The dragon's cave was surprisingly well-lit.
Glowing orange plants produced light that the mounds of gems and precious metals reflected, allowing the prince to see that the cave was huge, with ceilings taller than any castle he'd ever seen. There were other caves branching off from this one, but they were small enough that Tony suspected that where they stood now was the only place in the mountain that the dragon could fit.
The red beast stood behind him, huge and scaled and terrifying, its eyes dark slits. Smoke rose from the creature's nostrils. Heat radiated from its great body.
Tony didn't dare look at it. He still didn't know what the thing wanted from him. His father, Howard, had traded him to the monster in exchange for peace, to stop the raids on their mines and towns and castles. It was a smart choice, Tony knew. The only way to ensure the safety of their people.
Knowing that did not stop his resentment, or his fear.
He told himself the beast wouldn't kill him. If it wanted blood and death, it did not need to make deals.
But if you listened to stories, there were worse things than death that a dragon could do.
Tony waited for the dragon to do something, trying to ignore the itching of his arms. The cloth-of-gold he wore was meant to be beautiful to the greedy creature, but it wasn't comfortable. Though in any case, it didn't matter. The chains around his wrists kept him from moving his hands more than a few inches.
He jumped when the dragon hissed, turning around to stare up at the monster. Its wings, thin and leathery, began to morph, growing smaller and paler. The rest of its body followed suit, starting with the head and ending with the long, whip-like tail, until a man stood before him.
A tall, handsome man.
A tall, handsome, naked man.
The man did not speak, choosing instead to stare at Tony before grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him forward. Tony froze, not daring to move as the man — Dragon — pushed aside the fabric of his robes to sniff his neck, holding him possessively. The dragon shivered before letting him go, nodding his approval. He held Tony's hands up, his palm sparking orange before the chains around Tony's wrists broke. The dragon dropped them in a random pile of gold objects before turning around. "Come."
Tony had no choice but to follow, absently rubbing his wrists as the dragon led him through a tunnel. He had no shoes, but the ground was cool and smooth and gave him no problems.
They emerged in a cavern that Tony belatedly realized was a bedroom, although the dragon did not so much have a bed as a mass of blankets and pillows and furs thrown in a hollowed-out hole in the floor. Lit iron sconces and braziers filled the black room with warm light. The silk scarves and tapestries laced with gold and silver thread that covered the stony walls almost made the cavern look like a room.
There was a pile of gold and ruby jewelry sitting on top of a small bundle of fabric by the hole. The dragon pulled him over, positioning Tony so he stood still as the monster pulled his clothes from him, giving the rich fabric only a passing glance before discarding it.
So much for that.
Tony shivered, wanting to cover himself but not daring to move. The dragon did not seem to care, picking up the fabric he'd prepared and handing it to Tony.
Tony carefully took it, unfolding the cloth. It took a moment to realize it was a gown, with flowing sleeves and a dip at the neck to show his chest. Not that it needed it; the gown was made of gold fabric so sheer, he might as well stay undressed.
But the dragon was waiting.
Tony pulled the gown on, feeling no less naked than he had. But the dragon seemed pleased. No longer bothering to hand Tony things, he fit cuffs studded with rubies around each of his wrists, a golden collar around his neck, thin anklets above his feet, rings both plain and jeweled on his fingers, a belt around his waist, and an ivy-like circlet atop his dark brown hair.
Tony had never felt more like a piece of meat than when the dragon looked at him, eyes dark and hungry, cock hard. The dragon leaned forward to nip his neck. "Stephen."
Tony blinked. "What?"
"My name is Stephen."
"Oh. I'm . . . Tony."
"I know." The dragon took his hand, leading him into the sleeping pit.
Tony could barely stand for fear of what he knew would come next, but could not admit to himself. That turned out to not be a problem as the dragon had no intention of him standing. Stephen placed a hand flat between his shoulders, pushing him down and raising his skirt so his ass was uncovered. He held Tony by the hips, his weight settling on his back and keeping him in place.
Tony couldn't stop his tears, but he tried to stay quiet. He didn't want to anger his captor, and dragons were famous for their temper.
But the beast noticed anyway, feeling Tony shake against him. He raised a hand to his face, wiping away a tear.
The monster stilled.
Tony lay there, silk beneath him and flesh above, waiting to see what he would do. Then Stephen was gone, only a hint of wind to show he'd ever been there.
Tony waited in fear for hours, wondering when the dragon would return. Eventually he fell asleep, exhausted by stress. When he woke, the dragon had still not come to him.
It only took half an hour for his curiosity and boredom to overcome his fear. He wrapped a blanket around his shoulders to cover himself and wandered out, making his way back to the main cavern. A dead bull sat in the middle, freshly-killed with its head bitten off and smoking. It smelled delicious and looked disgusting.
He sidestepped the bull, searching amongst the dragon's hoard. There, he found more clothes — silk, lace, samite, brocade, velvet, fine leather. Tony was tempted to change so that he at least wouldn't feel naked, but he didn't dare without his captor's permission.
There were a few other tunnels, each of them dark and off-putting. Each except for one, which was lit by a pale blue glow.
He hesitated before going to it, drawn by something greater than curiosity.
The tunnel was longer than the one to the bedroom, enough so that Tony considered turning back before the path opened onto a grotto.
A pool of clear, clean water flowed peacefully into the cave. Wet sand lined the edge. Blue crystals and plants glowed along the walls. A hole at the top of the cavern let in pale moonlight.
Stephen stood in the pool, cleaning blood from his face.
He did not look at Tony. He didn't need to. "You don't need to fear me. You're my mate, and I will not allow any harm to come to you." When Tony doesn't respond, he continued, "You can use whatever you want from the cave. Come to me if you need more." He turned, dipping his head into the water, and Tony was dismissed.
Tony took the dragon's words as permission to change. He found a thick brocade robe he didn't hate and put it on. Apart from the gown, he didn't take off anything but the belt, not wanting to push his luck.
Within a few hours, he was hungry. It soon dawned on him that the only thing to eat was the bull in the cavern. He waited a while longer to see if Stephen would bring something else, but when he didn't, the prince swallowed his pride and looked for silverware.
Once, he stood in the mouth of a tunnel and stared as the monster tore apart an elephant with its black teeth as long as knives. He ate everything, even crushing the bones with his huge jaws, until all that was left was a charred leg for his human prize.
Tony turned and vomited.
After a week, Tony had barely seen the dragon and had only eaten meat and drank water. His stomach was in knots, the thought of eating more meat almost enough to make him vomit. He lay in a nest he made for himself of blankets and pillows, a thick bear fur pulled over his head to keep out light.
Something pulled at the black fur. Tony groaned, fighting to keep it. "No."
"Tony," a deep voice said. "My star, what's wrong?"
Tony slowly realized who it was, and made himself look up. The dragon hovered above him in his human form, his face contorted in worry.
"Are you sick?" A hand pressed against his forehead, trailing down his chest and abdomen.
Tony groaned painfully. "My stomach."
Stephen looked so genuinely worried that Tony thought he might be hallucinating. "Have you eaten?"
Tony shot a dirty look at him that he normally wouldn't have dared. "You've only brought me meat. I need more than that."
Stephen frowned before standing and gently placing the fur over him.
The dragon gently shook his shoulder, waking him. "Tony? I have something for you."
Tony groaned, slowly fading into awareness. "Hmph?"
Stephen held out a silver tray laden with metal bowls. "I brought food."
Tony turned away, feeling sick from the thought of eating, but Stephen pressed a cup to his mouth. "Drink this. It will help."
Tony reluctantly opened his mouth, a rich purple liquid flowing past his lips and down his throat. After a few minutes, he started to come back to himself, the pain in his stomach fading. He could sit up and did so, accepting the tray when Stephen offered it.
Stephen pointed out each item in turn. "There's figs, carrots, strawberries, goat cheese, fresh bread, cloudberry wine, and water."
He sat back and watched expectantly, waiting for him to eat. Tony noticed that he was wearing clothes for the first time he'd seen, a set of plain blue robes. He had eyes that were a mix of blue and green and grey, like the sea in a storm.
His thoughts were interrupted by the rumbling of his stomach, his appetite returning. He hesitantly picked up a fig, taking a large bite of the purple flesh. It was sweet and watery, delighting his taste buds.
Tony ate quickly, drinking water after every bite to refresh his mouth, finishing with a goblet of wine. "This is . . . really good." His smile felt genuine. Especially when Stephen returned it.
He left the den the next day, stopping in his tracks when he saw the uprooted plum tree and half-crushed wagon that had been dropped in the cave. Chuckling, he plucked a few plums from the branches, munching on one as he walked to the grotto. Stephen was there, planting fruit seeds into the sand with surprisingly gentle hands.
Tony's hand fell to his side. "They won't grow here. There's not enough sunlight."
Stephen shook his head once. "They'll grow."
Within a few days, the grotto was filled with fig and pomegranate and apple trees in bloom.
After Tony's meat-induced illness, Stephen started to take meals with him to make sure he was eating properly. It was awkward, but Tony wasn't as scared of him as he had been. He knew Stephen could still hurt him, but he didn't think he would.
Once, while Tony feasted on roasted goat and blueberries, Stephen asked, "Are you happy?"
Tony hesitated before answering. "I'm not . . . unhappy." He was surprised to find he meant it. "Kind of just . . . bored." He had explored all the caves had to offer in a week, finding caverns filled with animals bones and others of potions and books he couldn't read and another that he suspected Stephen drew their drinking water from. There was one they used as a bathroom that Tony was certain was cleaned magically.
"What did you do before?"
Tony shifted awkwardly. "Tinker. Experiment. Spend time with my friends Rhodey and Pepper." His only friends had been gone from the kingdom when he was traded away. They never would have stood for it otherwise. And as an Omega, he could never be king, and his father never bothered to involve him in matters of state. But he tried to make himself useful by coming up with things that could help. Improvements to irrigation and mining technology, new weapons and armor, defenses against the dragon that had plagued them. Not that any of it mattered — Howard would never use anything he made.
Stephen nodded thoughtfully, pulling apart a piece of meat with his teeth.
Stephen left on a raid a few days later. Tony expected him to be back within an hour with a fresh kill or else barrels of food (they were running low on vegetables) and went about preparing a tray for dinner and dressing in a black gown and emeralds. But it was well into nighttime when Stephen returned, carrying not food in his great claws, but large wooden chests.
The dragon set his prize down before transforming back into his human form, no blood or soot on him as there usually was. He presented the chests to Tony. "For you." He seemed almost . . . excited.
Tony opened the first plain chest, expecting a special food or clothes or something shiny (Stephen loved shiny things). He took in a sharp breath when he saw what it was.
Books filled the first chest. Stories and poems and philosophy and history and math and science and machines, everything he could possibly want to read. As soon as he realized what was happening, he excitedly opened the next one. It was filled with metal instruments, tools, and raw materials for him to play with and form. When Tony looked further in, he even found a few musical instruments. He wondered if Stephen would play for him.
"This is . . . the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me." His whole life, people had tried to take his mind and ideas and inventions. He could hardly imagine someone wanting him to have them.
"I'm glad. More than anything, I want you to be happy, Tony."
Tony held up a bronze sextant, used to measure distance between objects, to find your way. "What if I don't want to be here?" He asked, staring at the dragon. "What if leaving will make me happy?"
Stephen stilled, but Tony didn't think he was angry. More . . . sad. "If that's what you want, then tell me where you want to go. I'll take you myself."
Tony didn't answer for a long time, fiddling with a telescope. "I want . . . to go outside and look at the stars."
Tony handed the telescope to Stephen as he pointed at a group of stars with a blue one in the center. "That's the Great Defender, he was a legendary hero who defeated the Mad Titan. Who is also up there, but not around this time of year. And there's the Spider and the Star-Shield. And that's just a flower. I think there's a drum around here somewhere."
Stephen was studiously paying attention to everything he said, nodding silently when he managed to make out a constellation and leaning next to Tony to better track his eye. His body radiated heat, enough so that Tony let his blanket fall down his shoulders and didn't pull it up.
"Do dragons have constellations?" Tony asked, unconsciously moving closer.
Stephen nodded. "A few. There's Mhysa, the mother-goddess who remade the world and brought dragons to life. And the Green Seas are over there. And that's the Horned Crown and the Silver Gems. The Crossbow, the Auroch, the Black Dread dragon. A few others that you can't see well here." He drank blackberry wine from a horn. "I should take you to the Sunset Sea. The water is so clear, you can see krakens and leviathans at the bottom. There, they look as small as ordinary fish until they swim to the surface, large enough to swallow any ship they want."
"They eat the crews?"
Stephen tilted his head, thinking. "I don't think they realize most of the time. It's just food to them. Ships don't taste very good though, so the older, larger ones tend to avoid them because it's not worth it."
Tony nodded before quietly asking, "Have you ever . . . killed people?"
"Yes." He said it so simply that Tony wondered if he was the strange one for questioning it.
"Who?" When he lived in the palace, he heard stories constantly about the dragon that terrorized them, but no one ever spoke of death.
"Oh, I think . . . seven hundred years ago?"
"Give or take."
Stephen chuckled. "I was raiding a gold mine that once was the territory of a friend of mine who is now gone from this life. There, curel men worked slaves to death. Many of them never saw sunlight before that day."
"What did you do?"
The dragon's tone was almost casual. "I burnt the slavemasters alive and freed the miners, as the Mother once freed her children." He paused, tilting his head as he looked at Tony, who was staring at him. "Does that scare you?"
"I don't know."
"Are you scared of me?"
Tony was shaking, heat wracking his body. He desperately gulped cool water from a glass bottle, some of it dribbling down his chin and chest. He groaned in pain and desperation. "Stephen!"
He shouted a few more times before Stephen came running to the room, freezing in the doorway.
The sight of his dragon, wearing only a pair of pants made from soft doeskin, made Tony moan, slick running down his thighs.
"My star? What's—" Tony's scent hit him, heady and strong and intoxicating. "Oh . . ."
Tony was miserable in the throes of his heat, but now he sat up, bowing his head and showing off his neck. He knew he looked beautiful. He was wearing a night-blue gown and his jewels were smooth opals set in silver metal that he'd shined to make appealing to him. And he knew Stephen wanted him, saw the way he looked at him.
So it was a bit of a surprise when Stephen left.
Tony sat there, stunned, not knowing what to do next until Stephen returned. He had one of the skins they used to carry drinks.
Stephen sunk into the pillows beside Tony and tried to press the skin to his mouth, but Tony whined, pushing his hand away. "No, not that. You, I need you, Stephen, please . . ." He tried to get on his lap, hiking up his gown so Stephen could see his flushed cock and wet hole. "Please, Stephen, please fuck me, I want you, I want you so much—"
Stephen dropped the drink and grabbed Tony's wrists, pushing him down and hovering over him. "No you don't, Tony. You can't think right like this." He put his wrists together, holding him down with one hand and holding the skin to his mouth. "Drink this."
Tony reluctantly obeyed, his mind half-gone with need. He drank the entire thing, never tasting it. He only had a moment to stare at Stephen's gemstone eyes before blacking out.
When Tony woke again, he'd slept for four days. Stephen wasn't there, but he'd left a gold tray filled with Tony's favorite foods and a book about constellations beside what Tony had come to think of as their nest.
Tony stared at it, stomach rumbling and his body crying out for a bath, before rolling over and going back to sleep.
Tony confronted him while Stephen was swimming in the grotto, naked in the moonlight. He didn't bother to remove his thin white gown, allowing it to float on top of the water. He held the dragon by his hands. "Why me? Why did you take me? Why not someone else?"
Stephen looked at him with soft eyes. "I dreamed of you."
Tony slept in his arms that night, separated by a burgundy robe and piles of fur (winter was near, and Stephen was constantly worried that Tony was too cold). He could not remember a time that he'd felt so safe.
So it was surprising when he woke to a dragon's roar.
Tony jumped when he woke, rolling over in their nest to see Stephen, pale flesh turning to scarlet scales, eyes yellow and slitted. "You DARE!" The word descended into an angry burst of golden flame at the knight that stood before him.
The knight held up his shield, but quickly dropped it when the heated metal became too much, rolling out of the way of the dragon's wrath, undeterred. "Let him go!"
Black terror filled Tony when he recognized the voice. "Stop!" He jumped up, dropping his furs and running in front of Rhodey. "Stephen, don't!"
Stephen stilled for a moment, red scales at the edge of his face, his teeth long and sharp, his nails forming into black claws.
Tony whipped around when an arrow flew past his shoulder, seeing Pepper standing in the tunnel. "Pepper! We're trying to talk it out! Would- would both of you just calm down! Stephen, stop breathing fire!"
By that point, everyone was staring at him. Stephen, clothes in soft leather pants, his black bearskin thrown to the floor, asked, "Tony, who are these people?"
"Stephen, this is James Rhodes and Virginia Potts, a knight and lady of my father's court. They cannot mean to harm us."
"Stand behind me."
"Tony, don't!" Rhodey shouted, holding his sword. His gray and silver helmet kept any emotion from his enemies.
Tony ignored him, going to stand behind Stephen and trusting that the dragon would not harm his friends if Tony did not want it.
Stephen did not stand down when Tony was with him, though his eyes returned to their normal colors. "State your intentions."
If there was anyone who could face an angry dragon undaunted, it was Rhodey. "We've come to take our friend home."
"That will not happen."
"The hell it won't," Pepper said, readying another arrow.
Tony, held out a placating hand to them. "It's okay. I want this."
"He's warped your mind!"
"I've done no such thing," Stephen said, offended by the very insinuation. "I would never harm Tony. I dreamed him. We're written in the stars."
"It's true!" Tony said, not wanting this to go any further. "He offered to take me back, but I said no. Please, just put your weapons down."
For a moment, they refused, standing their ground. Then, slowly, Rhodey lowered his sword.
Stephen left to give them time to speak alone, though not before giving Tony a bag of potions that would burn if thrown on them, worried as always for his star. Tony dressed, putting on a wine red gown of silk and velvet with a pattern of black branches embroidered across the bodice, with trousers for extra warmth and a white lion pelt over his shoulders. His stones were black jet around his wrists and neck and waist, with a single stone hanging at his forehead from a silver chain. He didn't wear rings often, as they made working with metal more difficult, but he did today, three on each hand. When he was done, he looked like a king, but not his father. One of the old kings that singers made songs of, who fought monsters and saved people and tamed dragons.
The first thing he did every morning when Stephen left was go down to the grotto and pick fruit for the day. He did that now, inviting Pepper and Rhodey to join him as casually as he used to invite them riding. He climbed up the branches of the fig tree, dropping purple fruits into a gold bowl beneath him while they spoke. "What do you want to know?"
"What has he done to you?" Pepper demanded. "We returned for your birthday and found you gone, traded away to a monster for an uncertain peace."
Birthday. He hadn't realized how much time had passed. He was twenty, but he felt younger than he had a year ago. Younger and more carefree and happier.
Tony wondered what they saw when they looked at him now. His hair had grown out and was rarely cut. He had a permanent layer of stubble since all he had to cut his beard were knives. The strange, rich clothes made in a fashion that had come and gone centuries ago.
He returned to his task, throwing a bad fruit into the water. "Not much. He is not cruel, or even unkind. He tries to make me happy."
Rhodey was growing exasperated. "Why don't we leave now? He's gone. We can be miles away by nightfall."
"He could be there in minutes," Tony said, unconcerned. "Wash those off, I'm gonna get some pomegranates." He shimmied down the tree, his clothes enchanted not to tear, and grabbed another bowl.
"Why go back? So I can be handed off to an Alpha prince instead? At least here I can be happy and enjoy my life." Tony had found himself missing his old life less and less with each passing day. Now he missed only a few people, Bruce and Rhodey and Pepper and Happy and Jarvis, and nothing else of that world.
"What do you even do here?" Pepper challengedz even less likely to change her mind on the subject than Rhodey.
Tony shrugged. "When he's away, I swim and read and create." Tony worked as often as be could, making new inventions and improving upon old ones. Once, Tony had shown Stephen a ballista he'd designed to protect his family's castle from the dragon. Stephen had seemed impressed, and agreed that if combined with poison, it would have required him to rest for at least a day while he used his potions and spells to recover. Howard had once rolled the same plans into a ball and thrown them in a fire. Omegas weren't supposed to make things, never mind war machines. "When he's here, we talk about stories and science. Stuff like that." Stephen liked to tell him dragon tales, about the Mother Goddess and her three fierce children, the Black Dread's battles with leviathans, and dragon kings and queens long dead. "We look at the stars a lot."
"Stars?" Rhodey asked incredulously. "Stars. You would trade your whole life to look at stars with a monster?"
"It wasn't much of a life. And he's not a monster."
"So you're just going to stay here forever? What kind of life is that?"
Tony smiled. "If I had this life and you guys, I would have all I wanted in the world."
Stephen had already eaten the night before and wasn't hungry, but he brought them a deer that he roasted in front of them and tore apart with his claws, taking one of its horns to gnaw on. Tony shook his head at the dragon's dramatics, smiling fondly before leaning against Stephen's body. The scales were smoother than you would think, though strong enough to stop all but the greatest weapons.
Tony had put together dinner after explaining to Rhodey and Pepper that no, they didn’t have an oven, or a cellar, so everything they ate was fresh and if it needed to be cooked, Stephen would handle it.
The others ate cautiously, not trusting Stephen’s food. Pepper watched the dragon curiously. Stephen was using the antlers to sharpen his teeth, but hadn’t eaten anything in front of them. Pepper asked, “Do you eat?”
The dragon managed to look annoyed with only his eyes. “Yes.”
“What do you eat?” Rhodey asked, probably thinking of the tales told of dragons who feasted on human flesh.
Stephen seemed no less irritated by Rhodey than Pepper. “Meat.”
Tony casually chewed on a piece of venison. "Have you ever eaten fruit?"
Stephen’s voice seemed to soften somewhat. "No."
"Then how do you know if you like it or not? Does it smell bad to you or something?"
"It smells fine. I don’t know if I’d like it."
“Will you try some for me?”
After a moment, Stephen nodded, turning back into his human form. Tony passed him his lion pelt to cover himself. He knew Stephen preferred to go naked, but when it became clear that Tony was uncomfortable with that, he had started wearing clothes, usually skins or furs or leathers of some kind.
Tony tossed him a fig, one at just the right point of ripeness that he’d picked himself that day. Stephen caught it, eyes trained on Tony as he took a bite, juice running down his chin. He made a surprised sound. “It’s good!”
He looked so genuinely shocked and happy, like a child presented with a toy, that Tony burst into laughter, grinning the whole time.
“Dragons dream of their mates,” Stephen whispered, holding Tony safe in his arms under a pile of polar bear furs. “It can take thousands of years for the right person to be born, but once they're with them, they will never accept another. We can extend our loved ones' lives by centuries, but eventually they will die, and when they do, the dragon that loved them so will die of grief. This is how it is and has always been.”
Tony sat up, staring at him. There was only one brazier lit, providing just enough light to see each other by. Stephen’s eyes were golden like this, inhuman. “You'll die one day? Because of me?”
Stephen smiled playfully. “Did you think me immortal?”
His face dropped when Tony whispered, “Yes.”
Stephen pulled him into his arms. “Do you think I would prefer to live without you?”
“I don’t know.”
Tony filled a bag with gold and trinkets and food for Pepper and Rhodey to take with them, along with a letter to his mother speaking of his health and happiness.
“I can’t convince you to stay a few more days?” Tony asked hopefully, warmed by Stephen’s favorite fur cloak.
“We told your parents that if we weren’t back in two months, we were lost or dead.” Pepper said, avoiding the fact that they simply hated being in the cave. “We have to go now if we’re to be back in time.”
“Will you come with us?” Rhodey asked.
Tony shook his head. “I might visit, but this is my place now.” I can’t be happy there anymore. Maybe I never was.
Rhodey scowled, but pressed a dagger to his hand and told him to keep it close. Tony promised he would and put it in a pile from Stephen’s hoard once they left.
When they were eating dinner that night, Stephen asked him, “Would you like to return there one day?”
Tony hesitated. “Maybe. Not permanently though, I'd miss this.”
“I’m glad. I’d miss you.”
“You could come with me,” Tony said, feeling oddly hopeful. “Wouldn’t that be something? I can just imagine the look on my father’s face when I come back on a dragon.”
Stephen smirked. “Tony, do you mean to ride me?”
Tony smiled flirtily. “Maybe.”
“You’d have to hold on tight.”
“Looking forward to it.”
Tony was working on designs for a suit of armor when Stephen returned home in the middle of the morning.
Tony stood, smiling when he saw the dragon fly in on blood-colored wings. His happiness soon turned to ash when he saw the spear sticking out of a chink in Stephen’s scales, right in his shoulder.
“Stephen!” The dragon landed beside him, his movements sloppy as he stumbled around before collapsing. Tony ran to him, a hand on his chest where Stephen’s heart was, and looked at the spear. He didn’t know what it had been thrown with, but it was made of goldenheart wood, almost impossibly strong and flexible. The spearhead was buried in his body, preventing Tony from seeing what it was made of, but if he knew anything of weapons, then it was probably coated in poison. “Stephen, what do I do, tell me what to do!”
Each breath was an effort for the dragon, moving his entire body and exhaling smoke from his nostrils. “My spells . . . the red glass bottle with . . . blue in . . . inside . . .” His eyes rolled back in his head, and his body transformed back, the spear seeming even more huge and terrifying in his small, pale body.
Tony ran to Stephen’s cave of spells, knocking around bottles and vials and pots until he found what Stephen had requested. He ran back, thinking at first to pour it down his throat, but something told him that was the wrong thing to do. Instead, he cut away at the spear with Rhodey’s knife, pulling it out inch by inch until Stephen was free, throwing the weapon to the side like it was offensive to him. He soaked a cotton blanket in the potion before placing it over Stephen’s chest like a bandage, tying it to him with a piece of old fabric.
He didn’t know what else to do, or even if he could do anything. Instead, he put a pillow under Stephen’s head and one of his favorite furs over him. After a moment’s hesitation, he joined him, not minding the hard floor. His only thought was the man beside him.
Stephen slept for a day and a night before waking, eyes weak and bleary. “Tony?” He tried to sit up, wincing. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Tony didn’t answer, throwing his arms around Stephen and crying into his neck.
Tony bathed in the grotto under the light of a full moon, taking his time to dry himself off.
When he dressed, his gown was the sheer gold that Stephen had given him so long ago. Gold and rubies decorated his neck, wrists, hands, and head, until he looked like a bride for a king.
He went outside where Stephen was, laying in a grove of trees under the stars, wearing soft doeskin robes with a fur cloak. Tony slowly unclothed him, leaving the dragon naked and unashamed before his fated mate.
Tony pulled his gown up, allowing Stephen to do as he pleased. Stephen took his hand, gently kissing the palm, before removing Tony’s jewelry, carefully putting it in a pile under a tree. He ran a hand down the sheer fabric of the dress. “We don’t need this anymore, do we?”
“No,” Tony said, taking it off, unashamed to be naked under the stars. “We don’t.”