theatregirl7299 (theatregirl7299) wrote,

On the First Day Of Christmas: Etched in Flame

Title: Etched in Flame
Author: theatregirl7299
Fandom: White Collar
Characters/Pairings: Neal/Peter, Mozzie, Dar (OC)
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 7,748
Spoilers: None
Beta Credit: pooh_collector
Warnings: Possible triggers for burns
Summary: Neal is not sleeping. When Peter finds out why, it requires a choice that will change their lives forever.

Author’s Notes – Written for elrhiarhodan for the 1st day of my 12 Days of Christmas Meme. She requested “The Language of Fire – Peter/Neal” in my Dragonverse. I hope I did it justice. A big thank you to kanarek13 who created this wonderful title image and the divider. She inspires me every time she puts stylus to screen.

This is a timestamp to Here Be Dragons, my 2014 White Collar Big Bang. While technically it can stand alone, it would be a richer story if you read the first one.

A bit of Dragonverse information – This is a series and not all the stories will be written in timeline order. For clarification – Dar is a dragon term for offspring. Dragonets can be referred to as “the Dar” or “Dar.” Dar do not shift until they are about 2 years old and until then their gender is not revealed.

Peter wasn’t sure what had awakened him. He just knew that one moment he was asleep, the next he was alert. Reaching for Neal, he found the bed empty and the sheets cold. Neal was up again.

This wasn’t the first time that this had happened. Ever since they had gotten back from visiting his family holdings, Neal had been restless. Peter had put it down to the shock of meeting his extended family, but Neal swore that wasn’t the case.

“Just getting acclimated to fatherhood, Peter,” is what he’d said with a patented Caffrey smile. Except that smile wasn’t reaching his eyes like it normally would.

Peter was worried.

Climbing out of bed, he grabbed his robe, belting it as he went to look for Neal.

He found him on the balcony, watching the planes as they circled over the Atlantic, waiting their turn to land at Kennedy. Peter observed him for a while, looking to see if he could figure out any more reason for Neal’s behavior, but there was nothing. All he saw was Neal’s silhouette highlighted by the glow of the moon and the skyline.

His lover was beautiful. Skin gorgeously pale in the moonlight, his hair tousled from sleep. Naked, sculpted shoulders, tapering down to what had to be the most perfect ass in the history of man, hidden though it was in a pair of sleep pants. Peter’s mouth watered at the thought of walking over, dropping to his knees and worshiping that ass.

“How long are you planning on staring at me?” Neal spoke without turning around. “At some point it’s going to get creepy.”

“Sorry.” Peter joined him next to the railing. “Can’t help it when the view is so fantastic.” He snaked an arm around Neal and pulled him close. He felt Neal hesitate, then relax into his embrace. “Can’t sleep again?” he said, knowing he was stating asking the obvious.

“Yeah.” The word was clipped.

That was all Peter was going to get from him tonight, he could tell. But still he pushed. “Gonna tell me why this time? And not just that you are getting used to being a dad.”

Neal tensed – long enough that Peter thought maybe he’d finally stepped over the line.

“Just can’t sleep, that’s all.”

“Neal, I wish you would just tell me the truth.” Peter huffed in frustration, a small puff of smoke escaping. “I’m worried about you.”

“Okay, fine!” Neal pulled away and faced Peter. “Want to know why I haven’t been sleeping?”

“Yes!” Finally!

“Because the entire time we were with your family, every time you left the room, one of your relatives would ask me why I wasn’t Claimed!” Neal began pacing, agitation apparent in the stiffness of his stride.

Peter froze. This was not a conversation he was prepared to have. Not now, at least. For the first time in a while, he cursed his family. Now he had to do damage control and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Neal continued with his rant. “I had no clue what they were talking about! And no one would tell me what it meant. They would just look at me like there was something wrong with me.” He shook his head.

“One of your aunts even went so far as to pat me on the hand and tell me that it was a shame, but that she liked me anyway.” Neal stopped and took a deep breath. “I finally spoke with June. And you know what she said?” He laughed bitterly. “She told me to ask you.

“So why didn’t you?” Peter wondered why Neal hadn’t brought it up. Normally, if he had a question about dragons and dragonlore, he wouldn’t hesitate to ask.

“Because I overheard your cousins talking about us.”

Peter felt a sinking sensation in his chest. Shit. “What did they say?”

“They said that the reason why you hadn’t Claimed me – whatever the hell that means – was because I was human and not dragon and not good enough for you.” Neal looked at Peter, hurt written across his face. “That I was just a diversion.”

And there it was.

Between finding out the truth about his parents’ death, having Dar and visiting Peter’s family, Peter knew Neal was feeling overwhelmed. Mozzie had said Neal had made comments about being the third wheel in a two-person relationship, but Peter hadn’t realized it had gotten that bad. Adding to the fact that some of his family frowned upon mating with humans and had made their opinions known, Peter could understand why Neal felt the way he did and why his sleep had been affected.

“Neal…” Peter began, only to be cut off by his lover’s impatient gesture.

“Just tell me what it means.” Neal sounded tired.

“Fine. Let’s sit at least. Please?” Peter held out his hand, praying that Neal would take it, then relaxing slightly as he did. Peter led him over to the chaise and they both sat down. “Okay. Where do you want me to start?”

“This Claiming thing – what is it and why is it so important to your family?”

Peter chuckled. “Starting off with an easy one,” he teased, stalling a bit as he formulated what he wanted to say. “Let’s see. The best way to describe Claiming… it’s a ritual in dragonkind that binds two dragons together. Kind of like a marriage.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad.” Neal looked at him and Peter knew what the next question was going to be. “If it’s just a ritual, then why…?”

“Because it’s a dragon ritual. Not a human one.” Peter interrupted. “It’s not designed for humans. Besides, it’s not important. It’s optional and we don’t need it.”

“We don’t need it – or you don’t want to do it?” Neal challenged him. “Makes me wonder, Peter.” He rose and headed into the penthouse without another word.

Peter sighed and got up to follow him. He found Neal in the kitchen. “Neal…”

“Don’t, Peter.” Neal turned and looked at him. “I’m tired of wondering if you have me around simply because I’m your designer and Dar’s parent.”

“You know that’s not true!” Peter knew he was raising his voice, but he couldn’t help it. “I love you.”

“Then tell me the truth. Why don’t you want to do the ritual?”

“Because it’s dangerous, okay?” And I don’t want to lose you. The thought of losing Neal made Peter sick to his stomach. “And it’s an old ritual. Most dragons don’t do it anymore.”

“But your family holds stock in it. That was obvious by the snide comments I heard when they didn’t think I was around.”

“My family… they have a tendency to cling to the old ways.” Peter opened a cabinet and took down a glass. He poured himself some water, not because he was thirsty, more so he would have something to do with his hands. “I don’t. The ritual is not important, Neal. It’s dangerous and we’re not doing it.”

Neal pressed the issue. “So I don’t have a say in this? You’re just unilaterally going to decide?”

“In this case, yes!” A flame shot out, evidence that Peter was skirting the edge of control. He reined it in before he burned the kitchen down.

“And that’s it? No more discussion?” Peter saw the anger in Neal’s face and knew he was gearing up for more arguing.

“That’s it.” Peter stalked out of the kitchen area. “This discussion is over.”

“Peter!” Neal followed him.

“No! I’m done!” he growled. The art on the walls vibrated from the subsonics. “We’ll talk about this tomorrow like rational people.”

Neal was about to answer when the sounds of Dar’s mewling came through the baby monitor.

“Shit.” Peter didn’t mean to wake the dragonet. “I’m sorry.”

“I’ll go settle it.” Neal walked out of the main room, leaving Peter helpless in his frustration.

Sighing, he lay down on the couch and pulled the throw over himself. Replaying the argument in his head, he knew he’d been stubborn and definitely acted like an asshole. But Neal just didn’t understand. He’d want to go through with the ritual, confident that he’d be one of the humans that survived. Peter didn’t want to risk it. His life would be over if he lost Neal. It was worth the crap he’d get from his family and business associates to keep Neal safe.

A short time later Peter heard Neal come into the living room. “Peter, aren’t you coming to bed?”

“I – I think it might be best for both of us if I stay here tonight.” He didn’t want to face Neal, knowing that one look at his lover’s face would have him agreeing to anything just to keep the hurt expression in Neal’s eyes from coming back.

“Okay…” Peter cringed at the pain he heard in Neal’s voice. He’d put that there.

“I love you, Neal. So much. We’ll talk tomorrow, I promise.” He didn’t hear anything at first. Then a whispered I love you, too as Neal’s slow footsteps faded away. Peter held back his tears. He needed to fix this. He just didn’t know how.

It was a long time before he fell asleep.

The first thing Mozzie heard when he let himself into the penthouse was the sound of breaking glass, followed immediately by a curse from Neal.

“Dar, sit down!” The frustration in Neal’s voice was evident. Mozzie hurried into the kitchen in time to see Dar’s tail sweep a coffee mug onto the floor where it joined a shattered plate. Neal was holding on to the dragonet, trying to keep it from stepping on the shards of stoneware.

“Here, let me help.” Mozzie quickly put down his packages and reached for the infant, subvocalizing to get its attention. Dar gave a happy rumble and launched itself out of Neal’s grip and into Mozzie’s arms. Wrapping its tail around Mozzie’s wrist, it began to purr as he stroked its eyeridges.

“It’s pitiful that Dar likes you better,” Neal grumbled, sweeping up the mess and dumping it into the trashcan.

“We’re kin – we relate.” Mozzie opened the refrigerator and pulled out some beef. Settling himself at the table, he began feeding Dar, chuckling at the contented noises it was making.

“Yeah but I’m its father...or mother…argh.” Neal ran his hand through his hair. “What’s the dragon word again?”

“Óimige.” Dar burped and settled into the crook of Mozzie’s arm, its eyes closing softly.

“Yeah, Óimige. We’re supposed to bond.” Neal gestured to the sleeping dragonet. “Like that. But I feel like I spend most of my time salvaging the breakables.”

Mozzie saw a look of longing and uncertainty pass over Neal’s face and felt bad for the other man. Being a parent to a dragonet was difficult – even more so when the parent was human.

“Don’t worry, it’ll get better. I promise.” Mozzie handed the dragonet over to Neal and went to pour himself some wine. Coming back to the table, he watched Neal stroke the baby dragon gently, a soft smile on his face. “See, better already.”

“Yeah.” Neal chuckled as Dar shifted, snuffling and burrowing deeper into Neal’s embrace. He took the glass of wine Mozzie held out and sipped it.

“So, what is this thing you want to talk to me about?” Mozzie began unpacking the items he’d bought while he was out. More wine – of course, Kobe beef for Dar, a new sketch pad that Neal asked him to pick up when he was out, and a cat toy on a string that he swore to Neal would entertain Dar and burn off some of the energy the dragonet seemed to have in spades.

“Tell me about Claiming.” Putting the emphasis on the word, Neal’s voice was soft so as not to wake the dragonet.

“Where did you hear about that? Did Peter mention it?” Mozzie put away the perishables, his mind whirling with ways to answer Neal’s question without really answering it.

He knew that this topic would come up eventually, especially considering the gossip he’d overheard when they went to visit the family, he just didn’t figure it would be this soon.

“We started to talk about it, but then we got into a fight because he wouldn’t tell me how it works. Just said it’s dangerous for humans.”

Mozzie sighed. He figured Peter had been tightlipped about the whole thing, but he didn’t realize that it had escalated to the argument stage with Neal. He knew his cousin was worried about the ritual and it’s success rate with humans and he didn’t want to lose Neal.

Knowing he would probably get read the riot act from Peter, he poured more wine and drank the entire glass. At Neal’s raised eyebrow, he muttered, “Liquid courage.” Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. “Peter will probably kill me for this, but sometimes he doesn’t understand that he needs to tell you things. Okay, Claiming. What did Peter tell you so far?”

“That it’s a ritual that bonds two dragons together and that it’s dangerous. That’s as far as we got before he shut me down and went to sleep on the couch.” Dar stirred, making an annoyed whimper. Neal settled it with another caress. “What’s the big deal about it?”

“For dragons, it isn’t a big deal. For humans, it can kill you.” Neal’s eyes widened and his mouth opened in a small gasp. Mozzie didn’t feel bad about shocking him. Yes it was blunt, but he wanted Neal to know that Peter wasn’t just being difficult – that he was serious about the danger to Neal.

He continued before Neal could speak. “The ritual is called éileamh ag lasair or ‘Claiming by Flame.’ During sex, the dragon couple Presents. While in their dragon forms, the dominant dragon ‘tattoos’,” - Mozzie made finger quotes - “the other dragon’s back by breathing a form of fire. It’s known as Anáil ag éileamh or ‘Claiming Breath.’ Only dragonkind can see it. It lets them know that the dragon is Claimed.”

Mozzie paused. “The reason why Peter is so against Claiming you is because, even though some humans have gone through the ritual sucessfully, most have died. Dragon skin can handle the fire – human bodies can’t.” He locked eyes with Neal. “Peter doesn’t want to lose you.”

“Oh.” Neal was silent. Mozzie could see that his words were sinking in. “I didn’t know…”

“I didn’t figure that you did.” Mozzie smiled at his friend. “Peter would rather take the comments and insults that his family dishes out than have you try this and end up dead.”

“Yeah.” Neal took a drink of his wine. “I can see that.” He was silent but Mozzie could sense the thoughts whirling around in his brain. “How will this affect his status? My not being Claimed?”

Mozzie sighed. He and Neal had spent long hours during Dar’s tréimhse goir discussing dragons and lore and parenting so Neal would be prepared when it hatched. One of the big topics was rank and status. Neal knew that Peter was highly ranked and respected in his Clan. And it was just like Neal to ask the important question.

“I won’t lie, Neal. It’ll definitely create issues.” More than Neal was aware. Mozzie had already heard rumblings from his connections that Peter was considered to be a leannán daonna – human lover – and questioning his ability to keep control of the New York area. “But you know Peter doesn’t care what the others say.”

“He should!” Neal slammed the glass down, sloshing wine over the edge onto the table. “I know he thinks that it doesn’t matter, but I know it does.” He grabbed a napkin and wiped up the spill before he focused on Mozzie. “We can’t let this affect his status, Moz. We need to do something.”

“I know.” Mozzie huffed in frustration. Ever since the gossip had started he’d been racking his brain to come up with a solution that would benefit everybody. For once, he was at a loss.

They were silent for a while, Dar’s rumblings the only sound. Suddenly Neal inhaled, his face breaking out into a huge grin. “Wait, you said that most humans die when they get Claimed, right?” His voice was tinged with excitement.

“Yeah…” Mozzie trailed off, confused as to where Neal was going with this.

“But some survived.” That was a statement. “How many?”

“About a third. Why?”

Neal pointed at Mozzie. “We need to figure out what was different about those humans that made the ritual successful. And you are just the dragon to do that.”

Mozzie stared at Neal in awe. How could he have been so stupid? “Of course! Something had to be special about those humans that helped them survive. Neal, you are brilliant!”

“Don’t tell Peter. Okay? I don’t want to cause another argument if there’s no connection.”

“My lips are sealed.” Mozzie quickly got up and gathered his things to leave.

“Wait, where are you going?” Neal’s voice was frantic.

“The Library, of course. If I’m going to find out the information we need, that’s the place that will have it.”

“But what about Dar?”

“When it wakes up, use the cat toy. Trust me, it works.” Mozzie headed to the door, muttering to himself, leaving Neal and Dar alone in the kitchen.

Neal gazed at the sleeping dragonet in his arms and sighed. “Let’s hope your Uncle Moz finds what we’re looking for pretty quickly, Dar.” He cuddled the dragonet closer to his body and stared out the window. “Because I think there’s going to be trouble headed your Papa’s way if we don’t.”

Mozzie was vibrating. He punched the elevator button repeatedly, hissing in frustration as it took its own sweet time ascending to Peter’s penthouse. Huffing, he slipped out of the car before the doors fully opened and let himself into the apartment.

He knew that Peter and Neal were still slightly on the outs with each other after their argument and he hoped the information he had would put an end to that. He was right about Peter being angry with him. They’d gone a few rounds until his cousin calmed down and realized that Mozzie was only trying to help when he told Neal what the ritual entailed. Luckily, they had been out of town for that shouting match and only a few trees got singed.

“Peter! Neal!” Mozzie called out when he didn’t see anyone in the main room.

“In here, Moz.” Peter’s voice was coming from one of the back rooms. Mozzie hurried down the hallway. Stopping in the doorway, he took in the sight before him.

Neal was crouched on the small bed in the corner, the cat toy dangling from his hand. Peter was sprawled out on the floor, Dar crawling all over him in its attempt to get the feather at the end of the string. Both men were laughing and encouraging the dragonet to stretch and attempt to fly a bit. Mozzie chuckled at the sight, thrilled that they seemed to be getting along.

At the sound, Dar turned its head and saw him standing there. With a delighted growl it launched itself at Mozzie, wings flapping as it flew clumsily towards him.

“Look at that!” Neal was grinning as he watched his offspring land in Mozzie’s arms. “Dar’s first flight. Sort of.”

“Pretty good for a first time.” Peter beamed, the proud Papa. “So what brings you here, Moz?”

Mozzie grinned at his cousin, still lying on the rug in the middle of the floor. “I found it.”

“Found what?” Peter looked puzzled. Sitting up, he leaned against the bed.

“Why only certain humans survive the ritual.”

“You found it?” Neal leaned forward, his eyes gleaming. “What is it? What’s the difference?”

“Wait, you’ve been researching the ritual?” Peter looked at both of them. “Did either one of you think that maybe I should have known about this?”

Neal had the grace to flush. “I asked Moz not to say anything unless he found out something. I didn’t want to bring it up again unless there was something worthwhile.” He leaned in towards Peter. “I was tired of fighting. Don’t be mad.”

“Okay. Not mad, just… you should have told me.” Mozzie watched as Peter gave Neal a kiss. “We’re talking more, remember?”

“You’re right and I’m sorry.” Neal kissed him back then turned his attention back to Mozzie. “So what did you find out? What’s the difference?”

Mozzie smiled and petted Dar. “Dar is.”

“Dar is what?” Peter stood and motioned for them to follow him out of the room. “What does Dar have to do with this?” Heading to the kitchen, he pulled down three glasses and poured them some Merlot.

Mozzie drank, keeping Dar from sniffing the glass. “Not Dar specifically. Well, yes, specifically but more like Dars in general.”

“Moz, you’re making no sense.” Neal sat down next to him and coaxed the dragonet to him with some beef. “Start over.”

“Okay, I researched the number of humans that have undergone the éileamh ag lasair and created a spreadsheet of those that survived compared to those that didn’t.” Mozzie pulled out some papers from his messenger bag and handed them to Peter. “I cross referenced everything I could find out about them and came up with the only thing that the survivors all had in common.” He sat back in satisfaction.

“Well? What is it?” Peter had put on his half-rims and was looking at the spreadsheet with a frown on his face.

“To a T, the surviving humans had hatched a Dar before they were Claimed.” He gestured at Dar, who was happily munching on a piece of rare prime rib. “The only thing I can think of is that the egg does something to the human metabolism that protects them against the flame.”

“So it’s safe then?” Neal’s eyes were bright with expectation.

“As safe as anything can be.” Mozzie didn’t want to fully commit. He’d learned the hard way that there were no absolutes in life.

“What’s that mean?” Peter’s frown was even deeper.

“It means that all the records listing the humans who survived showed they had a Dar. I can’t speak to the fact that there may be some humans that are not in our records.”

“I knew we shouldn’t have sent you to law school,” Peter muttered.

“Go Cardinals,” Mozzie shot back with a huff.

“Guys, can you not argue? It’s upsetting Dar.” Neal gestured to the dragonet.

“Dar doesn’t look at all upset.” Peter tilted his head at his offspring who was currently sprawled out on the table, snoring lightly.

“Fine, you’re upsetting ME.” Neal poured himself another glass of wine. “Mozzie says it’s fine and I trust him.” He looked at Peter. “I want to do this, Peter, if for no other reason than to keep the gossipmongers at bay.”

Mozzie watched as Peter studied Neal. “Moz, can you excuse us for a moment?”

“Sure. I’ll go put Dar in its bed.” Mozzie picked up the dragonet and headed out of the room, hoping that there wasn’t going to be another fight in the Caffrey-Burke household.

Neal watched in silence while Peter studied the papers that Mozzie had left in the kitchen. Finally he couldn’t stand it any more.

“What, Peter?”

“What do you mean, ‘What’?” Peter looked up over his glasses, and if Neal wasn’t so annoyed at him, he’d jump him and fuck him right there on the kitchen floor just for wearing those glasses.

“You sent Moz out of the room so I’m assuming you want to talk.” Neal got up to get a glass of water. He figured wine would just cause more difficulty.

“You’re right. I just don’t really know where to start without heading right into an argument.” Putting the papers down, Peter sighed and ran his hand through his hair.

“Just say it.” Neal put a glass of water in front of Peter and sat down next to him. “I promise I won’t get too irritated.”

“Funny.” Peter grinned, which was a good thing. “Okay. I want to know why you want to be Claimed so badly? You know I don’t need it to know you belong with me. And I don’t care what my family says either.” Peter leaned over and kissed him. Neal enjoyed the feel of his mouth against Peter’s before pulling away.

“I know you don’t.” Neal regarded the man in front of him. Peter was everything he’d ever wanted in a lover, a man, a friend and, ironically, a dragon. But the words that he’d unintentionally overheard at Peter’s family home had stayed with him.

Neal was human; Neal was temporary; Neal was a diversion. Neal wasn’t good enough.

It’s what had kept him from sleeping, what had caused the fights with Peter; kept him off kilter with Dar. Neal felt like he didn’t belong and one day Peter would just decide he was done with him.

And he didn’t know how to begin telling Peter that.

Neal felt a hand on his cheek. “Neal, you are good enough.” Peter’s smile was warm and sensual and Neal flushed.

“Did I say that out loud?”

“Didn’t have to.” Peter’s thumb caressed his jaw. “I’ve been around a while, remember. I’ve learned to read people.”

“Mozzie told you, didn’t he?” Neal chuckled at Peter’s chagrin.

“There might have been a conversation or two.” Peter assumed his most innocent look.

“Or twelve!’’ came a voice from the living room.

“Stop eavesdropping, Moz, and come back in,” Neal called back through his laughter.

“Only if you two don’t plan on fighting. It’d bad for my digestion,” Mozzie replied as he entered the kitchen.

“No, Moz, no fighting.” Neal glanced at Peter, who nodded.

“Okay. So have you decided? Because I have to get the supplies and that will take a few days.” Mozzie sat down and picked up his wineglass to finish it.

“Supplies? What kind?” Uneasily, Neal wondered what sorts of things they would need for a dragon ritual.

“Nothing outrageous. Special oils, herb-infused beeswax candles. That sort of thing.” Mozzie poured himself a new glass of the Merlot. “Peter, I assume you’re going to pick out the gems?”

“You assume we’re doing this, Moz.” Peter folded his arms across his chest. “No one has agreed to anything yet.”

“Peter…” Neal stopped, choosing his words. “You may not need the Claiming ritual, but I do.” It was as simple as that. “I – I feel like I don’t belong, like I’m on the outside, looking in. Cliché as that may sound, it’s true. If I have to hear ‘you’re human so this doesn’t apply to you’ one more time I think I’ll kill someone. Then there are days when I feel like Dar doesn’t care if I’m in the room or not. And the thing with your family…” Neal gestured helplessly. “ I just –.” Neal stopped mid-sentence when he heard Peter speak.



“Yeah. Okay. We’ll do it.” Peter stood and pulled Neal up into a fierce embrace. “I didn’t stop to think about what you’ve been dealing with and I’m sorry. I love you, Neal and if this is what you want, then I’ll Claim you.”

“Oh thank god! I was beginning to think I’d have to take you out behind the barn and beat some sense into you! Metaphorically speaking, of course.” Mozzie grinned as he drank his wine.

Neal smiled, tilting his head to kiss Peter. “Thank you.”

“You sure about this?” Peter was giving him that one last option, that one last out, just in case. But he wasn’t going to take it.

“I’m sure.”

“Well, then, Mr. Caffrey, how would you like to go and collect gems from a real dragon’s hoard?”

“Sounds delightful.”

The night of the éileamh ag lasair, everything was in place. Dar was staying with Diana and Christie so there would be no interruptions. Their phones were turned off, the doorman instructed to turn away any unexpected visitors.

Mozzie had explained the basics to him when he’d brought over the supplies. There was a ritual verse that Peter would say when he breathed the anáil ag éileamh – the Claiming Fire – over Neal’s back. He’d then follow it with the anáil na tine, the Breath of Fire, which healed the burns.

Neal had prepared their bedroom per the requirements of the ritual as best he could. Peter refused to find a cave, stating that he was a modern dragon and his own bed would do just fine. Neal had dressed it with leather pillows and deep burgundy velvet throws. Turning the lights down, he surveyed the space.

Glowing pillar candles filled the room – white, red and gold – their light reflected in the mirrors strategically placed throughout. The beeswax was infused with herbs designed to heighten arousal. Not that they needed any help, Neal thought. Ever since Peter agreed to Claim him, he’d cornered Neal throughout the apartment, the store, the car, touching him, kissing him, whispering promises of ‘you’re mine’ and ‘need to Claim you' in his ear. They’d almost gotten caught in the Temple of Dendur at the Met when Peter slipped his hand under Neal’s coat, down the back of his pants and fingered Neal’s ass until he came.

Jewels were tucked amongst the flames, representing the dragon’s hoard. Essentially, Neal would become part of that hoard once the ritual was finished – a living example of the dragon’s treasure. The thought of Peter owning him like that set off kinks that Neal didn’t know he had. This was not only about love – it was about possession in its purest form and Neal was totally fine with that. He barely got any work done, spending most of his time fantasizing about Peter holding him down, taking him from behind, thrusting his cock into him….

Shaking off the image, Neal palmed his growing erection. A few strokes and a sigh of pleasure and he willed his cock to settle. He needed to save that for later. For Peter.

Before he headed to clean up, Neal made sure he had the ritual oils that Mozzie had brought over. Uncapping one of the stoppers, he took a sniff, wrinkling his nose at the powerful scent of cardamom and ginger. He put that one down and picked up the other one. It was a delicately scented vanilla with an underlying note that he couldn’t identify. That one he took to the bathroom with him.

Stepping into the shower, Neal soaped himself up, using the bar that removed any artificial smells still clinging to his skin. The éileamh ag lasair required him to have his natural scent mixed with the oils – an enticement to the dominant dragon. And god knows Peter was definitely dominant, he thought with a chuckle.

His ablutions complete, Neal poured a portion of the oil into his palm and rubbed it into his skin. Chest, arms, calves, thighs – all were covered with a light sheen. Adding more, his caressed his cock and balls, smoothing it over his perineum, working it into the cleft of his ass.

Whatever was in the oil made his skin tingle deliciously. Neal rubbed around his hole, gliding one finger, then two, inside, opening himself up. He leaned against the sink, giving himself more access to his ass. He gently pressed his fingers against his prostate, loving the electric feeling.

Neal slowly moved his fingers in and out, keeping himself just on the edge of full arousal. He had no concept of time, just of the feeling of fullness as he added a third finger. The tightening of his balls brought him back to awareness. Regretfully, he removed his fingers. He needed to stop that or it would be all over before it started.

The room appeared different as he left the bathroom. Maybe it was the oil, but he swore he could feel the candles’ flames bending towards his body. Sparks of – something – skittered down his chest and back, igniting his need for Peter. It had never felt like this before – this craving to be possessed by his dragon.

A whimper left him as Neal crawled onto the bed. Closing his eyes, he wrapped his hand around his cock, tightening as he moaned Peter’s name, begging him to hurry, that Neal needed him.

“God, you look fucking beautiful.” Peter’s voice was rough with lust. Neal’s eyes flew open – there he was, standing in the doorway, gaze locked on Neal’s cock. Peter was still dressed for work, pressed Thomas Pink shirt with the sleeves rolled up, black tailored pants hugging his thighs, but with his shoes and socks off. Neal started to get up, wanting to strip Peter of his clothes but was halted by Peter’s gesture. “No. Don’t stop. Want to watch you.”

Lying back, Neal began moving, pumping his erection. He widened his hips giving Peter a better view as he took his other hand and played with his balls. The room shook with Peter’s low growl. “You’re gonna kill me, Caffrey.”

“Get undressed. I need you to fuck me.” That simple statement had Peter chuckling.

“Pushy much?” But Neal could see that Peter was complying. First the shirt, revealing his chest, subtle dragon scales already appearing. Then the trousers. Finally the ManSilk briefs.

Mouth dry, he stared at Peter. His lover stood there, glorious in his nudity. Peter’s cock was at half-mast, heavy and flushed, his eyes glowing gold. He looked different – larger. More like a dragon.

“So, is this what you wanted?” Peter sauntered towards the bed. “Me, naked?”

“God yes!” Neal pulled Peter down on top of him. Skin on skin, scorching. He mewled at the heat. “Peter…feels…”

“It’s the oil.” Peter rubbed against him, the friction of their cocks igniting Neal’s body. “Makes you more sensitive.” He nuzzled the crook of Neal’s neck. “God, you smell so good…can’t wait to be inside you.”

“Now?” Neal heard the pleading in his voice but he didn’t care.

“Soon, Neal. First though.” Peter slithered down Neal’s body and captured his cock in his mouth.

Neal keened at the sensation. Peter’s tongue, longer than usual, hot and wet, wrapping around the head, his teeth scraping almost painfully down the shaft. “Fuck, Peter!”

Peter was relentless, slowing down and speeding up, keeping Neal totally off balance. Lips tight around Neal’s dick, then sliding down until the head touched the back of Peter’s throat. Teasing his pucker with thick fingers. Holding Neal captive with almost preternatural strength as he tried to buck his hips.

“Peter….close…oh god,” Neal whined.

Peter pulled off, nudging Neal’s side. “Roll over.”

Neal did as he said, letting Peter position a pillow under his hips. The breeze sent chills on his fevered skin, cooling it from the absence of Peter’s touch. “Peter, where are you?” He needed to feel Peter against him.

“Right here.” Neal heard the clink of the glass stopper and smelled the cardamom and ginger. Then Peter’s hands were on his back, massaging the pungent oil into his skin, down his spine, over the globes of his ass, followed by kisses and whispers that Neal could barely hear.

Where the vanilla oil tingled, this one set his body on fire. Peter circled the cut of his hips, reaching around to caress Neal’s dick. “Feels so good in my hand. Love your cock…”

Peter’s words, the candles, the scents – Neal was delirious with the sensations coursing through his body. He couldn’t wait any longer. He wanted Peter, needed Peter. “Please…Peter…have to feel you…”

“Need to get you ready to take me.” Peter’s fingers pushed into him. One, two, three, then four, the oil covering them easing the way. “Gonna love this, Neal. Want to feel you surrounding me. But you need this first.” Peter worked his fingers inside Neal, stretching him.

“Yes! Oh god, Peter, stop teasing!” Neal shoved back onto Peter’s hand, moaning as Peter hit his prostate. “Need you inside…please…”

“Yeah, okay.” The loss of Peter’s fingers made Neal whimper, but the emptiness was soon replaced by Peter’s cock as it pushed inside him.

“Uh huh…yeah.” Neal was reduced to grunts as Peter drew back and slid deeper with every thrust. “So good…” He felt Peter curl over him, his lips close to Neal’s ear.

“Ready for me?” It was Peter’s voice but not. The tone was deeper, low, and it sent waves of lust throughout Neal. This was the real Peter – dangerous, feral, wild. And he wanted Neal.

Dropping his head in submission, Neal whispered, “Yes…”

Peter chuckled, a dark sound full of victory. Growling, he shoved hard into Neal, his balls slapping against Neal’s ass, grasping his neck with both hands, pushing him down until Peter covered him with his own body.

Neal gasped as Peter’s cock thickened, lengthened, stretched him wider than he’d ever been. Peter moved, slowly, stimulating Neal in ways he’d never felt before. Ridges against his prostate, catching at the rim of his hole, the head of Peter’s dick, pushing, pushing…

“Eitseáilte i lasair… Mo marc ar do chraiceann…” Guttural sounds spilling from Peter’s mouth, ancient in their beauty. “D'aighneacht, mo áthas…” Waves of arousal slamming through Neal’s body.

Neal’s back began tingling. “Caomhnóir mo chroí… Mé tú a chosaint…” Each word punctuating the snap of Peter’s hips as he plunged deeper.

“Anam de mo á… A chomhlánaíonn tú dom…” Peter’s breath, scalding, washing over him. Neal’s cock, harder than ever, rutting helplessly against the bed.

“Aeternally chuaigh… I tine, i ngrá.” Faster and faster, the bed shaking, the candles flickering as Peter took him, bringing him closer and closer to the edge.

Then came the agony.

Neal screamed, trapped in that split second between pleasure and pain. His balls drawing up, his cock spewing heavy ropes of come. His back, flayed open, raw and wounded. Peter’s shout as he came, filling him. It was wonderful and terrible and too much.

The last thing he heard was Peter calling his name.

“Neal! Neal. Can you hear me?” Peter was frantic. Neal lay motionless on the bed, not responding to Peter’s words. His back was raw and blistered. Wincing, Peter rolled him over, his eyes desperately looking for a breath, a reaction to the burns, anything. “Oh god… no…” There was no movement. “No, no, no!”

Grabbing his phone, he quickly dialed Mozzie. “He’s not breathing!” he shouted when the other man came on the line. “Moz, Neal’s not breathing! You said this was safe!”

I don’t know what happened! Check the pulse in his throat!” Mozzie’s voice was tinny through the speaker. Peter put his fingers on the side of Neal’s neck, searching for a pulse. There! Faint and sluggish, but definitely there.

“I found it!” Peter thanked the gods.

Good! Now I want you to gently blow into his mouth. Anáil na tine, Peter! It’s the only thing that’ll bring him back!

Closing his eyes and inhaling deeply, Peter leaned down and captured Neal’s lips. Exhaling into his mouth, Peter released the hot air into Neal’s lungs. Leaning back, he watched. Neal didn’t move. “It’s not working, Moz!”

Keep doing it! I’m on my way!” Peter’s phone went dead.

Tears running down his face, Peter breathed into Neal, praying that each puff of air would bring him back. He lost count as seconds turned into minutes and Neal wasn’t responding.

Helpless, he did the only thing he could think of. With each exhalation, Peter repeated the words of the Claiming ritual. “Eitseáilte i lasair…” Breathe… “Mo marc ar do chraiceann…” Breathe… “D'aighneacht, mo áthas…” Breathe…

Please, Neal…I need you…

“Caomhnóir mo chroí…” Breathe… “Mé tú a chosaint…” Breathe…

Don’t leave me…

“Anam de mo á…” Breathe… “A chomhlánaíonn tú dom…” Breathe…


“Aeternally chuaigh…” Breathe… “I tine, i ngrá…” Breathe…

Suddenly Neal jerked, his eyes flashing open. Gasping for breath, he began coughing violently. Peter rolled him on his side, afraid he might vomit.

“Peter…” His voice was hoarse.

“I’m here, Neal.”

“Burns…” Neal’s face was scrunched in pain and he began shivering.

“I know, I know.” Peter gently positioned Neal back onto his stomach. “I can fix it.” He breathed over Neal, the Anáil na tine soothing the pain. Neal began to relax, the blisters on his back flaking off, being replaced by new, unblemished skin.

After a while, Neal’s breathing steadied and Peter could tell he was hurting less. “Okay, I need to text Mozzie. I kind of freaked out on him a bit ago when you weren’t breathing.” Peter sent a quick text letting Mozzie know Neal was okay and he didn’t need to come over, before turning back to Neal.

Let’s get you cleaned up, okay?” Neal nodded. Peter steadied him as he sat up. “Cool shower?”

“That sounds wonderful,” Neal said in a quiet voice. Slowly, they made their way to the bathroom, Peter supporting Neal with an arm under his shoulder. He fought the urge to just pick Neal up and carry him, but he knew Neal would fight that.

“Here, sit.” He eased Neal down onto the toilet seat, making sure he was stable, before setting the shower controls to ‘rain’. “Come on.” Peter guided Neal under the spray. “Temperature good?”


“Okay.” Lathering his hands with the shower gel, he gently rubbed them over Neal’s body. His lover was silent, pliant, as he allowed Peter to wash the oil off and it scared him. Even when he was sleeping, Neal was always in motion. This silence was unsettling. “Lean against the wall.” He turned Neal around so he could wash his back.

The burns on Neal’s body were almost gone, the newly healed skin still pink. Peter ran his fingers over the planes of Neal’s shoulders and felt him tremble.

“Is it there? Can you see it?” Neal’s voice was stronger now, calming Peter’s worry.

“No, but I can feel it.” Peter rinsed the soap from Neal’s body. “A bit longer and I can show it to you.” Turning off the water, he wrapped Neal in a large white bathrobe and led him to the loveseat in the corner of their bedroom. “Relax,” he said, pouring Neal a glass of wine. “I want to fix the bed.”

Pulling on a pair of sleep pants, Peter quickly stripped the oil-covered sheets off the bed and replaced them with pristine ironed white Egyptian cotton. He folded down the duvet and plumped the pillows. He knew he was puttering but it just felt right to provide Neal with a comfortable space.

“You’re nesting again, you know that, right?” Peter heard the amusement in Neal’s tone and smiled.

“Yeah, can’t help it, though.” Blowing out several candles, he made his way over to the loveseat and sat down. Taking Neal’s face in his hands, Peter kissed him. Resting their foreheads together, he spoke, his voice low. “I thought I’d lost you. I couldn’t bear that.”

“I’m okay, Peter.” Neal gently pushed Peter to lie down. Resting his head on Peter’s chest, he said, “You saved me. You’ll always save me.” They lay there for a while, Peter running his hand through Neal’s damp hair, Neal’s hand splayed out over Peter’s heart. “Tell me the words of the ritual.”

“You want the translation?” Peter crooked his neck to look down at Neal. His eyes were closed and there was a small smile on his face.

“That, too. But I want to hear you say the words again first.”

“Okay.” Peter took a breath and slid his arms around Neal, holding him closer. He spoke, his words reverent.

“Eitseáilte i lasair
Mo marc ar do chraiceann.
D'aighneacht, mo áthas.

Caomhnóir mo chroí,
Mé tú a chosaint.

Anam de mo á,
A chomhlánaíonn tú dom.

Aeternally chuaigh,
I tine, i ngrá.”

“It’s beautiful. Will you tell me what it means?”

“Of course.” Peter leaned down slightly to whisper in Neal’s ear.

“Etched in flame,
My mark upon your skin.
Your submission, my joy.

Guardian of my heart,
I protect you.
Soul of my being,
You complete me.

Eternally joined
In fire, in love.”

“Peter…” Neal opened his eyes, tears shining in the candlelight. “Thank you.” He shifted, straddling Peter, kissing his neck, his jaw, his cheeks, all the while murmuring ‘I love yous’ over and over. “I want to see it. Want to see your mark on me.”

“Okay. Let me move a few mirrors.” Peter waited until Neal stood before getting up off the couch. He angled two mirrors so Neal could see his back in them. “Stand here.” He positioned Neal and loosened the belt of Neal’s robe, allowing it to fall free of his shoulders. Neal’s back was perfect, free of burns. Peter moved to his side. “Ready?”


Taking a deep breath, Peter called to his dragon form. He felt the change, controlled it to bring only what he needed to the surface. He looked at Neal, knowing his eyes were golden by Neal’s gasp. His skin prickled, the scales aching to break free. “Watch,” he growled and blew a lick of Claiming flame across Neal’s back.

Slowly at first, then faster, faster, the image appeared. Two dragons - one gold with chocolate eyes, the other silver, eyes the color of sapphires - danced across Neal’s body. They were sinuous, rolling and writhing around each other. Small bursts of flame shot out of their mouths. Peter chuckled, a deep, reverberating sound and touched Neal’s back.

The silver dragon snapped at the place where Peter’s finger pressed, while the gold dragon blew flame at his tattoo-mate. Smiling, Peter let them get back to their play and gazed at Neal, loving his awe-struck expression.

“They move!” Neal put a hand over his shoulder, trying to touch them, laughing as they skittered away from his fingers. “They’re alive?”

“In a sense.” Peter leaned against Neal and rested his chin on Neal’s shoulder so he could watch the dragons in the mirror. “They’re us, so yeah, I guess you could say they’re alive.”

“Wow. They’re…” Neal shook his head.


“Better than incredible.” Neal pulled Peter into a tight hold. “I love you, Peter. So much.”

“I love you too, Neal,” Peter replied, leading him towards the bed, fully intending to prove it. “Aeternally chuaigh, I tine, i ngrá.”

“For eternity.” Neal smiled as Peter pulled him down into his embrace. “I like that.”

And the dragons danced.


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