Title: Sky Rider

Author: The Bookworm's Magician

Beta: Esther-Channah

Rating: T

Character/s: Stephanie, Skulduggery Pleasant

Pairing/s: None

Spoilers: The whole book, pretty much

Summary: AU "You-You're a skeleton."

The dragon sighed and shook its wings, making its whole body rattle. "Yes, thank you for that wonderful observation."

"But... a skeleton."

"I believe that we've established this, yes."

"But, but, how do you fly?"

The dragon paused and tilted its head. "Magic?"

Disclaimer: I don't own this, I never have and I never will.

AN: Dragons, okay. Because of reasons.

Sky Rider

Stephanie first saw the dragon at the funeral. It had been a lovely day, very warm, and she would've rather been spending it anywhere but there. Tired of watching her relatives pretending to be grief-stricken, she started looking around at the rest of the cemetery. She had just skimmed over a tree when her gaze snapped back. She had seen a flash of brown that wasn't the same color as the trunk.

She blinked in astonishment when she realized that there was a dragon up in the tree, perched on some branches like a large, ungainly bird. It had tan scales with dusty gold accents, and looked very large. As if it had become aware of her gaze, the dragon slid smoothly out of the tree and walked calmly away, taking flight when it reached the edge of the cemetery.

Stephanie was left to blink after it in astonishment. She hadn't known that Uncle Gordon had known a dragon…

Later on, at her uncle's house, once Stephanie got tired of watching Uncle Fergus steal the silverware, she headed up to the study. She loved it in there, filled as it was with books and peace. She approached the desk, remembering all of the times she'd seen her uncle sitting there, and tried to imagine him dying. And then, she heard a voice that sounded so smooth it could've been velvet.

"At least he died doing what he loved."

She turned around and there, poking its head in through the window, was the dragon from Gordon's funeral.

"Yes," she said, because she couldn't think of anything else. "At least there's that."

"You're one of his nieces, then?" the dragon asked. "You're not stealing anything, you're not breaking anything, so I'd guess you're Stephanie."

She nodded and looked at the dragon more closely. Even from here, she couldn't see any hint of emotion in its blank, beady black eyes.

"Um, I'm sorry for asking this, but are you male?"

The dragon's voice, when it answered, had a slight hint of humor in it. "I am indeed, young lady."

"Oh, okay. Were you a friend of my uncle's?"

"I was," he answered with a tilt of his head. "I've known him for years, met him outside a bar in New York, back when he had just published his first book."

Stephanie still couldn't see any emotion in his eyes, and he kept his head very still. "Are you a writer too?"

"Me? No, I wouldn't know where to start. Plus, it's hard to type or write with claws, you know. No, but I got to live out my writer fantasies through Gordon."

"You had writer fantasies?"

"Doesn't everyone?"

"I don't know. I don't think so."

"Oh. Then that would make me seem kind of odd, wouldn't it?"

"Well," Stephanie answered, "it would help."

"Gordon used to talk about you all the time. He liked to boast about his little niece. He was an individual of character, your uncle. It seems that you are, too."

"You say that like you know me."

"Strong willed, intelligent, sharp-tongued, doesn't suffer fools gladly… Remind you of anyone?"

"Yes. Gordon."

"Interesting," the dragon said. "Because those are the exact words he used to describe you."

The dragon pulled his head back through the window, checked the sun, and then poked his head back in.

"Ah," he said, "I must be off. It was good to meet you, Stephanie. Good luck in whatever you decide to do with your life."

"Thank you," Stephanie said, a little dumbly. "You too."

The dragon tilted his head at her, making Stephanie feel like he was smiling, and backed out the window. She rushed over to it just in time to see him take off into the air.

She stayed there for a minute, watching him fly away, feeling sad and annoyed at the same time. She hadn't even gotten his name. She sighed, looking out the window long enough to see that there was a balcony large enough for a dragon below the window—obviously her uncle and the dragon had been great friends—and then headed back downstairs. She got there just in time to see her Uncle Fergus steal the ashtray.

Later on, at the will reading, Stephanie watched Uncle Fergus' and Aunt Beryl's eyes bug out when they discovered that there was another person coming.

"Who?" Fergus demanded. "There can't be anyone else; we are the only siblings Gordon had. Who is it? It's not some charity, is it? I've never trusted charities. They always want something from you."

"It's… it's not a charity." Mr. Fedgewick said. "He did say, however, that he might be a little late."

"Who said?" Stephanie's father asked, and the solicitor looked down at the file open before him.

"A most unusual name, this," he said. "It seems that we are waiting on one Mr. Skulduggery Pleasant."

"Well, who on Earth is that?" asked Beryl, irritated. "He sounds like a… he sounds like a… Fergus, what does he sound like?"

"He sounds like a weirdo," Fergus said, glaring at Mr. Fedgewick. "He's not a weirdo, is he?"

"I really couldn't say," Mr. Fedgewick answered, his paltry excuse for a smile failing miserably under the glares he was getting from Fergus and Beryl. "But I'm sure he'll along soon."

Fergus frowned, narrowing his beady eyes as much as possible. "How are you sure?"

Mr. Fedgewick faltered, unable to offer a reason, and then the door opened and the tan dragon entered the room.

"Sorry I'm late," he said, closing the door behind him. "It was unavoidable, I'm afraid."

Everyone in the room stared at him, at the tan, scaly skin that hung too tight in some places and too loose in others and the beady, black eyes. Stephanie looked closer at his skin. At this range, it really didn't look right.

The lawyer cleared his throat. "Um, you are Skulduggery Pleasant?"

"At your service," the dragon said. Stephanie could listen to that voice all day. Her mother, uncertain as she was, had smiled her greetings, but her father was looking at the dragon with an expression of wariness she had never seen on his face before. After a moment, the expression left him and he nodded politely and looked back to Mr. Fedgewick. Fergus and Beryl were still staring.

"Are you sick or something?" Beryl asked.

Mr. Fedgewick cleared his throat. "Okay, then, let's get down to business, now that we're all here…"

Stephanie tuned him out, finding herself uninterested in listening to Fergus and Beryl's temper tantrums. She only tuned back in when she heard him say the dragon's name.

"'To my good friend and guide Skulduggery Pleasant, I leave the following advice: Your path is your own, and I have no wish to sway you, but sometimes the greatest enemy we can face is ourselves, and the greatest battle is against the darkness within. There is a storm coming, and sometimes the key to safe harbor is hidden from us, and sometimes it is right before our eyes.'"

Stephanie joined everyone else in staring at Mr. Pleasant, who was lying on the floor at the back of the room. She had known there was something different about him, recognized it the first moment she'd seen the dragon in the tree—there was something exotic, something mysterious, something dangerous.

For his part, his head dipped lower, but that was the only reaction he gave. He offered no explanation as to what Gordon's message meant.

Fergus patted his wife's knee. "See, Beryl? A car, a boat, a brooch; it's not that bad. He could have given us some stupid advice."

"Oh shut up, would you?" Beryl snarled, and Fergus recoiled in his chair.

Mr. Fedgewick read on. "'To my other brother, Desmond, the lucky one of the family: I leave to you your wife; I think you might like her.'" Stephanie saw her parents clasp each other's hands and smile sadly. "'So now that you've successfully stolen my girlfriend, maybe you'd like to take her to my villa in France, which I am also leaving to you.'"

"They get the villa?" Beryl cried, jumping to her feet.

"Beryl," Fergus said, "please…"

"Do you know how much that villa is worth?" Beryl continued, looking like she might lunge at Stephanie's parents. "We get a brooch, they get a villa? There are only three of them! We've got Carol and Crystal! We have more! We could do with the extra space! Why do they deserve the villa?" She thrust the box toward them. "Swap!"

"Mrs. Edgley, please retake your seat or we shall be unable to continue," Mr. Fedgewick said, and eventually, after much bug-eyed glaring, Beryl sat down.

"Thank you," Mr. Fedgewick said, looking like he had had quite enough excitement for one day. He licked his lips, adjusted his glasses, and peered again at the will. "'If there is one regret that I have had in my life," he read, "it is that I never fathered any children. There are times, when I look at what Fergus and Beryl have produced, that I consider myself fortunate, but there are also times when it breaks my heart. And so, finally, to my niece, Stephanie."

Stephanie's eyes widened. What? She was getting something? Leaving the villa to her parents wasn't enough?

Mr. Fedgewick continued. "'The world is bigger than you know, and scarier than you might imagine. The only currency worth anything is being true to yourself, and the only goal worth seeking is finding out who you truly are."

She could feel Fergus and Beryl glaring at her, and she did her best to ignore them.

"'Make your parents proud, and make them glad to have you living under their roof, because I leave to you my property and possessions, my assets, and my royalties, to be inherited on the day you turn eighteen. I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that, in my own way, I love you all, even those I don't particularly like. That's you, Beryl.'"

Mr. Fedgewick took off his spectacles and looked up.

Stephanie became aware that everyone was staring at her, and she hadn't a clue what she was supposed to say. Fergus was doing his startled fish impression, and Beryl was pointing one long, bony finger at her, and trying to speak, but failing. Her parents were looking at her in stunned surprise.

Only Skulduggery Pleasant moved, standing up in one smooth movement and then walking over to her. He nudged her arm with his nose.

"Congratulations," he said, and moved on toward the door. As soon as it clicked shut behind him, Beryl found her voice.

"Her?" she screamed. "Her?"

…The End…

Dragons Encountered in This Chapter:

Skulduggery Pleasant

-Color: Tan, gold accents

-Height: 13'½"

-Horns: None

-Known Abilities: Flight

-Special Features: Skin doesn't fit right, looks ill

-Occupation: Unknown

Edit: For your information: The reason that everyone just accepts that he's a dragon is because in this world, humans and dragons have coexisted for... forever, basically. Normal humans know that dragons are sentient, can fly, and breathe fire. They don't know that dragons can do magic, and they don't know that there are humans who can do magic too. So dragons are just like humans, only big and scaly.