Wilhelm shivered, drawing his makeshift cloak around himself. It was bitterly cold in the deep, dark alleyways of Valhalla City in the winter, areas where even the artificial lights didn't shine. In what little light there was, he could see his breath turning to fog. The only reason the kitten was still alive was because of his fur. He was half-certian his paws had frozen to the ground. The tiny eight year old whimpered. He was most likely going to die, just like the wolf only a few feet away. He'd been dead when Wilhelm entered the alley.
Still, he did his best not to cry; that would make his tears freeze in his fur, and that would make things even worse. After a while, he started to get really sleepy. He wished he could go somewhere warm, but there wasn't anyplace he could go. All the buildings around him hand been boarded up tight for a long time, and he hadn't been able to get into any of them.
His head rolled to the side, his eyes closing, and his breathing becoming ever more shallow and slow. His heart slowed. He wasn't shivering anymore. He noted this.
Maybe it's getting warmer…. He thought, finding it hard to think. He fell over, almost completely asleep now. He was faintly aware of someone touching the side of his neck, the person's paw feeling like fire on the skin under his fur.
That person should go see a doctor… he thought to himself, feeling like he was floating. Then he slept.
Aldari watched over the small kitten asleep on the hospital bed in front of him. He'd been wandering and had almost literately stumbled across him. He thought back to when he'd brought the cub into the ER. The nurses had acted quickly, getting heat packs and starting three IVs. He'd been in severe hypothermia, almost dead.
The thirty year old wolf sighed, leaning back in his chair. He really did have to be home, but he couldn't bring himself to leave the kitten. He sighed, settling down to wait. After a while, he dozed off, sprawled across the chair.
Wilhelm slowly opened his eyes, unsure of where he was. It took him several seconds to realize that he was in a hospital. He'd never been in one before. He looked around, taking in his own condition as well. He was wearing only a paper-thin, light turquoise hospital gown, and a breath mask covered his mouth and nose. It was connected to a machine which seemed to be pumping air to it. He slowly sat up, then realized there was a needle in his arm. He started hyperventilating, his hands shaking as he tried to pull the needle out. However, the nurses had been notified of his waking by the life support machines and two came into the room, preventing him from doing so.
All the commotion had woken Aldari, who watched in confusion. Wilhelm was struggling, trying to get away from the nurses. He was screaming into the breath mask, and it took several minutes for the nurses to pin him to the bed. One of them, a panther, growled in irritation.
“lie still! We're not here to hurt you!”
Wilhelm stopped struggling, mostly because he was too tired to continue. His gown was torn up, showing how skinny he was. The nurses let him go, and he curled up on his side, whimpering quietly. The panther sighed, backing up a little and motioning the other nurse to leave. Aldari walked over as well, sitting next to Wilhelm on the bed, gently patting the kitten's shoulder. “It's okay, he's just trying to help. You were almost dead when you got here..”
Wilhelm shivered at that thought. “Why'd they stick a needle in me?” he asked, trying to pull away from Aldari's touch without uncurling. The panther cut in at this point.
“your body temperature was almost fatal. To avoid brain damage, we were using a last ditch technique to warm up your blood and put it back into you. We also used the breath mask to put warm air in your lungs. You're also badly malnourished, so we put in an IV to help with that.” he sat in a chair, sighing. “now that you're awake, we'll take it out and get you some real food.”
Wilhelm nodded, slowly uncurling. “O-Okay...” He sat up, covering himself. The nurse moved closer, and the kitten hesitantly held out his arm. The nurse quickly and almost painlessly removed the needle, covering the spot it had been at with a small guaze pad.
“hold that there for a few minutes, it should heal pretty quick.” he said, putting the IV setup away and leaving the room.
Wilhelm sat still for a moment, then turned to look at Aldari.
“D-Did you bring me here?” he asked, fiddling with his tail. Aldari nodded. “yes.”
Wilhelm looked down. “T-Thanks..” he said quietly, still fiddling nervously with his tail. Aldari noticed that there were areas with very little fur on the kitten's tail; this must have been a common thing. The wolf smiled gently.
“Well, i'm Aldari. What's your name?” Aldari sometimes wasn't too good at speaking to people, especially kids.
“W-Wilhelm..” The kitten was nervously looking around the room. He still didn't trust these adults.
Aldari and Wilhelm sat in silence until the Panther returned with Wilhelm's food. It was pretty standard hospital fare: tomato soup with a bread-roll and a brownie, but it was more food than Wilhelm had seen in the last month. He hungrily tore into the bread, purring quietly.
Wilhelm pointedly ignored the social worker seated next to his bed. It was two days after he'd woken up in the hospital, and he was looking much better. Normally he would have been released by now, but since he was an orphan, he'd been forced to stay for the social worker; who had been unsuccessfully trying to talk to Wilhelm for half an hour now. The rabbit woman sighed, giving up and leaving the room. Aldari was in the hall, having been called to the hospital earlier that morning. He watched the Social worker sigh and slump into the chair across from him. He raised an eyebrow.
“i take it he's not being helpful?” he asked. The social worker nodded.
“in the extreme.” she said, getting up and buying a drink out of the nearby vending machine. “I don't suppose you could tell me what you know?” she asked, sitting back down. Aldari shrugged.
“Not much to tell. I was walking home by a new route and saw him laying in an alley. He wasn't wearing anything warm, and looked like he was unconscious. I took him here.” Aldari shrugged. The social worker sighed.
“great… well, thank you for your help.” she said, standing and getting her stuff together. Aldari nodded, then knocked on Wilhelm's door. Inside the room, Wilhelm rolled his eyes.
“You can come in Aldari. Not like I can stop you...” Aldari entered, sighing.
“it's still polite..” The wolf pointed out. Wilhelm scoffed.
“Sure. Like being polite to a slave matters.” He said, looking out the window. Aldari frowned.
“Why do you think you're a slave?” he asked, setting a shopping bag next to Wilhelm's bed. The kitten shrugged.
“I'm forced to do anything the system wants me to do.. and I don't get a choice..”
Aldari sighed, gently rubbing behind Wilhelm's ears.
“Guess you got it rough….” he said. At first, Wilhelm tensed at the ear rubs, but slowly relaxed into Aldarai's ministrations. Aldari smiled as the kitten quietly started purring.
“that's the first time i've seen you smile.” he noted. Wilhelm blushed as he realized he was purring, looking away from Aldari.
“Not like I have much to smile about...” he said, fiddling with his tail again. Aldari nodded.
“I'm sure.” they were silent for a while, both of them looking out the window. Vallhalla City was huge, and the hospital they were in had a good view.
After a while, Aldari stood up.
“well, I need to go. I have work tomorrow.” he said, standing awkwardly near the door. Wilhelm nodded, his ears flattening against his head again, resting his chin on his knees. Aldari sighed, gently ruffling the kitten's hair and leaving. Wilhelm sulked a while, ignoring the meals the hospital staff brought to him. Neglect wasn't new to him, but he still felt hurt everytime Aldari left.
He stayed like that for a while, working through his emotions. He eventually sighed, taking the breadroll and the brownie from the food tray and stashing them in a bag he'd hidden among the hydraulics of the hospital bed. Then he ate the soup. He knew he couldn't stay, despite Aldari's kindness. He would just be pushed back into the system, and he had a mutual dislike for the system.
So, after a few more days to recover, Wilhelm left the hospital silently, slipping out of the second story window. It didn't take long for him to disappear into the city, slowly working his way towards a subway station. He knew a dozen ways to get on them for free. Still he wasn't as recovered as he should have been, and soon had to stop to rest in a doorway down a back alley. Before he knew it, he'd fallen asleep.