Chapter Thirty-Six: Mal
Home at Last
The sun had set several hours ago, but apparently that didn't mean the temperature was going to drop below un-fucking comfortable Celsius. Sweat trickled down Mal’s spine under his leathers, he thanked fuck he wasn't a ranger in this neck of the woods. Sweat rash on his balls every day would not be something he'd enjoy.
He and Kaden finished getting Nidhogg settled for the night. They would be back first thing in the morning to complete the last leg of their journey. They should hopefully be home by just after lunch.
"Let's get something to eat and call it a night," Kaden said.
"You read my mind."
As much as Mal would have liked to explore Darwin with Kaden by his side, they would have to do it when they weren't getting back from the worst trip of their lives. Yes, everything had turned out okay in the end, but the almost dying on a number of occasions kinda put a bloody big dampener on the whole thing.
They ordered room service and curled into bed not a half hour later. Travelling on the back of a dragon halfway around the world tended to be a little exhausting. Due to the fact they didn't have the luxury of doing it inside a cabin, and because of Kaden’s recovery, they’d taken their time and broken then journey into several legs.
Mal curled himself around Kaden, the sweet smell of his wolf helped to lull him to sleep.
The alarm sounded far too early the next morning. But if they wanted to get home at a reasonable time they had to make a move.
Kaden groaned beside him.
Mal chuckled and patted him on the bum.
"Come on sleepyhead."
"Don't wanna." Kaden sounded like a three year old, it was a little adorable.
"One more leg and we're finally home."
"But, but, but…. Sleep."
"We can sleep in tomorrow, when we have nowhere to go and no one to see. It'll be Sunday."
"I don't like you anymore." Kaden grumped as he slowly pulled the covers back.
Mal eyed his beautiful body.
"Looks like some parts of you like me." Mal waggled his eyes as he reached out a hand.
Kaden groaned. "Perv."
"You love me." Mal teased.
"I do." Mal and Kaden both stilled realising what Kaden had just admitted.
Mal rolled over so Kaden was trapped beneath him.
"You mean it?" he asked as he stared Kaden in the eyes, trying to see down into the man's very soul.
Kaden smiled shyly. "Yeah, I really do. You were easy to fall in love with Mal. I couldn't help myself."
Mal's heart felt like it skipped a beat at Kaden's words. He grinned wickedly. "I may possibly, kinda like you too."
"Oh really," Kaden asked as he laughed, trying to push Mal off him. It was no use he wasn't budging. "Just like?"
"Maybe a little bit more than just like," Mal agreed.
"How much more?" Kaden queried.
"About five percent more."
"Five percent?" Kaden sounded aghast.
Mal laughed as he rolled them over, so Kaden now straddled Mal's hips.
"Okay, I give in, it's a little more than five percent."
Kaden leaned down until their lips were almost touching. "I love you, Mal," he whispered.
"Love you too, Kaden," Mal replied.
Mal closed the distance and kissed his man.
The flight back to Melbourne was uneventful after the declarations of that morning. As the familiar landscapes started to come into view Mal got excited. It was so bloody good to be home. Kaden's arms tightened around Mal's waist as the city loomed up ahead.
"Home," Kaden said through the headset.
Only a few more minutes and they would be on the ground again, and this time for good.
Mal could even feel Nidhogg's excitement at being home as the dragon's speed increased.
Ten minutes later they were descending into the field outside the stalls that housed the Ranger's dragons. He could actually see his team all standing around, waiting for them to touch down.
Someone must have spotted them on the outskirts of town and sent word ahead. Nidhogg wasn't exactly inconspicuous.
Nidhogg's landing was smooth, just like always. Moments later they were unbuckled and off the dragon. His team stepped forward to great not only Mal, but Nidhogg as well.
"Good to have you back, finally," Hank said, as he pulled Mal into a fierce hug, they exchanged back slaps, before Nova pulled him away from Hank and into a bone crushing hug of her own.
Mal laughed as he made it through everyone. Nidhogg wasn't without his fair share of attention as well. Mal noticed Kaden standing back awkwardly while they all greeted one another. He grabbed Kaden's hand and pulled him up close until he could wrap an arm around his waist.
"Guys, this is Kaden, my boyfriend," Mal couldn't help but notice the red tinting to Kaden's cheeks when he said boyfriend. "Kaden, this is my team."
Greetings were exchanged and questions were fired rapidly at them as to where they'd been and why Mal had his boyfriend with him on the trip.
They answered what they could, sticking to the story Akemi had given them. Mal didn't like lying to his team, but this wasn't exactly something he could just share.
They all set to helping unload Nidhogg and get him back in the stable with the rest of his family.
Hank hung back as they others started to make their way to the stable. He grabbed Mal's arm and pulled him back too, until there was a decent distance between them and the others, enough so they could talk in peace.
"You took off outta here like a bat outta hell nearly six weeks ago mate," Hank said, his expression not giving anything away.
"Hank…." Mal started only to be interrupted by Hank holding up his hand for him to stop.
"I'm not going to delve, you obviously can't say, otherwise you would have said something before. I just have two questions."
Mal nodded hesitantly.
"Did you manage to find the ones responsible for your sister's death?" he asked quietly.
Mal took a deep breath, then slowly nodded.
"That's great news. And secondly, you said something you found affected us all. Are we safe? Because if not, I need to know."
"We're safe." Mal didn't add for now, even though he really wasn't sure how long they would be safe for. He trusted Akemi to keep her word to them. It was others he didn't trust.
Hank heaved a giant sigh and then grinned. "That's great news. Now, let’s get you settled back in so you can join the team again. We've missed you!"
"Missed you guys too."
Hank slung his arm around Mal's shoulders, Mal placed his around Hank's waist, and caught back up with their team. Mal told them all about the bad practices at the Zurich hanger and some of the training mishaps that the Zurich Rangers had done as they were only a new team.
By the time they got Nidhogg back in with his family and all the gear stowed away, Mal had the entire team in stitches, explaining how one of the guys hadn’t tightened his saddle straps nearly tight enough and the damn thing had shifted during a flying manoeuvre Mal had been trying to teach them. The poor guy had found himself hanging upside down under the dragon's belly. Had been interesting trying to get the dragon to land without injuring the Ranger.
Mal woke slowly the following morning. Kaden snuggled up into the bed next him. It felt amazing to be in his own bed once again. This was the first time Kaden had been in his bed, and Mal sure as shit hoped it wasn't the last.
They had a lot to discuss and work out now that they were home. All of that could wait for another day though.
Kaden's sleepy eyes slowly opened as Mal continued to lie there, watching the man sleep like a complete stalker. Kaden smiled gently, his eyes closing again of their own accord.
"Hmmmm. Morning," Kaden whispered.
"Morning beautiful," Mal replied.
"Ohhh. I could get used to that." Kaden opened his eyes again, Mal could see the twinkle in them.
"I sure hope so."
Kaden leaned in and placed a kiss to Mal's naked chest. "So, now that we're home, and there aren't any battles for us to run off and fight what did you have on the agenda for today?"
Mal paused for a moment, took a deep breath and then spoke. "There's actually something I'd like to do today."
"Okay," Kaden moved so he was leaning up on one elbow, better to see Mal.
"I'd really like it if you'd agree to come with me."
"Anywhere," Kaden agreed automatically. Mal pulled Kaden in for a kiss, thanking him for his support.
They walked across the grass, Kaden's hand tightly gripped in Mal's left. In his right, he held a bouquet of flowers.
They stopped in front of a headstone that read Anya Demire, beloved daughter and sister. The last time Mal had been here, was when they'd lowered his sister into the ground and covered her coffin with dirt. Now a lush carpet of grass covered her final resting place.
Mal kneeled down and laid the flowers at the base of her headstone.
"Hey sis," he said quietly. Mal kissed his fingers and pressed them against her name on the headstone. He then reached back and pulled Kaden up next to him. "There's someone I'd like you to meet, this is Kaden, and without him I wouldn't have been able to track down the ones responsible for you being here."
Kaden kneeled down next to him. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you. Your brother has told me so many things about you."
Mal leaned over a placed a kiss to Kaden's cheek before turning back to his sister's grave. "We did it, Anya. We got the people responsible and made sure this wouldn't happen to anyone else."
Mal sat silently and cried for a time, missing his sister, more than ever. Kaden just sat next to him and held him as he broke down. When the tears finally dried up Mal took a deep breath.
"Thanks," he said.
"You ready to go?"
"Whenever you are."
"Let's get out of here and go find some lunch."
They stood, ready to go.
"Just one thing," Kaden said and he turned back to Anya's headstone. He bent down and whispered loud enough that Mal could easily hear him. "I really wish I could have known you when you were alive, I think we would have been great friends. 'Cos let’s face it, those sex toys of yours were pretty amazing and may have given me an idea or two of my own."
Kaden winked, making sure he was glancing Mal's way when he did it.
Mal laughed and shook his head. He looked forward to testing out Kaden's ideas in the near future.