"You're, like. My best friend."

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Zoe doesn't scream, although it's mostly because she has her hands clamped over her mouth. Above them, her eyes are anime-girl wide; almost grotesque and comical. Eli shifts, awkward in the silence that's dragging on far too long.

"So, um," he says. "Ta-daa?" He sits up on his haunches as he says it, making a sort of car salesman gesture with his arms. Zoe's eyes, if anything, go even wider, and a muffled squeak emerges from behind her fingers.

Eli lowers himself back down again. There's no way he can be smaller than Zoe, short of lying on the ground, but he does his best anyway to make himself non-threatening. "Um. Zee? Say something, please?"

"You can talk!" Still muffled behind Zoe's hands and woolen bracer things. But it's a start.

"Um. Yeah?"

"You . . . you're a dragon!"

"Apparently?"

"Since when?"

Eli shrugs. It's more in the wings than the shoulders, and he doesn't miss the way Zoe's eyes follow the motion.

"A week?" he hazards, in answer to her question. "Since the peryton, really."

Zoe drops her hands. She's shifting back and forth, craning to look more at Eli now her shock is being replaced by curiosity. Something inside Eli unclenches in relief. If Zoe had been frightened by him . . .

"And you didn't tell me?"

"I'm telling you now!"

Zoe gives a sharp intake of breath. "This is why Morgan didn't recognize you."

"Yeah."

"And why the magic works and— holy crap, Ee. You're a dragon. An actual dragon!" She's pacing, unashamedly checking out Eli's big scaly ass. He stands back up so she can get a better look. After a moment, she adds, "You're kind of a weird-looking dragon."

"Gee, thanks."

"I mean, no offense? It's just, you're kind of . . . lion-y—?"

"'Leonine,' Zee."

"Whatever, Captain GPA. It's just not what I was expecting. Y'know, with the long neck or whatever." A thought seems to occur to her. "Holy crap. Morgan knows you're a dragon!"

"She doesn't know I'm a dragon," Eli corrects. "She knows there's a dragon."

"Her mom will kill you!"

"Um. Trying not to think about that, man. Besides, I saved Morgan's life."

"So?"

"So. I, like. Told her not to tell Lacroix about me. In, like, return or whatever?"

"You think you can trust her?"

Eli shrugs. "No? I don't know. She seemed pretty into it. The whole dragon thing."

Zoe snorts. "That'd be right. It is you after all." Then, before Eli can protest: "So can you do, like, anything cool?"

"Other than turn into a giant dragon?"

"You aren't giant. Size class huge at most. Four squares." Zoe's draws a little grid pattern in the air, like the one her parents use in their weird nerd roleplaying whatever. "Can you breathe fire?"

"Um. Not yet?"

"Fly?"

"Never tried."

Zoe makes a noise of disgust. "Dude. You are the worst at this being a dragon stuff. Tell me you at least have a giant cave of gold or something?"

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