I've recently read the Cal and Niko Leandros sci-fi series by Rob Thurman and simply adore the books. I highly recommend them to anyone and everyone. So enamored am I with the Leandros brothers, I thought I'd give my hand a try at a little Cal/Niko fic.
Set between the first book "Nightlife" and the second book "Moonshine".
Summary: Cal is used to having nightmares. But these--these are different. And vicious.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. They all belong to the lovely and talented Rob Thurman.
What Evil Visits Nightly
By: Vanessa Sgroi
I love to sleep. That's the long and short of it—I love the oblivion of sleep. Hell, my older brother, Niko, swears that I've practically made it into an art form. Performance art to be exact. And I think he may be right—at least considering some of the positions I wake up in.
So the warm embrace of sleep is often a welcome respite. Except for the last five nights.
The last five nights I've had nightmares. That in itself isn't new. Having once walked in Tumulus—Auphe hell—is reason enough to suffer night terrors, not to mention the up close and personal encounters I've recently had with all manner of monsters either out to kill me or possess me. These nightmares, though, these are different. More horrific as far as I'm concerned. Because they're about my brother. More specifically, these particular night terrors graphically depict Niko's death. His violent, gory, bloody, sometimes even fiery, and always agonizing death. His guttural screaming haunts me even after I wake. And every night, the nightmares propel me out of bed and drive me to my knees in front of the toilet where the treacherous heaving eventually gives way to desperate prayers that Niko remains asleep. Any kind of restful sleep for me has become a thing of the past. I miss it. My body craves it.
Until a few minutes ago, I actually thought I was doing a remarkable job of hiding my distress from Niko though I guess I should have known better. I'd just sat down at our rickety kitchen table with a coveted bowl of stale Lucky Charms—though I wasn't particularly hungry—when Niko stalked into the kitchen. He yanked the bowl of sugary cereal I was mostly just toying with out from under my nose and replaced it with some sort of whole grain oatmeal bran rock . . . err . . . muffin.
I automatically groaned. "Oh, joy. Tasteless roughage for breakfast. Can I at least have a beer with it to wash it down?" I poked at the brownish lump with my finger.
Not bothering to verbally reply, Niko plunked a glass of nasty-looking green liquid down in front of me. It looked like liquefied grass. Hell, knowing my brother's penchant for health food, it probably WAS liquefied grass. I picked up the glass and chanced a sniff, grimacing and shuddering dramatically at the affront to my over-developed sense of smell.
"Talk? About what?" I half grinned up at him. "This super good breakfast you just shoved in front of me. Hey—they say if you can't say anything good, don't say any—"
"Cal." Niko's no-nonsense growl was a warning.
It was a warning I purposely chose to ignore. "You know, Cyrano, you really should expand your breakfast horizons. There's nothing like a good bowl of Lucky—"
Faster than I could blink, I found myself on the cracked linoleum floor as Niko hooked a foot around a chair leg and sent us both careening backward. He maintained a grip on the chair so the fall wasn't hard enough for me to get hurt, but it was definitely meant to get my attention.
"Tell me what's going on." Niko's voice was low and intense; shot through with genuine concern.
"What? Nothing's going on. I was trying to eat breakfast." I knew my brother would spot the lies immediately; he always did. Maintaining a poker face, especially around Niko, has never been my forte. His gaze missed nothing. He always told me it was because I had tells the size of Texas.
My brother crossed his arms and widened his stance, his eyes never leaving my face. I resisted the urge to squirm.
"You think I haven't noticed? You're haggard and worn out. I could fit all of my weapons AND yours in the bags under your eyes. As if those clues weren't enough, you've hardly eaten anything for the last four days. Not even your beloved chili cheese dogs." This last was said with a sniff of disgust.
"What are you talking about—I eat."
"No—you push the food around on your plate to make it look like you eat."
"Well, considering what you tend to cook for dinner . . ."
"Cal." It was clear that Niko's patience had come to an end. Usually when that happened, it translated into some extra measures of torture that my brother called "working out".
As gracefully as I could from my awkward position, I rolled over and scrambled to my feet. On some level, I'd known all along there was no avoiding my brother's interrogation and lying definitely wasn't going to be an option.
I stared at my feet, noticing that the rather dingy sock on my left foot had a hole in the toe. I briefly contemplated putting a hole in the other sock just so they matched and brought a little symmetry to my world but decided that that might result in Niko finding a needle and some thread and making me darn the damn things as some valuable weird-ass home economics lesson. In fact, he'd probably find every holey sock in the entire apartment—all belonging to me of course—and make me darn every last one of them. I shuddered at the thought.
"Cal!" Niko didn't do exasperated, he did deep-down brotherly concern and it got to me every time. I finally lifted my head and looked him in the eye. And suddenly, I wanted to tell him. Wanted to share the burden and ease some of the weight from my shoulders.
"Niko, I . . . I . . ."
The word was just a whisper snaking through my mind.
"I've been hav—"
The word slammed through my head with the roar of a freight train.
"AHHHH!" I closed my eyes and fisted my hands at my temples as white-hot pain streaked through my head. So great was the pressure and pain, I half expected my eyeballs to be ejected forcefully despite my closed eyelids.
I could only manage a whispered "Niko" in response to my brother's concerned shout. Then my eyes rolled back in my head and I collapsed in a heap at Niko's feet.
TBC . . .