My brother is a monster.

Of course, this isn't something I let him admit, at least out loud. Considering that he manages to be a better person than most of the population of New York, there's no reason he should think that he's an abomination. Doesn't stop him from thinking so, and it doesn't stop me from kicking his ass when he mentions it.

He doesn't look like a monster, either. Granted, he also doesn't look like he's my brother; apparently, genetics do lie. He's got dark olive skin, and blond hair so pale, it's nearly white, while I got my missing father's pale skin and our mother's soot-black hair. He's built like a well-toned beast of prey, muscle combined with grace, while I've got a scrawny build, and had to haul ass in order to get the little muscle I have. The only way to tell, by looking at us, that we're brothers, is in the eyes. Gateways to the soul and all that, and we both have the gray steel eyes of warriors. Bonded by guns and blades and ready to fight to the death for each other, that's Niko and I.

Except for when the Auphe comes out. When his sword and eyes are coated blood red, and he decides the world really should go to hell. You can't tell, then, except that I'm the only one crazy enough to try to calm him down. Every time, the world tells me it's useless, that he's too far gone.

But I always bring him back. Because without Niko, you don't have Cal.

Ever since I could remember, Niko's been with me. Even as a child, he was in a constant forced calm, always so damn careful, as if he might snap and break baby brother at any moment. He never has; kids picking on me at school, yes, or rabid dogs and revenants trying to have a tasty Cal snack, but he never hurt never me. Auphe may be the stuff of nightmares, but Niko's the lullaby that got me to sleep at night.

I see him now, cleaning tables at the Ninth Circle for Ishiah, our boss when we aren't hunting the things that go bump in the night. Even though the bar's nearly empty, Niko is wound like the tightest of springs, ready to pounce on trouble makers at any moment. He usually resorts to his katanas when he does, but I've seen him take foes on bare-handed. Either way, they look like they've been ripped up with claws. I prefer my guns, thank you very much, but according to Niko, they don't have the adrenaline rush, the certainty of your foe's bloody demise, that slicing and dicing has.

But I'm getting distracted—I tend to, having to look out for everything at once. Niko cleans the tables with slow, even, controlled movements. He looks calm, serene even, as he listens to another one of Goodfellow's stories about past conquests. He's the only one I know that can do that; even I can't keep a straight face, and I've dated the craziest werewolf chick in town.

"And that," Robin finishes, "is how I convinced a whole city that a BDSM orgy would earn God's forgiveness, and cure everyone of the Black Death. Pretty impressive, hmm?" Our favorite puck gives a sly smile, first to me. I bite my tongue, think of George holding my hand and laughing it all off. I nod; yes Goodfellow, you are the most damn suave thing in this whole room, please keep it in your pants.

Robin makes the mistake of smiling at Niko. Why is this a mistake, you ask? Sure, Niko looks calm at first. But then he smiles back, and while the rest of him still seems serene, he's got a wide grin that nearly cuts his face in half with too-sharp teeth.

"Your stories always amuse, Goodfellow," he says nonchalantly. "Surely, your additions would be welcome in any history textbook. It would surely…liven things up, would it not?"

Robin slinks away with a nervous chuckle, saying something about checking up on Ishiah and wandering off. Niko resumes his work, but the smile doesn't leave. I toss the glass I was cleaning at him, to make sure he's paying attention. He catches it before I can blink.

"Don't make me put you on a tea break, Cyrano" It's mostly a joke, but the warning's still there. He might've raised me, but we both know I'm the one who keeps him in check. Niko acknowledges the comment, striding over to me and handing the glass back.

"I'm alright, Cal." His hand brushes against mine, too brief for anyone else to notice. His touch is soft; he's safe, he's sane. For now. "I suppose I am a bit…restless."

"Meaning we're running the way back." I groan, my leg muscles already cramping at the idea. "…As long as we don't stop on the way for any detours. You're worse than Salome and her prey."

"At least I don't play with my food as often," Niko adds with a wry grin, moving on to the next table in need of cleaning. In a few hours, I'll probably have to remind him of this, as a werewolf throws a fit or a succubus makes a move on the staff, and it'll be all Niko can do not to gut them slowly and painfully on the spot.

But for now, everyone's alright. Another calm before the thousands of shit storms that cross our path. And every step of that path, you'll find Niko and me side by side, weapons drawn together as we fight off the rest of the world.

My brother is a monster. But more importantly, he's my brother. And there isn't a damn nightmare in the world that can change that.