Niko came home with a black eye and dried blood crusting his upper lip. The injuries made his sixteen-year-old face look harder and older. I didn't like it – not one damn bit. Anger boiled in my belly and I marched over to my brother to stare him in the sheepish face.

"Who did that to you?" I demanded heatedly. I didn't have any illusions about my abilities in my physical strength – I was a scrawny twelve-year-old and no amount of righteous indignation was going to result in a sudden knack for ass-kicking my brother's no doubt older and stronger attacker. But hell if that didn't mean I wasn't planning on trying.

Niko shrugged. I could have predicted it, the twitch of the shoulder and the flop of pale hair. Damn, that eye looked painful. "No one of consequence," he muttered, heading for the small freezer. He rummaged around for a minute and emerged with an ice pack pressed to the side of his face.

I folded my arms, my anger turning rapidly into frustration with my elder brother's damn pacifist ways. "Shit, I'll bet you didn't even fight back."

Niko grimaced. "The word, Cal, the word again."

I rolled my eyes. If only he knew how often those kinds of words cropped up in my mental processes. "You didn't answer the question," I pressed on doggedly, delighting in acting the part of concerned big brother. "Did you fight back or didn't you?"

"No, I did not," Niko said calmly. "You know I hate violence, Cal."

"You're not exactly the picture of peace and love right now, are you?" I demanded.

Niko gave me a wry look from under the ice pack but didn't answer. I threw my hands in the air and stomped out of the trailer in a huff, leaving my big softy brother nursing his battle wounds. It worried me sometimes, it truly damn did. How would Niko ever protect himself if there was ever a time he didn't have me around to fight for him? That kid really needed to learn how to defend himself.