I'm in a Cal Leandros mood. I just read the four books again and am waiting so darn impatiently for the next that I have to feed my addiction with fanfiction. Unfortunately, I already read EVERY SINGLE FIC on this site for the fandom. So now I'm contributing. Blah. And wow is this short...

Niko opened the door to allow Promise and Robin into the small apartment. He hadn't been expecting them, but he didn't let it show. Cal was still asleep, despite it nearing noon and Niko told Robin to go and wake him. This was bound to be a business meeting, and Cal would need to be there. If only because Niko didn't want to have to repeat it all later.

Robin was gone for only a few minutes, which was odd, as Niko knew that it usually took longer than that to wake his little brother. The puck, though, was frowning. "Is there a reason why Cal would be under his bed instead of on it?" he asked.

Niko looked up at him, a strange emotion passing though gray eyes before he was up and out of his chair. Promise called after him, but he didn't seem to hear her, reaching Cal's room in record time. Both the puck and the vampire followed him, although they stayed in the hall.

Niko lay stomach-down on the floor, completely ignoring the dirty laundry scattered about to peer under the bed. Gray eyes met frightened gray, and Cal curled up closer to the wall. "Cal?" Niko asked gently.

"Cold, so cold," Cal murmured, his voice raspy and harsh. It was a none too gentle reminder of how Cal had been upon returning from Tumulus so long ago. "Don't want to remember. Don't want to."

"Cal," Niko repeated. He reached a hand out only to have his brother flinch away from it.

"Red ground that cuts like glass. Yellow sky that breaths like acid. Cold so cold," Cal was muttering, his gaze far away.

Niko closed his eyes, calming himself before taking a deep breath and looking at his brother again. "Cal. You're home. Tell me about home."

"…Home?" It was almost as though he couldn't understand the simple command. "I remember home."

"That's right," Niko soothed. Outside the door, Promise and Robin glanced at each other, frowning darkly. Something must have triggered a flashback. Robin was reminded of the time they had tried hypnotizing Cal and shuddered. Obviously the memories went deeper than then they had thought. "What do you remember about home?"

"Warm. Home was warm. Not like here. Not like…no. No!" Cal shook his head violently, pressing himself even closer to the wall, away from Niko's outstretched hand.

"Cal, tell me about home," Niko repeated, his tone gentle but firm at the same time.

Cal blinked at him. "Niko was home. Niko would hold me when I was scared. He helped with my homework. Sophia would hurt me, but Niko was nice."

Niko nodded softly. "Yes. I remember. What else?"

"Niko loved me. Niko was the only one who ever loved me because he's perfect and everybody loved him. Except maybe Sophia. Sophia doesn't love anybody but herself. But Niko told me that he loved me enough for everybody. He loved me even though I was a monster. He shouldn't." Cal sounded so sincere there that Niko's heart nearly broke. "Not real. Not human. Not here."

"Cal, I love you," Niko said softly. "You're not a monster. And you're home now. Come back to me."

Promise leaned against the wall, pressing a hand to her mouth. Robin looked away from everyone, having never fully realized just how deeply those scars must run. Cal couldn't remember any of his time in Tumulus, but he still thought this way. Still had flashbacks, because Niko didn't seem surprised by the turn of events at all. Only concerned.

They had never realized just how important Niko was to his brother. They knew that Cal was Niko's life, and that nothing would ever come before him. But Cal had always just been the punk-ass kid brother with an attitude problem. They couldn't truly understand why Niko put up with him the way he did.

And now... now they could see. Cal depended on Niko as much as, if not more so, than Niko depended on him. A simple nightmare had helped to change their entire view on the brothers' relationship.

"Nik?" The name was breathy, almost unbelieving and mirror gray eyes met his, filled with desperate hope.

Niko nodded. "I'm right here." He reached out again and grabbed Cal's wrist pulling him out from under the bed and into his lap. "I'm here and I still love you. I will always love you."

"Nik?" Cal's voice was becoming clearer and he squirmed slightly against his brother's chest.

"Cal," Niko sighed. "Are you with me now?"

Cal nodded, somewhat confused. "Where was I?"

Niko shook his head. "It doesn't matter. You're home now."

Because home was warmth and comfort and help with math homework and love.

Home was Niko.