A/N: This AU isn't mine—I was asked to write something with it on tumblr, but it apparently originates with The Dragon With The Dragon Birthmark by Zack Hiwatari-Chan, which is posted on this site—but I love the idea of it. This fic will be a bit different than my usual: short chapters and present tense, though still sporadic updates, especially since I'm not sure at this point how far it'll go since I've written every piece of it based off a prompt or title someone else has given me (chiefly tumblr's midnightstarhunter). It's posted here because a few people wanted to see it where they could easily follow it (and because I finally came up with a title). Standard disclaimers apply.

Jake hates what he is. It's wrong. Vile. Unnatural. But he wants to live, so he keeps his despicable secret. Rose finds out, of course—he could never keep a secret from her—and her help might be the only reason no one else in the Huntsclan discovers it. Her help might be the only reason he can survive.

Jake is convinced this is a curse. It can't be anything else. He bears the Mark of the Huntsclan. His destiny is to destroy dragons, destroy all the magical creatures that taint their world, and instead he develops magical powers? Worse still, a dragon form? How can he be a dragon when he's a member of the Huntsclan?

But the dragons don't know him from any of the other initiates, not like they would Rose who's become Huntsgirl. This may be a test, but to what end? A way to test his secret-keeping skills? His honesty? The discovery skills of his fellow Huntsmates? There is no record of this in the books, but is one initiate always afflicted with this curse or something similar by one of their own? With such secrecy amongst the ranks, he can't bring himself to dismiss the possibility. Especially when it may simply be to test his loyalty. Perhaps, if he brings them a dragon hide, makes his first dragon kill, this will go away.

He and Rose don't know about their families, not like those who were actively recruited when they were older. All he knows is that dragons hide in human skin, and if this isn't a curse…. What is it, then? Does he really have dragon blood running through his veins? Neither he nor Rose know enough about any of this to use Jake's human appearance as a possible clue as to what the American Dragon and her family could look like—or any other dragons that may have infested the country, for that matter—but Jake's dragon powers didn't develop by mere chance.

He was either born with them or cursed with them.

They're smart, and they learn what they can. They realize that when Jake changes, his clothes are never damaged, and whatever he was wearing will reappear whenever he changes back. Whenever it's safe to, they practice, running the same drills over and over until Jake is able to change flawlessly and quickly between forms. He would not be so dedicated if Rose had not pointed out what an opportunity this was, but once he does, he latches on that as the only upside in all of this, a sure-fire way to destroy the American Dragon, maybe to destroy them all.

Whenever he changes, the fire in his throat is pleasant, warm, but his distaste of it, his refusal to enjoy it, makes it feel like it is choking him, that he is suffocating. Spouting flame gives him a moment of freedom, and he teaches himself to harness that tool, too.

He may not be able to burn another dragon, but he could burn something she values, force her to act to defend something—or someone—other than herself.

He can take this curse they've given him and make himself a more formidable enemy.

They pick their night strategically, one of many when they are sent off on their own. It's supposed to simply be a scouting mission, but Rose has permission to act as she sees fit. It's overcast, full of friendly shadows, and they see the American Dragon herself. She isn't on her guard, laughing and flying loop-de-loops and cheerfully chatting with her abomination of dog, her so-called magical guardian. They are careful to stay downwind of it, well aware that it might smell them and warn her. Whether the two have been out on a mission themselves or whether they were just taking advantage of the dark to train, they have already wrapped up.

Jake and Rose withdraw to the safety of the streets and come up with a quick plan, rigging up the netting and the trap. Rose holds Jake's spear but only gives him a nod as they separate; they can't risk talking, not now. He runs a few blocks before changing, flying forward and then doubling back above the American Dragon. She had gone farther than he'd thought, and for a moment he thought he'd lost her, but then he sees her and knows nothing else matters. This was their chance.

She spots him almost instantly. As they had suspected she would, she follows him, her curiosity too great for her to heed her guardian's advice. Jake ignores her calls as he takes a hard right and leaves the exposed sky of the park behind.

Jake flies faster, grateful for all the practice he's done as he weaves between the buildings, hoping to put as much distance between the American Dragon and her magical guardian as he can. She's faster than he expects and much more nimble in the air, but he knows what's ahead, and she doesn't. At the right spot, he banks sharply to the left and then collapses his wings to his body in a dive to avoid the net. He changes back, hitting the ground harder than he expects, the sphinx hair sapping some of his control along with his energy even from this distance, but he rolls and springs to his feet. He'd trained himself to fight through this fatigue, and the pain of fighting injured is a familiar one. There would be time to tend to something as minor as a pulled muscle or twisted ankle later. Now, they must move or else everything will be lost.

He grabs his spear from Rose and turns back in time to see the dragon hurl herself around the same corner. She's going too fast now to change her direction in time and flies into the sphinx hair net from which Jake was careful to steer clear.

He and Rose don't need to talk. They just need to act. They've discussed this countless times, considering different possibilities and complications, and all they need to do is get her away before the guardian shows up. Before it realizes something is wrong, calls for help, and the other dragons come.

The sphinx hair works fast, and the dragon is too weak to fight. Rose contains the dragon while Jake recovers everything else. Another nod, and Rose goes ahead to their hidden rendezvous point; it will be Jake's job to stop anyone from following. It is the only job he can safely take.

Splitting up is a danger, but the rewards outweigh the risk. Rose has never liked the idea of separating, but Jake insisted, and she could not say anything once they realized how the sphinx hair affects him, too. He would slow her down too much if he tried to come, and he is much more useful ensuring that she gets away safely. It is better this way. Even if the worst happens and he is captured, he would fare better than she. They are both skilled liars, but she is known, he is not, and these powers might save him. They may even allow him to hunt the dragons from within.

The dog rounds the corner now, out of breath but trying to pant the news into its cell phone.

Jake's spear is at the ready, and he lunges.