Title: Sanity is Overrated

Series Title: After

POV: Cal

Author: Obi the Kid

Rating: PG

Summary: Snippet of my "After" series. A string of non-chronological short stories that focus on the 1-2 years after Cal returned from Tumulus.

Disclaimer: All hail Rob Thurman! No profit here, I'm just having fun.


Sanity is overrated. It really is.

I'm sane. I shouldn't be, but I am.

Of course I can only attribute that to one thing. One person really. My big brother, Niko.

He's been there from the beginning, but more importantly, he was there when I came back from Grendel Hell as a complete neurotic mess.

I'm better now. Changed forever, but better. At least that's what Niko tells me. He says that I'm still the most annoying pain-in-the-ass brother there's ever been, but that I am perfectly sane.

I believe him. I believe everything he tells me. But if this is sanity, I'm seriously considering opting out.

No sane person would ever voluntarily eat what was squirming on this plate in front of me. No way in hell. Sanity comes with a price. And the plate of greeny-browny things that Niko had shoved in front of me was an expense much too high for me.

"No, Nik," I said as I shook my head. "Not in this lifetime or any other. Or any of your lifetimes either. I don't eat worms or seaweed; I don't care how healthy you claim they are. Here, you can have mine." I pushed my dinner towards him. "Where's the grease and lard that I ordered?"

My brother didn't find me funny. Don't get me wrong, he was thrilled beyond belief that I'd come back to myself – or a snarkier version of myself – almost two years after Hell, but he still didn't find me the slightest bit humorous. I on the other hand, thought myself pretty damn funny. And it didn't really matter, because funny or not, I was not eating…that.

He pressed the food back in my direction. "I am fine feeding you grease and lard, as nauseatingly artery-clogging as it may be, but every so often, you will eat something that actually is part of a food group. And those are not worms. Those are Chinese vegetarian noodles. The seaweed part you are correct about however. Well, technically it's kelp, but same family. Eat it."

"Nik…"

"Don't Nik me and don't whine. I didn't raise you from an infant just so you could moan about a little healthy eating. Here," he handed me a packet of soy sauce. "Put this on it." I grabbed the one packet and then the other fifteen as well. If I did have to eat this crap, I wasn't planning on having to taste it.

I wasn't done complaining, but I knew it wouldn't get me anywhere. Niko wasn't just a big brother protecting me anymore, no. Now he was training to become a full-on super-ninja. His collection of swords and knives was beginning to resemble a museum assembly. The swords went along with the extreme healthy eating and the meditation, yoga and martial arts kata crap he'd become so obsessed with since getting me back. I may not have said much or resembled anything more than a semi-responsive, terrified kid two years ago, but I remember Niko pushing himself to be better…to be the best…so that the Grendel never took me from him again.

The worms and seaweed were all part of that.

He did all of this for me.

And now that I had survived recovery and was firmly planted in the world of the sane, for my brother and for him alone I gagged down the food.

"There. Can I have grease now?"

Niko raised an eyebrow at me and actually picked up the plate to thoroughly examine it.

"Nik, there are no hidden compartments in paper plates. I ate it. You saw me. Can I at least have the fortune cookie that came with it?"

Relenting, he plucked the plastic-wrapped cookie in my direction.

Naturally, like we all do – even us monster babies – I pulled the small tag of paper out

first and read it as I munched on the snack. With a mouth full of cookie, I snorted and grumbled out, "Fanity if overweighed." Ha! Figure that one out, ninja-boy!

Niko reached across the table and whacked me on the head. He hadn't done that a lot – or at all – during my recovery. I'd missed it.

I didn't miss it anymore. Niko's slaps were like getting pelted with a close range BB-gun!

"I did not raise a Neanderthal. Don't talk with your mouth full. What's your fortune? And swallow the cookie before you repeat it."

Did Nik believe in these things? I didn't think so. I know I didn't. This one though…it had me maybe second guessing that idea.

"It says 'sanity is overrated'."

Niko's reply? "Huh."

My reply? "Well, it is. Being sane isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"Perhaps not, but," the mood dropped a notch and he leaned back to examine me, releasing a long breath. Then, "But I've seen you teetering on the edge of the other direction…"

I pursed my lips together and nodded; my semi-decent mood suddenly deflated by realism. "I know." I studied him back for a minute; gray eyes to gray eyes. No one has ever worked harder at anything in their lives than Niko did for me not only in the last couple of years, but in all of my sixteen or eighteen – however you wanted to count it. I may not have turned out exactly like he'd pictured, but he'd done his best. And it was more than enough.

"You did good by me, Nik. You know that, right? Whatever I am or will be; it'll never be your fault if I don't measure up…or if I fall. Maybe the Grendel will find us again. I don't know, but…"

His hard stare interrupted me as he said, "They are not taking you from me again, Cal."

There was such passionate conviction behind his words and I wanted to believe them so badly…

"I know. But we don't know much about them really. So, we don't know what'll happen in the future. There's no way we can know everything. Except…just…you did good, all right? More than anyone else could have. It's okay if I fall on my ass once in a while."

"Just make sure they're not chasing us when it happens."

His cloudy eyes smiled, followed by a slight tilt of his lips. Best moment of the day. Lifting a microscopic bit of the heaviness off my brother's shoulders…if only for few fleeting seconds.

I cleaned up the dinner. I even washed out our glasses and picked up my jacket off the kitchen floor – shocking Nik in the process.

He still sat at the table when he disbelievingly said, "Huh. Maybe you're not so sane after all."

I brushed his shoulder with my arm as I passed from the kitchen towards the TV.

"I am what you raised me to be, Cyrano." My butt and the rest of me flopped onto the bed. I grabbed the remote. "Pat and Vanna or Alex?"

"Alex. A little trivia is good for the soul. And defeating you in Jeopardy is always enjoyable. Pay attention, little brother."

Pay attention; the Niko way of saying that he was turning Jeopardy into a weapon of mass learning…again. No doubt there would be a full blown test on 'What I learned on Jeopardy last night' over breakfast tomorrowmorning.

Ah well, at least I had my sanity.


The End.