Happy monday! So I totally forgot to post until just now lol! I'm so not a morning person and with everything being so crazy right now, my schedule is bonkers. I just now finally remembered to post. better late than never i guess haha. Here's the final chapter!
By the time our quarantine was lifted, I'm not sure which one of us was more stir crazy.
I liked doing nothing. Loved it in fact. The thought of spending a week either in my bed or on my couch was a dream come true. No five mile run. No hours of sparring in Central Park. No slinging whiskey and trying not to kill patrons at the Ninth Circle.
Just me and comfortable places for my butt to stay.
Of course, the first few days of our involuntary house arrest had been stressful and unpleasant to say the least. When Nik had finally turned the corner and started improving, I started to catch up on my sleep. That brief period was positively wonderful and I cherished every precious second of utter laziness I was granted.
And then Nik got better. All the way better. And then, lock down or not, he made me suffer. No, he wouldn't say suffer. He'd say something pompous like he was helping me build character. Whatever. It was suffering. It was torture. It was brotherly love at its finest.
He'd been the one who was sick, not me. Why I had to be "trained" so hard I didn't know. I wasn't out of shape.
"You are out of shape," my overlord said, his grey eyes glinting with nothing short of glee.
Nik was standing above me, one foot on my chest, pinning me to the mat. He had his hands on his hips and hadn't broken a sweat. Show off. There were times when I wondered why I'd tried so hard to keep his brain from burning to a crisp with the fever. Would have saved me a lot of misery.
"I'm not out of shape," I countered although the way I was huffing and puffing kind of made my statement seem like a lie. The fact I couldn't muster enough strength to shove my brother away didn't help lend credibility to my bold statement.
An eyebrow raised less than a millimeter was Nik's silent yet smug reply. He didn't remove his foot from my chest. I could have taken him down. I could have. If I'd really wanted to. I'd done it before, but he was being an annoying show off and the mat was decently comfortable and I hadn't had a nap so far today. So I closed my eyes just to annoy him.
I fell asleep.
I woke up a couple hours later which was a clear indication of how much slack he was still cutting me for the time I'd spent watching over him while he'd been sick. If it wasn't for that, he would have woken me up by pouring an ice cold glass of water over my face. Or by picking me up and throwing me into a wall. Dealers choice.
Instead, I woke up peacefully and easily to the sound of a conversation nearby. The conversation was considerately quiet and I kept my eyes closed, content to allow consciousness to take its own sweet time in arriving. If no one was trying to peel me off the mat, I was fine with staying put for a little longer. I'd caught up on a lot of the sleep I'd missed while Nik had been down with the Purple Goo Flu, but I would always welcome more sleep.
So I just stayed where I was and half listened to the voices nearby. It didn't take long to identify the second voice as Promise's. Huh. Should've known she'd be over at the first possible moment. A week was a long time to be without her ninja boyfriend.
I did not want to listen to their sweet nothings, but now I was awake and I was hungry on top so going back to sleep wasn't an option. With a sigh, I dragged myself upright.
"It lives," Nik said with no small degree of humor.
After glaring at him somewhat blearily, I glanced at Promise and gave her a quick wave.
She smiled sweetly and waved her fingers back at me.
They were snuggled on the couch. Snuggled. My badass brother who knew a thousand ways to maim and kill was snuggling with a vampire on my couch. Ok, so it was technically our couch, but it hadn't been molded to fit anyone's ass but mine. I liked Promise, but if this was going to become a common occurrence, they were going to have to get their own couch.
"Good evening, Cal," Promise said, her fingers entwined with Nik's. His arm was around her shoulders, holding her close to his chest. "How are you?"
"Eloquence may not be your strong suit," Nik said, "but you are concise."
I shrugged, pushing myself to my feet. I needed food and fast.
"Your dinner is waiting in the microwave." Promise was getting freakishly good at anticipating me. She was hanging around with my brother too much.
Stumbling to the kitchen, I hit start on the microwave and watched my Kung Pao Chicken spin around and around. The conversation behind me turned to whispers and soft laughter and it was so cute I wanted to puke. As soon as the microwave announced my dinner was hot and radiated, I was running for my bedroom. Maybe I'd eat and then run out the door. It had been a week; maybe Ishiah would be happy to have me back at work.
I snorted. He was probably ecstatic that I'd been nowhere near the Ninth Circle. I wasn't exactly good for business.
The microwave beeped and I grabbed my food, ready to make my escape from the saccharine sweetness oozing all over my couch. Before I could run to my room, the front door lock was picked and the door thrown open to reveal Robin Goodfellow.
"Party time!" he called out, bringing in two bags, then kicking the door closed behind him.
I hovered where I was, uncertain at this new development.
Nik and Promise didn't seem surprised to see him though and he was already making himself comfortable in the armchair. He spread out a small liquor store across the coffee table along with what looked like a truly incredible chocolate cake. It didn't look like it was made of tofu so I decided to take my chances.
I put my dinner down on the coffee table and resigned myself to sitting on the floor since my elders - some of them by hundreds and thousands of years - had all staked their claims on the furniture. Robin was still unloading stuff onto the table. Bags of chips and various dips appeared along with the beer and liquor.
Promise leaned forward and filled up two plates.
"Did you bring it?" Nik asked, accepting a plate of organic, gluten free tortilla chips from Promise. There wasn't enough guacamole in the world to kill the non-flavor of those chips.
"I brought it," Robin said with a grin.
"Brought what?" I asked, settling cross legged on the floor and grabbing a handful from the bag of not organic chips.
Robin waved a DVD, but wouldn't let me see the cover. I would have made a grab for it, but I was too busy shoveling chips into my mouth. Curiosity had nothing on hunger.
"Your appetite does not seem to have suffered from your recent incarceration," Robin said.
"Few things affect Cal's appetite."
I would have punched Nik for the comment just because it would have been the normal thing to do, but Promise was reaching for her glass of wine and I would have inadvertently hit her. And then Nik would have had to kill me and that would just have ruined the party atmosphere.
So instead of punching him, I just stole the guacamole away from him and contaminated it with my gluten loaded chips.
The title card on the movie came up. I stared at it and then oh hell no. I pitched a handful of popcorn at the TV.
"I hate you all," I muttered. "I'm not watching this."
"It's a classic." Robin turned the volume up. "Steve McQueen. One good looking specimen if ever I saw one."
"I had dinner with him on occasion," Promise said, demurely, if a bit wickedly.
Robin's eyes widened and I would've sworn he was drooling. Nik just raised an eyebrow. He was too zen to get jealous; especially over a guy Promise had eaten dinner with back in the fifties. Robin, though, looked jealous and like he wanted to ask for more details, but just opening his mouth earned him a scathing look from Promise. Yeah. He wasn't going to get anywhere with her. It was almost enough to distract me from the atrocity they were trying to subject me to.
"I'm not watching this," I repeated, setting aside the chips for my noodles and chicken.
"I did briefly own Little Bastard," Robin boasted. "A fine piece of automotive engineering if ever there was one."
"Are the rumors true?" Nik asked. He reached over and grabbed the guacamole before I could defend my claim on the dip.
"Was the Porsche haunted?" Robin grinned from ear to ear. "Is that what you want to know? Or do you want to know where I hid it? Because that's a secret I shall take to my grave."
"The Spyder was not haunted." Promise sipped her wine. "It was also not nearly as incredible a ride as everyone likes to claim. More hype than substance as is the case with so very many male obsessions."
"I'm not watching this," I interjected before Robin could volley his own insult back at Promise.
Everyone ignored me as usual.
They spent the next few minutes discussing cars and engines and classic movies. I finally gave up trying to get anyone to listen to my complaints and just kept eating and watching the damn movie that I didn't want to be watching.
The movie wasn't terrible. It was actually pretty good. I wouldn't admit that, though. Not even under torture.
Everyone thought it was utterly hilarious to make me endure The Blob when I'd already endured the damn thing in real life.
Suggesting Robin bring The Blob had been one of my best decisions.
I was enjoying listening to Robin and Promise spar nearly as much as I was enjoying listening to my little brother whine about the movie. I was ignoring him. We all were. He needed to be ignored sometimes. It built character. It was also massively entertaining.
Stifling a smile, I wrapped my arm around Promise's shoulders as she curled her legs up on the couch and settled closer to me. Robin had moved from the topic of McQueen's car to the topic of McQueen himself.
"He does love the sound of his own voice, doesn't he?" Promise whispered dryly.
I nodded and stole a kiss.
"I missed you." She leaned closer, her lips at my ear.
"As I did you."
"Perhaps after we've put the children to bed, we can steal some time for ourselves?"
"I could turn the movie off right now." My finger hovered on the
remote. I wasn't being facetious.
Promise laughed, kissing my jaw then resting her head against mine. "I'm rather enjoying listening to your brother insisting he's not going to watch the movie he's currently sitting here watching."
"It is entertaining, I must admit."
We settled comfortably against each other and watched the entertainment before us.
Robin and Cal were fighting over the chocolate cake. By now Robin had finished off two bottles of wine on his own. He wasn't drunk — not even close — but he was at ease and having a good time. Cal wasn't drunk either but he was annoyed which made him belligerent and more than eager to fight.
Chocolate cake just happened to be the closest thing to fight about.
I watched Cal arguing with Robin, both wielding forks like swords and yet somehow still managing to chow down on their huge pieces of cake.
True relaxation spread through my body as I shared a private smile with Promise, then returned my gaze to the playful squabbling taking place in front of us.
I was perhaps not back to full strength but I'd soundly beaten my little brother every time we had sparred in the last few days. Our time of quarantine had passed and tonight was the beginning of our return to normal. It was a good feeling.
I woke up sometime after five AM. Nothing had disturbed me, but I came awake anyway. In this past week, I had slept in later and more often than I ever had before and my body and mind were craving a return to routine. Promise was asleep next to me, her hair fanned out on the pillow and one hand on my chest. I shifted gently, brushing her fingers with a kiss as I moved them aside. She didn't stir as I got out of bed.
Dressing silently, I watched Promise sleep. I was getting out of a warm bed that was currently occupied by a beautiful woman which perhaps meant I was not as intelligent as I liked to think I was. But my mind and body were itching for activity. Activity beyond what Promise and I had engaged in earlier. Smiling, I pulled the cover up over her shoulder and turned away.
I slipped out of the room, closing the door quietly behind me. Standing in the hall for a brief moment, I found Cal's bedroom door open. Typically, that would surprise me. Five am was about eight hours too early in Cal's opinion. Things weren't typical right now, though, and it didn't surprise me at all to find him in the main room.
He'd been staying up most nights keeping watch.
"You're insane, you know that?" Cal said, without turning to look at me.
He was standing in front of the large window, his forehead pressed against the glass. The Desert Eagle in his right hand seemed a bit excessive, but my little brother was nothing if not well-prepared. A sword was resting on the table next to him and I didn't doubt he had at least four blades elsewhere on his person.
"Insane?" I asked quietly, crossing the room to stand beside him.
"You left a drop dead gorgeous vampire in your bed. You're either insane or stupid." He straightened, giving me a thin smile. "Which is it? Do you want me to guess?"
"Why are you up?" I changed the subject.
He wasn't going to admit he'd been keeping watch. Wouldn't admit he worried. Had to keep that bravado in place.
"There are more sights to be seen."
Cal narrowed his eyes.
"Come along, little brother, the day is young," I said, anticipating the backlash and grumping I was sure to receive.
Instead I saw a spark of hunger in his eyes. He loved to complain about the physical activity I inflicted on him. He would deny it well past his death, but he needed this as much as I did. Neither of us did well with inactivity; with idleness. We'd had too much of it of late.
"You are insane," Cal complained even as he followed me to the door, holstering his gun as he did. "You're insane and stupid and you have to be out of your head if you think I'm going running with you at this unholy hour."
I held the door open for him. His griping didn't falter as he walked out the door.
"I'll see you out," he said, standing at my shoulder as I locked the door behind us. "See you out, make sure you don't fall on your face on the way down the stairs. But then I'm going back to bed for the next eight hours. I'll make me and Promise some pancakes later. You can have some blended bran smoothie. "
He bitched the entire way down to the street and I tried to keep my smile hidden. We walked out into the early morning and his complaining turned to cursing as the chilly air swept over him. He zipped his coat up all the way and looked longingly over his shoulder at the door.
I stretched briefly while he jumped up and down and used flowery language to detail how much he hated mornings, and cold, and running, and mornings, and cold...the list went round and round. He'd be complaining until we hit a pace where he had to concentrate on breathing rather than talking.
We took off at an easy pace through the slowly awakening streets. The morning light was only beginning to brighten the sky as I chose a course that would take us by the river where we would get the best view of the sunrise. This was the first day we had gone out running since I'd been poisoned. Watching the sunrise over a new day seemed a fitting way to get our lives back to normal.
Of course, Cal was not of the same opinion and I was subjected to that opinion for two miles. He wasn't out of breath by the time we made it to the river which was something of a shame. The peaceful morning would have been a lot more peaceful without his non stopped grumbling. I should have set a faster pace.
We stopped at the top of a small hill overlooking the river.
"Well, what an absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous day," Cal proclaimed, spreading his arms wide in his very own monster-killer-goth version of the famous hilltop scene in The Sound of Music. "I'm filled with the joy of a thousand butterflies dancing the Macarena while tossing LSD coated sprinkles all over the world to make it a happier place. Share a Coke, ride a rainbow. I'm going back to bed, have a great day."
He turned on his heel, his expression every bit as dark as his hair.
"We have only just begun," I said, catching his arm before he could make his getaway. "Out of practice as we may be, a two mile run is not even the bare minimum of what we will be doing this morning."
His groan was excessively dramatic and I couldn't hold back my smile this time. I tried not to let him know how much his antics amused me; it would be bad for my super-zen image. Taking another long look at the sunrise, I considered my life and all the reasons I had to be grateful. There were many reasons, but the most important one was standing right next to me, whining like a three year old.
It had been seventeen years or so since he'd been three. He'd grown into a man. An impatient, foul-mouthed, lazy, slob of a man, but a man nonetheless. One that could kill monsters without hesitation but picked up barrettes and rings of slain victims. One who had sacrificed his own personal happiness to ensure there was no chance he'd be, however inadvertently, responsible for bringing new monsters into the world. One who never backed down from a fight, including the fight against his own DNA.
One who had, and always would, stand by me in the face of death. He had taken care of me for the past week without hesitation or complaint. I didn't know how I'd been so fortunate to have been blessed with such a good brother.
Silence drew me back to the present and I found Cal staring at me, his grumpy face twisting into a confused frown as he met my gaze.
"What?" he asked, hands on his hips.
Struck with how much I loved my pain in the ass little brother, my entire plan for the day changed. He deserved pancakes. He deserved not to have to make them for himself and Promise and I deserved not suffer from his cooking. I made very few exceptions in my rigorous training routine, but today was a day for such exceptions.
"Come along, little brother," I said, slinging an arm over his shoulders and drawing him away from the water.
A greasy spoon diner wasn't far from our location and, as much as I dread the thought of such places, I would endure the filth and stickiness for his sake. He had cleaned the apartment, after all. A little positive reinforcement was appropriate given the circumstances.
"Where're we going?" he asked, instantly suspicious.
That was my brother. Suspicion was his default emotion, or so it seemed; just as laziness was his natural state of being.
"Breakfast?" he echoed, still frowning.
"Yes. How do pancakes sound?"
"Pancakes? We are talking about my kind of pancakes, right? With sugar and flour and syrup? That kind of pancake? Not some soy abomination?"
"Your kind of pancake. All the syrup you can eat. Whip cream on top if you so desire."
Go big or go home, I decided. He never cleaned...anything without being prompted. Many, many, many, many times.
"I do so desire." Cal pulled away slightly and asked, "You're not dying, right? This isn't some kind of deathbed confession, is it? You're not just buttering me up with pancakes and then gonna tell me you're gonna be dead tonight? Because that is going to seriously piss me off, Cyrano. Especially after I cleaned the damn apartment and if I-"
"I'm not dying," I cut him off, leading the way to the diner with him following me like the semi-obedient puppy he was. "But you did clean the apartment and you took care of me while I was ill. I think a stack of pancakes is well deserved."
"What's the catch?" And there was suspicion, rearing its head again.
"You're not gonna make me run like twenty miles to make up for the pancakes?"
"I will not, although we'll be returning to our normal routine tomorrow."
He rolled his eyes, then said, "You don't feel up to running today. That's it, isn't it? You still don't feel good enough and you're not back to full ninja strength and you need an excuse to save your ninja pride. Ha. I'm on to you, Nik."
"That is not the case at all," I assured him. "I am feeling well enough to continue our run. If you would rather do that than eat pan-"
"Pancakes. Syrup and whip cream." There was a bounce in his step now. "Bacon too. Yes? You can't take me out to breakfast and expect me not to get bacon."
"The day you don't eat bacon when it is available is the day I know you've been switched with a doppleganger."
"One that's not a monster, hopefully," Cal quipped.
I smacked him on the back of the head. He might have cleaned the apartment from top to bottom, but that didn't mean he could say things like that and expect to get away with it. I went to give him a second smack, but he dodged before I could. Maybe I wasn't quite back to full strength quite yet.
Rubbing his head and shooting me an aggravated look, Cal asked, "So, this is seriously just breakfast? No strings attached. You're just getting your favorite little brother pancakes because he's awesome?"
"I am getting my favorite little brother pancakes because he is awesome."
That brought a grin to his face. A big one. He wasn't exactly big on smiles in the first place and I'd never seen him smile this early in the morning. He would spend the rest of the day in a sugar coma and I'd get nothing else useful out of him, but it was worth it just to see that smile.
"Well, keep up," he said, turning around and jogging backwards, grin still plastered across his face. "Unless you're too tired."
"Last one to the diner gets to clean and sanitize the trunk," I said with a darkly wicked grin. "Think of how fragrant it will be after an entire week with our coats fermenting in goo."
He looked a little green just at the thought and nearly fell on his face as he spun around and started running full out as I passed him. I set a pace that he had no chance of maintaining let alone beating me at.
"Robin probably can find you a gas mask to wear while you scrub the trunk," I encouraged, easily putting distance between us.
"I hate you," he shouted, already huffing and puffing.
I glanced over my shoulder. He was trying, I had to give him credit. He was really trying. I was tempted to let him win, but where was the fun in that?
So I beat him soundly, bought him breakfast, then went home to enjoy a cup of tea with Promise while my awesome little brother cleaned the trunk of my car.
It was a good ending to a bad week.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed. I sure loved writing this story...and am still snickering at the irony of my impeccable timing with posting this during a freaking pandemic lol.
stay safe, stay healthy! read more fanfic! Always a good idea and great for social distancing! ;)
Thanks again so much for reading. :)