Title: Thanks, Nik

Author: Obi the Kid

Rating: PG-13 (Cal language)

Summary: Sequel of sorts to "I Hate my Brother" and "Dissolution." Cal gets reflective thinking about all that Niko has done for him.

I woke when I heard the door handle turn. I knew who it was. First, because I just don't know that many people. And second, we'll we don't get many visitors, unless they are trying to have me for dinner. Mr. Popularity, I am not. And let's face it, if it was something that was going to try and eat me, it probably wouldn't be sneaking into the apartment.

It had been a long few weeks. I'd finally worked my way out from under the influence of the flu that my monster genes were supposed to keep me from. Not just any flu either. We're talking top of the line, death-defying, just-put-me-out-of-my-misery flu. The type of bug that can bring down a herd of elephants. Or in this case, one single half-Auphe.

Then, in the middle of all that, I'd lost my brother. He'd died cradled in my lap. He'd died, but not for real. Well, it seemed as real as the permanent

scowl that graces my face, but it wasn't. Just a dream. No, not a dream. A nightmare - of the most torturous kind. Niko died, I'd shot and killed Robin, and I was about to off myself when I finally woke up.

Needless to say, I was a damn mess for a while after that.

And it still lingers. The image – hell, just the thought of losing my brother – I couldn't deal. But I had to. Somehow. So I got contemplative. Yeah, me of all people. Each time my mind started to wander towards his bloody end, I thought about something better. Not necessarily happy things, just better. And I've come to terms completely with everything that Niko has done for me and has been for me in my life.

I mean, let's face it, without my brother…

He came inside and stood in front of the couch; gray eyes settling on mine.

I closed my own grays for a long minute of thought – that alone would freak my brother out. Me? Thinking? Come on! But I did. In reality, it was less thought and more of a reflection.

A reflection of my life and Niko's role in it.

Thanks, Nik. For being the hands that cradled me away from Sophia moments – seconds - after I was born. For caring about me when she tossed me away.

For hiding the truth about the monsters for as long as a child with your impossible responsibility possibly could.

For making sure I had dinner every night, even if it meant you went without. For making sure I had a lunch for school and got to carry it in my favorite Scooby Doo lunchbox. The handle broke – I lost track of how many times – and every damn time, you fixed it so I had it with me the very next day.

For walking me to school every morning and being there when the school day was over to bring me home. Safe.

Thanks, Nik. For teaching me how to use a knife for self defense, long before I could manage one for cutting my own food.

For giving up those Ivy League colleges that would have certainly come calling for you, and settling on a smaller closer school, so you could keep me away from Sophia at least during the weekends.

For being there when Dear Old Dad made his first appearance in the window of our trailer and then chasing away those first nightmares that started soon after.

For fish sticks and cartoons. And yogurt.

For giving a shit about me when no one else did.

My eyes fluttered open. My brother was still there.

"How's your head? Besides hard as a brick."

"Funny. It's fine. Just a little fuzzy is all."

Niko leaned down in front of me and pushed my black hair away from my face to see the contusion from the previous evening's skirmish against a pair of bored alpha-less wolves. They'd been roaming Central Park for no other reason than to wreak havoc with the joggers there.

Jogging, mind you, is an evil sin that no human should ever be forced to participate in, much less join voluntarily, but most of those who run are probably, and generally good people, I would guess. They don't deserve to turned into chew toys while out for a little exercise. And it's bad for tourism when giant rabid dogs start eating people in the park. It just is. So, Niko and I put on our best weaponry and took care of the problem.

Wasn't much of one, not really. Two mid-pack types and nothing especially potent about them. Niko could have taken them down on his own – even with the steady sheets of rain monsooning down and a wind chill of about negative eighty, but I wasn't about to miss out on the fun of potty training a couple of rogue pups. I did though. Miss out. Got nailed in the head by a flying brick only a few minutes into the fight. A damn brick! Since when do wolves throw bricks? Shot to the head too. I landed in the inches-thick mud. Out cold. I didn't remember anything until I woke up a few hours ago with a splitting headache.

It was morning. I was in clean, dry clothes. The pelt of mud that had been caked into my hair and eyes, completely gone. Nik.

Thanks, Nik. For patching me up time and time again. Either because of me just being a kid or me trying to be like my big brother and playing with weapons – behind your back – that were far too old for my immature hands.

For letting me figure things out on my own, even when you knew my mistakes would hurt me.

For not saying I told you so, when my mistakes did hurt.

Thanks, Nik. For letting me be my own person, especially when it came to eating. No wheat germ smoothies occupying this gullet. Grease, fat and sugar all the way, baby!

For understanding my inability to express my gratitude for all you've ever done for me in words rather than glares, actions and grunts that I cling to so often.

For caring about me, when I couldn't give a shit about myself.

"Did you eat?"

Always with the damn eating. If I ate as much as he wanted me to, I'd weigh 800 lbs, Auphe genes or not. Of course I ate. It's what I do.

"Left over burger from a couple days ago."

Niko crunched his face in disgust. "The one that fell onto the sidewalk the minute you unwrapped it?"

"That very one," I patted my stomach and burped.

"What a disgusting creature you are."

"I would have saved you part of it if…"

"Moving on. Did Promise call?"

"Nope. At least not while I was conscious. Job?"

"Possibly. I'll catch up with her later. Get up. We've got things to do."

I really need to teach my brother how to sprawl out on the couch, drool from the mouth and veg-out from time to time. He's always in motion, in both body and brain. Too much in motion.

"Come on, Cyrano. It's Sunday. Lazy day. Football is on. Playoffs and all that good stuff. Just…ouch! Jesus, Nik. I got hit in the head last night! You trying to kill me?" I scooped up the shoe – my shoe – that he'd just hurled at my head.

"Normally not possible, to kill someone with a shoe, but I could manage it."

He could. Hell, he could strangle someone to death with licorice given the opportunity.

"Get up, Cal. We're out for a run. Got to keep you in shape."

I groaned and let my eyes slide shut again.

Thanks, Nik. For making me run when you know I'd rather slop around the apartment all day. You only do it to protect me – to keep me prepared to haul ass at moment's notice when something supernaturally creepy is chasing behind.

For being calm and comforting at those exact times when I need it the most, and with just a simple look or touch to bring me back to myself.

For not letting me drive your clunker-mobiles. You know damn well, I'd much rather conk out in the passenger seat and let the world just slide on by.

Thanks, Nik. For giving me a chance to trust others outside of you – Promise and Robin – and for allowing me to make the decision to share or not to share my most personal inner workings with them if I should wish.

For being there when I got back from Auphe Hell. For waiting for me. And…for not letting them take me back.

For giving up your entire chance at a normal apple pie life…for me.

A quick hair tug and I was meeting his stare again, just as he stuffed my socks, shoes and jacket into my hands.

"Five miles today, little brother. You got bested last night by a brick-throwing wolf. Sloppy. And when you're sloppy on a job, you pay the price. Get up. Be outside in sixty seconds, or I will tie you to my car using nothing but your socks and I will drag your pain-in-the-ass lazy self out of bed."

"Damn wolves and their damn bricks. No rest for the monster-weary. I'm comin', I'm comin'. Bastard."

I made it outside in fifty seconds. Bam! Take that, Ninja-Boy! So, yeah, I didn't have my socks or shoes on yet and my hair still looked like it had been mashed by a heard of giant teeth-bearing pillows, but it counts! Nik snorted at me as I finished dressing and stood next to him.

"Let's get this torture over with quickly. I have big plans today to sulk and mope."

Instead of a smack to the back of the head, which I was completely expecting and ready for by the way, Niko placed a hand on the nape of my neck and squeezed lightly. The hand fell away, but not the reassurance behind it.

I smirked and did a quick, pointless arm stretch to end the moment.

"I'm ready, Cyrano. Lead the way."

Thanks, Nik. For being true to what you are and for never apologizing for it.

For never giving up on me.

For never thinking of me as a monster.

Thanks, Nik.

For being my big brother.

The end