Shin glanced up at the slap of wood against wood, as startled at his unexpected guest as the other man obviously was.
“S-sorry,” the younger man said, Shin's ear catching the extra sibilance most wouldn't have noticed. He let his eyes switch, almost smiling at the surprise that flashed across the much younger dragon-hybrid's face.
“Oh, did he not tell you before ... Takemasa-kun, right?”
“R-right ... I mean no ... I mean ... what?”
“Relax,” Shin scolded gently, pouring out a second cup of tea for his guest. “Issama's out for the afternoon, is there something you need help with? Or were you just looking for a quiet place?”
“Oh, it's, um, I didn't mean to disturb you, senpai,” the green-haired dragon said, carefully taking a seat. “Did he, um, say when he would be back?”
“No, but then I didn't ask,” Shin said, smiling gently.
“Oh, well, um, thank you for the tea, senpai, but I think –.”
Before Takemasa could finish his sentence, Shin rested a hand on top of his, freezing the younger man in place.
“Take-kun, I know I'm not Issama, but I still might be able to help. Dragons stick together, yeah?”
Those seemed to be the exact right words. Or maybe the exact wrong ones, Takemasa deflating and dropping his head to the table. Worried, Shin eased closer, carding fingers through green and black strands. The whimper that elicited was hardly reassuring.
“I ran out of the pills he gave me,” the young dragon mumbled. “I haven't been able to sleep since, not well anyway. They were special, I'm not sure how exactly, but nothing else works.”
Shin glanced outside. A warm summer day with only a handful of puffy clouds, almost perfect for sunning.
“Do you have somewhere you have to be soon?” he asked, tidying up his notes and getting to his feet.
“N-not, uh, not until evening, why?”
“If you haven't slept in a few days ... come sun with me,” he said, walking over to the parted shouji. Shin could almost taste Takemasa's hesitation as he stepped out onto the nure'en.
“Issama's walls are warded, no one will see anything they shouldn't. Unless you'd rather the tea house?”
“Tea house?” Takemasa echoed, his curiosity propelling him forward. “I didn't know he even had a tea house, I've never seen it.”
“You have to know where to look,” Shin said with a small smile. Taking Takemasa's hand, he led the younger man across the yard and through the portal that linked to the other dimension where Isshi kept his tea house. The perpetual late spring weather was cooler than Gunma's summer heat, but perhaps more importantly, the clearing was more than large enough for Shin's true form with no risk to either the tea house or the garden. Dropping Takemasa's hand, he stepped clear and then swiftly make the mental transition from human to dragon. And smiled at the surprised gasp from his companion.
“Share in the sunlight with me?” he rumbled.
“Y-you ... you're a doragon!”
“All my life,” Shin confirmed with a slight nod. He watched as Takemasa hesitated for only a moment more before shifting into a beautiful green boa, only tiny in comparison because Shin himself was now so large. A coaxing thrum and the boa slithered up his foreleg, making his way up over his shoulder and between his wings.
“Sleep, cousin,” Shin soothed. “You're quite safe here, I promise.”
He could feel the uncertainty in the flicking of Takemasa's tongue, the restless way he kept moving his head. So he kept humming for him, a soothing lullaby from the old days, until he finally felt the young snake fall asleep. They would stay here for awhile and perhaps once Takemasa was better rested they would be able to talk about why he wasn't able to sleep without help. Until then, Shin would make sure his dreams were undisturbed.
Inasmuch as he distinctly remembered falling asleep in his snake form, in Isshi's secret garden, on top of a real live dragon no less, Takemasa was surprised to find himself being shaken awake. By Hiyorin. In their Takasaki hotel room. Was he even awake or was this just another dream?
“Wakey wakey, sunshine,” the bassist teased with his stunning smile. “No wonder you weren't answering my texts. Are you sure you're okay?”
“I ... mm, yeah, just....” Takemasa rolled over onto his back, smacking his lips a little as he tried to force his brain to wake up faster. There, at the back of his mouth, the last traces of tea and spring blossoms and green scales. He was curious if his snake form would be able to tease out more, but if he changed in front of Hiyori, his beloved would fret and worry. And then he would have to explain himself and Hiyori would worry even more. He had already put his precious love through too much of that as it was.
“What's this?” Hiyori asked, rattling a little bottle of pulls. Takemasa sat up almost too quickly, snatching the bottle out of Hiyori's hand. A new bottle with a new label, hand written instead of the printed ones Isshi usually used for him. The handwriting was unfamiliar, but it almost didn't matter, since he already knew all the information on it by heart.
“Just my sleeping pills,” he said, trying not to let on to his surprise at seeing them. “You know how hard it is to get a good night's sleep on the road.”
“That didn't look like a pharmacy label,” Hiyori countered and he could almost smell the worry.
“They're herbal, specially formulated for my, um, physiology,” he said, glancing up to see if the bassist had picked up his implication. Sure, they were alone in a hotel room, but the walls in places like this tended to be paper thin, you never knew who else could be listening. A beat and Hiyori nodded, smiling as he sat down next to him and tucked an arm around his shoulders.
“Sorry, baby, I wasn't trying to pry. But they were sitting right there. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You already do plenty just by being yourself, Hiyorin,” he said with a little shake of his head. “Time for dinner with everybody?”
“If you're sure you're up for it. Or we can do something just the two of us.”
“No, I don't want to worry the others,” he said with another little head shake. “Juju-sama might feel the need to do something. But after dinner ... you, me, and a hot bath, yeah?”
“Sounds good to me,” Hiyori agreed, pressing a loving kiss to his lips before getting up. “And whatever it is that's troubling you ... I love you, Take-chan, nothing's ever going to change that, okay? You can talk to me about anything, always, I promise.”
“I love you, too,” Takemasa murmured, getting up and brushing a kiss to his mate's lips. It wasn't like he didn't believe him, but some things he had to keep to himself still. And Isshi was definitely one of those things. But maybe the next time they had a few days free, he would go looking for Shin again. A Western dragon who lived in Japan? He could hardly even begin to guess what sorts of stories he would have to share. Takemasa wanted to hear them all.