Author: Obi the Kid
Summary: Cal POV. Takes place at some point after Deathwish. Cal suffers when he remembers a specific part of his time in Tumulus.
Disclaimer: The characters of Cal, Niko and Promise belong to Rob Thurman. I make no money from the writing or distribution of this story.
I felt an overwhelming combination of terror and an immediate need to vomit come over me as I shot upright in my bed. I had no time to dive to the bathroom. In a matter of seconds I was covered in my own puke, my entire body shaking and sweaty. And I was filled with the most intense fear I'd felt since my unexpected trip to Tumulus when I was fourteen.
Instinctively, I called out for my brother. But Niko wasn't in our apartment. He was spending an evening with Promise, and in turn I had decided to hit the sack early, not even bothering to take off my worn jeans or aged tee shirt.
Of all the times for Niko not to be here.
I tried to pull my sorry ass off the bed without coating the sheets or myself with any additional internal fluids, but I failed. I had no control. And worst of all, I had no control over either end. I felt the warmth spread through the front of my pants and closed my eyes.
Here I was puking my guts out, my entire body lost in tremor, and I was worried about pissing my pants. My priorities are a little skewed at times.
Another wave hit me as I began crawling towards the bathroom. Then the reason for all of this struck. I knew why I felt this terror in my mind and stomach. I knew what had awoken me so violently.
Tumulus had surfaced. Or at least a piece of it had. I had dreamed of it. Relieved it. Haunting memories of my time there. Memories of feeding time to be exact. Being forced to eat. Puking it up. Then being forced to eat what had just left my stomach. Then the ultimate horror of finding out what I had just eaten. I remembered every detail so clearly now. Every grotesque smell and the lifeless odors within those smells.
Again I was sick. And again.
Each time, my body trembled even more. I couldn't stop it. Forgetting myself, I again yelled out for Niko. Desperate for him to be here - to stop the resurfaced fear.
Niko wasn't here, but eventually I remembered my phone. It was in my back pocket. I'd left it on me when I'd crashed into bed those few hours ago.
I dropped it four times before I managed to get my fingers to work. Even speed dial isn't so speedy when you can't see past waking nightmares and violent earthquake-sized tremors.
As I dialed, I kept inching to the bathroom. Damn the builders of this place for putting the toilets so far away from the door.
I heard a voice on the other end of the phone as it slipped from my hand again. Niko.
Retrieving the phone and clutching it life a lifeline, I tried to talk, though it was beyond difficult. I finally managed a few thick, gurgling sounds.
"Nik. Help…Tumul…sick…", and I dropped the phone again.
I didn't know what the hell I'd just said, but Nik would know. And he'd be here as fast as his legs could carry him. Promise's car would get across town in about fifteen minutes. Niko's legs would make it in ten.
I puked again as I curled up next to the toilet, shaking fiercely. My hands wouldn't work well enough to grab onto it and pull myself up. So the next bought of vomiting went everywhere. Add to that the pools of sweat pumping out of me and I bet I smelled like a regular rose garden.
Minutes passed. They felt like hours. My mind continued to recycle the revolting images. I was in Tumulus again and reliving feeding time in hell.
I pushed away from the toilet and curled into the corner, holding my stomach. It did nothing to stop the shaking or the visions of my past, but at least I hadn't puked in the last thirty seconds. I considered that a success.
Many hours later – or exactly eleven minutes in real time – I felt a face close to mine. Gray eyes boring into my soul. Niko didn't touch me. He knew better. He knew it best to make sure I knew him before he reached out physically. But the worry in his voice was enough to get my attention and I reached for my brother.
If I hadn't already been so sick, it would have made me sick to hear my voice. How pathetically weak and desperate it sounded. Niko would have my ass for this whole thing at some point. But right now, I just needed him close. I managed to move my right hand towards him. As soon as he took it, the trembling in that hand stopped.
"I'm here, Cal."
My eyes were slits, so exhausted from puking my guts out and dreaming about eating the Auphe version of filet mignon. And damn it if I didn't feel wetness on my face too. Puking, pissing myself and now crying. Just friggin' great. What a proud day in the life of Caliban Leandros.
All of these trivial worries didn't take away from what I felt or what I had seen in my nightmares. It was just my way of trying to detour myself away from those things.
My effort failed miserably.
The next thing I knew I was being pulled toward my brother, now sitting next to me on the cold tile floor. He held me against his chest, one hand cupping my head to his shoulder.
And that was all she wrote. I lost it.
My body wretched again, but this time nothing came up, and Niko held me tighter.
I tried to think good thoughts. My brother was here. No one else was witness to me falling apart and crying like a child. My phone was relatively clean. At least I hadn't puked on that. This shirt was on its last legs anyway, so I'd finally get to burn it. Maybe things weren't so bad after all.
Then my stomach rolled again. I was still sweating like a pig. But Niko would take care of me. He always did. Everything would be okay now.
I felt like I was six again, after a nightmare when 'Daddy' or one of his friends had come to visit. Niko had always been there then. He had always made things better after something like that, at least until the next bad thing happened.
I was safe now.
Even the unspeakable memories began to lessen, though they still lurked clear, ready to pounce at any time.
More time passed. Slowly I began to regain control but I didn't move from Niko's grasp. I couldn't. And for the simple reason that I was scared out of my mind and my brother's presence made it better. Twenty-one years old and still needing my big brother to make the nightmares stop. If only mommy could see me now.
Of course, she was the reason for all of this. Good ole drunken monster-lover that she was.
My thoughts kept spinning here and there until I felt the hand on my head slide down a notch and give a light pinch to my neck. Niko was pulling my mind back again. Damn the man, he knew me better than I could ever hope to know myself.
His voice was calm. Patient. Reassuring. "Stop thinking so much, Cal. Whatever started this, you'll tell me. We'll work through it. But give your mind a rest. Stop worrying about what you can't control. I mean it."
I nodded against him and relaxed a bit more as his hand moved back to my head. His thumb moved in small, slow circles through my hair, just as he used to do when I was young and scared. I felt myself giving into exhaustion. The only thing stopping complete submission – well, the only thing other than the whole Auphe mealtime nightmare thing – was the smell. With my half monster scenting abilities, the odors in the room and on me threatened to reintroduce hurling as my activity of the day.
I stunk. The bathroom stunk. Hell, the apartment stunk. I don't know how Niko could stand it. But he's always been able to put things like that aside for my benefit.
Eventually, I'd stopped shaking enough that he released me and pushed me upright against the wall. I saw another person float by in the direction of the tub. Promise. She'd been here all along, I just hadn't noticed in my fight to maintain sanity and bodily fluids. I heard the water in the tub go on. Yes, we had an honest to God tub in this apartment. It doubled as a shower, but at the moment I had no desire or ability to stand for anything longer than three seconds.
Promise tapped the water to a human friendly temperature as Niko stripped me
of my trashed clothes and tossed them into a corner. I know I should have felt embarrassed by all of this, but I had nothing Niko hadn't seen before, and hell, this is the guy who wiped my ass as an infant and had toilet trained me as a child. And even when I came back from Tumulus – and a couple times since - there were instances when I lost more control than I intended to. My brother was there to clean me up.
Never once, when I lost all control, had he ever made me feel lesser for it.
Now was no exception.
He thanked Promise and then asked her to step outside the bathroom. She did and offered me a look of kind patience. The smile I thought about didn't quite make it to my lips, but I hope she knew I was grateful.
Stripped completely, Niko then gently took my arm. I shook my head.
"Legs don't work, Nik. Not yet."
He smiled lightly before reaching under and lifting me with little effort. The warm soapy water against my pale, bare skin felt heavenly as I sank into the tub. As the herbal soap bubbles gently fizzled around me, I swore I would never again mock those who prefer baths over showers. My brother pushed me back to lean against the tub wall. Then, with the gentleness you'd never expect from a blonde-haired, olive-skinned, sword-wielding, monster-fighting super ninja, he cleaned me up from head to toe.
The puke and sweat and stench, gone. At least from my body. He finished with my hair, drained the tub and refilled it with clean soap-filled water. A simple hand to my chest and he ordered, "Stay put."
The mess I'd made on the bathroom floor, the bedroom floor and the bed itself would soon be a thing of the past. Leave it to my anal brother to have the rooms sparkling new in a matter of minutes. All except for my bed of course. Robbed of its sheets and comforter, it was as bare-assed as I was. Though at the moment, I had no problem with staying in this tub until I was shriveled and shrunken in more places than one.
Niko returned and knelt beside the tub. "Ready?"
I knew he didn't mean ready to get out of the water. He meant was I ready to talk about what had happened. I wasn't.
"Not really, no."
"Tough. You need to. I've got clothes for you. Promise is trashing your bedding. I'll put you in my bed tonight. I'll take the couch."
A pang of fear drifted through me. As tough as I tried to be, right now I was anxious and terrified about being without my safety net. Even if that net would only be steps away in the next room. But I worked through it this time and nodded towards my brother, knowing it wouldn't do me a damn bit of good to argue with him. I had no energy for that anyway.
I held an arm out to him. "Can you help me out of this fiberglass bucket?"
I shivered when the cool air hit my naked body. The sensation lasted only seconds though as I was wrapped in a huge soft towel and lowered onto the closed toilet lid to sit. I zoned out watching Niko work to drain the tub and wash away the remaining soap. Put away the shampoo. Wipe the water from the floor. My zone began to collapse and I started falling forward. Of course the super ninja caught me. I'd expected no less. What surprised me was that he stood there, holding me up, my legs bent and buckled, and hugged me silently for almost a minute. My bravado long gone for the night, I offered no fight. No sarcasm. No effort to pull away.
I needed my brother and he knew it.
We waddled our way into his bedroom and he settled me onto the edge of the bed. Settled with a hand to my shoulder, he held me straight until I stopped wobbling. Just like a damned weeble. At least I didn't fall down.
This weeble was wobbling something awful and it was ten minutes of super-human Niko effort – with modest help on my part – to get me dressed into a baggy pair of sweats and one of his less sculptured tee shirts.
I did as I was told. Big brother knew best.
He lifted my legs onto the bed and rested my shoulders and head on two slightly elevated pillows. A warm hand wrapped around my wrist and gray eyes locked onto mine. He said only one word. But it was said in such a way that I couldn't possibly resist or refuse.
I couldn't resist or refuse, but I'll be damned if I didn't try.
"I can't." Okay, so maybe try was a bit of a stretch.
"Nik, please." I begged, or tried to beg. It was more of a whine really. And whining never got me far with Niko. But it was all I had. I didn't want to talk about what I remembered. I just wanted the memories to go away and into that sunken hole where they had been safe and sound since I came back from Auphe hell.
My brother would not relent. As usual.
"You said something on the phone, or started to, about Tumulus. Did you remember something?"
My gray eyes, I knew they were desperate. I felt it as I grabbed his stare again. I could relay so much emotion and feeling to Niko with just a simple look. But he wanted more. And I knew why. Because if I didn't tell him, it would fester in my mind until it became so much more than a horrific memory of the past. It would be a horrific memory that I would relive day after day, moment after moment - until it suffocated me into a slow painful death.
I do have my issues.
Of course I gave in. This was Niko. Niko was safe. Niko was home. He was everything that Tumulus wasn't. If I couldn't tell him what I remembered, I might as well call it a life right now and cash in my monster chips.
I looked down at my hands. They were no longer shaking, but I pushed my fingers together to keep that shaking from starting.
"I remembered something. Not a lot, but enough."
I stopped and he waited. So patient. So damned patient. Eventually I told him.
"They would feed me and force me to eat it. It'd puke it up. They made me eat what I'd puked up. Or force it down my throat. At first I didn't know what I was eating. I eventually found out. I don't know where they got the victims or how they were killed. I only know where they ended up." I stopped again and gagged several times, thinking whatever internal organs were still inside of me would come flying out. They all stayed put this time. I found myself struggling to keep check of my unmanageable emotions again and wiped my eyes as I tried and failed horribly to make a joke out of the situation. "Didn't even taste like chicken."
Niko didn't laugh. Not even a slim smile. He just watched me. And not with pity that others would have. I could never have taken that from him or from anyone. He watched me so he knew I could see that I was safe again. That I wasn't in monster hell anymore. I was home. The Auphe were the past. All dead as far as we knew. Only their torturous memories – and me, their half breed creation – survived. But that was enough.
I looked at Niko's hand, still on my arm. I told him more.
"I remember the feeding routine rarely changed. And they always kept nearby to make sure I didn't puke up what I had already puked up and eaten. That side of the family is nothing if not caring. And if that's not love, I don't know what is." Another failed attempt at humor. Niko's hand tightened on my arm. "I woke up with these crystal clear and gut-revolting memories of that. Feeding time. I don't know why it surfaced now. It was like living it again and it scared the shit outta me, Nik. I think I yelled for you before I remembered you weren't home. At least I remembered the phone. Sorry about the mess."
My brother let out a deep breath. "I'm sorry I wasn't here. I should have been."
"No, you were having a life. Remember, that's what we're allowed now that the Auphe bitches aren't tailing our every move. You've taken care of me long enough. You are permitted a life beyond your monster-crazed little brother, you know."
Niko didn't respond. I didn't expect him to. And I knew my words were just words rolling off his back. Although I did believe that he deserved a life beyond me. If anyone deserved a normal, beautiful life, it was my brother. But selfishly, I knew I needed his stability and unwavering control if I was to continue to overcome my monster heritage. Who said life would get better after the Auphe were gone?
As it was, life was hell. Life without Niko wasn't worth living.
I began drifting off, but kept catching myself. Thoughts of those Tumulus visions returning were terrifying. I guess Niko picked up on that because
he got up, left the room, returned with a chair, one of his eighteen pound mythology research books and a blanket and settled at my bedside. His
hand returned to my arm, settling there for the night.
It was scary how much I depended on him at times. Had I been a normal twenty-one year old raised by parents that hadn't emotionally abused, tortured, harassed or tried to eat me, I'm sure they'd be pretty darn worried about the codependency issues that Niko and I shared. But I hadn't had all that loving parent crap. I'd grown up with a monster for a daddy and a gypsy mother who drank herself nuts and sold her reproductive self for pennies to create me as heir to most evil of creatures. If that's not enough for life-long therapy, I don't know what is.
Of course, I had Niko. One could ask no more of a big brother than what Niko asked of himself. When he was child – a friggin' four-year-old - he took it upon himself to watch over me. He takes that task even more seriously today.
I didn't sleep. Niko didn't either. I did rest though. For several days. I had no desire to leave the apartment. I called out sick to my bar job. Hell if I was going to break down in front of a room full of human and supernatural drunks. I did have a little dignity left.
Niko stayed in with me, for which I was grateful, but felt bad about. He put off planned outings with Promise so his little brother's mind didn't explode into pieces resulting in the excretion of his innards again.
Eventually I found sleep. Bits and pieces. Here and there. Any prolonged periods and the nightmares found me. Nothing like before though. The memories of Tumulus faded completely. Or I had figured out how to hide from them. I'm not completely sure. They were there, just distant now. And a part of me would find no rest with the lingering thought of those images returning.
I'd manage though. As long as I had Niko, I'd manage.
On the sixth day home, I sat across from him at our small kitchen table. He'd blended some disgustingly healthy mix of soy, fruits and powders. I busied myself with half a pizza loaded with clogged arteries. The first solidly wonderful meal I'd eaten since I'd puked up the two rooms of our apartment. God it felt good to eat again. If I was going to go out before I was twenty-five, this was the way to do it. Give me pizza or give me death.
I glanced at my brother, eyeing his eye-watering health concoction before watching him down it in one swallow. Gah!
He set the glass down. "Yes?"
"That is so wrong."
"You tell me that when we are old and gray and I'm still able to run your ass into the ground."
I snorted. "Old and gray, huh? You think we'll make it that far?"
He shrugged. "I hope so."
He looked at me. Into me.
"You saved my ass this week. Again."
"I did, didn't I?"
"It's beginning to become a habit."
"A habit I picked up when I was four years old."
"Yeah. I guess I turned out okay considering. It's not easy being raised by a toddler."
He rolled his eyes, stood, cleaned his glass, and then thwacked me on the back of the head. I smiled and silently relished in the feeling of family that rushed through me.
I about kicked his sorry ass out of the apartment that night. Too much time mother-henning me and not enough time enjoying his lady, wasn't good for my brother. He needed his time with Promise and I was determined to allow it for him. I'd be okay.
At least I thought I would. Little did I realize how much Niko's constant presence this last week had done for minimizing my childlike fears that the nightmare images would return. He'd given me something to focus on, instead of me wasting away in my own warped mind. Now, we would both try to get back into our regular lives again. I was insistent, but it didn't mean it didn't scare me to death.
As I sat on the couch that evening wandering through channels, I didn't even have the desire to stop at the blocked porno channels to try and snatch a glimpse of something. Niko, perfectly groomed, the bastard, was heading out for the night. I'd be completely alone for the first time since Tumulus revisited me. It wasn't a happy thought.
I'd deal though. I was a big boy now. I had to deal - for my brother's sake.
He put hand on my shoulder before he left, letting me know he wasn't far away if I needed him. I can't describe the enormous relief that flooded through me with that simple touch. I reached up and patted his hand. A silent gesture that spoke more between the two of us than a thousand words ever could.
I saw him double check his phone and full-on armament of sharp, pointy weapons before he left, then I sat back to lose myself in the world of television, hoping that the programmed tv images were the only images surfacing in my mind when I closed my eyes to sleep.