Hey everybody! In honor of our brand new category, I wrote a story! Applause Yes, yes, thank you, thank you. Haha, just kidding. Actually, I have quite a few little scenes on my hard drive that, by themselves, don't exactly make for good oneshots. However, I had this idea that if I strung them all together as a sort of collage of glimpses of Niko's and Cal's everyday lives, then that might be a fun little story, so that's what I'm going to do. So here is the first installment. It's set about the same time as 'Enough' was--Cal's five or six, and Nik's like ten-ish. I hope you like it!


"SHUT UP!" Sophia screamed. My eardrums rang and my face stung where she'd slapped me, as if her yell had needed enunciation. "And get out!" she added, like it was an afterthought.

Niko quickly picked me up and carried me out the door. Apparently he didn't trust my legs to move fast enough, so he quite literally took matters into his own hands. He held me tightly, but not in a completely nice way. He was mad at me, I thought, but I couldn't blame him. Earlier, when he'd come to pick me up from school, I hadn't been at the spot that I was supposed to be. There was a tree just outside the door, and Niko always made me wait for him there, but today I'd forgotten and had stayed on the playground with my friend Charlie. Charlie was the only one who didn't laugh at my name when the teacher called role, and I didn't laugh at him for having glasses, so we were friends. But I didn't notice when the bell rang, and so I wasn't at the tree when Niko got there, and so he got mad. He kept lecturing me about how I had to be where I said I would be, and I had gotten mad too, and I started yelling, and that was when Sophia came in. We hadn't known that she was at home.

As I was thinking about this, I realized how mad Niko must be at me. Niko was really nice, and he never yelled or hit me like Sophia did, but I was always more upset when I made him angry than when I made Sophia angry. I peeked up at Niko, and saw that his face was set, and he was frowning, and I thought that he would be a lot happier if he would have just left me with Sophia. I tried to stop them, but tears started to well up in my eyes. I didn't deserve Niko, I knew, and he probably didn't even like me anymore because I'd let him down and had yelled at him.

I began to cry more now, and that made me even sadder because Niko was so tough and never cried, and here I was, acting like a baby right in front of him. When I started making noises, Niko looked down at me for the first time. He looked surprised, and stopped walking. Sitting me down on the edge of a short brick wall that went around a rich person's lawn, he stood in front of me and looked at me. I rubbed at my face, but more tears just kept coming, and I just couldn't stop them. I knew I was being a crybaby and a wuss, and in front of my big brother, too, but I couldn't help it.

"What's wrong, Cal?" Niko asked, sounding worried. "Are you hurt?"

Miserably, I shook my head 'no'.

"Well then what's wrong?" He was being nice, I realized, and that made me feel even worse.

I tried to speak, but the waterworks had gotten out of control, and I couldn't.

"Cal…" Niko said softly, beginning to sound sad himself. And he did what he always did when I cried: he put his arms around me and hugged me. "Just try to take a deep breath," he murmured.

Because I was hoping that maybe since Niko was hugging me that he still liked me some, I tried to do what he said and breathed in.

"That's good," he whispered. "Can you do it again?"

I did, and a few more times after that, until I could breathe normally again. My crying died down, and the tears stopped for the most part.

"There you go. That's a good boy," Niko said, pulling back and wiping my face with his fingers.

I shook my head. " 'm not a good boy," I mumbled.

"I think you are." Niko pulled himself up onto the ledge next to me. "Do you want to tell me what's wrong?"

"You were mad at me." That was all the reason I needed to be upset.

"No, I wasn't. I've never been mad at you, Cal," he said, looking me straight in the eyes so I'd know that he meant it.

"But I'm bad," I said, looking down.

"Who told you that?" Niko lifted my chin back up.

"Sophia," I admitted.

Niko's face got hard again, and I wondered if maybe it did that when he was mad at Sophia, not me. "She was lying," he said after a few seconds. "You are not bad."

"But I did a bad thing today," I insisted. "Because Charlie found a snake in a hole and wanted to show me, so we went to look at it, and we were taking turns poking it with sticks, so I wasn't at the tree like I was s'posed to be."

"Well, you're right that you shouldn't have done that. You could have gotten hurt, provoking a snake like that. And I didn't know where you were, so I wouldn't have been able to come help you if it had bitten you."

"Oh," I said, feeling sad again.

"That's why it's important that you always tell me where you're going to be. Do you understand?"

I nodded, staring at my lap even though Niko was saying everything nice, and wasn't being mean like the teachers or Sophia.

"Cal?" Niko prodded, making me look up at him. "Next time Charlie asks you to do something after school, you'll come find me and tell me first?" I bobbed my head up and down enthusiastically. "Promise?" He was teasing now, but I nodded again. "Okay, then."

"Okay," I agreed.

"Is your face alright, where she hit you?" Niko eyed me closely, as if trying to detect any hidden injuries under the skin.

"I'm fine," I said, even though it still smarted a little. I had to keep some dignity around here, after all.

"That's good," he said, then ruffled my hair fondly. "You're my favorite person in the whole world, Cal Leandros."

"I am?" I searched his face to see if he was joking.

"You are." He wasn't teasing me.

"Then you're mine, too," I decided, because he was.