It was a second knock at the door that broke through the silence that had followed Owen's discouraging, albeit true, words.
The blonde nurse, Anastasia, stepped into the room, a wide smile stretched across her face.
"Sorry to interrupt you again. How is our patient doing so far?" she addressed Denver, practically singing her last words.
The laughter in her eyes and voice seemed a little out of place to me, and I could see by the look on their faces that both Aya and Owen felt the same. Denver, however, put on a grin of his own, eyes shining with his usual mirth. "Just fine, thanks! Tell doc that I'm sick of this bed and that I'm ready to go home. Why, I feel like I could swim a marathon right now!"
He then made a move to sit up and raise his arms to prove his point, but the gasp and pained groan that left his mouth told a different story. "Okay, so maybe the marathon thing was pushing it." He let out a strained chuckle, avoiding Owen's stern gaze. "I'll do that tomorrow," he added, laughing when Owen flicked him on the forehead.
Aya's laughter sounded next to me, her warm gaze set on the two friends. It had been quite some time since I'd last heard her laugh like that.
Great, now I envied Denver, a friend who had just barely escaped death. How pathetic.
"I'll be sure to tell Dr. Jones that." Miss Anastasia giggled, checking Denver's wounds before turning to face me. "Oh, that's right, I almost forgot. Someone is here to see you." Her smile grew mischievous, her tone taking on a playful edge.
That caught me off guard and I could feel everyone's confused eyes on me.
Who would want to see me at this time? Was it Alex? But then why would she have sent that letter if she had been planing on visiting us.
"Who is it?" I asked, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden.
"Ah," was her dramatic sight. "I promised I wouldn't tell you that. He said it was supposed to be a surprise."
No... it couldn't be. Could it?
"I'll be right back," I told the others, giving them what I hoped would be an assuring smile before following the nurse to the waiting room.
There was a man with his back to us, bent over an aquarium and tracing patterns on the glass, the colorful fish following every gesture of his fingers.
At the nurse's call the blonde man's hand stopped and he swirled his big figure around, deep ultramarine eyes zoning in on mine.
"Hey, kiddo, long time no see!"
"Kai," I whispered in a weak voice, not believing my eyes. Before I could say anything else though, I found myself being pulled into a bone crushing hug, strong arms lifting me off the ground. Behind me I could hear the nurse laughing at the scene.
"You should be more careful Mr. Teach, your nephew is still a little bruised."
So I'm his nephew now?
"Miss Anastasia, I thought I told you to cease with the formalities. Mr. Teach was my father, just call me Flint." I didn't need to see Kai's face to know that he'd probably put on his most charming smile as he said that, judging by the nurse's coy giggles. "But you're right, of course."
I was finally able to breathe when Kai loosened his hold, his hands coming up to clutch my shoulders. The fact that he was kneeling in front of me and still didn't have to look up to face me was more than a little embarrassing.
Piano fingers brushed the still healing scar over my nose, making me flinch.
"I'm gone for a few weeks and this is what happens," he sighed with that familiar playful smile tugging at his lips, my pitiful face reflected on his rectangular glasses. "Tana and I were worried sick about-"
Kai never got finish that sentence as my fist hit his cheek.
"My goodness!" Miss Anastasia gasped.
"You weren't gone for weeks, you were gone for two whole months!" My fists were shaking, remorse filling me as soon as I took in the image of Kai, the red mark over his stubbled cheek bones and his hurt expression. "Do you know how many times Tana cried for you?"
How many times I had to share her pain on top of my own, I wanted to say but couldn't with the nurse still there.
Kai's eyes softened at my last words and an unfamiliar sorrow filled my heart.
"Miss Anastasia, can I have a moment alone with my nephew?"
The woman looked hesitant, but Kai's pleading eyes were enough to persuade her. "Of course, I'll be around if you need anything." And with that she left.
"Let's sit down."
"No! Wait!" A gasp left my mouth as he grabbed my waist and threw me over his shoulder. I was screaming obscenities by this point. "Damn it, Kai! Let me go, don't touch me!"
In a matter of seconds I was forced to sit on a couch, Kai kneeling in front of me, the palm of his large hand covering my forehead.
"Show me what happened to you and your friends," he asked, his tone as serious as I've ever heard it.
The fact that he knew about the others barely registered in my mind. Tired of feeling, I just let go. I showed Kai everything, from the moment I found out there were other merfolk like me, to the moment we were captured. It gave me such relief; I'd forgotten how nice it was, to have someone with a strong enough mind to carry the heavy weight for me, even if only for a short amount the time, selfish as though that thought may be.
"Don't worry Fern," he said, his voice lowered down to a mere whisper. "I'll help you and your friends get through this. I may not be a merman anymore, but I'll do everything I can to keep merfolk's existence a secret. And above all, to keep you children safe." He smiled. "After all, I did make a promise to your father and I intend to keep it."
"I know that," I whispered back, chest tightening at the mention of my father.
"So, where are your friends?"
A moment later, after Kai had somehow convinced Miss Anastasia to let him see his "nephew's friends", I was knocking at the door that led to Denver's hospital room with a tight knot in my stomach that wouldn't go away.
It was Aya who opened the door, greeting me with a smile that faltered as soon as she laid eyes on Kai's tall figure behind me. To my horror, Kai swooped in to take a closer look at her, a beaming smile on his face.
"Ah, so this is Fern's girlfriend. She's cute!"