Title: The Dragon Dilemma
Series: Here There Be Dragons
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Year: Season 4, Following The Instincts
Tags: AU: Fantasy, Trope Bingo, Magic is Known, Pre-Slash, Canon Level Violence, Season 4
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid,
Spoilers: Up Through Season 4
Summary: When on a case with the BAU, Hotch finds a small dragon in the clutches of an UnSub. Unsure of what to do with it, but unwilling to leave in the care of humans, he takes it home.
Warnings: Graphic Depictions of Violence,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Aaron Hotchner motioned for Derek Morgan and David Rossi to enter the building in front of him. He could feel the magic in the building, and he didn’t want to trip something. Emily Prentiss followed after. Whoever was in the building, he or she was powerful. If Morgan and Prentiss made it in fine, Aaron would have no issue. Morgan was a shifter, therefore, had a little magic, but Prentiss as an Elf was a wholly magical creature but still nowhere as powerful as Aaron. Dave was a magic user but rarely tripped any traps because he was on the low end of the spectrum.
It was ten minutes before Dave yelled the all clear for Aaron to enter. Aaron found Dave standing in the middle of a bedroom. Morgan was shifted into a bear, a massive paw holding the UnSub still on the bed.
Aaron reached out with his magic. The UnSub was just as they thought, a low-level magic user, slightly more power than Dave but not by much. Aaron found the center of the UnSub’s magic and flicked it off. A powerful bit of magic that had taken him nearly a thousand years to learn. As he pulled his magic back in he felt something, he ignored it figuring it was a creature reacting to the flare of strange magic.
“YOU ASSHOLE!” The UnSub screamed as Morgan let him go and shifted back to his human form since they could handle the UnSub better now. There was no reason to fear him anymore. “Give me back my magic!”
“No. You’ve lost that right the second you used it to kill. You’ve been judged, and I find you guilty.”
The UnSub tried to run at Aaron, but Morgan was quick with grabbing him and cuffing him. Aaron turned back to the rooms behind him, hearing the calls of the creatures. The decayed magic everywhere made him sick to the stomach.
Something was calling out to him, stronger than the creatures he could see. Aaron stopped and looked around. The UnSub was caught, and now all that was left was going through the house and cataloging all the animals that were destined for the black market. Jennifer “JJ” Jareau had started crying as soon as she had entered the house, seeing the conditions the creatures were in, she was a plain human and had never seen magical creatures in situations like this before. Aaron’s team was going to clear the house before the LEO’s magic squad came in to be on the safe side.
“There’s something wrong,” Dave said from ten feet away from him. There was a look of utter shock on his face.
“You feel it?” Aaron asked. Whatever was calling to him was powerful. He’d never felt magic like it before. It felt off, though. Weird.
“Aaron, I feel it, and I can’t usually feel the magic from a creature,” Dave said as Morgan opened the door to another bedroom at the same time that Aaron did a door a few doors down. The growl from Morgan’s told the team that something big was in there. The slam of the door told Aaron that it wasn’t friendly. Morgan pulled out a marker and placed a large red X on the door. The creature inside would have to be knocked out before removal from the house. He hoped none of the creatures would have to be put down. He hated it when the creatures were so twisted from UnSubs that the poor things had to be put down.
Aaron turned into his room and was met with a face of fire. A quickly thrown up shield saved Aaron from severe burns. He stepped back, trying to see what was in the room. It wasn’t long before the flame cleared and Aaron nearly fainted. Chained inside a cage was a young red dragon.
“PRENTISS!” Aaron screamed. He stepped back to allow her to enter the room. The dragon settled down as soon as he was out of the doorway. He didn’t know how the UnSub got a hold of a dragon, but Aaron didn’t like what it meant. Prentiss came running and stopped when she saw what Aaron was seeing. Her magic flared, and Aaron knew that she was disgusted. He was disgusted.
“It’s reacting badly to magic.”
“It is a he.” Prentiss walked into the room, slowly. The dragon didn’t do anything except for stare at her. Elves were always friendly to dragons. It had been a long shot, but Aaron had been hopeful that the dragon hadn’t been so far gone that he hadn’t been able to see that she was an Elf.
“Aaron?” Morgan asked as he and Dave moved closer.
“Dave, stay back. You, too Morgan. We have a young dragon. He’s not reacting well to magic at all. An elf, dragons trust elves.” Aaron watched as Prentiss took the last few steps to come up beside the cage.
“We can’t leave him here, Hotch,” Prentiss spoke as she picked the lock on the cage. The dragon moved back into the cage as far as possible. “The chains have no lock, Hotch. Magic. The UnSub wasn’t the one to place because they should have popped when you took his magic.”
“The UnSub didn’t have the power for this.” Aaron concentrated and found the magic used to bind the chains. He found the spell used and it reeked of age-old magic, to a time when dragons were feared. As soon as the chains fell away, the dragon expanded his wings, breaking the cage and flying up to land on the top of a curtain rod. He stared down at Aaron with his head cocked. Electric blue eyes stared out of the small head. Aaron felt a shock over his skin as he stared into the eyes. His magic flared inside his body and Aaron wasn’t sure what was going on.
“How are we going to get him safely out of the house?” Prentiss asked. Aaron knew that she would never do anything to harm to a dragon and knocking the dragon out, even with magic was going to be hard. Aaron wasn’t sure he could do it. No matter if the dragon was small, he could have more power than even Aaron had. If they stepped outside and the dragon took off, Aaron was worried about what could happen to him.
“I’ve only ever met one dragon. That was a thousand years ago in Asia. I don’t even know…” Aaron stopped talking when the dragon hopped down from the rod and landed on the floor between Aaron and Prentiss, staying in a running pose. His eyes never left Aaron. He stared up at Aaron for several long seconds before the dragon relaxed. Aaron crouched down and held out his hand. Smell. A dragon this small depended on smell to make decisions and on inherent magic. The closer the dragon got to him, the more that it could feel his magic. The dragon didn’t react for several minutes.
Finally, the dragon moved a few inches closer and stuck out his nose. Aaron kept his hand still as he was sniffed. A whole body shudder moved through the dragon and before Aaron could do a thing, the dragon was launching himself at him. The dragon landed on his shoulder and then shifted to where he was draped around Aaron’s neck, tail curled around the front with the body around the back. He was basically wearing a dragon necklace. Aaron felt his own magic flare, but this time it flared out. He felt magic settling over his body, and it wasn’t his own, and it wasn’t natural magic, it was the dragon’s magic. The dragon had just claimed him. He’d bonded with it. This was going to make things interesting.
Dave started to laugh. Aaron turned around to look at the older looking man, smiling as he did. “Seems like you made a friend.” Dave had to have felt the flare of magic. He was surprised that Prentiss wasn’t saying a word.
“I guess that I have.” Aaron had an idea on what he could do with the dragon for the time being. He just needed to go outside. “I’m going to step outside. Tag the rest of the rooms and then let the locals inside.” Aaron wanted to get the dragon out of the house as soon as possible. The dragon would settle better not in the place of his captivity.
Aaron moved out of the house, feeling the warmth of the creature wrapped around his neck. As soon as he exited the door, all the local magic users stopped what they were doing and stared up at him. The dragon was still throwing off magic in high amounts; every single magic user on the block had to be feeling it. Dragons were solitary creatures, and while the creatures used to be plentiful, selective breeding and being killed off in wars had lessened the number of them in the world. Aaron hadn’t lied, he’d only ever met one dragon, but he knew of seven that were alive and hiding in the world, including a pretty powerful one in England. He needed to reach out and find someone to take this dragon in, despite the bond. There was only one in the United States and one in Canada. He hoped that one of his friends would come through for him. The bond could be shifted to another dragon.
“Stay back. He’s a little touchy with magic. I don’t know how long he’s been caged.”
“He looks to be about five years old,” one of the local Faeries said as she stepped close to him but didn’t get too close. She had a wan smile on her face. “My clan studies dragons.”
“What kind is he?” Aaron asked. That would help in finding out how to take care of him until he could be handed off.
“That I can’t tell you. I’ve never seen a head shape like his before.” The dragon shifted on Aaron’s neck, curling in tighter. “His eyes, though. His eyes tell me that he’s an electric dragon.”
“He used fire, though. Tried to burn me to a crisp.”
The Faerie’s eyes widened in shock. “Sorry, Agent. The only dragons I have ever seen with eyes like that are electric dragons. Fire breathers usually have red eyes.”
Something moved off to the side, and the dragon reacted. He spun on Aaron’s neck and came up on the shoulder on the other side. Aaron could feel his belly swell. Aaron turned his head to see a non-magical officer coming up close to Aaron. The man didn’t seem to be paying attention to what was going on around him, and he hadn’t noticed the dragon.
Until a puff of fire stopped him in his tracks. Aaron barely had time to grab the dragon around the middle as he leaped off Aaron’s shoulder and tried to attack the officer. Aaron was surprised, and he didn’t even try to keep its claws pressed against his body, he knew the dragon wasn’t going to hurt him.
“You little shit!” the officer said as he drew his gun and took aim. “I told him we should have killed you when we found you.” The officer seemed to finally notice what he said and looked to see that every gun in the area had been drawn on him. The dragon calmed down in Aaron’s hands, and he moved the dragon back to his shoulder.
“Drop it,” Aaron said as he eyed the gun. The officer did just as he said and his fellow officers cuffed him. Once the officer was shoved in the back of a car, Aaron started moving again to his SUV. He opened the back door and tried to entice the dragon inside. He could seal the vehicle up to where no one but him would be able to get in. It was the safest place for the dragon at the moment. The dragon wasn’t having any of it, though. He wrapped his tail around Aaron’s neck and wasn’t letting go.
“No. You need to go into the car. It’s going to be safest for you.” Aaron knew that the dragon should have been able to understand him, but given that he had no clue how long the dragon had been in the UnSub’s hands, he wasn’t sure. The dragon curled his head and huffed against Aaron’s neck; the warm wet air made Aaron shiver. “Please. I’ll crack the windows and ward the car so that no one can enter it but me. Just please.”
Another huff and the dragon shifted to jump down. Aaron turned to shut the door, but something tugged at him. He looked back down to see the dragon with mouth clenched on his jacket sleeve. Aaron slipped out of it, and the dragon pulled it up and onto the seat, shifting it around until it became a nest. Aaron shut the door, touching the SUV so that the windows rolled down all the way. With the magic protecting the car, nothing was going to get through, windows up or down.
Aaron watched the dragon for several seconds before he made his way back into the house. Dave was the first to meet him. This complicated matters. The bond wasn’t as impersonal as he thought it was. The dragon was bound to him in a strong way. There was no way that he was going to be able to get the little settled anywhere other than with him.
“Little guy all settled?” Dave looked Aaron up and down. “Where’s your jacket?”
“The dragon has made a nest out of it. I have the SUV warded. I will be the only one to be able to get into it for now. I’ve got the windows down, and he’s relaxing. Dave, I’ll be taking him back with us.”
“Not going to try and ship him off?” The look in Dave’s eye told Aaron that he knew why he wasn’t sending the dragon off. He had felt the flare of the magic and had been able to guess what it was. Dave was too smart and observant for his own good most of the time. “I wondered. Guess he’s a little younger than we thought.”
“No. The dragon is about five years old. I don’t know the status of his parents. I’ll try and find them, but you are correct. He’s bonded with me. One of the local officers was nearly killed by him. Given the statement the officer made, we have to assume that he is the accomplice. The LEOs have him in custody. I saved him from what I think was going to be a mauling and burning.”
“At first I wasn’t sure if he was reacting to knowing the officer or the fact that I asked everyone to stay back and he got too close. If I had known, I don’t know what I would have allowed. The officer is fully human.”
“Ah. He reacted, and you reacted. We have all the creatures mostly settled. There are not a lot of low intelligence creatures. I have three corralled in rooms alone that are going to need to be knocked out before we can do anything with them. The rest are in the living room, Prentiss is calming them down. Two lower Faeries were being kept in the basement. The two have already said that their clan will take all the creatures in. Prentiss is trying to get a hold of their elder.”
“They took a dragon and two Faeries? How crazy were they? We profiled that they were good at what that they do but who is stupid enough to try and sell a dragon on the black market?”
“An alive dragon? Crazy. A dead one? For parts. Not so much.”
That was the crux of it. Most of the creatures in the house were worth more dead than alive. Alive it would be hard to keep them in line but dead their parts went for a lot. Why hadn’t they killed them yet? Who had placed the chains on him? The chains had been old and powerful. Whoever had taken him was someone that Aaron wanted to meet and destroy. To take a young dragon and sell him to black market workers was insane.
“We have this here. Aaron, go back to the station. We have this under control. Their strongest magic user can put them out.” Dave patted him on the shoulder, and Aaron nodded. He could join back with the sheriff there and start to coordinate the release of the creatures into the hands of the Faerie in the area. Those Faerie would be able to get the creatures back to their home areas in a timely and safe manner. It was the best course of action.
“Keep me informed. I’ll stop by the store and pick up some meat for the dragon.”
“There’s no records written down anywhere. I have no clue what the dragon has been eating.” Dave didn’t look worried. Aaron knew the dragon wouldn’t eat something that would make him sick. It was just finding enough of what he would eat.
“I’ll get a variety and can always go get more at a later time.” Aaron left the house, striding right to the SUV and getting into the driver’s seat. He left the wards up; he would need them at the store. He tilted the mirror to where he could see the dragon but still be able to see anything behind him. The dragon wasn’t even awake, hadn’t woken even at the turns. He apparently felt safe with him.
The dragon was tired. Aaron knew that he would be as well, being in captivity, not being able to do anything. Dragons were meant to be free creatures. The Council of Magic wasn’t going to like any part of this case. The human would see life in prison for his part in the crimes. The magic user, he would probably be put to death.
Pulling up outside the first grocery store, Aaron pulled out his cell phone. He dialed the last number on his speed dial.
“Hotch, what can I do for you?” Alan Turner asked. He was the head of the Council of Magic for the East Coast. He was the only man that Aaron had to answer to.
“I have a case in Las Vegas. We have a house full of non-tradable sentient and non-sentient creatures. Two Faeries were found in good health. They have offered their clan to help with the creatures. I’ve stripped the magic of the leading man. The accomplice is human, so he’s going straight through human courts.”
“And you need me because? I’m not on the council for that area.”
“No, but I have another more delicate matter. What happens when a young dragon bonds with a magic user?” Aaron was pretty sure he knew, but he wanted to be sure. It was a little above his pay grade.
“Fuck, how did they get ahold of a dragon?” Alan sounded pissed. He was sure that Alan’s eyes were glowing with magic at this point. Only Aaron’s control kept his magic under control.
Aaron found the fresh meat section easy. He grabbed a steak, chicken, and some fish. Fruits and vegetables were next, all fresh. If the dragon wanted the meat cooked, he could use his fire to cook it, he hoped.
“The dragon is about five years old and red with electric blue eyes. I’ve seen him try and burn things. He can fly, over what distances, I have no clue. He’s asleep at this moment.”
“How did they force a bond with a dragon?”
“No!” Aaron settled as the humans around him looked at him for yelling. “No. The bond isn’t with…The dragon bonded with me, after trying to burn me.”
Laughter came down the line, and Aaron wanted to slap the man on the other end of the phone. Aaron had never wanted a familiar, even though it would be better for his magic. Pets had never interested him. Now he had a child. He didn’t hate the dragon for it. He had done what he thought was best for himself.
“I want pictures.”
Aaron knew that he didn’t mean pictures of the dragon. He wanted pictures of Aaron with the dragon. Aaron had known Alan since Alan was a kid and Aaron knew that he was not an emotional creature. Alan had thought he was a robot as a child.
“I am sure that my team has images of him draped around my neck.” Aaron kept his laughter back. He was fairly sure of his claim. Penelope Garcia would be mad if Morgan or Prentiss weren’t able to get pictures. He was also certain that the dragon was going to be a constant source of Aaron showing his softer side.
“Where are you?” Alan asked when he finally stopped laughing.
“At the store picking up some fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables.”
“If he’s an elemental, which I think he is by the description you’ve said. It’s the only kind that can have blue eyes with a red body; you’ll need to pick up more of the fruit. They tend to like sweet things. Grapes are good. Strawberries if you can. Each one is different. I’ll do some digging to find the dragons parents.”
“What if he was an egg and they got it to hatch?” Aaron was asking the question that worried him more than anything. If the black market was selling dragon eggs, the world was in trouble.
“I’ll know. Don’t worry. I’ll find what you need to know about your new friend. As soon as you can, you need to try and talk with him. Find out his name. Find out his intelligence. Find out if those fuckers harmed him.”
“I will. I’ll call in the morning when we head out. I’ll be back in DC in the afternoon.” Aaron hung up as he looked at the fruit in front of him. There were grapes and strawberries, so Aaron got both as well as some carrots and cucumbers. He hadn’t even paid attention to what dragons ate over the time he’d been alive. No dragon this small was ever far away from his or her parents. There was no need because, by the time that a dragon was seen by anyone, it was old enough to care for itself.
Something tugged at Aaron’s mind. He reached out and found that the dragon was looking for him. He sent back a few feelings of peace and that he would be there soon. The dragon settled down again, but Aaron could tell he wasn’t sleeping. A constant feedback was being sent over the bond; the little guy was very inquisitive. There was no one waiting at the registers, so it was only a few moments and Aaron was making his way out to the SUV. He opened the driver’s side door, setting the food on the passenger seat as he sat down. The dragon hopped onto the back of the seat, looking down at the food. Aaron reached down into the bag and pulled out the grapes.
The dragon made a noise that Aaron swore was something of a squeal. It was really cute. Aaron plucked a grape from the vine and held it up for the dragon. It was snatched from his fingers viciously, but Aaron had felt no teeth on his skin. The dragon wasn’t as wild as he could be given what he had gone through. Aaron shifted the bags to the floor and set a vine of the grapes on the seat. The dragon hopped down and started to pluck grapes using his mouth.
Aaron started the SUV and made the short drive back to where the station was. He hadn’t even thought about what he was going to do to keep the meat cold. Aaron hoped the station had a fridge. He would keep the dragon with him. The officers at the station would be able to stay away from the dragon, he hoped. He was pretty sure that the smoke and threat of fire would be enough for those who couldn’t keep themselves in check.
Hours later, sitting in his hotel room, Aaron was watching as the dragon flew around the room, finding the perfect spot to settle for the time being. The food he had bought earlier had all been eaten before leaving the station for the night. The dragon had taken an hour nap after eating all the meat in one sitting. He wasn’t sure where the dragon had put all the food it had eaten. He figured it was catching up on the meals it had missed but there was no way that all that food had fit inside his little body.
“Come here,” Aaron called out as the dragon landed on the top of the curtain rod again. The dragon turned to look at him, staring for a few seconds before jumping down to the floor and walking across to settle at Aaron’s feet. Aaron leaned down, letting the dragon crawl up his arm. He didn’t move up to Aaron’s shoulder. He stayed there on Aaron’s forearm. “What’s your name?”
The dragon just tilted his head and stared at Aaron. It wasn’t that the dragon didn’t understand him. After spending several hours with him, he knew that the dragon hadn’t been so long in captivity that he forgot who he was. He was intelligent and seemed to understand everything that everyone said to him. The dragon was trying to figure out how to tell him his name. A shake of the head told Aaron no.
“No? No, you don’t want to tell me your name?” The dragon shook again. “No, you don’t have a name?” The dragon nodded this time. Aaron chuckled. “Well, we will have to fix that.”
The dragon huffed out a line of smoke and jumped to land on Aaron’s shoulder. The dragon liked to be draped across his shoulders with tail wrapped around his neck. Aaron was getting used to it. A knock on the door disrupted Aaron’s thinking. Dave entered just a few seconds later.
“I found a book for you.” Dave set a bag of something down on the counter in the small kitchen area.
The dragon perked up shifting his body to sit perched. Dave tossed the book down on the bed in between them. Due to activity in the area, no one on the team was sleeping alone. It wasn’t safe. Garcia and Morgan were sharing as were Prentiss and JJ. Dave stayed on the far side of the room, not getting closer. While the dragon had taken to Aaron easy, the rest of the team was iffy. The dragon launched himself off Aaron’s shoulder and landed on top of the book.
Aaron had to give the dragon this; he could fly well. Better than Aaron would have ever thought given that he had been in captivity, chained in a cage. It would be years before the dragon could speak to a non-dragon, at least with spoken words. Dragons were not dumb beasts. The dragons that Aaron had met were the most intelligent creatures he’d ever met. He talked with human geniuses, and they had seemed dull compared.
“Aaron?” Dave asked as the dragon eyed him for a long moment before hopping off the book. A claw held down the back cover of the book while another flipped open the front cover. The two men watched as the dragon flipped through the pages of the book at a pace that would have marveled, even if he was human. Five minutes later, the last page was turned, and the dragon turned to look back at Dave. He edged forward, closer to the edge of the bed and Dave stayed where he was but reached out a hand for the dragon to sniff. It was the first time that the dragon had offered to get to know anyone.
“I think that he likes you…” Aaron said, trailing off as the dragon turned back to the book after a quick sniff. The dragon started to turn through the pages again and stopped, looking up at Dave again. Dave moved to take up the book.
“Elemental dragon. Breathes fire, controls water, air, earth, fire, metal, and can summon electricity when old enough. This says that there have been no known sightings of one in over five thousand years, the last two a mated pair with no spawn. The color of the dragon tells which element it will learn first. Explains the red. The most intelligent of dragon breeds.” Dave looked down at the dragon, smiling. “As if we couldn’t figure that out. It says here that they are omnivores with a liking to sweet fruits. That’s all there is, though. Is that what you are?”
The dragon didn’t answer. Aaron followed the dragon’s gaze. He was eyeing the bag on the table. Neither man was prepared for the dragon to make the nearly ten-foot leap from the bed to the counter, unassisted by wings to land on the faucet to the sink. He was perched so that he could look down into the bag. After staring down into the bag, he looked back up at Dave.
“He’s going to eat me out of house and home,” Aaron said as he stood up and moved over to the bag. He’d forgotten that Dave said he would pick up Chinese for them. The rest of the team had opted to actually go somewhere and eat. Aaron hadn’t wanted to leave the dragon or take him out, so Dave grabbing dinner had been the best option.
The dragon huffed jumped down into the bag before Aaron could stop him. Worried the dragon would try and eat through the plastic containers holding the food he took the last few feet as a run, reaching down into the bag. He was rewarded with a nip on his finger for his trouble. Aaron peered down into the bag and saw that the dragon was curled up on the top container of food, glaring up at him.
“I don’t think he likes you talking about him eating too much,” Dave laughed.
“If you want to eat, you have to get out of the bag.” Aaron wasn’t going to lose a fight with a dragon, no matter the age of the dragon. He looked down into the bag again just to have the dragon leap out at him, landing on his shoulder. A hiss of what sounded like pleasure escaping his mouth as he settled down. “Thank you.”
“This is going to be interesting. I picked the little fella up an order of the steamed beef and vegetables. It came with brown sauce, but I had them leave it off.” Dave pulled out three containers of food as well as two sets of chopsticks, handing two containers and a set off to Aaron. There was a small table around the half wall, and Aaron set the food down on the table, pulling the lid off the dragon’s food first. He expected the dragon to start eating, but he waited until after Aaron had grabbed drinks for himself and Dave and had begun eating before he did as well.
“Well mannered,” Aaron commented, but the dragon never reacted. He just carefully tore the meat into pieces that he could eat before swallowing them.
“I don’t think that he was in their hands as long as we thought. Even with the bond, he wouldn’t have taken to you that quickly.”
“He answered to me that he doesn’t have a name so maybe he was left alone for a while. We won’t know for several years.”
“All dragons can talk to humans, once they hit a certain age with words. There are some that can do it telepathically before that but actual words, that’s a while. I have no clue what it will be for him.”
“So you know more about dragons than you have let on?”
“No person is elevated to Judge without some working knowledge of all magical races, Dave. I probably know more about Shifters than Morgan does. I’ve made the head of the East Council aware of my new friend. Alan is going to look into matters for me, try and find parents or at least a family member. Anything.”
That stopped the dragon dead. He looked up at Aaron with wide eyes. Aaron stared as the dragon’s whole body language changed.
“Aaron?” Dave asked his voice low. Aaron didn’t answer he watched as the dragon looked between the two of them before jumping off the table. Aaron expected him to take off for the curtain rod again but no. He dove under the bed, going right up to where the wall was. Aaron’s phone ringing drew his gaze from the bed. It was the ringtone for Alan. He had to choose, and he chose the phone.
“Hotchner,” Aaron said as he dropped to his knees. The puff of smoke told him not to get any closer to the bed.
“There have been no elemental dragons under the age of five go missing in the past five years. There had been no eggs stolen, worldwide.”
“Then who do I have?”
“The only thing that I can tell you, Aaron is to keep him close.” Aaron knew that tone of voice. There was something much larger going on with the dragon and Alan knew part of it. He was worried about speaking it, though. Ears were everywhere.
“You know something.”
“I know whispers and suppositions. I know that you like to figure things out, but I need to ask you to not. I’ll send what I have about elemental dragons but don’t look for his family. If he is who I think that he is. He’ll be safer in your hands than anywhere else in the world.”
Aaron sighed, trying to catch a glimpse of eyes under the bed. There was nothing. “Any advice?”
“Don’t make him mad and he’s not five. I have no clue how old he really is but don’t count on him not to have control of his powers.” Alan hung up quickly, and it left Aaron with an uneasy feeling. Aaron shifted down again to try and see the little guy, but instead, he found that the hairs on his arms started to stand up. He knew that feeling. He’s been attacked like that once before and had barely survived.
“Dave, get back!” Aaron yelled as he rolled away from the bed, jumping up on top of the other. Dave did so as well. An arc of lightning shot out and landed a foot from where Aaron had been seconds before. It left no mark on the carpet, so it was meant to scare and not harm.
“I take it that was Alan?” Dave asked, dropping to his butt on the bed.
“He’s not five,” was the only thing that Aaron could say.
“No shit,” Dave deadpanned. “That book said lightning was gained when old enough.”
“We won’t be finding his family. I’ll make sure that Garcia knows that looking into his past can get him killed.”
Dave only looked at Aaron. Aaron gave him a look that said they would talk about it later. When no other blasts came from the dragon, Aaron moved down off the bed, on the side farthest from the dragon. He grabbed a piece of shrimp from his own meal and crouched again dropping the shrimp down on the floor just a few inches under the bed.
“Come one little guy.” A huff was his only answer. “I promise. We won’t go searching. I’ll take you home with me, and you can stay there.” There was no noise coming from under the bed, but after a few seconds a claw reached out and pulled the shrimp under the bed. A container of food was set down next to him. A red snout poked out from under the bed. Scared eyes looked up at him. Aaron dropped to his butt, leaning against the opposite bed. Dave handed him his own food before sitting down. Aaron used his foot to scoot the dragon’s food closer to him. The container was pulled under the bed before Aaron could even react. He stayed seated, finishing off his own food. Neither man moved until the container was pushed out from under the bed.
Aaron was leaning over to grab the container when the dragon took it in his mouth and took off in flight over to the trash can, dropping it in. He flew right back to Aaron, wrapping himself around his neck again. He was curled in tighter than he generally had been curling. Aaron reached up to pet him, letting his calm emotions pour into the bond.
“He forgives easily. I’ll take the bathroom first.”
Aaron leaned back onto the bed again, relaxing. He’d worry about a name in the morning. The more he thought about Alan and what the man said the more Aaron thought about the fact that creature around his neck wasn’t a regular dragon. Elemental dragons were rare, but there was one breed even rarer. High Dragons were creatures that were whispered about. No one had ever been able to prove that they had met a High Dragon. No one had been able to show that High Dragons were real but Aaron knew enough to know that High Dragons had to exist. He was fairly sure he had one wrapped around his neck.
High Dragons were an ancient breed of dragon. All dragons lived for thousands and thousands of years, but High Dragons were considered immortal. They were also rumored to be able to shift into a human form. It was all that Aaron could think about as Dave showered. If Alan suspected that the dragon was a High Dragon, there would be nothing that the man wouldn’t do to protect him. Even kill Aaron.
It was too early to be as bright as it was; Aaron thought has he climbed up the stairs to the jet. The rest of the team was already there. The dragon hadn’t slept a wink and Aaron’s worry over him had made him not get as much sleep as he needed. The first thing that he did was go right to the coffee maker and start it, maybe this time he’d get more than a single cup. The dragon was curled around his neck again as he had been since Aaron had got dressed after showering. Almost like he was afraid of being left behind.
“How’s the little guy doing?” Garcia asked as she stepped close. She didn’t reach out to touch him. The rest of the team must have filled her in. She was the only one on the team that hadn’t met the dragon yet. She’d been working with the local Faeries the entire case.
“Other than being a pain in the ass, he’s okay.” A low hiss of laughter escaped the dragon around his neck. Aaron felt like flicking the tail around his neck.
Dave started to laugh. The team looked from Aaron to the dragon, and then to Dave. Aaron wasn’t going to answer, though. He wanted them to see what the little shit was going to do. He’d spent most of the night worried about the little guy, and he hadn’t slept well.
The plane was up in the air when the coffee was done. Aaron filled two cups, one black, the other with lots of sugar and some cream before setting it down on the table, where no one was sitting. The dragon though jumped down from his shoulders and moved over to the cup, starting to drink. The team looked on in horror.
“He stole all the coffee except the cup I took into the bathroom with me,” Aaron said by way of an answer. “I had to get the coffee addict dragon. Also, his name is Reed.”
“Reed?” Morgan asked as he watched Reed drink nearly the entire cup before seemingly taking a breath. The dragon looked up at him before swiping at his mouth with his tongue.
“When I asked him last night he said he didn’t have a name, so we chose one this morning. It’s the one he chose.” Aaron smiled as Reed looked up from his empty cup with wide eyes. “No.” Lifting his own cup up, Aaron took a long drink. Reed hung his head and licked down into the cup again, getting the last drop.
“Coffee addict dragon,” JJ laughed. Dave started to laugh, and the rest of the team followed.
On the remainder of the trip home, Reed was either curled up on a seat with Aaron’s jacket as a nest or curled around Aaron’s neck. He worried about what was going to happen. There was no FBI protocol for dragons. A few magic users had familiars. He hoped that the Bureau would allow him the same deal with Reed. He had a feeling that the dragon would sneak into his things to go with him if given a chance. He didn’t like the thought of leaving him home alone for days possibly over a week at a time all the time.
Strauss met them on the tarmac. She smiled at the team as they disembarked. That was hopefully a good thing. She rarely smiled like that.
“Good job. I have a glowing report from the Magic Council of the West Coast, and the Faeries wanted me to let you know that all the creatures will be getting home safely. I also received a call from our Council.” She turned to look at Aaron, she was frowning. Her eyes were searching.
Aaron reached up to untangle Reed from his neck but instead found that he wasn’t there anymore. He hadn’t felt him shift off him at all. The dragon could be stealthy when he wanted to be.
“Uh, Hotch,” JJ said. Aaron turned to look at her. She was watching the backside of his legs. Aaron turned more and looked down. Reed was hanging his belt, using his tail as a rope.
“Reed.” The dragon let go at his words, flipping in the air and gliding to land on Dave’s shoulder. It was the first time that Reed had willingly gone to anyone else but Aaron. Reed eyed Strauss up and down. “Erin Strauss, I would like you to meet Reed. Reed this is our boss, Erin Strauss.”
“The Council told me that under no uncertain terms was I to limit Reed’s movement with you. The director has already signed the paperwork, and Reed is filed as your familiar. I will add his name to the paperwork. I see that Reed is okay with at least your team; still, I would feel better if your team took a day or two to finish getting used to your team and then you are to report back. Of course, that’s all if it’s okay with you.”
“Two weeks. Dave and Morgan can share Unit Chief while I am out. There are a few things that I need to take care of as Judge and a few other things as far as Reed goes. I’ve already sent in the paperwork to the director.” He had emailed it while on the plane.
Strauss frowned, but there was no way that she could stop him. It had been approved just before the plane had landed.
“And he’s okay after his…capture?” Strauss looked like she wanted to vomit. It was a typical reaction to finding out about the horrors of black market dealings.
“He seems to be adjusting fine. I still don’t know how long he was in their custody, but he is doing well. I don’t see any issues.”
“Good. Good. I’ll let you go. Paperwork can be finished when your team gets back.” Strauss turned and headed back to the car waiting for her. Aaron and his team waited until she was gone before moving on to head to their own vehicles.
“I’ll call tomorrow, and we can set up a dinner at my house,” Dave said.
Aaron watched his team drive away before he got into his own car. As soon as the door opened, Reed flew to the headrest and settled down. Aaron drove to his house. He’d texted the woman who came to his house and cleaned. She worked for a lot of agents in the area, cleaning and doing odd jobs. He’d sent her a list of food to stock in his house. He wanted to make sure she had the time to shop; otherwise, he was going to have to stop and get some food.
Reed launched himself out of the car as soon as Aaron opened the door. Reed landed on the light on the side of the house. Aaron laughed as he pulled the bags out of the backseat. Reed was bouncing when Aaron got to the door, it had to be the coffee. Aaron unlocked the door and let Reed enter first. Aaron stayed in the entryway as Reed flew from room to room, looking at everything. When he hadn’t seen or heard him in ten minutes, Aaron went looking, dropping the bags in his bedroom. He found Reed in the library, hanging upside down looking at all the books.
“Don’t burn the books and you can read all of them,” Aaron said as Reed finally noticed him there. Reed let go of the shelving and let himself drop to the floor. Aaron was surprised as to how agile he was. It was stunning. “How old are you?”
Reed stopped moving across the floor and looked up at Aaron. There was worry and shame written all over his body. Aaron sat down on the floor, crossing his legs. Reed moved closer to him. Not close enough to touch, just closer. Fear was etched across his body.
“You don’t have to tell me a single thing that you don’t want to, but I know you can understand me. There was something about me, though, Reed that you trusted. You bonded with me, not the other way around. I am not mad about the bond, I would protect you no matter what but the bond, it helps things. There is no small amount of trust on my side as well. You could try to kill me in my sleep.”
Reed rushed forward and stretched up to nuzzle at his neck like a cat. Aaron petted him on the back to calm him down. He hated his words, but the words were truth. Aaron could understand that after everything the little guy had gone through that trust was going to take time. As long as he wasn’t in danger, Reed could keep his secrets.
“I am just being truthful. I am trusting you with my life. You are a dragon. I am…” Aaron stopped. There were very few that knew what he truly was, only the team and the Director of the FBI. Strauss didn’t know, and Aaron never wanted her to. If he told Reed, maybe the little guy would trust him more. “I’ve been around for over three thousand years. I’m an Immortal.”
Reed stopped moving and settled down on his legs. He looked up at Aaron. There was understanding in his eyes. He knew what Aaron was. He was aware that what an Immortal was. Aaron waited to see what the dragon would do. He did nothing. Aaron had a feeling that Reed had known that. There was a lot more intelligence in the dragon than he thought.
“How about this? Why don’t I pick a number? You tell me above or below. I’ll just pick one. In a month, I’ll pick another above or below based on what you answer, and we go from there?” Aaron reached out to pet him again. Reed rubbed his face against his hand before he pulled back again, nodding. “Okay.”
Aaron thought long and hard for several minutes. He didn’t want to pick too high a number; it might cause Reed to lie to him.
“Twenty. Below?” Reed shook his head. “Above?” Reed nodded, smiling as he did. “Okay. You are older than twenty years. Now there are a few things we need to talk about. I have a housekeeper of sorts. She comes in on Mondays to clean but also on occasion she takes care of the house when I am not home, picking up groceries and such. I’ll introduce her to you over the weekend. She’s got more free time. She’s a low-level magic user but doesn’t use her magic much. She’s a sweet old lady.”
That’s what Aaron spent the rest of the day doing, talking to Reed about his life and what to expect as the now ‘familiar’ for the Unit Chief of one BAU team as well as one of two Judges for the United States. He was already liking the idea of having someone in the house with him. Reed would be around for a while before he would be big enough and old enough to where he wanted to go on his own. He was dead tired long before his usual bedtime.
The door to his bedroom opened, and Aaron rolled over. Reed wasn’t on the floor. He was sitting on the top of the door. “Come on.”
Reed squealed and took flight, landing on Aaron’s pillow. He curled himself into a ball and settled down. Aaron shifted a hand to where it was near him, and Reed twirled the tip of his tail around Aaron’s pinky finger. Aaron slipped into a dreamless sleep.