The Assassin

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Fourteen

Fourteen

On a rainy morning, two days later, Kian woke to child whispers over his head. He kept his eyes closed, listening to a fascinating conversation.

“Look, his eyes look like Aunt Anika’s kitty,” a little boy’s voice said.

“He doesn’t have fur,” a girl’s voice countered.

“But his hair is soft like Aunt Anika’s cat,” the boy argued.

“He’s not a cat, silly,” she said.

Small fingers touched his hair, and Kian stole a glance under his eyelashes to see Zena take her brother’s hand away from Kian’s hair.

“We’re not supposed to wake him. Uncle Daven said he needed lots of sleep to heal.”

“Is he hurt?” Aram asked. “Can we blow on his cut like Mommy does on my cut, to make him feel better?”

“We can ask Uncle Daven,” Zena said, her tone too somber.

The door opened and Kian listened as heels clicked on the wood floor, coming to the bed. The kids scrambled off and he bit his lip to bite off a moan when a knee pressed into his bruised side.

“Mommy,” Aram said, “Uncle Daven’s friend looks like a sleeping kitty.”

Naomi chuckled.

“Does he now?”

“Yep, I know because Aunt Anika let me hold her cat when it was sleeping. His hair is soft too.”

“You petted him?” Naomi asked, her voice filled with just the right amount of excitement to encourage Aram.

“Yes,” Aram said. “But we did it carefully because Uncle Daven said he needs to rest.”

“Yes, he does,” Naomi said, in a stage whisper. “Why don’t you go downstairs and see what Uncle Daven has for you in the kitchen? I’ll take over here.”

“Will you make him feel better, Mommy?” Zena asked. “He has a huge bandage on his head.”

“I’ll definitely try,” Naomi promised. “Go on now. There might be oatmeal cookies in the kitchen.”

Kian opened his eyes in time to see the kids run out of his bedroom, excited. They closed the door slowly. Kian returned his gaze to Naomi who stood a few feet away watching him.

“Hi.” Her gaze shifted to the medical equipment on the left side of the bed, and she winced. “I’m sorry. They sneaked up here before I could stop them. They have been curious about you since we came in yesterday.”

Kian hadn’t heard them come in. He needed to start working on staying alert. This weakness annoyed him.

“Can I sit with you for a while?” Naomi asked.

She clenched her fingers tight, not moving, waiting for his consent.

“Sure,” Kian said, nodding to the chair Daven kept on the right side of his bed.

Kian forced his body to shift, so that he could sit up. Pain danced across his abdomen and he gritted his teeth, unable to fight the soft moan.

“I can help,” Naomi said, leaning over him to press the buttons on his bed. His head came up slowly, and then his feet. “Is that good?”

The scent of spring flowers filled his nostrils, and he looked into warm brown eyes, feeling like a sardine just woken up in a delicatessen store.

“Don’t strain your body,” Naomi said, adjusting the covers around him. “Daven will worry too much. He’s not had a goodnight’s sleep since you’ve been sick.”

Naomi finished with his covers and sat on the chair beside his bed. She stared at her hands on her lap. A frown danced on her smooth forehead, and he remembered seeing it that last night when Daven told her he was leaving.

She worried too.

“I’m sorry the kids must have woken you up,” Naomi said after a while.

“I didn’t mind it. Their conversation was worth it.” Kian smiled. “Aram called me a cat.”

Naomi chuckled.

“He really likes cats. I feel terrible every time I tell him no we can’t get one.”

“Why can’t you?” Kian asked, thinking that Aram should get a cat if he wanted one so much.

“Because Zena is allergic,” Naomi said with a sigh.

Kian stared at Naomi, seeing the sadness in her eyes because she wanted to give Aram a cat, but couldn’t because of Zena.

“You are a great mother, aren’t you?”

Naomi held his gaze.

“I try to be. I’m not sure it always works,” Naomi said with a self-conscious smile. “But I guess that’s part of the journey, isn’t it?”

Kian could only stare at her, never having known a woman like Naomi. He had no idea what a mother should be, he never had one, never experienced the warmth a mother could give.

Naomi’s love for her children clung to her skin, shone in her eyes, in her very words. It was beautiful to see, was part of the reason Daven’s family fascinated him.

“I want to thank you for what you did for Daven,” Naomi said. “I—”

She started then broke off looking away, but not before Kian saw the sheen of tears in her eyes.

“I haven’t always understood why he needed to go to dangerous places. I worried so much sometimes I thought I would go mad. Then he met you and—”

She looked at him, her gaze unreadable, even for him who could see beyond any mask.

“Thank you for bringing Daven back home,” Naomi concluded. “That’s all I can say. But, allow me to ask one question, will you give me an answer?”

Kian blinked at the fire in her eyes.

“Will you stay, Kian?” Naomi asked, not giving him a chance to accept or deny her request.

“Stay?”

“With Daven,” Naomi elaborated, her gaze unrelenting. “Will you stay with him?”

Kian held her gaze, and felt relief flood him when he finally read nothing more than concern for Daven. Naomi’s heart was simple. She loved her family and wanted them happy.

How refreshing.

“I will,” Kian answered her, “for as long as he will have me.”

When her gaze filled with doubt, he smiled.

“I don’t lie.”

“Except once,” Daven said, making both Naomi and Kian look toward the door.

Daven carried a tray laden with breakfast, which he brought to the bed. Naomi stood to help him.

“When did Kian lie to you?” Naomi asked Daven, a frown creasing her smooth forehead.

Daven perched on the bed, arranging the side table with the tray over Kian’s lap. Naomi helped uncover the plates and the three mugs Daven had brought up.

“When did you lie to me?” Daven asked, meeting Kian’s gaze with a small smile.

Kian reached for the closest mug of coffee, but Daven took his hand hostage.

“No coffee for you, my love,” Daven chided.

“You would torture me this way?” Kian asked, taking in the scent of coffee, craving it.

“You still have a few more days,” Daven said, leaning over the bed tray to kiss Kian’s pout. “I’ll make you a whole pot when you can have coffee again.”

Kian sighed, and reached for the mug of green tea.

“I lied to you the afternoon we spent on the canal,” Kian said, sipping the hot liquid.

The taste was bearable.

“Why?” Naomi asked, taking the mug of coffee Kian had reached for. She sat and took an appreciative taste, giving him a smile full of mischief.

Kian placed the mug of green tea on the tray, meeting Daven’s knowing gaze.

“You know why,” Kian said, looking into green eyes he had imagined he would never see again.

Daven paused in the act of stirring sugar into his coffee.

“Kian didn’t want me to know how much danger he was walking into,” Daven said, holding Kian’s gaze. “He promised we would have plenty of time later to discuss his father, but I swear if I hadn’t gone after him, we would have none.”

“Is that so?” Kian asked, with a small smile, though his heart still jumped to his throat at the memory of Daven showing up at his grandfather’s compound.

Minutes earlier and Seiko might have ended Daven’s existence. Kian doubted the world would have survived the demon he would have become then.

Naomi sat back in her seat, finally relaxing.

“Whatever the case, I’m glad you’re both home. Maybe one day you’ll tell me the whole story?”

Kian sipped his green tea, when Daven glanced at Naomi.

“One day,” Daven said. “Thank you for coming to New York, Naomi. With Kian held up in bed, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get to Oakland.”

“One more day of your calls, and I would have come to find you myself,” Naomi said, giving Kian a wink. “Anyway, it’s been nice getting out of Oakland. The kids and I think of it as a fun trip. They’re excited to meet their grandparents. We’ve stayed away from them too long.”

“Dad will stop by this afternoon,” Daven said, handing Kian a fork for his fruit salad. “Mom will come later for dinner. She’s promised to cook. Kian, you’ll love her rice and stew.”

“Do you think I can make her sneak me coffee?” Kian asked, chewing on a mango slice.

Daven laughed, and Naomi held out her cup.

“If you sweet talk me, I might let you sip mine.”

“Stop encouraging him,” Daven glared at Naomi.

Naomi shared a secret smile with Kian just as the kids came running in, their cheeks flushed with excitement.

Daven lifted up Zena, while Aram climbed onto Naomi’s lap. Aram held an oatmeal cookie, and his cheeks were dusted with crumbs. Naomi wiped his mouth with her palm.

“I see you found the cookies,” Naomi said, smacking her lips on Aram’s messy ones.

“Uncle Daven, is Uncle Kian feeling better now?” Zena asked, meeting Kian’s gaze, hers full of curiosity, his wary of the purity and innocence in her eyes.

“He will be as soon as he finishes the fruits on his plate,” Daven said. “Wanna help Uncle Kian eat his fruit?”

“Can I?” Zena asked.

Kian met Daven’s gaze.

Zena shifted on Daven’s lap, moving closer to Kian, until she could pick up Kian’s fork. She stabbed a grape and brought the fruit to Kian’s lips, her expression one of pure concentration.

Kian took the fruit into his mouth and as the sweet juices burst in his mouth, his gaze held Zena’s and wonder bloomed when she gifted him with a wide, pleased, toothless smile. When she quickly stabbed a piece of mango and brought it to his mouth, Kian ate the fruit and met Daven’s knowing gaze.

His heart in a shaky, mushy mess, Kian knew this was the most precious gift Daven had ever given him.

At the start, he had stood on the outside watching Daven, Naomi and these two children laugh and talk in a warm kitchen in Oakland. He remembered jealousy filling him at their bond, wanting to know what it felt like to be part of something so…unreal.

Now, here he was, tentatively part of that bond, and damn he wanted it.

He needed this bond.

Kian felt tears sting the back of his eyes. He looked away from Daven, turning to the windows and taking in a deep breath.

“Are you still interested in opening a private practice?” Naomi asked Daven, her tone conversational. “The properties I checked might be off the market now, but we can still look.”

“I’m no longer alone,” Daven said, making Kian turn to him in surprise. “My future now includes Kian, Naomi. Would you be upset if we didn’t end up in Oakland with you?”

“Daven?” Kian started, shocked by this decision. Daven deserved to stay close to his family. “I—”

“You promised me,” Daven said, not giving him a chance to protest. “I go wherever you go. You go where I go.”

Kian wanted to protest, but instead, the need to hold on to Daven grew tighter, and all he could feel was hope.

“Of course,” Naomi said, drawing Kian’s gaze. “Kian should be with you, Daven.”

Kian ate the last of his fruit salad, then took Zena’s hand when she placed the fork in his empty bowl.

“Thank you, Zena-chan.”

Kian pressed a kiss on her wrist.

“Get better faster,” Zena said, reaching up to rub her palm on Kian’s jaw.

Yes, Kian thought, meeting Daven’s gaze.

He wanted to keep this precious gift, wanted it so very much he could barely breathe.

***

Despite his desires, his past seemed like a wild tangled weed that would not disappear no matter how many times he cut it down. Stuck in his bed, because standing was murder to his abdomen, Kian watched Killian Noland, his gaze closed off, hiding his apprehension.

Killian paced the length of his bed. Two men who had accompanied him sat in the chairs Daven had dragged in by the door.

Daven sat next to Kian, holding Kian’s right hand. His right thumb rubbing over Kian’s skin.

Nervous energy, Kian thought, turning over his hand so that his fingers closed over Daven’s.

“I apologize for meeting you in this state,” Kian started, bowing his head slightly. He respected Killian Noland. “I had hoped to meet you in better circumstances.”

“Kian, you have no reason to apologize,” Killian said, his tone warm, stopping at the foot of Kian’s bed to meet his gaze. “You saved my son.”

“From danger brought on by my blood,” Kian said, holding Killian’s gaze.

Killian nodded in agreement.

“Seiko Raja was an ambitious man. He lived for power, and wealth.”

“I know what my grandfather was,” Kian stated.

Kian also knew what he was, and that Killian’s approval mattered to him. He needed Killian to accept his presence beside Daven.

Killian lifted the chain Kian left under Daven’s care.

Kian’s gaze fixed on the small silver cube. Taking in a deep breath, he started to let go of Daven’s hand, but Daven wouldn’t allow him.

“When Daven handed me this small cube, it felt as though I’ve come full circle,” Killian said.

“Sir?” Kian asked.

“What is that thing?” Daven asked, pointing at the chain. “And Dad, stop treating Kian like a stranger. You’re definitely going to see him until the day you die, so stop being so darned cautious.”

“Don’t be so hard on your old man,” Killian chuckled. “I’m nervous, Daven.”

“Why the hell would you be nervous?” Daven asked.

Kian stared at their clasped hands, biting back a smile. Relief flooding him at the fact that Killian had accessed the small cube.

“Four years ago,” Killian said. “A delivery man brought an envelope to my office, and would not allow anyone but me to sign for it. When I opened the envelope, I found pictures of a young woman, with a date.”

Kian kept his gaze on his lap where he tangled his fingers with Daven over and over.

“The note in the pictures said to use my connections to save her,” Killian continued. “I was baffled. I was going to ignore the envelope, but then curiosity had me sending these two gentlemen to investigate, and sure enough…”

“Sure enough what?” Daven asked, with a frown.

“The woman in question was Silvia Garth. She was a researcher working for a pharmaceutical company who wanted to reveal details on a killer cancer drug. The company wanted to kill her to silence her. The date on the picture stated the date of her supposed death. We managed to save her from three attempts before the culprits were caught.”

Killian shook his head.

“It was a very bizarre investigation. There would have been no way to know her life was in danger without the information in the envelope. When we helped her, I thought it would end there.”

Killian came around to perch on the edge of the bed.

“But then, a month later, another envelope appeared, this one belonged to a man living in London. The trend continued, forcing me to jump into a security business I hadn’t planned on.”

Daven frowned, his gaze moving to the two men in the room with them.

“What do the envelopes have to do with the cube?” Daven asked.

Kian looked up when Killian didn’t answer Daven’s question to find Killian smiling at him.

“I thought your boyfriend would answer that question better,” Killian said.

Daven squeezed his hand, turning inquisitive green eyes on him. That they matched Killian’s was interesting. Looking at Killian, Kian felt as though he was seeing the future, how elegant Daven would age.

Knowing truth was best, Kian turned to Daven.

“You were right about my lie in Amsterdam,” Kian told Daven. “I have always lived life not expecting the future. The present has always been so rife with danger and uncertainty. It seemed stupid to plan for tomorrow. I wanted to keep you safe, Daven. The only person I ever trusted long enough was your father, Killian Noland.”

Daven blinked.

“You know my father?”

“I knew of him. First, you have to understand, there aren’t that many people who could stand up to my grandfather. When Seiko asked for assistance, he got it, or bulldozed his way into getting it. It was the reason he was so powerful. People were afraid of him, so they allowed him everything. Your father is the only man I knew who ever stood up to my grandfather, and lived.”

Daven’s gaze shifted to Killian who hadn’t moved from his perch on Kian’s bed.

“I sent the envelopes to your father. He is the only one I could trust to help the souls I could save from Raja Securities. But everything must come at a price,” Kian said, meeting Killian’s gaze. “The more your father helped, the more curious he got about the source of the envelopes and he has been investigating my identity for as long as he has received my envelopes.”

“I could find nothing on you,” Killian said, with a sigh. “Not a name, not a picture.”

“Just a blurred picture of my back from a surveillance camera,” Kian said.

Killian’s gaze widened.

“How did you know about that?”

“I know many things,” Kian answered. His gaze shifted to the two men Killian had brought with him. “Those two are not here to help you explain the cube. You’re wary of me.”

“You might be down, but I don’t believe you’re helpless,” Killian said, his tone matching Kian’s. “The people you have forced me to deal with are not gentle, or good. We have drawn unnecessary attention to our activities, and I’ve been worried for my family’s safety.”

“You should be, my grandfather had many friends. The only real protection from them is not to exist. My activities in Japan will have placed you in a frightening position. My grandfather’s friends will think your strange agency brought Raja Securities down. You’re glowing in the dark, Mr. Noland,” Kian said. “I should apologize for that but I won’t. Part of the reason I put you on the spot was because of your position in the Wagon-Colt Consortium.”

“Why?” Killian asked.

“As I said, my grandfather had many friends. You might have refused to invest in Raja Securities, but the money tied in your consortium did,” Kian said. “My grandfather invested heavily in keeping you in the dark. When Raja Securities approached me with your son’s name on the contract list, I knew that Seiko was working on finding a way to get to you.”

“Are you saying I helped fund a sinister organization?” Killian asked, displeasure on his face.

“In a roundabout way,” Kian answered. “I spent years tracing Raja Securities money. When I found the consortium, I imagined you were part of my grandfather’s inner circle. The envelopes were a test. When you saved the first woman I knew I could trust you.”

Killian got off the bed.

“Why didn’t you tell me my son was in danger?” Killian asked. “Why didn’t you trust me to help him?”

Kian clutched Daven’s hand.

“Had you decided to step out of the shadows as you would have to help Daven, they would have killed you both. You would have left Raja Securities to take over your investments. So, I thought I should save Daven on your behalf, and went to Oakland myself.”

Killian met Kian’s gaze.

“Then why did you give me the silver cube?”

“You’re principled, unshakable. What I give you will give you the protection you are desperate for,” Kian said.

“Protection?” Daven asked. “I don’t understand.”

“My grandfather and his cronies used the consortium’s money to build a very secure network across the globe,” Kian said, sadness weighing on him

His grandfather’s death while deserved meant he had no blood relative left. Taking in a deep breath, Kian met Killian’s gaze.

“I have destroyed the dark side of Raja Securities. However, there are many secondary employees facing an uncertain future,” Kian said, exhausted by the thought of his legacy. “The innocent ones should be saved, don’t you think?”

“You have handed me the key to take over Raja Securities,” Killian said in surprise.

Daven shook his head, clearly in denial.

“Daven, I am not asking your father to save Raja Securities, but help people who were dragged into a machine they can’t control. The company is done, but you can regroup its vast resources and rename it.”

“You called the cube a gift,” Daven said, looking at his father.

“Yes,” Killian said. “The resources Kian is offering allow us to move easier. I can protect my people. Of course, it would be a tremendous help if Kian agreed to join us…”

“No.” Daven’s answer offered no room for argument. “Absolutely not.”

“Daven,” Kian started.

Daven turned angry eyes on him.

“I just got you out of hell, now you want to go back?”

“I didn’t say I was going back,” Kian said, still holding Daven’s hand. “There are things—”

“I will not listen to you talk yourself into more danger,” Daven said, glaring at him. Daven turned to his father. “You can’t have him.”

Killian blinked.

“I’m only asking him for help,” Killian said.

“And he won’t say no because, contrary to what everyone sees, Kian has an impossibly soft heart.”

Daven stood, letting go of Kian’s hand. He walked to the door, and opened it.

“What are you doing?” Killian asked.

“Kian’s been up all morning, he needs rest. I think you should leave.”

“Daven,” Kian started to protest.

“Dad, please,” Daven said, his tone pleading. “You got what you wanted.”

Killian sighed and reached over to take Kian’s right hand in a warm handshake.

“I’m happy you’re awake, young man,” Killian said, his gaze filled with warmth. Kian could see where Daven got his gentle side.

“Why don’t we shelve this discussion until later, when you’re feeling better? For now, I’ll work on securing what you’ve entrusted to me.”

“Don’t you need something from me now?” Kian asked, his brow raised, his gaze shifted to the two men on the couch.

“What now?” Daven demanded from the door.

Killian gave Daven an unreadable glance, and then nodded to the two men. One of them stood, taking a briefcase from the floor. He opened it and brought it to Kian’s bed.

Curiosity had Daven moving back to Kian’s bed. Kian took the silver cube from Killian, and inserted it into the small slot on the specialized laptop inside the briefcase. Kian watched the flow of data on the screen, and an authorization screen appeared.

Kian smiled at Killian.

“Had I not made it alive, you would have needed to find my body for this.”

“I’m fully aware,” Killian said.

Kian leaned close to the screen for the iris scanner, once the scanner read his right eye, authorization progressed into a fingerprint scanner. Wiping his right palm on the covers, Kian placed his palm on the screen, unlocking the majority of resources for Killian’s use. Sitting back, Kian took out the cube and closed the briefcase.

“One more thing,” Kian told Killian. “If you’ll ask these gentlemen to leave the room.”

The two men took the briefcase with them, closing the door behind them.

Kian studied the silver cube on his palm. Crafting it had brought him out of the shadows, and led him to Kuala Lampur where Yui found him. That felt like a lifetime away.

“Hand me a needle,” Kian told Daven.

“What for?” Daven asked, moving around the bed to the medical cart in the corner. He found a new syringe and held it hostage, meeting Kian’s gaze.

“Your father needs my blood,” Kian said.

“Blood?” Daven turned to Killian. “Is this what your business includes now? Blood?”

“Don’t be angry with your father,” Kian said, placing his left hand on Daven’s fisted hand. “He has to handle the worst because of me.”

Kian met tortured green eyes, his own pleading.

Daven gave a soft sigh, and handed the syringe to Kian.

Kian took the syringe needle and pressed it into the bottom of the cube. A small needle slid out of the side of the cube. The prick on his palm was immediate, the hidden vial in the cube sucking in a drop of his blood and locking it into the cube. Handing back the syringe to Daven, Kian held out the silver cube to Killian.

“In the data I sent you, there is the location of an obscure farm in Malaysia. You will find a vault in the farmhouse there. The vault door requires the blood in this cube to open otherwise the whole place goes up in flames, apologies for the brutal measures, but they were necessary then. I was securing that vault when Raja Securities found me in Kuala Lampur,” Kian said, thinking that if he hadn’t been there, at that particular time, he would never have known about Daven.

Known to save him, and protect him.

“What is in the vault?” Killian asked.

“The names of the men working with my grandfather in your Wagon-Colt Consortium. The vault is stocked with enough information to get you what you need to bring them under your control,” Kian said. “It will gain you the safety you need.”

“Why don’t you just turn those names in to the authorities?” Daven asked, reaching for Kian’s right hand. He pressed a band-aid into the little wound caused by the needle prick.

“They are—”

Kian started only to have Killian place a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

“The police capture what they can, but there are those beyond the law,” Killian answered. “If the men in the consortium fell, economies could crumble. Instead, we must find a way to clip their wings.”

“Dad,” Daven said, worry in his eyes.

“Your father takes over a very powerful network of information and security. No one will dare come after him for the same reasons my grandfather could never be touched. Under your father’s guidance surely there will be better things coming from it all unlike the darkness my grandfather nurtured.”

“Are you sure I cannot convince—?”

Killian started but Kian stopped him.

“This life of mine,” Kian said, still holding Daven’s hand, for the first time in his life, he spoke from his heart without fear. “I wish to use what’s left of it discovering what life can be beside this man. And I know, no matter how you look at it, I remain deeply flawed, mercilessly damaged, and I have nothing left, not even a name. Still, Mr. Noland, this assassin dares seek your approval…your permission…to stay with the priceless gift that is your son.”

Daven’s fingers tightened on his and Kian felt a lump lodge in his throat. Was he being too presumptuous, refusing to do as Killian wanted, in order to stay with Daven? Was it too selfish?

Too—

“Daven loves you,” Killian said, squeezing Kian’s shoulder. “You make him happy, and that is more than I could ask for. You’re family.”

Kian lifted his head up to meet Killian’s gaze in surprise, warmth washing over him at the simple acceptance.

“Kian, your choices are your own now. Do as you wish,” Killian said, giving him a short nod of assurance. “With what you have given, we should be fine. Daven, I’ll head back now, set all these in motion. Amerie is out grocery shopping for dinner. I’ll be back later to eat her delicious stew, and spoil Aram and Zena.”

Daven started to come around the bed, but Killian stopped him.

“Stay, I’ll show myself out. Kian, get some rest, we’ll talk more, later.”

Killian left the guest bedroom in fast strides, and Kian sat back, relief flooding him. He closed his eyes, unused to the sense of ease. The bed shifted, and there was a feather-soft touch on his lips.

“Open your eyes, Kian Raja,” Daven said.

Kian heeded the soft command. Daven lay on his right side, his arm braced above Kian’s head.

“Your little tirade to my father broke my heart,” Daven said. “That is twice now you’ve confessed and not given me a chance to reply. Do you know how annoying it is?”

Kian smiled.

“I only told him the truth.”

“Yes.” Daven narrowed his gaze at him. “Your truths make my heart stop, Kian. So, my turn. Your flaws are your strengths, no matter how many they are, I find each one endearing. If you are damaged, I will never tire of healing you. I will heal every inch of you, including your soul, Kian, time and again.”

Kian held his breath when Daven smiled at him.

“As for your name, Assassin, Kian Raja fits you fine, for I know you by no other. I love you and only you, Kian. Although, if you let me, I do want to give you my name too, and all I have.”

“Don’t I terrify you anymore?” Kian asked, reaching up to touch the corner of Daven’s lips. “When we were in Amsterdam, you told me we were at eighty/twenty percent. Is this still twenty percent?”

Daven chuckled and kissed him. A wanton, needy kiss that made Kian wish they could do more than kiss. He cursed his injuries, and sunk his fingers into Daven’s dreadlocks wanting their lips to stay locked forever.

Daven ended the kiss first, breathing hard, clearly in perfect health judging by the bulge pressing into Kian’s hip.

Kian smiled, and met lust-filled green eyes.

“Do you think we’re still at twenty percent?” Daven asked, his tone husky.

Kian bit his bottom lip.

“If we are still at twenty percent, I wonder what life’s like at a hundred percent,” Kian mused.

“No need to wonder, Kian. It’s clear to me, my love, that we’re beyond a hundred percent,” Daven said, breathing in deep, and burying his face into Kian’s shoulder. “I’m considering mauling a patient who can’t fend for himself.”

Kian chuckled and held Daven to him. He closed his eyes and basked in the feel of Daven lying over him.

“Doctor, this patient has no will to fight you off,” Kian murmured.


Tingling pain danced across his abdomen, Kian gritted his teeth and pushed past it, lifting up on a push up, sweat coating his forehead. He dropped down, and pushed up again, the urge to stop stronger than the need to keep going.

So, he kept going.

“Yay, it’s a roller coaster,” Zena said from her spot on his back.

Kian smiled and pushed up again, her weight added to the discomfort, but he fought through it because he wanted to get back to full strength, quickly.

“Can you go faster?” Zena asked, patting his shoulder. “Like a roller coaster.”

Kian gritted his teeth, increasing his speed. The little girl on his back squealed in delight, the pain was so worth it. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he lay flat on the carpet, and Zena got off.

“Your hair is wet!” She brushed strands away from his forehead and peered at him. “There’s water dripping all over your face. Are you sick?”

Kian laughed, and sat up. Zena took the short towel on a small stool and handed it to him. Kian took the towel and wiped his face. Aram slept on the couch.

Kian was on babysitting duty because Daven and Naomi were out getting groceries.

What did one say to little girls?

“Here,” Zena held out a bottle of water. “To replace the water on your face.”

Kian took the bottle with a slight smile.

“It’s not water but sweat.”

“Sweat is water,” Zena said, smiling at him. “Uncle Daven told me. He said sweat is water from your body. It happens when you are boiling hot. So you need to drink more water so that you don’t pass out.”

“Your uncle sure teaches you many things,” Kian mused.

“I’m going to be a doctor like Uncle Daven,” Zena declared. “So I can help him make people feel better.”

Kian drank the water she gave him, and got to his feet. He held out his hand to Zena and helped her to her feet too.

“Okay, to be a doctor like your uncle, you might need to eat a little more squat. You’re so tiny.” Kian teased. “Are you hungry?”

“I could eat,” Zena said.

Kian moved to the couch, arranging pillows around Aram. He got a cushion from the armchair, and laid it on the floor, in case Aram decided to roll out.

“He won’t fall out,” Zena said, looking at Kian as though he didn’t know anything. “He’s not a baby anymore.”

“Yeah, well, let’s take it as me being too careful,” Kian said. “Your Mom would be very upset with me if he got hurt on my watch.”

Kian took back his bottle from the table and headed to the kitchen with Zena following him.

“Can you cook?” Zena asked, when he opened the fridge.

“I can,” Kian said.

“Really?” Zena asked. “Can you fry an egg for me?”

“Sure,” Kian looked in the fridge for eggs. He found two, and lifted them up to her with a wide grin.


Daven walked into his loft around three o’clock in the afternoon, his bags loaded with groceries. Naomi had rushed off to meet a potential supplier for her spa. Daven paused in the living room when he saw the cushions on the floor. Moving closer to the couch, he paused when he saw Aram asleep on the couch.

Daven smiled. This had to be Kian’s doing. Shaking his head, he headed to the kitchen and stopped at the sight before him. Kian was busy at the stove making pancakes. Zena sat on the kitchen table, stirring the batter. They both looked at him at the same time, and he had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.

The pancake batter had definitely been mixed and tasted he decided as both Kian and Zena wore parts of it on their faces.

“Hi,” Kian said, his spatula held up, the other hand on the pan. He was burning the pancake he was making.

“Hi.”

Daven smiled and placed his bags on the nearest counter. He stopped by Zena, and checked the batter she was stirring with all her energy. Dipping a finger into it, he tasted it and bit back another laugh. It was too sweet.

Zena must have had a hand in the ingredients.

“Hi, munchkin,” Daven said, dropping a kiss on her lips when she tilted her head up.

“I’m helping Uncle Kian mix the pancakes because he doesn’t know how.”

“Looks like you’re doing a good job,” Daven said, wiping the smear of batter off her cheek. “I wonder if your Uncle Kian has tasted these pancakes.”

Daven moved closer to Kian, taking one of the burnt pancakes from a plate and took a small bite. He met Kian’s gaze and this time his laugh simply could not be hidden.

He laughed, and Kian lifted his spatula with a scowl.

Daven wrapped his right arm around Kian’s waist and pulled him close, kissing him.

“The pancakes are a work of art,” Daven said, turning off the heat on the cooker.

“I’m following Zena’s recipe,” Kian said, turning to face him, a smudge of pancake batter on his forehead. “She seems to like sugar, and definitely did not take my suggestion for honey, which is much healthier. She reminds me of you.”

Daven laughed again, taking a napkin from the counter, he wiped Kian’s face.

“She’s seven,” Daven said, wiping Kian’s nose. “You don’t have to do all she says.”

“She’s very sure of herself,” Kian frowned. “I—”

Daven kissed Kian then.

“You are absolutely mush inside.”

“Do you want more batter?” Zena asked from the table. “I’m getting tired mixing it.”

Daven took the spatula from Kian and moved him to a chair. Urging him to sit, he took the bowl from Zena and placed it in the sink.

“I can’t leave you two alone,” Daven said, leaning on the counter facing both of them. “Kian, you’re supposed to be resting.”

“He was leaking water from his forehead,” Zena said, her arms folded against her chest to mimic Kian. “I thought he should eat to replace it.”

Daven stared at Kian.

“Leaking water…? Hmm,” Daven turned to hide his laugh and met Zena’s gaze. “Did you let him exercise?”

“I couldn’t stop him,” Zena said, her frown deep. “Uncle Kian is like a roller coaster, up and down, he kept on going even though I sat on him.”

“I seem to remember someone urging me to go faster,” Kian commented, sitting back in his chair.

“Who was babysitting who?” Daven asked, with a mock frown.

“I was taking care of Uncle Kian and Aram,” Zena answered before Kian.

“Well, that’s not what I thought,” Kian said in surprise, reaching out to poke at Zena. “I thought I was looking after you, squat.”

Zena laughed, and stuck her tongue out at Kian.

Kian’s reaction was to stick his tongue out back at Zena.

Daven laughed then, because seeing Kian in such lively spirits was more than he could have asked. Kian’s month long recovery had kept him on his toes.

Daven still worried that Kian would get better and decide to go help his father. After all, Kian was used to a life traveling. Squashing his worries, Daven grinned when Kian and Zena turned to look at him with expectant gazes.

Gosh, Daven thought, he had no defense against these two.

“Did you eat?” Daven asked.

“No.” Zena said, rubbing her stomach. “I’m still hungry.”

“I’m hungry too,” Kian said. “I got tired mixing the pancakes. It was a hard job, you know.”

“You were bested by a little girl,” Daven teased, pushing off the counter to go to the bags he’d brought in.

Kian sighed and Daven turned to see him leaning his elbows on the table.

“She’s a tough one,” Kian said.

“I’m a tough one,” Zena agreed, sending a grin his way.

Daven took the bag of groceries and went to the kitchen table. He kissed the top of Kian’s head, and stroked his fingers through Kian’s hair.

“Alright, I’ll feed you both. Zena, go check on your brother. He might be waking up from his nap.”

Daven helped her down and she ran out of the kitchen to the living room. Alone, Daven crouched beside Kian’s chair, and pulled him into a tight hug.

“Was it tiring?” Daven asked. “I shouldn’t have left you alone—”

“Thank you,” Kian cut in, kissing Daven’s shoulder. “For trusting me with them, for…letting me be a part of them.”

“Kian—”

“I know you have been worried,” Kian said, lifting his head from Daven’s shoulder to meet Daven’s gaze. “And to be truthful, I thought leaving might be an option, especially after Taewon left.”

Daven felt his heart clench.

“But,” Kian smiled at him, the happy, beautiful smile that got Daven’s heart beating again. “I’m not leaving, Daven. I’m right where I want to be.”

“Not even when my father calls?” Daven felt compelled to ask.

“He can call,” Kian said, with a nod. “On the phone, or visit, I will offer my opinion where he needs it, if he wants it.”

“You won’t regret—”

Daven stopped, and took Kian’s hand, holding it. He looked around the kitchen, the messy counter, and the bags of groceries. Zena and Aram’s voices drifted in from the living room. His life was ordinary. Quite removed from Kian’s extraordinary past.

Kian kissed him.

“I regret nothing, Daven. I choose you, and this life of making pancakes with your niece.”

Daven nodded, and straightened up, only to have Kian get up and hurry to the laundry room tucked into the corner. Kian came back holding a familiar black bag and placed it on the chair he had just vacated.

“Isn’t that the bag you were carting around at The Hague?” Daven asked.

Kian smiled and nodded.

“I asked your father to collect both bags from the Central Station. I wasn’t sure it would happen, but your father had them delivered earlier today.”

“That’s great,” Daven said.

“In the spirit of discussing the future,” Kian said, opening up the bag to reveal bundles of money inside. “How do you feel about moving States and becoming a home owner?”

“Buying a home?” Daven asked, pleasantly surprised.

“Yes.” Kian nodded, closing the bag. He dropped the bag on the floor and leaned on the kitchen table. “I want that with you, Daven. Make our own place, and if Naomi is okay with it, we can all live together. Somewhere away from the city, because cities make me nervous. Do you think it’s too much to ask—?”

Kian never got a chance to complete his thought, as Daven promptly pulled him into his arms and kissed him. Relief flooding him at the idea of spending a lifetime with Kian.


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