, "Not with Francis."

Captain Rogers rolled his eyes, but straightened up, "Anyway, I'm glad you here but I don't tolerate slackers. Grab yourself a mop and swab the stern of the ship, report back to me when it's all clean. As for you," he turned to Spidey with firm eyes, but a gentle smile, "I'm afraid we can't have all the dragons on the ship at once. It clutters space and weighs us down. During the day, we have a rotation set up for dragons who can be on the ship and the ones who can swim by it. Bruce informed me that your part ocean dragon and that you're fit enough to swim with your light injuries, so I think it'd be best if you started out swimming for most of the journey. If your injuries tire you out though, just catch a ride on Bucky's back till your good to go again."

Spidey stared at Captain Rogers like he was rifling through everything he just said. He was still pressed close to Wade's back, but given a moment he grumbled, almost in relief, and plunged over the railing and splashed into the water below. Without so much as a hesitation or gesture to leave.

"Well, gee," Wade shouted after him, "If you wanted space, just say so!"

"Don't take it hard," Captain Rogers laughed, "He seems skittish. It's probably best that he had a bit of space."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Well, get to work."

Wade groaned and trudged down the steps. Yep, it was good to be back.



By the time Wade sat down, he was a mess of aches and sores. A few days of taking it easy in Peter's cave had softened him. Now, after a rigorous day of mopping the deck, tying ropes, cleaning the bunks and the common area beneath the ship, carrying supplies and barrels, and helping in the kitchen, his entire body felt on the verge of collapsing. He felt like a thinly stitched blanket a pull away from tearing at the seams.

Spidey didn't seem any better. All the dragons were permitted to sleep on the ship during the night. It weighed the ship down, but so long as there weren't any fights, they weren't in danger of sinking. Bucky was the only dragon who had to stay in the water, due to his monstrous size, but he handled it easily enough on the way to Batl'Ar, so Wade figured he could handle it on the way back too.

The rest of the dragons, not so much.

Angel Dust was no better and after getting out from her time in the water, she collapsed in the corner and was already fast asleep. Francis was so tired, he hadn't even insulted Wade after they both finished their duties, and was eating his dinner next to his sleeping dragon. Even Spidey, who was part sea dragon, plopped down next to Wade with a tired groan and instantly curled in on himself with his head tucked under his wing.

"Rough swimming," Wade hummed, patting his head.

Spidey groaned again, a deep sound from the chest that seemed to vocally express his deep woes. It was the kind of sound a dying creature made after it resigned itself to its fate.

"Well here," Wade got up to roll a barrel of fish over to him, "Captain Rogers said there wasn't much time for eating due to Bucky's strict watch of you all," he uncapped the barrels and the smell of food roused Spidey from his daze as he began scarfing the fish down in gulps.

Wade grimaced, trying not to imagine that it was Peter eating fish raw, and settled back down again. A single, oil-slicked lantern gave him light as he ate his own salted meat and biscuits. Around the glow, Captain Rogers and Master Banner had graced him with their presence again. Both who ate their own food quietly.

Little Miles was there too, but after Peter lumbered to join their group, he had scooted so close to Captain Roger's he was almost hidden in his shadow. He watched Peter with wide eyes, crossed between fright and awe.

"Wh - what kind of dragon is he?" He whispered, glancing at Master Banner, "I've never seen a dragon with so many arms."

Master Banner looked up from his grim meal and shot a glance at Spidey, who was peeping behind half-slitted eyes, tilting his head curiously at Miles. "He's a mixed breed. Part desert dragon and part ocean dragon."

"Whoa," Miles breathed, peering past Captain Rogers now. "He has really pretty scales, don't he?"

Spidey's eyes opened all the way at that, and he lifted his head, looking at Miles in a softer manner. He crooned gently and his tail thumped against the deck. Wade looked between the two of them.

"He won't bite," he told Miles, shoving another biscuit in his mouth, "At least, I don't think he'll bite you. You can pet him if you want."

Spidey glowered down at Wade, as if unhappy with the prospect of being petted like a dog. Miles looked hesitantly up at Spidey, eyebrows quirked. "He...won't? For real?"

His scared tone seemed to settle something in Spidey and he grumbled but arched his neck over to Miles who shrunk away with a gasp. He nudged at the kid's face, crooning affectionately, before withdrawing again.

Miles stared back, completely frozen, before breaking out in a wide grin. "Whoa..."

"Toldya," Wade grinned, and whispered, "He's secretly a big softie."

Spidey pushed him with his wings and Wade went sprawling with a laugh. Miles and the Captain joined in too, while Master Banner smiled into the tough meat he was gnawing on. Nerves officially soothed, Miles got up to get a closer look at Spidey.

Spidey cocked his head to the side but allowed Miles to look over his extra limbs with amazed intrigue. He even ducked his head to let Miles look at the frills laying flat against the side of his head and the horns sprouting from the top. Eventually, Miles observations turned more playful when he got into a wrestling match with one of Spidey's arms, while Spidey mock growled and bumped his head against Mile's little body.

Wade watched them, lips pursed. "Great. My dragon likes your squire more than he likes me."

Captain Rogers chuckled into his water cup, "Maybe Miles should be the one training in your stead."

As Wade stared at him, affronted, Miles looked up from the clawed paw he was trapped under, eyes bright, face flushed, but grinning madly, "Really?"

Captain Rogers nodded, "Really."

He gave a toothy smile, "One day," he whispered. "One day."

"Yeah, yeah, but get your own dragon," Wade grumped, "You would not believe what I had to go through to get him."

"Which reminds me," Master Banner said, brushing crumbs off his lap, "How did you find, uh - Spidey, you call him? How did the two of you meet?"

Spidey paused his playing with Miles to look at Wade expectantly. Wade could imagine Peter's expression perfectly. Quirked eyebrow, folded arms, lips just shy of a smile, "Yeah, Wade," he'd probably snark, "How did you meet me?"

Wade set down his cup, "Actually, I found him after I fell off the cliff." Sensing a story, Miles conceded Spidey's victory in their fight and instead settled against his side after retrieving the rest of his meal. Spidey relaxed in his spot, letting his head drop next to Miles and looked at Wade sternly.

Yes, Wade planned on sticking to their devised story. Geez, the guy didn't need to get so worried.

"I wager he was on his way to the Dragon Grounds," Wade continued, "I almost landed on him when I fell off that cliff. Instead of leaving me though, he stayed with me until I was all healed up, and when all the boo-boo's were gone, we kinda just," Wade clicked his fingers together, "bonded, I guess. It was really weird."

Captain Rogers nodded, stroking his chin, "Did either of you initiate it?"

Wade ducked his head, "Alright, I admit I got kind of carried away with finding a dragon. I did initiate it, and, well," he gestured between himself and Spidey, "I guess we were a right fit."

"Fascinating," Master Banner's murmured, "It usually takes a couple of tries before you find the right dragon. Finding your bonded on the first try is uncanny. Most knights try to go for the biggest, deadliest dragons first."

"Well, I think he's the best one yet," Miles said, feeding Spidey strips of his dried meat.

"Yeah, well," Wade shrugged, "I was lucky, I guess. And you're right," he puffed his chest, "Spidey is the best one."

"Why'd you call him Spidey?" Miles asked, "I mean, out of everything, you named him after a spider?"

"C'mon, he looks like a spider!"







"Okay," Master Banner interrupted, pinching the bridge of his nose, "You know what, I think it's time we turned in for the night. It might not have stormed much today, but those clouds aren't for show, and they're only getting thicker. We've got to prepare for a rough couple of days."

Miles sighed and scarfed down the rest of his biscuit. "M'fine," he mumbled through a full mouth. "Is it alright if I sleep here tonight?" He asked Spidey, who crooned and lay back down. If that wasn't an invitation, Wade didn't know what was.

He watched as Miles settled against Spidey's wings, wrapping himself up in the blanket Captain Rogers draped over him. While a small part of him was a tad jealous that Spidey took a liking to Miles quicker than him, he couldn't help but smile. Spidey-Peter really was a big softie, even if he was a bit socially awkward and paranoid.

Shaking his head, Wade lay down in the bedroll he was given. The bunks were so crowded as it was. It was so much nicer out here. His swords were tucked next to him as he curled up on the floor. Captain Rogers gave them back to him not long after they arrived.

It didn't take him long before the rocking of the boat lulled him to sleep.

WHOO! And we're on our way! :D 

And here is some amazing fan art drawn by Holoo from AO3! 





Chapter Text


The world outside tis a monstrous place

A pittin' land of despair and waste

But alls' not lost so don't lose face

Just help out in all your haste

The trial you face in all dismay

The sharp steel tongues of those who bray

But with your help its easy way

So do your best my little drae

Peter Parker POV

The world outside tis a monstrous place.

Peter didn't know where the old nursery rhyme came from. It was an old song that his uncle used to sing to him on those days when his frustrations were at their peak and everything seemed bleak for his 8-year-old eyes. He recalled sitting on the front cobblestones that made a walkway up to their little cottage, legs pulled to his chest as he glared at the chipper morning. The old willow tree planted near the house swayed in the wind, and the peaceful air of the forests danced with the swaying of long branches and sang with birds.

He hated it.

A pittin' land of despair and waste.

Well, he hated it at the moment.

He'd spent the better part of the morning helping one of Aunt May's friends with her garden, suffering through the long hours as she berated him for ruining her patch of cabbages. He hadn't meant to step on them, but with all the other vegetables she piled in his arms, he couldn't see where he was going. The mishap earned him a cuff on the ear and he returned home nursing bitter feelings.

Uncle Ben had sat next to him on the ground, wearing the dirt-stained trousers he wore for work. His calloused hands handed Peter an apple, which he took after a moment of fighting his desire to keep his anger to himself. Uncle Ben didn't need to use a lot of words to make Peter feel better, and he had a much better singing voice.

But all's not lost so don't lose face.

The tune started melancholy but turned into something more cheery toward the end. Hearing its tune reminded Peter of an old, friendly, wrinkled face that made his heart ache. Uncle Ben knew a lot of those old rhymes and often sang them as he worked.

Just help out in all your haste

So, Peter had expected him to urge him to keep his chin-up and be glad to help where he could, but Uncle Ben's hands gently rubbed the tips of Peter's ears, where they were still red from the harsh blow. He was frowning, which isn't something Peter saw often.

"Did Ms. Watson do this?" he asked, and Peter nodded.

The trial you face in all dismay.

"She's a wrench of a woman," he muttered, and it made Peter balk. Uncle Ben was the most kind-hearted person he knew, and it took a lot to pull an insult from his teeth. He must've looked as surprised as he felt because Uncle Ben chuckled and ruffled the top of his head, the wrinkles around his eyes bunching. "I'm not wrong," he said, "But don't repeat my words. Your Aunt will have my head."

Peter promised he wouldn't say a thing.

The sharp steel tongues of those who bray

"Look, Pete," Uncle Ben continued, taking a bite out of his own apple, "We do good things because it's the right thing to do. What's a world when it's just full of hate and grudges? I believe in doing right by others, even when they may not deserve it, cause everyone deserves, at least, a second chance."

"But," his thumb touched the side of Peter's cheek, gently rubbing the grime of dirt from his skin, "I won't let people use that against me. If their only response to your help is to berate you, hurt you, or ask you of more, then understand that you are to look after yourself as well. Treat yourself kindly and don't let our mission for good turn you into another's servant."

But with your help it's easy way

Peter had looked down, thinking over those words. Even as an 8-year-old he had his conflicts.

"I don't like working with Ms. Watson," Peter said, "She's mean and I don't think she likes me."

"I don't think she likes me either," Uncle Ben admitted, "She's been May's friend since birth, but that doesn't mean she gets to treat you wrong. You don't have to help her out anymore till she apologizes, and even then, I'll have to think on it."

Peter gasped, eyes wide, "But she's a grown-up."

"Even grown-up's need to practice the ancient art of apologies and forgiveness," Uncle Ben smiled, "Especially if they've done wrong by a child."

Peter liked the idea of Ms. Watson apologizing to him, but he didn't say it out loud. Still, he suspected that Uncle Ben could tell in the way his smile got a little wider and he ruffled his head again.

So do your best my little drae.

It's been a week or so since their vessel had sailed from Batl'Ar and the same ache in his heart went out to the cave he'd left behind. He tried to convince himself that it'd be easy to leave the cave behind, all it held were worldly items, nothing that he had a real connection to. But the farther out they sailed, the more impossible it became to forget the hours, days, and weeks he put into making it home. He couldn't help but imagine his books, tables, jars, and furs going up in ashes one flicker at a time. He'd seen the smoke, but he could always pretend it was a different fire – one caused by a disagreement between two dragons.

But that wasn't as easy to conjure either.

So, he did the next best thing which was shrugging it all off and pretending the pain in his chest was because of the lacerations still there from the attack. He threw it all to the back of his head where it'd wither and die. But the nursery rhyme remained. He didn't know when exactly he started remembering it, only that he had been dosing on the deck their first night aboard and had jolted awake when the old tune came wafting through his thoughts like the soft wail of a ghost.

His heart basically melted through his ribs just hearing that tune again, even though, with it, a stake a bitterness followed. The way memories tugged in front of his eyes as if bound by a string made his tongue sour.

The song was about how bad the world could be, and that as bad as it was, there was always a chance to make it better by helping as much you could. One of the many different rhymes he memorized in their learning circles.

As a kid, he never thought too much about it. Helping when people needed it? Yeah, that was the right thing. That's what he was taught to do and it made sense. There was no reason for him to question it.

But now that he was older, he couldn't help but adopt a different view. Helping other people was all he'd ever done before his life had gone to shit and look where that got him. Hunkering in a cave, on an island that was weeks away from the mainland for a reason. (But he reasoned that his circumstances were just as much his fault, even though he didn't like admitting it.)

Still, giving a helping hand never helped him. All it did was bring in a bunch of sneering, greedy hands that wanted more and more once they realized he was willing to give. As soon as he gave them an inch, they wanted a mile, and there was only so long he could go before his feet began to wear. Uncle Ben had warned him about it, and he'd fallen victim to the worlds' greed and cruelty all the same.

Despite all his planning and caution, he still found himself on a giant vessel, inbound for the mainland where all his problems had taken root. The cruel irony of it made him want to throw his body around and stomp his feet like a spoiled lord.

How had this happened? How could he let this happen? His plan was to live out the rest of his days in isolation and loneliness until, somehow, everyone forgot his mistake and wouldn't skin his hide the moment they spotted him.

To prevent himself from launching into the air and returning to his demolished cave, Peter – turned into his dragon half (Spidey) - grumbled and tucked his head under his wing, taking a deep breath of salty air. It was his turn on deck, having spent the majority of the day swimming in the water. Despite leaving the island far behind days ago, Spidey still couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched.

It could've been the eyes of the crew, but his paranoia didn't like to take the easy option. His and Wade's entrance had been a bit of a spectacle, and it raised a lot of questions from the shipmates and knights. Thankfully, since it was the last day of the treaty, Banner theorized that it was because they were late, and the bitter dragons didn't want to waste of second of running them out. So, that worked out at least.

Regardless, he was still healing from the beating he took from the native dragons. A few of them had managed to scrape his soft scales and they were still sore and hurt to touch. His muscles ached from his fleeing and after swimming for so long, the pain hadn't alleviated. Banner was keeping an eye on him to make sure he didn't push himself, but Spidey felt on the brink of collapsing.

He'd shuffled onto the deck after Bucky gave him the go-ahead to return to the ship, and slumped onto the wood floor, huddling instantly with his tail curling around him. He tucked his head beneath his wing and let the weak rays of sunlight warm his scales.

A heavy overcast had hung over them for the past few days. It had lightened today, but only barely. When Spidey sniffed the air he could smell the rains coming, the kind of calm that soothed them before the actual storm hit. It would've made his hair stand on end if he had hair.

Thankfully, the shipmaster, Captain Bench, was incredibly skilled at sea and was all too aware of the upcoming storm. The crew and knights were busy at work preparing for its inevitable strike.

A part of Spidey wondered where Wade had gone off to. Either scrubbing the deck or helping in the kitchen, no doubt. Apparently, he was a good cook and helped with the meals when the ship cook was overloaded with work. But Spidey was so tired he couldn't muster the strength to expand his curiosity beyond a thought. He was sure Wade would show up on his own accord, eventually.

And he was right, for only a small time passed when Spidey felt a small knock on his wing and he instantly unfurled, nose bristling into a snarl before he realized who it was.

"Bite me and I'll bite you back," Wade laughed, settling down next to him. "I was just bringing you something to eat." He held out the fish he'd likely smuggled from the kitchen and Spidey snorted, muscles easing. He was pretty sure that was against the rules, but who cared, he was hungry. He snapped up the fish gratefully and put his head back down with a groan.

"I hear ya," Wade said, stretching his back until it popped. He sagged down, turning to lay next to Spidey with a sigh. "It's been extra grueling lately. Captain Rogers is gonna have our skin at this point. May as well stitch them into a flag and become a pirate, that'd give him a reputation."

Spidey recoiled, nose wrinkling.


He slapped Wade with his tail, who laughed heartily and swat him away.

His cowl was over his face and it muffled his laugh. Having gotten so used to Wade's skin, to see it hidden behind folds of clothes made Spidey feel surprisingly melancholy. He knew it was because of the joking and jeering of the crew - mostly from an annoying man Wade referred to as douchebag (or Francis if he was feeling generous) - and it angered Spidey that they treated their own comrade like this.

Yeah, Wade was crass and lewd, but to openly joke about him, right to his face. Spidey was pretty sure that if not for Captain Rogers, Wade would've severely injured one of them by now.

Spidey hummed and lay his head back down, eyes closing. He let the swaying of the boat rock him into a light doze that was interrupted by Wade giving a loud groan as he stretched his limbs widely, almost knocking into Spidey's head. Spidey grumbled at him, cracking an eye open, noting that Wade looked as exhausted as he felt.

How much longer were they going to be on this rotten boat? He knew it was going to take a week or so, but it felt like they've been there for years. Surely it hadn't taken this long the last time he made the journey? Then again, he hadn't been helping run the ship then as much as he'd been hiding in the brig, hoping no one would find him. He would never make it as an official ship-hand, that was for sure. Besides, as much as he liked swimming, after this trip, he was never going to be able to look at the ocean again without feeling a bone-deep ache.

He had a feeling it wasn't going to get better through the next few days. The oncoming storm was going to be a doozy if his guts had an indication, and it was going to take Bucky and the strength of all the other swimming dragons to make sure the ship wasn't overturned by waves. Just the thought of battling underwater currents made Peter shudder.

It was going to be a long day.

Unfortunately, neither of them got to enjoy time for themselves for much longer as they were roused to their feet by one of the Captain's men and sent to do more jobs. Spidey returned to the water after a brief time of escape and swam with the currents, occasionally looking up through the ocean waves when a flash of lightning lit the top of the water. As a half water-breed he could hold his breathe far longer than the other dragons, who periodically breached the surface to gulp air before resubmerging - or simply swimming over the top of the water - but even he needed to fill his lungs. When he did, he was greeted by the ever-looming storm as the clouds thickened and the waves got more violent.

During one break to the surface, Spidey lingered there for a few moments, growling lowly at the storm. He didn't like it. A part of him yearned to duck into his cave, sit snug by the fire and nap - or maybe read a book if he felt like going in human form - but all it did was leave a panging sadness in his chest. What home did he have to go back to? His cave was gone. All he had now was this big, creaking ship where there was hardly enough space to stretch your wings without bumping into a mast, a ship crew, or another dragon.

He huffed softly, but nearly jumped out of his scales when he turned to see a dark, looming head hovering just above his. He jerked in the water, accidentally ducking too close and swallowing a mouthful of the ocean before he realized it was only Bucky. Captain Roger's was his bonded. Spidey coughed the water back up, shaking his head roughly, and stemmed the urge to let his frills out to scare him away - as if it'd actually work. Bucky made it obvious that he wasn't a threat, but Spidey's frills trembled where they were pressed to the side of his head anyway, barely able to keep in place, and he turned away awkwardly when Bucky kept staring at the sky.

"Bad storm," Bucky growled after a tense moment, "It'll be tough to fight."

Spidey looked back up at the storm again and nodded his agreement. He didn't really know what to say. What was he supposed to say? It's not like he's practiced any social skills on the island, in fact, it was something he tried to avoid. Which was funny because his Aunt used to joke that nothing could shut him up.

After another moment, Bucky looked down at him, "You are a good swimmer," he hummed, voice deep, dark eyes glinting, "It will be tough, but I think you can handle it. I will need you to help me keep the ship afloat."

Spidey tried not to glower. "Yeah," he grumbled, sulking in the water, and to his surprised, Bucky gave a small, barkish laugh. He nudged Spidey slightly with his head, gave him a quick, "Stay strong, soldier," which sounded, oddly, like something Captain Rogers would say, before retreating back under the waves. Spidey watched the ship sail past him for a bit before sighing and ducking back under as well.

As Bucky predicted, it was a bad storm. A very bad storm.

Master Banner was smart enough to call in the dragons flying by the ship back in. 

The storm hit later that day, starting with nothing but light rain, before growing into something truly monstrous. Lightning flashed like the bright fangs of some cloudy sky beast and rain pummeled them like little stones. The guttural sound of thunder was like an immense roar, threatening them with gnashing teeth for entering its domain. Spidey fought against the waves, pushing into raging torrents with Bucky and the other dragons he elected to help fight through the storm, sticking close to the sides of the boat to make sure it wouldn't topple. Whenever he breached the surface for air, he felt as though he was gulping down water anyway and fought to fill his lungs.

After several, several grueling hours of that, when the storm lightened some, Spidey and the rest of his group were permitted to rest on the ship as another group of dragons took to the water. He managed to gulp down a barrel of fish offered by little Miles, before promptly passing out in an exhausted heap on the deck, despite the rain still coming down on them.

He was awoken sometime later by Miles again. The little boy was clutching a small blanket around his shoulders, knobby-kneed as he walked against the buffeting winds. He yelled something that was lost in the wind and pointed down at the water and Spidey understood that it was his turn back in the ocean. Still, he made sure Miles was back in the safety of the ship, afraid that the little human would be swept clean off his feet and carried into the clouds if he was sheltered, before diving back into the water.

He gave a grunt to Bucky to let him know he was there before taking his spot next to the hull. Faintly, as he swam, he wondered where Wade was. He hadn't seen him while he was resting, and despite the ever-present rope tied to his ribcage telling him Wade was fine, Spidey was irked that he felt the need to check on him anyway. Were the other crew members still giving him a hard time? Had he eaten his meal yet? His odd healing capabilities made him extra hungry, so he needed more than the other crew member. Did the cook know that?

Spidey roughly shook those thoughts away. That was the last thing he should be worrying about now. Saints, Wade was an adult, he could handle himself. Besides, Spidey should be concerned about the storm. So, he tossed any thoughts about Wade aside and focused on the task at hand.

It went by as grueling as ever, but the worst it ever got was the occasional pushing against the ships' hull to keep it on course. Spidey didn't know how Bucky could tell when they were pushed off their ocean-trail, maybe it had something to do with his connection to Captain Rogers, or maybe he's swam this route so many time he knew it by instinct alone, but every so often he'd swim to the ship sides and nudge it on course with his body.

Everything was fine.

Until it wasn't.

The wave came out of nowhere, but when Peter felt its tug he knew it was big. He quickly swam up to the surface to peer out of the water and recoiled at what he saw. A wave was growing in the distance. A high, towering, monstrous wall of water that was steadily climbing higher and higher, as if trying to touch the very sky. Spidey already knew it would be bigger than the ship itself, even from that distance.

He resubmerged, going straight for Bucky, who already seemed to know. Bucky pushed through the water, an immovable mass of rolling black and silver scales as he took the side of the ship that would hit the water first when the wave got to them.

He roared in the water, sending a torrent of bubbles to the surface, and they all converged on his location. Peter put his shoulder against the wood, thankful that he already refilled his lungs. He could sense the wave approaching, it's powerful hand almost dragging at his body. He glanced back at Bucky, but the bigger dragon was too focused on what was to come to notice his anxious look.

Spidey looked down again. He wondered what the crew was doing to prepare. It was impossible that they hadn't seen the wave coming. It would pick up their boat like it was a child's toy, pulling them up into the sky, before crashing down on them, crushing their ship against itself. The only hopes of this ship surviving such an afront to nature was the dragons around Spidey, pressed against the algae sides like he was.

They'd have to be careful though. If they smashed through the ships side, it wouldn't matter if the wave toppled them since they'd already be sinking in the water. He hoped the rest of them understood that. They had to be both delicate and strong to keep the ship upright.

Adrenaline buzzed through Spidey's systems and he shuddered. Heart pumping, muscles burning, he waited.

Then the wave hit.

He thought he was prepared for its strength, but even knowing it was going to be powerful wasn't enough. The ship lifted with the wave, pulling them up and it took all of Spidey's strength not to be pulled with the currents. Thankfully, the other dragons Bucky picked for their group were either water species, part water species, or very strong – Angel Dust among them. They all managed to hold, but several had to dig their claws into the wood to keep themselves in place.

Get ready, he thought, then the wave crashed. For a moment all Spidey could see was the side of the ship falling over him, intending to crush him against the water. Instead of running from it though, he met it, pushing his shoulder against the ship's side and swimming with everything he had, pushing it back so it wouldn't succumb to the wave.

His eyes clenched shut from the exertion and faintly he wondered if anyone else was actually pushing. But he felt Bucky's presence and knew the bigger dragon was taking the front of it. They all pushed back against the power of the wave, and faintly, Spidey heard the wood groan and creak.

Then, a moment later, the wave receded. The ship, while slanted on its side, hadn't been pulled under and quickly bobbed upright again. Water flooded off its ducks, running down its sides, and several crew members were already tossing pails of water over the side to empty the brig of any that made it below deck. Peter let go and debated just letting himself sink into the ocean depths. Saints, he felt as though he'd been crushed by an avalanche of rocks. Ever muscle in his body ached and burned.

Thrashing in the water caught his attention though and he noticed the flailing figures of a few people, and dragons, who'd been knocked overboard. Bucky, who was still close to the ship's side, gestured with his head and Spidey went to their aid. He wrapped his arms snuggly around the closest struggling human and flew them back up to the safety of the ship.

Every inch of his body earned for him to touch the deck as well and go to sleep, but he turned away and flew back to help those still struggling in the water. The storm was still going around them, and if they weren't rescued from the ocean's anger then they wouldn't' make it out. They were lucky to survive the wave and the ocean wasn't so forgiving, so he ignored his weariness.

Once they were all back on the ship, he returned to the water with Bucky. He continued for a while longer before Bucky finally nudged him and gave him the order to head back on the ship. Spidey nearly whined in gratitude. He climbed up the ship's hull, too tired to fly, and pulled himself onto the deck. It took a lot for the cold to seep through a dragon's scales, but Spidey could feel a sharp chill deep in his bones. It was tired, cold, and so achy his limbs trembled. He contemplated collapsing right there on the deck, but somewhere through the curtain of rain, Wade appeared.

He was saying something, but Peter was so water-logged, and the winds were so loud, he didn't hear it. After a moment of ceaseless arm flailing, Wade's hands wrapped around Spidey's muzzle, where it was slumped against the floor, and pulled. Spidey got the message and weakly allowed Wade to tug him across the deck and descended below, into the ship's stomach. The special ramp designed for dragons was slick from the rain, but once they got below, and journeyed farther in, it was nothing but dry wood. Spidey got a little farther before he collapsed in a corner of the room, away from the other dragons who were either dozing or curled up for warmth. Spidey wondered if any of them regretted the idea of the Dragon Guard now that they were tired and sore.

Wade rolled a barrel of fish for him, but Spidey was exhausted. As Wade rubbed him down with a blanket and massaged the achy muscles of his wings, arms, and back, Spidey swallowed a few fish before succumbing to sleep, the bass of Wade's rambling voice lulling him to sleep.

They made it to the mainland a few days later.

After the battle against the wave, the storm held out for the rest of the night before finally splitting, leaving clear skies and open seas in its wake. The dragons who had spent a majority of the storm in the water were permitted the day off to recover and gather their strength again. Thanks to the still waters, Bucky resubmerged.

Even Spidey could see how much the storm had taken a toll on the bigger dragon. Being the biggest and most experienced of all of them, he had spent all his time in the water, hardly getting a chance to sleep as he protected the ship. So, now, he floated on the top of the water, eyes closed, and slumbering peacefully. A large, dark mass of sharp spines and rolling muscle that trailed behind the boat like a small island. If Bucky ended up trailing too far behind, Steve would look out toward him, eyes concentrated, and Bucky roused suddenly from his slumber and would swim back to the ship before falling asleep again. Sometimes, he'd swim farther ahead and let them catch up to him.

Peter had slept a majority of his day off too, letting his body work on healing and resettling after the beating they took. Wade spent as much time with him as he could, continually rubbing his sore wings with a potatoe sack to protect his hands from the sharp scales, and even flung a small blanket over Spidey's back, before he was pulled back to his duties on the ship. Still, he always found a way to sneak back down to see Spidey, usually to make sure he was eating and that he was warm and resting.

For all of Wade's large stature and thick muscle – and the way he scared the rest of the crew and knights away with nothing but an angry eye - he was such a mother hen it made Spidey laugh. All his flittering and worrying was nice, Spidey would admit. Having someone fawn over him made his heart warm. He isolated himself from all the other dragons and humans on the ship, almost instantly, but he found himself getting used to Wade's presence. Miles too. The little boy was fun to have around, and Spidey was surprised with how taken with the little human he was. When Miles wasn't running errands for Rogers, Master Bruce, or the ship's captain, he was down in the ship with Spidey, climbing over the spines of his back and playing with the frills pressed to the side of his head.

Peter would open and close his frills, letting them quiver and shake just to see Miles giggle. He liked this little human. This little human would have his protection.

As soon as his recovery day passed, he was back in the water. Bucky still slept, but after a few more days he woke up, went off to find enough food to feed his appetite, returned and was back to guarding the ship.

Then land appeared on the horizon. The crew whooped loudly as the first call from the crow's nest was heard and the blue outline of land drew near, throwing their hats and bandannas in the air as the dragons roared happily. As they got closer, fishing boats and the odd merchant vessel went in and out of the harbor. Some whooped and wave at the upcoming vessel, which sparked more cheers from the knights and sailors. As they drew closer, Peter noticed more and more of the town seated on the mainland's coast.

Its design wasn't far from the settlement on Batl'Ar, but it was vastly bigger. More like a small kingdom than a town. The buildings and docks hugging the coast were bigger and in better condition, and spanning past them was a myriad of buildings and walkways built like a rugged maze on land.

Over the smell of salt and fish, Spidey could smell something else. Something sweeter. Baked sweets. Roasting food. Incense. Perfumes. The scents of a festival.

He was on the deck at the time, inhaling the new smells jarring his nose and peering over the side anxiously. Wade was next to him, leaning against the banister casually, something akin to a smile on his face. He took a deep inhale as if smelling the scents too.

"Good to be back," he sighed, and the muscles of his back seemed to melt into wet clay.

Spidey looked down at Wade, tail curling around his body nervously. It's going to be fine, is what he was trying to convince himself. No one would recognize him. No one knew who he was or where he came from. He was going to be fine. Perfectly fine. Nothing would go wrong, and he'd start scouting out new places to live as soon as his claws touched the ground.

At their back, Captain Rogers was on his feet, yelling orders and organizing his troops. "All knights stick with your dragons. Line up. Prepare to dock. Tandy, where's your dragon?"

"Throwing up over the ship, sir."

Steve winced, "Right. Make sure he's okay."

"Yes sir."

Wade snorted, stared at the approaching town for a moment longer, before straightening up. He pulled his cowl more snuggly over his face and tugged the hood over his head, and looked up at Spidey, "Ready?"

Spidey shuffled on his feet, glancing over the edge of the ship, half contemplating just swimming away. How far would he make it? Would Bucky stop him? Would his Bond stop him? Would that just make it worse by inciting more suspicion?

Wade edged closer, putting a gentle hand on one of Spidey's arms, and Spidey tensed.

"Hey, I'll be right here with you," he whispered, blue eyes genuine and imploring past the hood. "You'll be okay."

Spidey grunted and with his wings pressed tightly against his sides, he followed Wade across the deck and stood beside him as he lined up. They got closer and Spidey focused on controlling his breathing to ignore the growing dread in his stomach. He ignored how close the other dragons were to him, and all the swords carried on the waist of their knights. Pretended the weight of their presence wasn't suffocating, despite having shared the ship with them for a fortnight. Unconsciously, he scooted closer to Wade, tail curling slightly around his body again.

Wade turned to pat him once more, shooting him a cheery thumbs-up, with an equally cheery, "Let's kick some ass!"

The ships' crew worked in a frenzy of tying notes and shifting sails. They pulled a little way in front of a docking zone for a ship of their size and many of the crew members descended in rowboats, which they took back to the docks, and with the help of several other people on land, they pulled the ship into port. Over the ship's edge, a crowd of people had amassed from the town, all screaming cheering, and waving small banners and flags. When Peter squinted, he could make out some of the markings. The flags were red or gold with black and silver stitching in the shape of a dragon curled around a sword. He recognized it as the popular symbol of their nation and the most celebrated holiday of the Stark Province.

Today would be the final day of Eiri Paxdie – The Day of Peace. A national holiday celebrated throughout all three provinces, though the Stark Province had always been the most excited for it. Spidey recalled his human half slinking around these parties when he was younger and searching for food. He hadn't necessarily celebrated this holiday, because not many draeconus did. The war was terrible for his kind, and even with the union of human and dragon, it hadn't gotten any better. What was there to celebrate?

But most of the food had been free, so there was that.

It was in celebration of the ending of the Dragon War and the party usually lasted a week. The first few days were spent setting up decorations and preparing for the festivities as caravans and travelers journeyed far and wide – a lot to this very town. Over the next few days, the streets would be full of stands selling painted dragons masks and swords made of smoothed wood. Peddlers would sell trinkets and jewels, small painted statues of dragons and knights, necklaces with gold and silver chains, with jewel-encrusted dragons attached, and glass colored red, gold, and white like petrified fire. The nights would be spent watching plays that retold the settling of this land and the beginning friction between humans and dragons.

Spidey recalled his human half attending one of these plays. He remembered looking up from the crowd, with his thin knees pulled close to his chest as stage actors adorned in shiny army fought against a dragon composed of a head made of wood and straw, it's body a shimmering mass of painted silk and fabric, as the people inside swept the dragon across the stage floor in an attack. He never liked those plays. Didn't like knowing what they would eventually lead to, and it didn't take long for him to leave with a sick feeling in his gut.

Today was the final day of Eiri Paxdie and it started the moment the knights and their new dragons arrived. Spidey didn't usually hang around this time of the holiday though, so he wasn't sure what that entailed. His nerves ate away at him as the gangplank lowered and the first in line began their descent.

When Wade started moving, for a moment Spidey's couldn't go. He felt as though extra claws had sprouted from his feet and kept him rooted to the spot. The dragon behind him head-butted him when he didn't move, and he lurched forward, quickly finding his legs again and scrambled after Wade. He followed him down the gangplank, staring down at Wade instead of the crowds.

But as they drew closer it was hard to resist the urge to look around. It was so loud. People cheering, screaming their greetings, banners and flags slipping in and out of Spidey's vision. It was chaos all around him.

They traveled farther and farther in, entering the town where the crowds only seemed to get worse. Plenty of the knights and dragons were drinking in the praises like it was fine wine. Knights proudly puffed their chests and dragons held their heads higher, occasionally shaking their heads to the side to show off their scales and spines.

Despite his best wishes, Spidey started attracting a bit of attention himself. Many of the spectators ooh'ed and pointed to his three sets of appendages, or his wings, or the frills attached to the side of his head. Many of them wanted to see them open, but Peter shied away, pressing them closer to his head instead. Wade, on the other hand, wasn't getting much adoration. People looked at him, almost seemed to glower at his presence, until they turned a bend in the road and a group of women waved at Wade from the sidelines.

"Welcome back, Wade!" They shouted, flashing their banners and bright smiles.

"You've got a bonded!"

"Knew you would!"


"He's a mighty fine-looking dragon, too!"

Wade's shoulders seemed to lift, and he waved at them, finding his cheer again.

The farther they walked the more clamorous the anxious crowds got. They were so loud. So close. Peter found himself pressing closer to Wade, to the point that his head was right above him, nearly looming over him entirely. When his shadow overcast Wade's, he looked up, eyes growing concerned.

"Hey, you okay, buddy?"

Spidey was not okay. People were so close. Looking at him, shouting, waving things. They leaned in as if to touch him, grabbing for him, and his heart seized. He didn't realize he was breathing heavily until the strain on his chest began to hurt. His frills were trembling against the side of his head, yearning to spring out so he could scare the crowds away, and he barely managed to repress them. He didn't like this. There was too much everything. Weight pressing in on him. Threatening to topple him over like the wave nearly did to the ship. He was sinking deep, filling his lungs and mouth. His chest hurt.

Faintly he heard Wade call his name again, but he couldn't hear it over the pounding of his heart. He finally snapped when an unfamiliar hand from the crowd burst out and touched his arms, feeling along his scales. Peter instantly jerked away, hissing at them violently as he careened from the touch and stumbled over his own arms in his haste to get away. He nearly hit into the crowd on the other side and they split with an array of shrieks and screams, the elations disappearing from their faces in a heartbeat. He knocked slightly into the building there, cracking the wall, before pushing off again.

His frills were out now, spreading around his head in a large, prickly oval, as his wings flared of their own accord, stretching out on both sides of his body. If he looked bigger and meaner, they'd leave him alone. Big. Mean. Hiss. Growl. Threaten them. Scare them away.

He hissed again, though the sound was more frightened then threatening. He whirled around, hating the way the crowd seemed to circle him, tail knocking into a wagon selling dragons and knights sculpted out of wood, and it erupted into splinters and broken pieces. The owner gave a loud, horrific shout, clutching the sides of his head as his merchandise scattered across the ground, "MY CARVINGS!"

By now the crowds had backed up a considerable distance, their joyous clamoring evaporating into a heavy cloud of unease. A figure appeared in front of Peter, holding his hands out, and Spidey flinched away, almost snapping at them until he noticed that it was Wade.

"Spidey," Wade was saying, "Hey, easy. Easy. Listen to my voice, okay? Just focus. Listen to me. It's going to be okay."

Spidey took in a deep gulp of air but lowered his head to get a better look at Wade. He narrowed his focus on his human, letting the crowds and the people and the tight buildings fade into a fuzzy background. Wade's voice was getting clearer now, and he latched onto it.

"That's it," Wade soothed, "Just me and you here. Just like in the jungles. Follow me, okay. I'm gonna get you out of here. Would you like that?"

Spidey whined slightly, wanting to express his distress in this situation and unable to think of any other way. Wade's hand went out to touch the tip of his nose, and Spidey flinched away. Wade withdrew it slightly, but his gentle tone never ceased.

He backed up slowly, letting Spidey skittishly follow him step for step. Faintly, Spidey noticed that Captain Rogers and Master Banner were there too, flickering on the edge of his vision. They were keeping the crowds at bay, ordering them to keep their distance, and reassuring them that everything was alright, he was just spooked. Behind him, Spidey heard laughing, and when he glanced in that direction, he saw Francis and his group of friends laughing loudly, pointing at him in mockery. Behind Francis, Angel Dust snorted, eyes glinting in amusement.

Spidey felt a twinge of embarrassment and followed Wade through the streets more quickly, where the crowds got thinner and thinner. Eventually, the buildings fell back, as did the mass of people, and they passed a line of trees that signaled the borders of the jungles. Wade continued leading him through a well-worn trail till they came upon a large outpost built into the heavy trees and foliage. Its walls were high and made of thick, spiked stone and wood. An outpost camp, maybe.

Wade signaled to the guard up in one of the watchtowers and a moment later the gates opened, and he led Spidey inside. The camp was mostly deserted from what Spidey could see, but that information lingered uselessly in the back of his head as Wade coaxed him farther in.

They passed an empty armory, a stable full of nickering horses, and cut through a small courtyard with a tall building at its head. Eventually, they came across a line of buildings neatly built into rows, and behind them, larger buildings that were positioned toward the outpost's outer walls. They were probably the cadet barracks. He was proven correct when Wade led him into one of the smaller buildings. Spidey had to shift to properly fit and shrank down, down, down, and slipped inside the building, leaving Peter to shiver on the cold stone flooring with his arms wrapped around himself.

His body was still trembling and his heart still racing. He couldn't get the press of bodies out of his head. Their shouting and noise. The claustrophobia. The feeling of being trapped.

A blanket wrapped around his shoulders and Peter looked up at Wade who, in all the excitement, had dropped his hood over his shoulders. His cowl had been ruffled too, exposing the creased lines of worry on his scarred face.

"Deep breathes," he instructed gently, giving Peter his space as soon as he settled the blanket over Peter's shoulders, allowing Peter to sit on the end of one of the small beds, "There you go, Petey. Just like that."

Peter took in gulping breath after gulping breath until he wasn't trembling like a soaked cat, and his heart wasn't at risk of leaping out of his chest. As soon as his thoughts weren't so jumbled and clashing, a flush of embarrassment overtook him and wrapped the blanket around his naked form tightly.

He squeezed his eyes shut and rasped, "Sorry. I didn't...I didn't think it would've been that bad."

Wade sat down in front of him on the floor, legs crisscrossing, "What happened back there, Petey? You went kind of," he made a loopy gesture and Peter cracked him a smile, as sad as it was.

"Just..." he hesitated, "the crowds. It's been a while since I've been around so many people. It caught me off guard."

Wade studied him like he knew Peter wasn't giving the whole truth, but Peter refused to elaborate. He didn't want to and there wasn't a point anyway. It's not like he would be there for very long. Besides, it's not like it'd be a problem, he'd get used to being around people in a day or two. This didn't need to become a huge thing.

Besides, just thinking about those memories made him sick to the stomach.

After a moment, Wade conceded with a tight, "Okay," and folded his arms.

Peter could tell he wasn't convinced, but he was grateful Wade wasn't pushing either. "I'm just tired," he consoled him, anyway, "It's been a long trip and...and I'm just exhausted. I'll be fine after some sleep."

Wade's gaze softened a little more at that, and his shoulders sagged, releasing some of the frustration building in his back. "Alright, I'll-" whatever he was about to say was interrupted by footsteps outside and a shadow appeared beneath the doorway. In the blink of an eye, Peter shifted into Spidey, and by the time the door opened, he was sprawled across the floor and pressed into the bunks, with his tail wrapped tight around his body and his wings half-open in the small space. Wade was on his feet and staring wide-eyed and innocent at the newcomer.

Captain Rogers stared at them in the doorway, seeming to take in Wade's stiff posture and the way Spidey was crunched in on himself. He looked outside the door, then back at Spidey, eyes furrowing, finger-pointing, "How did you get him in here?"

Wade chuckled, a bit too loud and jerky to be normal, and rocked on the balls of his feet, "He's very limber. Squeezed in himself. You know how dragons are."

"Uh-huh," Captain Rogers muttered, looking up at Spidey, who gave him a dragon-ish smile back. "I mean, dragons aren't supposed to be in here anyway, but I didn't think- " he shook his head, "I just came to check on you. Spidey didn't look too good in town."

Spidey simpered at the reminder, head ducking, and Captain Roger's smiled gently, "It's okay, not everybody is used to the attention. Besides, a few of those people were getting too handsy, anyway. It's okay. No one got hurt."

That didn't make Spidey feel any better, but he grunted back at Rogers.

"I'll make sure he's situated," Wade said, saluting Captain Rogers. "He's just not used to the crowds, is all."

Captain Rogers nodded, "You're lucky I came to check on you, if it were Bruce, he would be fussing over Spidey all night," and headed back out the door, adding over his shoulder, "Do you need anything, Wade? I can have someone bring you some food if you want to stay here with him. For the both of you actually."

Wade's eyes seem to shine brighter, "Uh, y-yes sir. Something besides rock hard biscuits and oily cheese would be heaven-sent."

Captain Rogers laughed, and looked up at Spidey, "I'll send over some of the meat they prepared for the dragons. Anything but fish, I assume?"

Spidey nodded and with another inclination of his head, Captain Roger's stepped out. Wade peered out of the doorway until he was sure he was gone and gave Spidey the go-ahead to turn back into Peter.

"That was close," Peter muttered, sitting on one of the bunks he almost squished. Wade offered him the blanket again when he shivered, which Peter took. He noticed the way Wade's cheeks colored whenever he was nude, and it reminded him that people weren't used to going naked like he was. His own cheeks colored too, and he wrapped the blanket around himself, whispering, "Thanks."

Wade sat on the bunk next to him, his big hands in his lap. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Peter sighed, "You can go back to the party," he said, "It's the final day of Eiri Paxdie. You should be celebrating with the rest of your friends."

Wade leaned back, staring at the ceiling, "That'd be easier if I had any friends, now wouldn't it? How do you know about Eiri Paxdie, anyway?"

Peter glanced at him, "I lived alone, but I'm not stupid. Everyone knows about Eiri Paxdie. And I saw those ladies on the street? They seemed happy to see you."

"They work in the town's brothel," Wade said, still not looking at him, "You could say I'm a regular customer. Besides, I escort rowdy customers out of the building and make sure they get home safely, so we're all chums."

"Oh," Peter looked down. "Still, you should go enjoy the festival."

Wade hummed and squirmed on the bunk, his hands going behind his head, "I could go to the festival," he mused, "Probably slink around in the shadows for a bit, knab some food, and avoid Francis and his lackeys till they find someone else's nerves to grind. Or," he elaborated this by looking over at Peter, "I could spend the night here with you, my Bonded, and make sure you're okay after having a massive panic back in town."

"I'm fine," Peter insisted, clutching the blanket closer, "You don't need to coddle me."

That was false. Peter didn't' mind being coddled. He enjoyed it, actually. It was amazing how a single person's attentiveness made him feel like he was safe at home again. Besides, it's not like he had much company for a while there. 

But Peter didn't want to keep him from having a good time just because he couldn't walk through a crowd without freaking out like a shy hatchling.

Wade didn't sit back up, but he did say, "Believe me, I'm not missing much. I haven't danced with anyone for a while and most people aren't too happy to see my, well, face. So, it's fine."

But Peter knew it wasn't. He saw the way Wade eyed the little costumes, and the way his eyes lingered where they had been setting up the play. Just because he didn't do the dancing or talk with people, didn't mean he didn't enjoy the reenactment of the Dragon Guard. Wade always got starry-eyed when he talked about it, it wasn't hard to tell that he was infatuated.

Still, Peter didn't say anything. Maybe a selfish part of him didn't want Wade to leave, he was the only one in this place Peter knew, and just the thought of him abandoning Peter here made his heart sputter uneasily.

Stop getting so attached, Peter reprimanded himself harshly, you'll be leaving on your own soon, anyway. As soon as you find somewhere else to hide out, you're stuck here. Don't make this harder than it has to be.

The tether in his chest pulled sadly at the thought.

He nodded without looking at Wade. "I think I'm just going to get some sleep. I probably shouldn't linger in my human form for very long. You never know who's watching."

Wade hummed back.

"Is it fine if I sleep in here?" Peter asked, looking around the barracks, "It's kind of cramped…"

"We have living spaces for the dragons," Wade said, finally pulling himself up. "Come on, I'll show you."

Peter transformed back into Spidey before he left and did have to wiggle his way out of the doorway. It was hard, even for his limber size, and he hoped no one noticed the cracked that remained around the doorframe as he and Wade scuttled away. They went to the cropping of larger buildings that were behind the cadet barracks, that reminded Spidey of a giant version of the stables. There were no doors here and the entry was big enough to fit the biggest dragons they had - Bucky not included.

Still, Spidey grumbled at the rows of stall-like spaces in the room, glancing at Wade sharply, who didn't seem to notice. He wasn't a horse, he was a dragon.

"Just pick one I guess," Wade said, gesturing to the stalls with a hand, "Since we didn't know which type of dragon we'd be getting, they aren't attuned to any of you yet."

Spidey snorted but picked the one closest to the door. The stall was far bigger than any space for a horse, he'd give it that, and roomie enough for his size – which wasn't much to begin with. The walls were tall enough that when he stood, only his head could be seen over the top, and a fresh pile of straw was left for him to nest in inside. Which wasn't bad, he supposed. He still wasn't a horse, but nesting materials would make it easier to adjust to the environment. Captain Rogers and Master Banner really thought this through.

He hummed, approaching the straw-pile and sifted through it, scooting and molding it into a little nest that he could curl up in. It took a couple minutes before he was satisfied and sunk into it with a tired sigh, with his wings folded over himself and his tail curled around his body. Wade had sat against the wall as Spidey made himself a nest and watched silently as he pulled a knife from his boot and played with it. Now that his own task was finished, Spidey watched him as he twisted the weapon expertly in his fingers, repeatedly, in a hypnotizing rhythm.

Spidey wouldn't call Wade a quiet person, he was quite the opposite, even when he had thought Spidey was just a dragon. He'd spent up the time telling Spidey anything and everything, even in the silence when all Spidey could do was listen and laugh. But Wade wasn't talking now and for some reason, that unsettled him. Wade sat almost tiredly, fingers now flipping the knife up and down absentminded, with his head tilted toward the ceiling.

Spidey wondered what he was thinking.

Was he mulling over his freak-out? Or thinking about their trip back? Was he thinking about their time on the island? Or was he thinking of nothing at all?

Even as his human half, Spidey wasn't good at reading people. Understanding the body language of dragons was so much easier than translating human behavior. It was simpler to tell if his winged species was willing to snap at him or welcome him into their group. Humans were complicated, and by Anthromni, Spidey couldn't tell what they were thinking unless they were waving a knife in his face and threatening him vocally.

He sighed again, tucking his head under his wing. Still, he appreciated Wade staying with him. His skin crawled like an uneasy mound of ants in this new terrain, putting him on a sword's edge. so having someone familiar was nice.

He snorted softly. When had Wade become familiar? They couldn't have known each other for more than a fortnight yet being in his presence soothed Spidey's nerves. Could that just be the effect of their Bond? Lulling him into a sense of ease around his "other."

He didn't know. It was strange and confusing, and he wasn't sure if he could trust his own instincts anymore. Wade Wilson had completely twisted Spideys' entire outlook and taken over his mind.

But at least he had warm straw.

The silence, while strange, was better than the braying of the crowds, but it was Wade's presence that essentially lulled Spidey to sleep.


The amazing artists Cylopsbunny (on Instagram) drew fanart for this fic! And has given me permission to show them!        

The first one is their adaptation of Spidey and the other is Angel Dust