"If you would be so good as to hold onto him, please, Jacob..." Jenkins instructed the Librarian assisting him in the lab today. Jacob Stone adjusted his grip on Franklin's hindquarters to keep the high-strung little tea dragon still. Jenkins was giving Franklin his quarterly health check, and Jake had been thrilled when the Caretaker asked for his assistance.
"Yes...excellent! Eyes are nice and clear and alert," Jenkins murmured as he held Franklin's head firmly between his hands. "Franklin, open!" Jenkins then visually demonstrated what he wanted the dragon to do by opening his own mouth wide. Franklin blinked several times rapidly, then opened his mouth wide in imitation, his long forked tongue lolling out and over to one side. The Caretaker peered inside, quickly examining the little creature's mouth, teeth, gums and tongue.
"Yes, very good!" he mumbled in satisfaction, then turned to make some notes. Franklin rolled over onto his back and began to lightly claw at Jake's hands in an invitation to play. Grinning, Jake roughhoused with Franklin, gently batting the dragon's hindquarters back and forth between his hands while Franklin squealed with delight. Jenkins finished his notes and looked up.
"Franklin is in excellent health, I'm happy to say!" he announced, pleased. "He's grown since he first came to us, and his horn buds have started to appear! Though I am a little concerned about his weight; he seems to have gained a bit too much since his last checkup."
"Well, stop feedin' 'im all those sweets!" said Jake, not looking up from his swatting game with Franklin.
"I don't give him that many sweets!" protested Jenkins. Jake snorted.
"Yeah, right!" he shot back. He was now lightly grabbing Franklin's snout and pushing his head to one side and then the other, and Franklin tried to nip his hand before he could do so. "Saw it happen all the time back home. Somebody's dog or cat would sit at the dinner table and just stare at their owner with those big, sad eyes until the poor bastard broke down and gave 'em a treat from the table. Next thing ya know, ya got a thirty-pound cat, and nobody seems to know how it happened!" Jenkins pulled himself up straight and guiltily ran his hand over the front of his lab coat.
The Annex doorbell rang, but neither man paid it any attention. It was lunchtime; Ezekiel had probably ordered yet another pizza.
"Yes, well...I suppose I do spoil him a bit sometimes," Jenkins admitted reluctantly. "Tea dragons in the wild live almost exclusively on tea plants. I've introduced him to a great many different foods that he normally wouldn't get in the wild, foods with more sugar in them than he would normally have." He looked down sadly at his little dragon companion. "I hate to put him on a diet, but I guess I have no choice if I want him to stay healthy."
"I don't think you'll need to put him a strict diet," said Jake. He scratched the squirming tea dragon's belly. Franklin's left hind leg kicked repeatedly into the air as he made a purring sound. "Just cut out the processed sugar stuff. He loves fruit, 'specially strawberries. Instead of a cookie, just give 'im a strawberry as a treat. He won't know the difference."
"And how do you know that, Jacob?" Jenkins asked, cocking his head. Jake shrugged.
"I've noticed that he'll steal Thistle's food if no one's watchin' him," he said simply. "I actually caught 'im in the act one day. Here me and Ezekiel were thinkin' that Thistle was turnin' into a little pig, come to find out the little pig was this one!" He grabbed Franklin's snout and shook it, pretending to be angry. "Strawberries and mangoes are his favorites."
As Jenkins pondered this bit of information, Ezekiel Jones popped his head into the lab, an anxious expression on his face. He looked directly at the immortal.
"Um, Jenkins?" he called, his voice urgent. "You need to get out to the workroom. Now."
"And why is that, Mr. Jones?" asked Jenkins, picking up Franklin and holding him against his chest.
"You have a visitor," the Aussie replied shortly. "He won't tell us anything. He says he'll only talk to you." He pulled his head out of the lab and disappeared, while Jenkins and Jacob exchanged puzzled glances. Unannounced visitors to the Annex were nearly unheard of. Friendly visitors, anyway.
"Well, then," said Jenkins with determination and began heading for the door, pausing to pick up Franklin and set him on his shoulder. "I suppose we should go and see who this mystery visitor is."
Jenkins and Jacob entered the workroom to find Eve Baird and Cassandra Cillian Jenkins standing in an anxious knot in the middle of the room. Jones had joined them, and all of them were staring at the newcomer, a short, bald, Asian man standing stiffly a few feet away from the others. On the floor next to him was a large rectangular object that looked like a suitcase made of woven bamboo. As soon as Jenkins saw the man, he stopped in his tracks, gaping in astonishment.
At the sound of his name Drake turned. The moment he spied Jenkins, he went over to the Caretaker and bowed stiffly in greeting.
"Caretaker," he said. Up close, Jenkins could see that Drake's suit, while finely-tailored, had seen better days, and his custom-made Italian-leather shoes were worn and scuffed. Jenkins gave a short bow in return.
"Forgive my surprise, Mr. Drake; I never expected to see you again after the last Intercession of Dragons-cum-Conclave held here two years ago," Jenkins commented somewhat acidly. "I know that the Fēi Lóng do not easily forgive wrongs done to them, especially something as serious as stealing the Pearl of Wisdom. I do hope they didn't punish you too harshly?" Drake, in reality an Eastern dragon in the magical guise of a human, had used his position as a legal counsellor to steal the Pearl in league with Dulaque in an attempt to bring about an all-out war between the Eastern and Western dragons, and with it the destruction of the Library. Drake raised his head defiantly, but couldn't meet Jenkins's gaze.
"I was relieved of my position as counsel for the Fēi Lóng," he answered stoically. "I was permitted to live, but my punishment was severe. I must live now in this awful human form; I can never assume my true form again, unless the Empress of Dragons deigns to have pity on me and grants a reprieve."
Jenkins despite his coldness towards Drake, couldn't help but feel some pity for the small man standing before him now. He understood how heavy such a punishment would weigh on Drake. Above all other things, dragons of every kind loved being dragons, and so being forced to live as a human being was a terrible punishment, indeed.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," he said sincerely. Drake finally looked up to meet his gaze, searching for any sign of mockery, but found none. He made a short bow again.
"Thank you, Caretaker," he said. "The Empress was most merciful. She has allowed me to continue to communicate with my kind, even though I was banished from the court and may no longer represent Her Majesty or the Fēi Lóng in any official capacity. It has been…difficult these last few years, but it is no more than I deserve for my treachery." Drake fell silent for a moment before continuing.
"However, I have chosen to use this time in exile to do what I can to atone for my crimes," he said with more vigor. "I am permitted to be an advocate for those dragons who otherwise have little to no voice at the court. This brings me to my purpose for being here today!" Drake walked back to pick up the bamboo suitcase and carried it over to the long table in the middle of the room. He set it down gently and unfastened the straps that secured it. While he did that, the others clustered around to see what was inside. Drake lifted the lid of the case, and there were several loud gasps as two small Eastern dragons clambered gingerly out of the case and onto the tabletop.
They were clearly tea dragons, very similar in appearance to Franklin, except that these were larger and more mature than him. They were a darker shade of green than Franklin, and both had a set of small goat-like horns that swept back gently from their foreheads. They had a long, silky, pale green fringe of hair all along their jawlines, down the center of their backs and at the ends of their tails. One dragon was slightly smaller than the other, giving them all the immediate impression that this was pair, a male and a female. The two dragons looked around curiously, their large black eyes blinking as they took in the strange surroundings and warbled softly.
The moment Franklin spotted the newcomers, his reaction was instantaneous. Perched on Jenkins's shoulder, the little dragon screamed and leaped onto the tabletop. He ran directly to the new dragons and wedged himself in between them, shrieking the entire time. The pair responded in kind, filling the Annex with an almost unbearable cacophony of ear-splitting noise. The dragons enthusiastically greeted each other by entwining and untwining their long necks or tails together over and over and rubbing their long heads together. Clearly they all knew each other, and were overjoyed at the reunion. After a couple of minutes, Mr. Drake made a sharp, low, guttural sound and the trio of tea dragons quieted down a bit, though they continued to happily caress each other and trill contentedly. The humans all turned to look questioningly at Drake.
"This is Qiángdà Jīng and Ruǎn Yǔ, of the Fragrant Mountain Family of the Chá Lóng Clan of the House of the Wooden Dragon," the small man intoned somberly. "'Strong Stem' and 'Soft Rain', respectively, in English, if that is easier for you to pronounce. I was retained by them to find their eighty-eighth son, Yù Yè, who went missing from his home over a year ago. I successfully tracked him here to the Library, and so I have brought them here to reunite them."
The Librarians, their Guardian, and the Caretaker were silent, too stunned to speak as they stared at the man. Drake was obviously telling them the truth, Franklin was certainly glad to see these two new dragons. As the full impact of the disgraced lawyer's words sank in, though, expressions began to go from surprised to worried to distressed. Four sets of eyes darted furtively to Jenkins to see his reaction to this completely unexpected news.
For his part, Jenkins felt a cold numbness begin to creep into his chest. He felt light-headed and dizzy, his mind blank with shock. He said nothing, striving to control himself. When he felt able, he turned to look at Drake, his emotions carefully hidden.
"What else are they here for, Mr. Drake?" the Caretaker asked, his voice neutral. The others, however, knew him well enough by now to know that when Jenkins was most quiet and restrained on the outside, that was when he was the most upset on the inside.
"They came to identify their son," Drake answered flatly. "Now that they have done so, they will take him back to their home in China, where he belongs."
Although he had suspected as much, the words still struck Jenkins like a hammer blow. The color drained from his face, but he said nothing. He cast a long, unreadable look at the three dragons still noisily getting reacquainted, then he strode briskly away and disappeared into the corridor.
Cassandra hurried after her husband and found him in his lab, as she knew she would; it was his safe place whenever Jenkins was upset or needed to think. Without bothering to knock, she pushed the door open and quietly went inside. Jenkins was preparing to grind a bundle of henbane in a large granite mortar.
"Jenkins, I'm so sorry!" she said as she crossed to room to stand next to him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Cassandra," he replied tightly without pausing his work or looking at her. "Have they gone yet?" The Librarian stared at her husband for a moment, flabbergasted.
"No, of course not!" she answered in disbelief. "Even if we let anyone take Franklin away, we would never let them do it without letting you have a chance to say goodbye first!"
"I will not be saying goodbye," said Jenkins tonelessly, his attention focused on preparing the henbane for grinding. "Please be so good as to let me know when they've left." Cassandra was stunned by her husband's seeming cold-heartedness. Her astonishment quickly turned to anger.
"How can you even say that?!" she exclaimed. "Franklin's like our child! And you love him! I know you do! How can you just let him go like this without even trying to fight for him?!" Jenkins didn't answer, only continued to work on the herbs.
"Jenkins, answer me!" she persisted. When he still refused to speak, Cassandra grabbed his arm and pulled him around to face her. He sighed with resignation and set the henbane down, but refused to look her in the eye. As she glared up at him, Cassandra saw his lower lip quiver ever so slightly as he fought to keep his emotions under control. She knew, then, just how upset her husband actually was, and her expression softened. She reached up to lay her hand on his face.
"We don't even know if Mr. Drake is telling is the truth," she said, hopefully, but Jenkins shook his head, eyes still downcast.
"He is telling the truth," Jenkins answered, his voice rough. "You saw Franklin. He clearly knows those dragons. They are his parents, his...true family. He belongs with them, not...not with me."
His voice broke on the last word, and the old Caretaker couldn't say anything more. He finally raised his eyes to meet Cassandra's. She saw so much pain and sadness in them at the prospect of losing his beloved little friend that she couldn't restrain herself any further. Cassandra threw her arms around Jenkins and held him tightly. His arms slowly crept up to hold her in return. A few seconds later she heard a soft gasping sob escape Jenkins, then another as his grief overtook him.
"I don't want to lose him!" he whispered miserably into her hair. "I don't want to lose him Cassandra! I know I'm being foolish, a man my age moping over a pet, but...I just...I can't..." Cassandra shushed him and held even more tightly.
"You're not being foolish," she murmured, trying to comfort him. "He's not just a pet, either! There must be something we can do, there just has to be!" She ran her hands slowly over his back to soothe him, and her brows knit together.
"We just need some time to think," she whispered, more to herself than to her distraught husband.
They were unexpectedly given a great deal of time to think, as it turned out. As soon as he had affirmative confirmation that Franklin was, indeed, their son, Mr. Drake left Qiángdà Jīng and Ruǎn Yǔ at the Annex while he returned to China. He told the team that he needed to make arrangements with Fēi Lóng officials to repatriate Franklin. The Fēi Lóng were very strict about who they allowed into their territory, dragon-wise, Drake explained, out of fear that a Western dragon may try to slip over the border in order to cause trouble. It shouldn't take more than a few days to clear up the paperwork, he assured them. In the meantime, the elder tea dragons could spend the time reconnecting with their cherished son.
Franklin spent every waking moment with his parents, much to the heartache of Jenkins. The immortal stayed away from everyone else as much as possible as he fell back into his old habit of isolating himself in order to insulate himself against the pain of his future parting from Franklin. Cassandra ended up spending most of her time with Jenkins, trying to comfort and reassure him that everything was going to work out for the best.
The rest of the team, not knowing what else to do, went about the daily business of the Library. Franklin was the offspring of these two older tea dragons, and, Jenkins explained, if Qiángdà Jīng and Ruǎn Yǔ wanted to take Franklin back to China, there wasn't much any of them could do to stop them.
Jacob Stone went into the workroom, his attention fixed on the book about architecture in the various ancient African kingdoms. He threw himself into the chair at his desk and prepared to make some notes on his laptop. Across the room, Franklin and his parents were on top pf Jenkins's desk, chattering constantly between them. Jake scowled and shook his head. Make yourselves at home, why dontcha? he thought sourly. He took a deep breath and huffed it out again, then started to read a paragraph in his book.
Something kept tugging at his attention, however. Something in the background, something familiar. Thinking it was just the noise of the very vocal tea dragons in the room, Jake tried to ignore them, but something simply would not let him focus on his reading. He kept hearing the same sounds, over and over, a pattern. A pattern he was familiar with, that he should know. He looked up from the book and rubbed his face as he tried again to shove the distraction away.
Guess I'll have to go find someplace quiet to work, he mentally grumbled to himself as he stood up. That's when he heard it, the familiar sounds again.
The linguist in Jake automatically recognized, identified and translated the sounds: 'Bái Shān' was Mandarin for "White Mountain". Jake almost dismissed it as a coincidence, but then he heard it again and quickly looked around for the source. He was astonished to find that it was coming from Franklin.
Jake took a few steps towards the group of dragons, listening hard to their vocalizations. Mostly he heard nothing but a series of grunts, squeals, clicks, yips and growls. But, to his utter amazement, amongst the nonsensical animal sounds, he could actually pick out what sounded like actual Mandarin words, although he had to listen very closely to hear them. He saw Franklin scramble over to the old-fashioned candlestick telephone that Jenkins preferred to use.
"The ghost stick of White Mountain!" Jake thought he heard Franklin declare, his voice low and growling. "He talks to it, ghosts talk back!" The eyes of the other two dragons widened fearfully at the mention of ghosts.
"The ghosts do not harm him?" his mother asked anxiously. Franklin hopped up and down, shrieking.
"No! He is a very powerful sorcerer!" Stone heard Franklin say. "Ghosts do not dare to hurt him, ghosts do not dare to hurt any who live in his magic house!" As the two older dragons squealed and squeaked in response, Jake only stared at them, his mouth hanging open.
Franklin spoke?! In Mandarin?!
Stunned, Jake slowly approached the Caretaker's high desk.
At the end of one week, Drake returned from China and immediately called a meeting of the parties involved. Everyone was gathered again at the main table in the workroom, Franklin and his parents perched on its surface and looking at Mr. Drake expectantly. Everyone else was eyeing the man-dragon dourly. He wasted no time on pleasantries.
"I have met with the Fēi Lóng," he stated curtly. "All has been arranged. I have proved to their satisfaction that Yù Yè is the son of Qiángdà Jīng and Ruǎn Yǔ, and that he was brought here by misadventure. He is permitted to freely return to his home in China at once."
Drake then turned to the tea dragon family and began to speak to them, informing them of the ruling Fēi Lóng's decision. It was a somewhat comical sight, as tea dragons communicate in equal parts of verbalizations and gestures, so along with the growls, squeaks and yips, Drake also had bob, shake his head, grimace and wave his arms frantically in order to convey the total meaning of his message. As he spoke, the elder dragons became agitated, lashing their tails to and fro, their long faces clearly taking on expressions of anger. Franklin also became extremely distressed, actually rolling his entire body on the tabletop with anxiety. Finally, Drake finished speaking and turned around.
"We will leave immediately," he informed the shocked humans. "If Caretaker Jenkins would please be so kind as to prepare his door device, we will be on our way." He turned around and pulled out from beneath the table the woven bamboo case he had arrived with over a week ago. Jenkins looked like he about to become ill at the attorney's brusque words.
"Like hell he will!" spat Jake, stepping forward to the surprise of everyone else in the room. He stood as closely as he could get to Drake, his nose nearly touching the small man's nose. Drake, however, didn't seem fazed.
"You're a liar!" Jake said, jabbing his finger at Drake's chest. Eve hurried over and put her hand on the Librarian's shoulder.
"Come on, Stone, let's not make this any harder than it needs to be," she said. Jake violently shrugged his shoulder to throw her hand off of him.
"Drake is a liar!" he ground out with barely controlled fury. "I know he is, 'cause I understood almost every single goddamn word he just said to those dragons!" He spun around to face the others, all of whom stared at him.
"Jake, what do you mean you understood him?" asked Cassandra in a faint voice. She felt ill at the thought of having to say goodbye to Franklin, even more so at what his departure would to do Jenkins.
"You said you were going to hang out by the Fountain of Youth earlier today," said Ezekiel. "How many beers, exactly, did you have…?"
"I didn't have any beer, Jones!" snapped the historian angrily. "They talked! I heard 'em! In Mandarin Chinese! Well, kinda Mandarin. It was really hard to hear it, more like some kinda tea dragon dialect of Mandarin. But I heard 'em talkin'! Watch!"
He turned and faced the dragons on the table and made some guttural squawks and groans. The three dragons only cocked their heads and blinked at him, but made no indication that they understood him. Jake glanced back nervously at the others.
"It's, uh…hard to make the right sounds. Like I said, they don't speak a standard form of Mandarin."
"I think Mr. Stone is mistaken," said Drake impatiently. "No human can speak any of the dragon tongues, certainly not the language of the Chá Lóng! They are among the most unsophisticated of the Eastern Lóng, backwards and uneducated! Even I can barely understand them!"
"You're wrong, Drake!" Jake said harshly. "And I'll prove it! Watch this!" He turned back to the tea dragons. He spoke to them again, but once more he didn't seem to be able to make himself understood. Drake, in a rare display of emotion, smirked and snorted.
"I believe you have just proved my point, Librarian," he said smugly. Jake glared at him before trying a third time. This time, however, instead of a more complicated sentence. He merely pointed at himself and asked, in very slow and clear Mandarin, "Míngchēng? Name?"
The three dragons instantly pricked their long ears forward and turned to look directly at Jake. Franklin squealed with happiness, bobbing his head up and down on his long neck.
"Hǔ!" the young dragon yelped loudly.
Jake reached back and grabbed Jenkins by the arm and dragged him forward. He pointed at the large man and repeated his question. "Míngchēng?"
"Bái Shān!" screamed the little dragon. "Bái Shān! Bái Shān!"
"Omigod!" breathed Cassandra as she came forward and clutched Jenkins's arm tightly, her heart pounding with excitement. "I...I heard that! I understood what he said!"
"Nonsense!" barked Drake, uncertain now. "You cannot possibly understand that gibberish! And I cannot understand why you would say that you can! Open the door! We must leave at once!"
"Franklin called Jenkins 'Bái Shān'," Jake said, staring Drake in the eye. "Bái Shān means 'White Mountain'! That's his name for Jenkins, 'cause he's so big and has white hair—Bái Shān! Only, the way he pronounces it, it comes out soundin' more like 'Bay Sun' or 'Bay Hun'."
"You are delusional!" accused the small man dismissively. He barked some instructions to the tea dragons as he opened the bamboo case, but they didn't move from their spot on the table, only glared at him instead. Jake rounded on the disguised dragon and pointed at him.
"You lied to them, too!" he nearly shouted. "You told 'em that Jenkins went to China and intentionally kidnapped their son! They came to you for help findin' Franklin, that part's true; but everything else has been a lie! You told 'em that you could find their son, but you wanted something from them in return!"
Jake stared daggers at Drake as he went to stand directly in front of him again. Drake's brown eyes darted nervously around at the others who were also now staring at him suspiciously.
"The area where these dragons live—in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries, it used to be known as the Kingdom of Nanzhao. The last ruling family was all murdered in 902 AD by one of the king's most trusted ministers. They were all buried together in one huge tomb, stuffed full of artifacts made of gold, jade and all sorts of precious materials." Jake moved forward even closer, his burning blue eyes boring into Drake.
"That tomb has been lost to history for over a thousand years," he said in an infuriated, grating voice. "Lost to human history, that is. But not to tea dragon history!" Mr. Drake backed away several steps from the intimidating historian.
"I have no idea what you are talking about!" he blustered. "The Tomb of Nanzhou is a myth, it does not exist! You cannot believe anything these foolish Chá Lóng say! As I said before, they are ignorant and uncultured creatures, full of superstitious beliefs…!" A wide, wicked grin split Stone's face.
"Yeah?" he challenged. "The Tomb of Nanzhou is just a myth, huh? Doesn't really exist? Tea dragons have no idea what they're talkin' about, huh?" He turned his head toward Qiángdà Jīng and uttered a short, grunting sound.
The elder tea dragon lowered his head and began making soft hacking sounds. Within seconds he had regurgitated a large, rectangular piece of jade from the special storage pouch, similar to a bird's craw, that all tea dragons possess in which to store food. Jake walked over to pick it up from the table and wiped it off with his shirttail. He then held it out for the others to see.
"This is a seal belonging to the last king of Nanzhou. Qiángdà Jīng got it from the tomb himself. He and I went to his home in Yunnan while you were in Beijing this past week, I saw him bring it out myself! The tomb lies buried on his family's territory in Yunnan. They've never bothered much with it 'cause these 'ignorant, uncultured' dragons have no use for gold or jade. They value family and relationships far more. But for an ambitious, disgraced Fēi Lóng like you…? Jake shrugged his shoulders. "I bet a tomb full of priceless artifacts would grease a lot of palms back at the home office to get you reinstated with the powers that be, huh? Or should I say, it would grease a lot of paws?"
"You should know, Mr. Drake, that I have been in contact with Flynn Carsen; the Empress of Dragons and the Fēi Lóng government will be receiving a letter from him very soon," Baird chimed in curtly, walking slowly forward. "It'll detail your actions in all of this and how you tried to exploit members of the Chá Lóng Clan in order to pillage a burial site for your own personal gain and to fund a possible coup against the current regime—both of which are in direct violation of the Conclave of 1302 and the Seventh Intercession of Dragons." Drake's eyes widened in alarm, and he began to protest that there had been a misunderstanding.
"I don't think so," snapped the Guardian. "Qiángdà Jīng and Ruǎn Yǔ have been able to tell us everything, about how you promised to find their son in exchange for telling him where the Tomb was hidden."
"How would I even know where, in all of China, to begin looking for such a place?" demanded the attorney.
"You spoke for the Fēi Lóng in all sorts of legal matters," answered Eve. "In order to do that, you would have access to all sorts of old records and files. I suspect that you inadvertently stumbled across one that gave you the general location of the Tomb, and then when these poor parents contacted you about finding their missing son, you put two and two together and seized the opportunity!" The Guardian jabbed her finger at Drake.
"But no more!" she promised. "In fact, the Library—with the assistance of the Chá Lóng—will go in and empty the Tomb of its contents in order to prevent something like this from happening again. We'll turn over everything we find—minus any magical artifacts or texts that may be hidden there—to the Fēi Lóng. The magical items will come to the Library for safe-keeping."
"Enough!" said a deep, angry voice suddenly. Jenkins brushed past Eve and strode quickly toward Drake, the Caretaker's face dark with anger. The corrupt Fēi Lóng, unable to hide his fear now, cowered before the towering knight.
"You know who I am, Mr. Drake," rumbled the immortal, his voice dripping with unmistakable malice as his dark eyes drilled into the much smaller man. "You know that I have slain many dragons in my life." He bent down and spoke so low that only Drake could hear him.
"The next time I see you, I will kill you."
Without waiting for a reaction or a response, Jenkins walked over to the globe mechanism and adjusted its coordinate settings, then activated it. The doors glowed to life and swung silently open. He turned and fixed a hard look at Drake.
"Time's a-wasting, Mr. Drake!" he said with false levity. Drake looked as though he was about to say something, but Jenkins didn't give him a chance.
"GO!" Jenkins thundered, so loudly that everyone jumped. Drake cast one last glance at the others, but finding no sympathy, turned and all but flat-out ran through the doors. As they closed behind him, Jenkins walked back to the long worktable.
"Jacob," he said, his face like stone. "Would you please be so kind as to express my regrets to Franklin's parents for causing them so much pain and sorrow over the last year. Make them understand that I did not intentionally take their child..."
Before the immortal could finish his speech, Franklin screeched with glee and launched himself from the table and into Jenkins's arms, wriggling with happiness and licking the old immortal's face as if nothing had happened.
Jenkins sat at his desk, comfortably perched on a high stool, his quill pen scratching lazily over the sheet of paper in front of him. There was small pot of hot Ceylon tea and cup on a tray at his elbow, along with a small plate of shortbread, a snack for later.
The Librarians and their Guardian were in Yunnan, working with Franklin's family and the Chá Lóng to recover the contents of the Tomb of Nanzhou. Cassandra had called earlier to let him know that the Tomb, indeed, contained a handful of magical artifacts and that they would be bringing to the Library as soon as they were safely packed for transport. Jenkins was looking forward to that; he always enjoyed studying new artifacts.
Draped over the back of his neck was a dozing Franklin. Qiángdà Jīng and Ruǎn Yǔ gladly gave their permission for Franklin (who decided to keep his new "American" name) to stay with the Library. The little tea dragon told his parents all about the old Patriarch, his mate, and all the other residents of the Library. He told them the true story of how he'd accidentally come to the Library, and how kind the humans had been to him ever since, especially Bái Shān, and of his many adventures in the patriarch's magic house.
Jenkins was as ecstatic as Franklin that he was going to stay, though had the Caretaker known why the elder dragons so readily agreed to do so might have caused Jenkins no little embarrassment. Franklin had somberly informed his parents that, even though Bái Shān and Chá Huā mated frequently, Chá Huā had yet to lay a single egg, and so the couple had no hatchlings of their own. Franklin felt sorry for the pair, and asked if he could stay with them and be their adopted "hatchling", at least until they had some of their own. For in tea dragon culture, it was sad household, indeed, that wasn't brimming with hatchlings! If their son could bring Bái Shān and Chá Huā happiness, then the good-hearted tea dragons were proud and happy to share him.
The only thing they asked in return was that Franklin be allowed to come back to Yunnan once a year for the annual Nǎi Nǎi Lóng Jié, or "Grandmother Dragon Festival". As Jake explained it to Jenkins, the festival was basically a family reunion, and since virtually every tea dragon was related by either blood or marriage, it was a gigantic, raucous gathering that lasted for two weeks every August. Bái Shān and Chá Huā were even invited to attend this year's gathering so that the entire family could meet them.
Jenkins stopped writing and took a sip of his tea. After setting the cup down, he reached up to give his little friend a gentle scratch behind his ear, and Franklin sighed with contentment. The immortal picked up his quill to continue writing, but paused a moment. He remembered a time just a few short years ago when he thought the arrival of the new Librarians was nothing more than a nuisance and a disruption of his nice, quiet, isolated life. Now, thanks to them, he found himself with a family that included a beautiful, loving wife; two young men who were more like sons to him; a woman who was a sister in arms. And now a tea dragon that brought a family of literally thousands into his life!
Jenkins chuckled softly to himself and went back to his writing, simply enjoying the fact that his heart was now full to brimming of happiness.
AN: Thanks for reading! Written for the Parents prompt of Librarians Prompt Month 2019. I had to use Google translate for the Chinese parts, so please forgive me if something's not accurate!