NB: After writing "Mental Health Day" I couldn't stop thinking about Franklin and what he would make of a place like the Library and the people in it, especially first-time 'pet parent', Jenkins. This started off as a single one-off, but it quickly became so long and detailed that I decided to turn it into a serial, instead, to be updated periodically. Chapters will not necessarily be related to one another, so each can be read on its own. I hope you enjoy the fic and, as always, thanks for reading!
Franklin was still a very young tea dragon, barely out of infancy when he was torn from his close-knit family in China. He'd been accidentally trapped in the crate of top-grade cakes of
pu-erh tea he had been snacking on in a tea merchant's warehouse, then shipped to America. The little reptile was heartbroken and terrified when he eventually found himself in a strange place half a world away, with no family in sight anywhere. In fact, there were no other dragons at all in sight, anywhere.
And then, as if things weren't bad enough, just as he was working to adapt to his new environment he'd been caught in that awful trap! An older, more experienced dragon would've recognized and avoided it, but Franklin was young and simply so inquisitive by nature that he couldn't resist investigating the contraption. When the humans found him hours later, he cowered in fright in a corner of the mesh cage, convinced that he would soon be joining his ancestors, especially when the largest and oldest of them—obviously the patriarch—tentatively approached the cage. Franklin had been taught since the day he was hatched that humans were to be avoided. Tey could be capricious and cruel, and often killed other living creatures on sight, sometimes even just for sport.
But the big human had only carefully poked a finger into the cage to lightly scratch the animal's head. Franklin sensed at once that he was really very kind and gentle, despite his horrific size, that he was old and wise, much like Franklin's real father. The frightened young dragon trusted this human and immediately bonded with the elder, adopting him as his new father in this strange place.
Franklin soon discovered that the large male was mated to the smaller of the two females, and that made him happy. Tea dragon families were always very large, with dozens of siblings and aunties and uncles and cousins. The mated pair of humans meant that he now had a whole new family, if a little on the small size; he merely assumed that the other humans in this place were the mated pair's offspring and, therefore, his new brothers and sister.
The feelings were apparently mutual. The patriarch quickly freed Franklin from the cage; the dragon felt the large man's affection and happiness at once, and the two quickly became thick as thieves. The patriarch was always gentle when handling Franklin, let him sit and ride on his huge shoulder as he moved about and worked, and gave him the most wonderful belly rubs and chin scratches. He made sure Franklin had plenty of good tea to eat and drink, and even some treats that Franklin had never tasted before; his favorite were the small white cubes of pure sweetness that the patriarch sometimes put in his own tea when he drank it. He also gave Franklin almost completely free run of the place where they lived, and the little reptile spent hours upon hours excitedly exploring all of its mysterious nooks and crannies.
Despite the language barrier, he soon recognized that the word 'Franklin' was the name they had given him. His real name was actually Yù Yè, which meant 'Jade Leaf' (all tea dragon names were related to tea and the environment in which it grew), but no matter how many times he tried to correct them, they just didn't seem to understand him. Not yet understanding their human names, Franklin decided to give his adopted 'parents' proper tea dragon names. He decided to call the large male Bái Shān, which meant 'White Mountain', due to his pale coloring and massive size, and the smaller female he called Chá Huā, or 'Tea Flower', due to the fact that she always smelled sweet, like tea blossoms.
On one particular evening, the serpentine creature slipped unnoticed into a dark room and quickly climbed a bedpost. Once he reached the top, he scurried along the top edge of the massive walnut headboard until he was squarely overlooking the pair of humans below. Franklin crouched comfortably on the narrow ledge, craning his neck out and cocking his head curiously as he watched them. Ever since he adopted them as his new parents, the tea dragon had been fascinated by the behaviors of the patriarch and his mate, and took every opportunity he could to observe and learn more about them.
They were now engaged in a strange behavior that Franklin had never seen before—Bái Shān was on top of Chá Huā, eagerly licking and nipping her. Franklin adjusted his position, his slightly bulging black eyes blinking with interest as he watched closely.
Chá Huā was making sharp cries and moaning sounds, as if in pain, but they didn't seem to be distress calls, exactly. This puzzled Franklin. He had come close to being attacked and eaten many times by predators when he lived in the tea fields of Yunnan Province, and he never failed to make distress calls to summon help. Perhaps Bái Shān wasn't going to eat her after all, perhaps this was some sort of play for them.
The large male moved down the female's body to her legs. She parted them, and Bái Shān began to lick her and bite her, causing her to cry out loudly and thrash about as if she was trying to escape—clearly, Bái Shān was preparing to devour her, though the small dragon was confused as to why he should do that. They were a mated pair, after all, and had always seemed very fond of one another up until now. They were never very far away from each other, and they were always touching each other with their mouths—apparently that was how humans displayed affection. Or perhaps they had only really been tasting each other? But why should he want to kill and eat his mate? Dragons mated for life and would never do that, but perhaps humans only mated temporarily before one was eaten by the other. The thought was very disturbing to Franklin. He loved both of his new parents, and didn't want either of them to be killed or devoured.
Suddenly Bái Shān sat up, pulling Chá Huā upright with him. He turned her around so that she was on all fours, pulled her bottom upward and then quickly mounted her, softly grunting beast-like as he began to thrust against her. Now the little dragon understood what was going on: His parents were mating! Franklin was overjoyed; soon Chá Huā would lay an egg, and not long after that Franklin would have a new sibling!
Franklin was so excited by the prospect of a new family member that he couldn't contain himself. He began to happily wriggle and hop on the headboard as he raised his head and made a loud, shrill squealing sound that filled the large room. At that same moment he lost his footing on the narrow lip of walnut and fell off, landing squarely Chá Huā's back, right between her shoulder blades.
"JENKINS!" she shrieked as she reared up onto her knees, her hands clawing frantically behind her to dislodge whatever it was that had fallen on her. Franklin quickly leaped from her shoulders and back onto the top of the headboard, while the immortal disengaged himself from his wife so quickly in alarm that he nearly lost his balance and fell off the foot of the bed.
"CASSANDRA!?" he shouted, his heart skipping a beat, afraid that he had somehow accidentally hurt her in his ardor. Even in the dim light he could see the fury on her face and her eyes flashing as she looked around at him and jammed a finger upward. The man looked to where she was pointing, then smothered a laugh as an amused look came to his face.
"Franklin!" he said, tone chiding. "What do you think you're doing up there?" Franklin's head bobbed up and down as he made a trilling sound in happy greeting. The Caretaker reached up and gently stroked the side of the tea dragon's long neck as Cassandra huffed loudly in frustration.
"Jenkins, I know you're really fond of him and everything, and normally he's super-cute, but he just can't be in here while we're having sex!" she declared irately. Jenkins chuckled in response.
"He's only curious, my dear," he said. "He didn't mean any harm, did you, Franklin?" The tiny dragon began making a soft purring sound and rubbing his head against the man's hand.
"That may be, but I still don't care to have an audience, if it's all the same to you!" Cassandra replied sourly. "Either he's banned from the bedroom during sexy time, or we're never having sexy time again!"
That got his attention. Jenkins turned to his fuming wife and bent to give her an ameliorating kiss.
"Fear not, my lady," he rumbled dramatically, then straightened up on his knees and puffed out his chest heroically. "I shall do my knightly duty and dispatch the wicked dragon that plagues you so!" He rolled out of bed and turned on the lamp, then slipped into his robe. He went around to Cassandra's side of the bed where Franklin was now perched. Along the way he grabbed an old-fashioned fountain pen from his nightstand and pointed it like a sword at the iridescent green dragon.
"Foul beast!" Jenkins said loudly, glaring threateningly at the beast in question. "I command you to vacate this kingdom at once, or you shall taste my steel!" Franklin yipped gleefully as he playfully batted at and tried to chew on the end of the fountain pen.
"He doesn't seem to be very frightened by you, Sir Knight!" Cassandra giggled, despite her irritation with Franklin. Jenkins sniffed haughtily.
"Nonsense! He simply knows better than to challenge a highly experienced dragon-slayer such as myself." The knight laid the pen on Cassandra's nightstand, then reached out to pluck the uncowed dragon from the headboard. As soon as his hand came near, Franklin leaped onto his long arm and scampered up to his shoulder, then tried to insert his snout into Jenkins's ear. The Caretaker laughed at the tickling sensation of the creature's breath in his ear and of the long whiskers on his cheek.
"If you'll excuse me for a moment, my lady," he said gallantly, bending over to give her a sloppy kiss. "I shall banish this interloper to the workroom. And then," he dropped his voice to a murmur and gave her a salacious look, "when I return, I shall resume giving you a taste of my 'steel'!"
"Oh, my!" exclaimed Cassandra melodramatically, barely able to keep from laughing as she raised a hand to her forehead in mock-distress. "Is that a threat, Sir Knight?" He raised his head proudly and peered down his nose at her.
"That, my love, is a promise!"