Good morning! I've had this story in the works since July 2019. It's finally polished up and ready to go! A little longer than my other Leandros fics thus far, it is 6 chapters and is complete.
Set just a little later than my other stories, this one is still fairly early in the series, but after they've been friends with Robin and Promise for awhile. Hope you enjoy!
"An infestation?" I asked, wrinkling my nose in distaste. "What are we now, exterminators?"
"How would that be any different, really, than what we do?" Niko countered in that I'm smarter than you are and I know it way of his. "We already exterminate monsters and killers."
"So we're going to add roaches and rats to our business cards?"
This time it was his nose that was wrinkling in distaste. Actually, flat out disgust. Nik hated rats and cockroaches. Hated them. Hated them like I hated homework and housework and anything much that wasn't sleeping or eating or killing.
"I think not," Nik said, shaking his head.
He didn't shudder and he'd never admit it, but I'd be willing to bet his skin was crawling. Mine was too and I didn't even hate rats and cockroaches. Well, not as much as he did anyway.
I tried to hide my full body shudder by adjusting my coat.
"Remember, this is not a typical infestation."
"There's a typical infestation?" Rolling my eyes, I said, "Never mind, I don't want to know. Just tell me what we're exterminating so we can get this over with."
Nik raised an eyebrow as he parked the car along a tree lined street. "It's seven in the evening. Do you have somewhere else you need to be, little brother?"
"No." I checked over my guns.
"So this is just your baseline impatience, then?"
"I have a baseline?" I grinned, shoving the creaking door open.
Over the top of the car, he said, "There is an entire algorithm to your levels of impatience."
"Yes. I've had ample time to study you over the years."
There was no denying it. He knew me better than I knew myself.
He started walking up the driveway and said, "The owner of the estate said that the infestation began about three months ago and has only been growing worse since then. They've never even caught a glimpse of whatever creature is making its home in their walls. Whatever it is, it's fast and small."
"But they're sure it's not a rat? I mean, this is New York."
"They're fairly confident it's not a rat since they've found no less than ten rats skinned and gutted in the basement. They've also found a couple cats, some squirrels and several small dogs in the same condition."
"I thought you said it was small." I tightened my hand around the comforting weight of my gun. "If it's skinning dogs, it can't be that small."
"As I said, they've never seen it but it is able to move through the walls which means it can't be very large."
"But it's not a rat." I stared up at the foreboding old house with a bit more distaste.
"Probably not a rat," Nik acknowledged. "They have found trails throughout the house."
"Trails?" I followed him up the steps.
"Bright purple...goo, for lack of a better word."
My eyes widened as I stared at him. Nik always had a better word. He
never lacked for words at all, in fact. As he unlocked the front door, I said, "Goo. Like slime?"
He nodded, pushing the door open. "Like slime, but more goo-like."
I snorted. For his extensive vocabulary to be failing him so magnificently that he was saying things like goo-like was concerning. What we found when we entered the foyer was beyond concerning.
It was gut-churning.
My guts did a lot of churning and I was swallowing hard against the urge to vomit my own goo-like substance right onto the no doubt expensive carpet.
Hand over my nose and mouth, I mumbled, "That is disgusting."
Disgusting was an understatement and from Nik's disturbed and slightly greenish tinged expression, he agreed.
Just as he'd said, there were trails criss crossing over the floor, in and out of the other rooms and up and down the stairs and, more disturbingly, the walls and ceiling. Purple goo was lethargically dripping from the ceiling in long, thick strands. It was definitely more like goo then slime. Thick and congealed, it was like clumps of pudding or snot.
The worst of it though? The smell. I've smelled a lot of putrid odors in my lifetime, but this might just be taking the cake. I couldn't have described it if I'd tried.
Less than a minute through the door and five feet into the house, I gagged and added my dinner to the Pollock-styled splatters on the floor.
One hand braced on the wall, I still gripped my gun in the other as I tried to regain control. I had my eyes squeezed shut so at least I could block the sight of the noxious horror around me.
"Cal?" Nik was at my side, one hand on my shoulder.
I pressed the back of my hand to my mouth and said, "I'm fine."
And then I threw up my afternoon snack and probably my lunch, too.
"Perhaps you should wait outside," Nik said, glancing around the room.
"You don't smell it?" I panted, cold sweat dripping down the back of my neck.
"Of course I smell it, but it is not affecting me to the same degree."
Damn monster DNA, I cursed in my head as I spit out a string of bile and barely avoided losing my breakfast.
"I'm fine." Wiping my hand over my mouth, I added, "I'm adjusting. I'm not leaving you in here alone."
Nik studied me and he wasn't impressed with what he saw, but I was his back-up and he wasn't hunting some dog eating, purple goo pooping, smelly snail or whatever it was without me.
"I'm fine," I said for a third time. Third time's the charm, right? I straightened, my stomach rolling disturbingly as I tried to breathe through my mouth. "Just fine."
"Mmm hmm." Nik released my shoulder and surveyed the room again. "I believe we should begin in the basement as that's where they've found the dead animals."
"Nowhere I'd rather be." I gagged a few more times as Nik walked around the room, peering into different rooms. Steeling myself, I followed him toward the back of the house. "Why don't we just blow the house up?"
"Because we were not paid to blow up the house." Nik pushed the door open, cautious as always. "Our clients do wish to live in this estate again."
I fought down the urge to vomit again at the mere thought of living in the house. Spending even one minute longer then I had to in slime central was terrifying. I didn't care if there was some historical or sentimental significance to the moldy old house. Blowing the place to smithereens sounded like the best solution to me, but I was seldom consulted on such matters.
Nik continued down the stairs, his sword drawn, but it seemed simply a precaution. His shoulders were relaxed and his steps a graceful dance as bypassed the neon gunk splattered on the stairs. I rushed down the stairs and made it without losing whatever was left of my stomach contents. Even when I stepped in a gooey puddle of yuck, I maintained control.
And then a string of goop dripped from the ceiling and slapped me in the face with an audible plop.
Breakfast and yesterday's dinner made its reappearance in a magnificent splatter.
"Cal, seriously," Nik said, supportive, yet standing at a safe distance. "You should go wait outside."
"I'm not leaving you to defeat the goo monster alone."
"Do you intend to kill it with your vomitus then?" Nik wasn't even attempting to disguise his amusement.
"I hate you," I muttered in between spitting and coughing and wishing I could breathe without turning my stomach inside out. The noxious odor was at least ten times worse down here. "Can we hurry this up so we can get out of here?"
"Can you stop tossing your cookies long enough to shoot?"
"I can shoot and," I gagged harshly, then continued, "toss cookies."
Nik actually laughed.
And then a skittering noise to our left had us both straightening, weapons at the ready.
"What the-" I broke off at the sight of...well, I didn't know what the sight was, but the word disgusting didn't even begin to describe the gore edging along the far wall.
"Interesting," Nik said softly.
It wasn't interesting. It was revolting. Bad as it smelled, it was even more horrible to look at. The size of a legless cow, it was splayed half on the far wall and half on the ceiling. An amoeba of blue and red jello, it slithered back and forth in rapid, fluid movements. Maybe it was nervous. I was nervous. Nervous about what a freaked out sludge of goo might do to us. Purple bleh was running down the wall underneath it. Maybe I hadn't been wrong about the goo being poop.
Ugh, it had dripped on my face. I banished the thought. Couldn't think about that now. Had to concentrate on the...the whatever the hell it was.
"I thought you said it was small. What the hell is it?" I whispered, afraid to take any chances on what could potentially startle a jello cow that gutted small animals.
"I don't know." Nik didn't sound upset, he sounded awed.
I was a little awed that he didn't know something, but more upset at what might happen to us because he didn't know.
The thing didn't have a face. It didn't have arms or legs, just slimy, nebulous appendages that grew and shrunk and formed and unformed in random movements. I could have handled the poop goo situation and overall ugliness of the creature if it hadn't been for what it was wearing.
It didn't have a face or arms or legs but somehow had managed to create a gruesome sort of outfit. It was clad in the skins of the poor unlamented rats and strays it had killed. Did goo get cold at night? I tamped down on a shudder.
"Can I shoot it?" I whispered, finger itching to pull the trigger and see what my Desert Eagle would do to the pile of gore. I had left my explosive rounds at home because Nik told me to and I fully intended to give him shit about it later. An explosion seemed like a wonderful idea right now.
"I would not recommend it."
Nik held his sword at the ready, but made no threatening moves. Fascinated, he studied the creature like he was some kind of explorer discovering a brand new species. I could envision him in the dark reaches of a jungle somewhere, studying, cataloging, and naming new creatures. He'd love that. He'd be great at it. He might be doing it or something equally extraordinary if it wasn't for me. Instead, here we were, surrounded by goo and trying to sort out a goo-extermination plan on the fly.
"Ok, no shooting." I tried not to make it obvious that I was inching backwards. "What do you suggest?"
"I believe we need to do a bit more research."
"Seriously!" I kept my voice low. Barely. Gaze still on the blob, I asked, "So we're just turning around and leaving?"
I really hoped he was going to say yes.
"That is exactly what we're doing." Nik reached without even looking and patted my chest. "Upstairs. Slowly."
I edged up the stairs backwards, watching as the creature fluttered and pulsed. Angry? Nervous? Hungry? Who knew. I hoped the thing wasn't hungry. I shouldn't have, but I did think about it wearing me as next season's finest fashion and if I hadn't already thrown everything up, I would have done it right then and there.
Gun still at the ready and one hand on the railing, I carefully moved up the stairs. Nik was following me and I allowed myself a breath of relief when the blob's nervous slithering stilled and it made no move to follow us.
And then it was in the middle of the room, standing at least six feet tall and in the rough shape of a man. Still blue and red, still leaking purple goo, still clad in its finest skins, still without a face. Still smelly and disgusting, but now apparently solid and gloriously shootable.
"Nik?" I drew his name out into a sentence.
"Keep moving," he instructed, his hand tightening around the sword he held at the ready.
I kept moving and so did the creature. We all three made our way slowly up the stairs and back down the hallway. Nik and I went backwards, trying to dodge piles of slop as we walked. The creature stalked us with sinuous movements of its leg-like extensions. It didn't seem nervous now.
It seemed bold.
I didn't like bold.
"I really feel like we should give shooting a try," I said, struggling not to bend over retching as a fresh blast of stench hit me hard.
"And if shooting merely makes it angry?" he murmured, making a little hand movement that told me to hurry the hell up.
"Then you can chop it into tiny bits."
He didn't get a chance to reply because the thing moved fast as a bolt of lightning and bowled us both over. Knocked onto my back, the breath exploded out of me and, before I could draw in a replacement, my face was covered with cold, slimy, smelly goo.
Nik had spent so much of his time teaching me how to control my panic. How to master my fears. How to remain calm in any situation. How to think clearly under pressure. How to react rationally and intelligently.
I started shooting.
Calm, rational, and in control I was not.
Having my ability to breathe taken away tended to do that to me.
I squeezed my eyes shut because the last thing I wanted was goo in my eyes. It was already in my nose and mouth and that was a very serious problem because I was going to choke on my own vomit in the next thirty seconds if something didn't change.
Nik was moving next to me; fighting for all he was worth. I kept shooting and kicking and if I'd had breath, I probably would have been screaming like a scared three year old.
I emptied my clip into the thing and started swinging. I had to get free if I was going to reload. But the goop was all over me, pressing down, wet and ridiculously heavy considering it was goo. Drowning face first in a bowl of jello would have at least smelled better.
The whole oxygen deprivation thing was becoming a serious issue. I twisted to the right, desperate and panicking and forgetting everything I'd ever been taught about zen and mindfulness and control. The wall turned out a helluva lot closer than I'd expected and I introduced my face to it with an enthusiastic degree of force. I gasped in shock and was even more shocked when I drew in oxygen. Noxiously-scented oxygen, but oxygen nonetheless.
Coughing and gagging and all but crying with joy, I pushed myself upright and looked for my brother. Eyes burning and streaming as I sucked in a breath, I saw Nik next to me, running a hand over his face. He shook his wrist and goo went flying.
"Cal?" he asked, coughing and spitting.
I gave him a thumbs up then hurled all over my lap. It was already soaked with purple ick, but that didn't really make me feel any better.
"It's...dead." Nik stood up, the show off. He reached down to pull me out of the mess I was sitting in. "I believe you killed it."
"I did?" I coughed a few more times, wiping my hand over my face and trying to see past the filmy goop. I was steady on my feet, but my stomach was still turning somersaults. The floor in front of me was a puddle of purple and I took a step back. "Can we go now?"
"Yes." Nik pushed me toward the door. "I'm going to take a look around. Ensure this was the only one."
"No, no you're not." I latched onto his sleeve and yanked him along with me. "We did what we came here to do. It's been exterminated. We're not on the clean up crew. We don't get paid for that kind of shit. If there's a second one, we'll come back with raincoats and gas masks."
Nik followed me out the door and I finally breathed in air that wasn't polluted with goo-monster odor. It was a glorious thing and almost made me forget that I was soaked in monster excrement.
"It exploded," Nik said, mulling the situation over.
"I didn't bring my explosive rounds," I insisted, not ready to take the blame for our shower of monster.
"Explosive rounds or not, you must have hit it somewhere important." He shook out his coat and purple flew everywhere. "It seemed impervious to my blade. We'll have to do some research."
"We killed it." I groaned. "What more do we need to know?"
Nik opened the trunk of the car then started digging around for the tarp. He said, "We need to know what it was and where its vulnerability is located so that next time we run into one, we will be able to kill it with more precision and less...goo."
I snorted and peeled off my coat as Nik was doing. We turned them inside out and carefully double garbage-bagged them in the trunk. A few minutes later, tarp protectively covering moth eaten, ripped and ugly seats, we were on our way home.
"I killed it. I get first shower."
Nik gave me a sideways glance and nodded. "When you are finished, you can start with the laundry."
"Ugh." I slumped deeper into the seat. "I'll take second shower instead."
"Very well. Once you are finished, you can start with the laundry."
"Is there a scenario where I don't have to do the laundry?"
"There is not." Nik smiled despite still being liberally coated in purple.
"I bet I could come up with one."
"I'm sure you could."
In the end, I wound up taking first shower and being excused from laundry duty. The fact that he had to pull the car over three times for me to puke on the way home probably had something to do with Nik's change of heart.
He groaned. For the eighth time. I was counting.
"I'm gonna die."
"You're not going to die," I said, sympathetic yet firm.
Cal had his head down on his arms where he slouched at the table. We'd both showered and I'd bagged up our soiled clothes and done a thorough job of cleaning our weapons while he did a thorough job of emptying his stomach. I didn't know where he was finding stuff to still throw up; even with his eating habits, he had to be running on empty by now.
I checked my watch. It had been nearly half an hour since his last bout of vomiting, so maybe we were finally in the clear. The smell had been overwhelming to me and I could only imagine what it was like for Cal. The mint tea in front of him had been an attempt to cover the scent of the Goo monster, but he could still smell the creature despite my best efforts.
"Why don't you just go lie down?" I asked, for at least the eighth time.
"Because it's easier to puke from here." He had a trash can at his feet.
"I think you're done."
"There's at least one other organ I can still eject."
Wiping down the kitchen counter, I said, "Perhaps you should try those pills Promise brought over a few weeks ago."
"Don't talk about pills or food or-" He broke off, gagging weakly.
I rested my hand on the back of his head. His hair was damp with sweat. I should have made him wait in the car. Regretting allowing him into the house, I moved to the sink and soaked a fresh dishcloth in cool water. I settled it over his neck and smiled a little at his mumbled thanks.
Leaving him be, I turned off the kitchen light then walked into the living room. I had considered paying Promise a visit for the evening, but after our slightly more gruesome than expected job, I didn't think she would appreciate spending time with me. Despite a long shower, several rounds of soaping and scrubbing, and lacking supercharged olfactory capabilities, even I could still smell the creature's stench on me.
I started working through my katas as I pondered the events of the evening. We'd gone into the job with far less information than usual. It was intended to be a fact gathering expedition. I always try to expect the unexpected but some things simply proved impossible to anticipate.
A formless glob of indeterminate nature that apparently had a preference for clothing itself in animal skins was something I'd never anticipated. I needed to give Robin a call to see if he'd ever heard of this kind of creature. The clients had told me what little they knew about the infestation and I'd run the information by Robin before we'd gone to the estate. With the minimal facts, he hadn't been able to offer much guidance, but perhaps now he would be able to provide additional information.
I was hopeful the creature didn't have a mate or any progeny still lurking in the house. Facing another mysterious slime creature without any additional information was an unpleasant thought. Not that I was thrilled with the thought of facing one with additional information, either.
Finishing up my evening exercises, I remained seated on the floor for several minutes, eyes closed and allowing my mind and body to relax. Despite the stretches, my muscles were surprisingly sore. Our confrontation with the creature had not been the most strenuous of our career and seemed unlikely to have resulted in muscle aches. I would have pondered further but it was getting late and I wanted to discuss the situation with Robin while the details were still fresh in my mind.
I rose and glanced at the kitchen. Cal was where I'd left him, slumped against the table. His shoulders moved with his deep, easy breaths. Asleep. I quietly walked toward my room. If he was resting, I would not disturb him. He'd undoubtedly find his way to his bed in an hour or so.
The distance between the kitchen and my bedroom was not far, but by the time I reached my door, I was strangely tired. There was no logical reason to be so tired, but learning to listen to my body's needs had kept me healthy and alive this long and I was loathe to argue with what worked. So I decided my call to Robin could wait until morning. Conversations with him did not tend to be brief.
It was still rather early to consider going to bed although the thought appealed. For a moment, I stood in front of my bed and considered the merits of at least lying down to rest for a few moments. I was a heartbeat away from giving in to the temptation.
A trash can being knocked over followed by a heavy thud that could be nothing other than my little brother hitting the floor drew my attention from my bed. I took a step back into the hall and had to grab the doorframe when the room tilted alarmingly. Blinking hard, I kept my hand braced on the door as I called out.
If I'd had any doubts whether or not he'd just fallen out of his chair, which I didn't, they would have vanished instantly at the sound of his sleepy but enthusiastic cursing. Smiling a little despite my inexplicable weariness, I slowly made my way back to the main room. If he was awake, I needed to get some fluids into him before he went to bed.
I had to keep reaching out to touch the wall as I walked because the floor kept shifting and my legs were weak and unsteady. The probability that I was coming down with the flu seemed to be going up exponentially. It was not a pleasant thought.
"Cal?" I asked as I walked into the kitchen.
He looked up at me from the floor. Trash can tipped on its side next to him, he was leaning against the table leg. His skin was almost grey and my worry went up another notch. Although he wasn't scrambling for the trash can, he still looked queasy and unwell.
"Did I wake you up?" he asked, voice hoarse.
"You did not. What happened?"
"Tried to roll over."
There was no amusement in his tone and I did my best not to smile. The way I was feeling, it was not difficult. "Are you injured?"
"Well, my butt hurts." He swallowed hard, not moving an inch. "I'm fine. What's wrong with you?"
"You don't look right." Cal frowned, looking more focused than queasy . "You're pale. Did you get hurt?"
I shook my head and tried to make my grab for the back of a chair look casual. Like I didn't need it to hold me up. From the way his eyes widened, I hadn't quite pulled it off.
"Nik, what's wrong?" Cal pushed himself to his feet and he was ten times steadier than I was. Ghostly pale but analyzing me with all of his attention. If he was this alarmed, I must look terrible.
We didn't lie to each other. We just didn't do that. I was tempted to at least downplay my discomfort, but already it seemed futile. I needed to sit down and did. At least I managed to sit on the chair and not fall flat on the floor.
"I might be coming down with the flu," I admitted reluctantly.
It had only taken me looking slightly unsteady to put that anxious expression on his face. Admitting I might have the flu would have sent him straight into a full blown panic attack a few years ago. We were far enough removed from those nightmarish first years after Tumulus that I thought he would be able to handle this, but it didn't mean it wasn't going to be a challenge if I truly was getting sick.
"The flu?" Cal sounded staggered. Like he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
I appreciated his confidence in my abilities to withstand common illnesses, but I was afraid I was going to disappoint him greatly. Already, a fever seemed to be simmering in addition to the muscle aches and weariness. Things were unlikely to get better before they got worse.
"Possibly," I answered. "I simply feel a little under the weather."
Cal frowned. "You never get sick. Like never."
It was true. Neither of us tended to get sick.
"What...uh...what do...what should we do?" he asked, staring at me.
He wasn't freaking out. Not yet. But he was looking to me for answers and I needed to give him some.
"There's nothing we need to do," I answered less confident than usual. "It's merely a minor illness. It will pass."
"Well, do you need, I don't know, soup or something?"
He was so sincere and, despite feeling unwell, I had to fight hard not to laugh. Really hard. I settled for a smile. "Soup?"
Somewhat abashed, he shrugged. "Or something?"
"Right now I would settle for a cup of tea."
"I can do that."
I must look like death warmed over if he was this eager to make me a cup of tea. It was good, though, because I didn't feel like moving.
"Get some water for yourself," I instructed, shifting slightly. Maybe I just needed a hot shower to relax my muscles. Cal had already taken two showers, why couldn't I?
"I'm not ready to tempt fate." Cal shoved the table closer to me and set a mug in front of me.
He shrugged, turning his back on me as he waited for the kettle to boil.
"Give me a few more minutes of non-puky bliss. Rehydration won't do much if I throw it all right back up again."
He had a point. I rubbed my forehead and asked, "Are you feeling any better?"
"Well, I'm not puking." He pressed a hand to his mouth, swallowing hard for a few seconds before adding, "Yet."
"Still smelling it?"
"Can we not talk about it?"
"Yeah." He turned around and filled my cup. "Which kind of leaf water?"
I pointed at a jar of chamomile. He set it in front of me with a spoon and my favorite tea strainer. For someone who loathed and mocked my fondness for tea, he seemed to know my preferences well.
"Thank you." I spooned some tea into the strainer.
He shrugged like it was no big deal and slumped into the chair across from me. "So what does under the weather mean for you, Cyrano? Most people whine about a runny nose. You're not most people. How sick are you?"
After taking a sip of tea, I said, "I'm not that sick."
"You wouldn't have admitted you were sick if you weren't sick."
"I feel a bit feverish and my muscles ache. Nothing big or serious, Cal. I'll be fine after a good night's sleep."
He stared at me doubtfully.
"I'm fine." I took another sip of tea then said, "You need to drink some water."
"You really want me to throw up, don't you?" He rested his chin on one hand, twirling the container of chamomile around with his other hand.
"I do not."
"Give me another ten minutes."
He was still the color of paper so I nodded. There was no point in arguing. Dehydrated or not, he wasn't going to drink anything until he was good and ready to.
"How's the tea?" he asked, tapping the mug with one finger.
"Need anything else?"
"No. I'm going to finish the tea and then I'm going to get a good night's sleep and I'll be fine in the morning." It was a lofty prediction, but held all the confidence I could muster given how lousy I was feeling.
Cal raised an eyebrow, but didn't voice his obvious disbelief which was unusually thoughtful. Instead, he pushed himself slowly to his feet and said, "I'm taking another shower."
I watched him go without comment. My head was beginning to pound. I took another sip of tea. Medication was next on the agenda, as much as I tried not to take pills. Tonight was an exception to many things. I took two tablets in the hopes that, in addition to a good night's sleep, I might be myself again in the morning.
The shower was still running when I walked by a little later. His first two showers had both taken nearly half an hour. It seemed this one would be no different. Whatever that creature had been, its stench was long lasting and overwhelming. I was reminded of the need to discuss the matter with Robin, but my overall fatigue and discomfort ensured that would be a discussion for tomorrow.
Braving the hazardous waste dump that was my brother's room, I left a cup of water on the small table next to Cal's bed on my way to my room. With any luck, he might actually drink some of it before he passed out from dehydration. On any other day, I would never have left such a thing to chance. Today, though, I was going to be fortunate if I made it to my own bed before I was the one who passed out.
The floor seemed to be wavering beneath my feet as I walked into my room. Hot and cold and dizzy and unsteady, I crossed the room. Reaching the bed, I crawled up the mattress to flop face down against my pillow. My fingers closed around the hilt of the blade I kept under my pillow. I was far from my best, but I would still put a dent in whatever might potentially attack us in the night.
I fell asleep before the shower turned off.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed. There is more sickly-whump ahead! :) aaaaand now i have to run like the wind because i am going to be LATE FOR WORK!