Sadik was barely containing his excitement. Eric was by his side and the boy was skipping along. He had told the boy that Nikola was awake, and he had burst out crying. They had held each other for ten full minutes until the boy got out of the hug and began to half-sob, half-babble in happiness.
So, here they were now. Yesterday, Sadik had filled Nikola’s visiting hours. But, today, he would share with Eric. They checked in through the front desk, only to be told that there was a man already visiting Nikola.
They made it to the room and found Ivan inside, a bouquet of peonies in his hand. Where had he got them at this time of year was anyone’s guess? It was March and they were not current. Sadik figured the man might have them in a pot somewhere and looking after them in his apartment.
Upon seeing Nikola, Eric rushed to him and quickly climbed in the bed to pepper the man’s face with kisses.
“Mama, you are awake!” Screamed the boy and Nikola chuckled.
“Papa, kiddo. Remember, I am not a woman,” Eric huffed at having his attempt at saddling Nikola with the nickname foiled and turned to Sadik.
“Dad, shouldn’t papa be a mama in truth?” Sadik placed two fingers under his chin, appearing to be thoughtful.
“Sadik Selim, don’t you dare!” Snapped Nikola, but Sadik was too far gone in the play to care.
“Niki does look like a mama. Let us vote,” three hands rose in the air and Nikola looked at Ivan with betrayal written all over his face.
“You two, Brutus?” He said, voice in mock outrage.
“Sorry, Niki. But every child needs a mother. And you fit the role better than Sadik,” Sadik decided to let the implication that he couldn’t make for a good mother slide. Ivan had been a great help during these past few months. Especially when Emilia died.
“Oh, I should have stayed in a coma,” snapped Nikola, and Eric looked panicked at him.
“I am sorry, papa. I will never call you mama again. Don’t go back to sleep,” Nikola grinned at his small victory and enveloped the boy in a hug.
“Am I also forbidden from naps?” Eric nodded vigorously.
“You hear that, you two? My son wants me to become a sleepless creature of the night,” Ivan cracked a grin and Sadik looked wistful.
Sure, Nikola had told him he would give him eternity. But, what if Nikola had been lied to? What if it was all a trick and Nikola died again. This time, for real? Sadik couldn’t stand for it. His heart wouldn’t take it.
Still, he owed it to Nikola to listen to his explanation. Maybe he could show him some proof? Ivan began to talk, and Sadik snapped out his musings to pay him attention.
“Uncle Sergei wants to know when you will be coming back to the church,” Sadik checked Nikola’s face and was surprised at the hesitance of the man. Nikola loved church. He thought it had a homey feeling to it. He had said that about the mosque too. So, why was he behaving as if he wanted to avoid entering the place ever again?
He was just about to read the man’s mind, when Nikola spoke.
“I think I will hold out on visiting. Until I get better,” Ivan seemed satisfied with the answer because he smiled.
“He mentions you in the sermons, from time to time. You were one of the most upstanding members of our community. You were missed, Niki,” Nikola looked torn at that. Sadik couldn’t take being in the unknown anymore. He delved into Nikola’s mind, careful not to let him feel it.
To go and stay with a candle after they wanted me dead…
I made a deal with…
There is no…
And I don’t want it to be!
Sadik blinked. Why were Nikola’s thoughts so distorted? Was it because Sadik himself had been more careful not to be noticed? But, this had never happened to him before. Not even with other vampires, who tried to keep him out.
Who wanted Nikola dead? With whom had he made a deal with? These two questions plagued Sadik’s mind. He blinked again when Ivan poked his arm. Ivan nodded to Nikola, whose head was tilted to the side.
“Sorry, lamb. Yes?” Nikola smiled and shook his head, probably figuring out, correctly, that Sadik had read his mind.
“I asked you if you wouldn’t have anything against taking me to Emilia’s grave. Surely, the nurses will let me out for that long?” Sadik looked uncertain at that. It had taken a lot out of him not to let Nikola’s accident get in the newspapers.
Audrey had kept silent out of gratitude that Nikola had sacrificed himself for her son. That turned her into a true believer, and she liked to talk his ear off about the sermons she went to every Sunday. And she also visited the soup kitchens. Both the one at the Orthodox church and the mosque.
Emilia had been insulted when he begged her to keep it to herself. And Eric was convinced that Nikola was an angel and that bad people will take his papa away if they found out.
Sadik hadn’t told anything to Ivan. Just like Nikola hadn’t told the Russian about Sadik. It was too dangerous. Now, more than ever, they didn’t need the extra attention. And that meant that Nikola’s check out of the hospital had to be as a silent affair as it could get.
“Sorry, lamb. Maybe when they give you the green light to go home,” Nikola’s face fell, but he nodded. Eric hugged Nikola tighter.
“Grandma would have been happy that you want to see her. I go there every Sunday after dad is done at the mosque,” Sadik looked at Nikola, waiting to be scolded for not taking Eric to church. He had tried, but even the Catholic one had brought him too much pain.
“That was nice of him. How about you two go to the arcade after you tire of my boring face?” Suggested, Nikola and Eric looked at Sadik, hopefully. Sadik nodded, the questions that swam in his mind being ignored at the prospect of spending the rest of the day with his son.