Chapter Thirty-Four: Mal
Back Together Again
Every now and then Kaden thought he heard something, someone whispering to him, but it always just seemed to be that little bit out of reach. Then he'd fall back into the darkness and float for a time. Until it came again.
The sound was coming more and more often, Kaden sure there was something, if he could just get to the surface and see. He couldn't make out what the noise was, everything seemed to be muffled like his head had been covered in bubble wrap and then placed underwater.
The dark seemed to be growing lighter as Kaden struggled to find his way out of it. Warmth surrounded him, his right hand held tightly against something. His fingers twitched, light finally shining through the inky blackness he'd been suspended in.
With that one little movement, Kaden's body came to life, along with all the pain that went with being shot in the abdomen.
The hand holding his tightened for a fraction of a second before it went back to its normal grip. Kaden could make out the rustling of clothes and the scraping of rubber stopped chair legs against tiles.
"Kaden….Kaden? Can you hear me?" the frantic voice asked.
Still fighting his way to the surface all Kaden could do was groan. His body ached. He felt like there was a massive bloody elephant sitting on his chest.
"Kaden? Could you open those beautiful eyes of yours please?" He knew that voice. Might even love that voice. At the very least Kaden knew he'd do just about anything the owner of that voice asked of him. And opening his eyes was such a small thing really.
It shouldn't have been as hard as it was to follow a simple request. But Kaden struggled, time ticking by as he tried to fight his way out of whatever hell had been keeping him.
He could feel the rough calluses of the hand holding his own, sharp little pieces of skin scratching against his own soft hands. Kaden liked those hands, they were big and strong and when they touched Kaden his body went up in flames.
Kaden groaned, both in frustration and pain.
"It's okay. Take your time. I'm here, not leaving you," that deep, wonderful voice said, the words slowly filtering into Kaden's mind.
The darkness had lightened to more of a muted grey. It reminded Kaden of Melbourne, when the city would be covered as far as the eye could see in a blanket of clouds. Thankfully it wasn't cold where he was like it usually was in Melbourne when that happened.
Lifting his eyelids felt like the hardest thing Kaden had ever done in his bloody life. The sudden brightness of the room hurt and he quickly shut them again.
He heard a rumbling chuckle beside him, before a hand smoothed through his hair and a tender kiss was placed on his forehead. "I'll go dim the lights for you."
Kaden felt the loss of Mal's hand as soon as the man walked away.
The bright lights above him slowly gentled to a muted glow. By the time Kaden had managed to blink open his eyes again Mal was back at his side, his larger hand once again holding Kaden's.
"Hey you," Mal said gently as he leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Kaden's lips. His skin tingled as it came into contact with Mal's. He wanted to lick his lips once Mal pulled away, so he could gather every last taste of the man and savour it, but he was too exhausted.
"Hey," Kaden tried to respond, the sound coming out more like a croak than any intelligible word. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Hey."
Mal beamed at him, before his expression faded. "You had me bloody worried for a time there."
"Sorry," Kaden rasped.
"Not your fault." Mal lifted Kaden's hand and kissed the back, the beeping of all the monitors was slowly lulling Kaden's eyes closed again. "Sleep, we'll talk again when you wake up."
"Stay?" The word slurred as Kaden, too exhausted to stay awake, slowly sunk back into the oblivion of sleep.
"I'm not going anywhere. Promise."
"Mmmm." Kaden curled up and allowed the darkness to take him.
Kaden was finally able to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, and the nurses had even had him out of bed earlier that day. Mal had taken Kaden's arm in his so his wolf could use him to lean on. The poor guy had been moving so slowly and gingerly Mal had just wanted to pick Kaden up and carry him where he wanted to go.
But the look of accomplishment when they made it to the bathroom and Kaden was able to relieve himself properly for the first time in days had Mal pulling back his instincts.
Now Kaden was once again sleeping, and Mal had made his way out to the dragon pens they had at the rear of the castle. Akemi had very generously had Nidhogg transported from the hangar in Zurich to the castle for him.
The signs of the battle that had so recently taken place within the walls of the castle were still there. Ripped and broken paintings hung on the wall, bullet holes scattered the brickwork, gouges from blades littered the various wooden rails and furniture.
People scurried about trying to put the castle back to rights, but it would take more than a couple of days to undo the damage that had been done in that one afternoon.
His dragon though could be a stubborn bugger at times. Like now.
Mal stood in the doorway to Nidhogg's stall. His dragon lay on his padded bedding, head turned away from Mal.
"Come on, old buddy, old pal. Don't be like that! I'm sorry, okay!"
Nidhogg snorted, a puff of smoke releasing from his nostrils. Mal would have to take care. He wasn't wearing his leathers at the moment and didn't really feel like being made extra crispy by his dragon.
"I didn't mean to leave you behind and go gallivanting off to mysterious castles without you." Mal took a couple of cautious steps inside the stall.
"If it makes you feel any better, I missed you... Could have really done with your help as well."
Nidhogg continued ignoring him. Mal stepped up beside his friend and placed his hand on Nidhogg's beautiful acrylic blue neck. The dragon shuddered under his touch and Mal grinned.
"Yeah, you missed me too didn't you?" Mal stroked the scales in long sweeping motions down Nidhogg's neck. It didn't take long before Nidhogg uncurled himself and faced Mal.
"There you are! You beautiful boy," Mal said as he scratched the scales between Nidhogg's eyes, a particularly favourite spot on his dragon. Nidhogg closed his eyes and a deep rumble could be heard, filling the entire room.
"Yeah, you like that don't you. Missed this, haven't you?" he asked softly as he continued trying to get back in his dragon's good books.
"Is he... purring?" a voice asked from behind him. Mal turned, not taking his hands from his dragon and spied Akemi in the entrance to the stall.
Mal grinned wickedly at her, then winked.
"I'd like to talk to you if you're not busy," she told him. Warily eyeing Nidhogg.
"You can talk now if you'd like. Can't guarantee I'll be paying attention though. This guy takes up a lot of my concentration." He moved his scratching to under Nidhogg's jaw, the rumbling in the room intensified and Akemi took an involuntary step back.
"I… ah… I can see you two need some time to yourselves. I'll just go wait out here for you." Mal saw her point towards the office at the end of the corridor then quickly disappeared from sight.
"Anyone would think she thought you were about to attack and eat her," Mal said, as he continued showing his dragon his love. "You wouldn't do that would you. Especially to a Kitsune. Too many tails, too much fur and not enough meat! You like cows don't you boy. A steak man, you and me. Nothing but the best for us."
His dragon had no idea what the hell Mal was saying, but that was okay. They communicated in other ways. And that was just fine with him.
An hour or so later, Mal went searching for Akemi. He had a feeling he knew what she wanted to talk to him about. Switzerland was nice and all, but Australia was home.