The phone rang while Robin was sleeping off his most recent drunk. He couldn't be entirely certain but he thought it might be the fourth, or possibly fifth, maybe sixth. It was hard to say. Pucks took to alcohol like fish to water or vampires to a freshly drawn pint – especially wine – so getting drunk in the first place took some serious effort. Staying drunk was pretty much a full-time job.
He seriously considered not answering it – in fact he considered it so seriously that the call went to voice mail before he had to make a decision. Excellent, he thought, trying to figure out if he was on the floor or if he'd made it into someone's exceptionally uncomfortable bed at some point, and that's when the phone started ringing again.
Life and death, Robin thought with resignation, forcing his eyes open only to realize he was lying face down. Someone had better be dying. He shoved himself up to his knees, swatting an empty bottle away in a sudden fit of temper. Whisky. Caliban's fault. Robin Goodfellow had never cared for whiskey until he'd made a habit of drinking with halfblooded Auphelings. Cal was a bad influence on him.
The phone had stopped ringing again by the time he got to his feet, but it started again as he surveyed his living room. It was relatively unscathed by his recent mood – empty bottles and alcohol stains on his carpet notwithstanding. He should probably tip the cleaning woman, though.
The thought occurred to him that he could offer her something besides a monetary bonus and he grinned tightly. He could see himself reflected in the huge television screen and thought he looked a little bloodthirsty. Good, he thought. He'd been moping. Robin Goodfellow didn't fucking mope. Or at least he wouldn't anymore.
The phone went to voicemail again as he looked around for the phone and he experienced a brief moment of concern – if someone was dying, possibly they would be dead by the time he got around to answering the phone. He found it under the couch only after it started ringing again.
He wasn't so far gone in his concern – or his drunken misery – to forget to check the identity of the incoming call. Robin Goodfellow didn't mope, but he also didn't answer the phone when his morally conflicted asshole of an ex-lover called, either.
The number was Niko's, which gave him a moment's pause, letting the phone go to voicemail again. At this rate, Robin thought with a sense of resigned humor, it was entirely possible that the only person who would be dying was himself, after Niko killed him for dicking around.
But Niko was in Paris with Promise, celebrating, well, any number of things, really. That meant Robin had at least the length of a Transatlantic flight to live, so he flipped the cell phone open and did his best to sound very, very sober and unconcerned. There was no way he was going to let this particular human, especially, know what a state he'd let himself succumb to. "Niko! Tell me, how are the nude beaches? Remind Promise of our agreement regarding photographs."
The fact that Niko let that pass without comment should have been the first sign that maybe something was wrong. Well, that he would call back five times was probably the first. Letting the naked joke pass should have been the second. But Robin was still just hung over enough to let it pass.
"I need you to check on Cal," Niko said. It sounded like he was somewhere semi-public, maybe the hotel lobby; Robin could hear people in the background, but no engines, no sounds of street vendors, no clink of silverware on china.
"Caliban is a big boy, Niko. He can take care of himself for two whole weeks while his nursemaid is in Europe." Robin had to do some quick mental calculations to figure out how long Niko had been gone; he was fairly certain he'd only spent a couple of days sulking. "He doesn't need you checking in on him constantly. You know, it wouldn't hurt him to think you actually believed he could take care of himself every once in a while."
"He sent me a card at the hotel," Niko said. Definitely hotel lobby, then, if he'd called Robin as soon as he received the letter.
"That doesn't mean he's lonely," Robin explained patiently as he kicked another empty bottle out of the way, enjoying the way it cracked against a chair leg and spun off at a right angle. He was sobering up entirely too quickly. Lucky humans and their pitiful metabolisms. "Was it pornographic? Tell me Promise has a picture of you opening the envelope."
"I liked it better when you two were jealous of each other." Niko was getting aggravated. Robin liked that. He found Niko infinitely easier to deal with when he was pissed off. It was like being on solid ground. "He sent me a Father's Day card." The aggravation bled out of Niko's voice to be replaced with worry. "I'd forgotten the date, Robin. I never forget that date, but-"
He trailed off at the end and Robin mentally filled in the blanks with all the things Niko would never say, some he'd probably never even think: But I'm still recovering from that near-death thing, and I was enjoying myself with the woman I love and let myself forget the bad things for a while and even I'm allowed to not worry about Cal constantly, aren't I? and the quieter, unspoken, but definitely heard, especially since there are other people who he can turn to now.
"What's the big deal about Father's Day?" Robin asked, realizing the horrible, vast stupidity of that question even as the words left his lips. Caliban's Daddy Issues were legion. A fleet of psychiatric professionals could devote their lives to dealing with that morass of confusion and self loathing and never reach the end. And since Cal seemed to delight in finding new ways to torture himself with constant reminders of his Otherness, he would latch onto this particular greeting card holiday to punish himself for the sin of having been conceived. "Don't answer that," he said quickly.
"He has a list," Niko said and it was in the same tone that one might declare the arrival of a cave troll, or the sudden onset of the apocalypse. "You don't need to baby-sit, I know you have a lot on your plate, but if you'd just keep an ear out in case he does something phenomenally reckless…"
Which Cal was known for. Robin rubbed his hand across his eyes and spared his living room another glance. Maybe what he needed to do to stop moping was to go get someone else drunk. Maybe he could talk Cal into hitting a strip club or picking up a prostitute or having a threesome – something the younger man would kill him for when they were both sober again. It sounded infinitely better than sitting here with another empty bottle.
The phone beeped with an incoming call. Robin sighed. Ishiah. "I have another call. Listen, I'll check on Cal, try to distract him a little. He'll be fine, so stop worrying about it and go enjoy your vacation. Tell Promise to enjoy herself even if you won't."
"It's number five I'm worried about," Niko said. "Just don't let him end up on a terrorist watch list or anything, all right?" Then he hung up, leaving Robin to wonder if maybe he should have asked for details about that list.
He answered Ishiah's call because it wasn't like they could avoid each other forever, and he didn't want Ishiah getting the idea that Robin was so devastated that he was hiding or something. "What?" he snapped, already walking toward the bedroom to get cleaned up.
"Your Aupheling is making a scene," Ishiah said, and if he didn't sound happy to be talking to Robin, some of that might have something to do with the yelling and occasional sound of breaking glass in the background.
Robin heard a werewolf snarl, followed by a distinctly canine whimper just a moment later and grinned. "Sorry," he said. "Wrong number."
He went to pick up Caliban anyway, if only because he had a suspicion Niko would stick him with the bill for damages if he didn't. But he took the time to shower and change first. Robin Goodfellow did not show up wrinkled and smelling of alcohol when facing a former lover.
Robin Goodfellow did not linger on the sidewalk like a cringing high school girl facing her first crush, either, so when he arrived at the Ninth Circle, he ignored the "Closed for Business" sign on the door, the broken glass on the sidewalk and the unconscious werewolf slumped against a streetlight and let himself in.
The lights were up, making it brighter in there than it normally was during business hours. A couple of the peris were starting to sweep up; they both aimed glowers in Robin's direction as he entered. He smirked. The damage actually wasn't too bad, considering. Cal was an impressive fighter when he wanted to be, and since the patronage of the bar was almost entirely non-human Ishiah was lucky the ceiling didn't have any gaping holes in it, and that nothing had been set on fire.
Cal was sitting in a booth toward the back, sprawled mostly upright with an icepack in one hand and a shot glass in the other. He had a bloody gash on one temple, still bleeding sluggishly, but otherwise looked unharmed. He raised the hand with the glass and gave Robin a sketchy wave. "I told Ish not to call you," he said in an accusing voice.
"Ish doesn't take orders from punks who are currently engaged in antagonizing his clientele and destroying his business establishment," Robin said cheerfully.
Cal was obviously still drunk; he grinned at the insult and threw back the shot in his hand. "Dude. Want a drink? It's on me."
"You have no money," Robin said, sliding into the booth across from Cal only after he checked it for shards of glass and smears of blood.
"That is an excellent point," Cal said. "Don't tell Ish."
Robin glanced at Ishiah, standing behind the bar and very obviously within earshot. "Don't worry," he said. "He'll never hear it from me."
"We should go out," Cal said, setting his shot glass down with a heavy thud. "Hit a bar."
"You've already hit a bar," Robin pointed out. "More than once, from the looks of things. Maybe we should slow down a little." He gestured for Ishiah to bring him a drink and ignored the glare he got in return. "Tell me about your list."
Cal beamed at him. "Niko called you!" He leaned forward. "Did he like his card?"
There was no safe way to answer that. "Was it pornographic?"
"It had puppies," Cal confided. "Lots of puppies. And a rainbow. And I wrote him a poem."
"Why?" Robin asked.
"He would have ignored pornography," Cal explained. "I figured cute would freak him out more."
Fair enough. Robin leaned back in the booth as Ishiah appeared and deposited a glass of wine in front of him with bad grace. "Excuse me a moment, Caliban. I need to talk to Ishiah."
Cal leered dramatically, but stopped as soon as Ish handed him a beer. "Sit," Ishiah said. "Stay."
"Woof," Cal said obediently, and drank.
Robin followed Ishiah toward the back of the bar, stepping over an unconscious patron who was apparently too large for Ishiah to bother dragging outside. "How long has he been here?"
Caliban wasn't human – his metabolism was nearly as impressive as Robin's, though he had the distasteful human tendency toward hangovers – so getting this wasted, aside from being something Cal just didn't do on a regular basis, took something of an effort.
"He showed up as soon as we opened for business," Ishiah reported. "Looking for a fight and drinking more than I've ever seen. Is something wrong?"
"Daddy Issues," Robin explained.
"Right," Ishiah said. "He's going to have to get over that someday."
"Some never do," Robin said with a pointed glance.
"Well, we're not talking about me," Ishiah said and if his voice was tight, at least he wasn't getting angry.
Robin shrugged, let it go. They weren't. They probably never would. He'd decide how to feel like that when he'd been sober for more than a couple hours. "Has he been this happy all day?"
They both turned at the same time to eye Caliban, who was nursing the beer Ishiah had given him. He saw them and ginned, waving with the bloody icepack for them to join him.
"It's not normal," Robin said. Sober, Caliban could be maudlin and self-pitying. Drunk was usually worse.
"I asked him why he was drinking so early in the day," Ishiah said. "He told me he had a list."
"Is he on number five yet?" Robin asked.
"How should I know?" Ishiah demanded. "Just get him out of here. He's bad for business on a good day."
They both glanced again at Cal who was starting to slump sideways in the seat.
"Right," Robin said. "This should be fun. I'll take him back to my place and let him puke all over the guest bathroom."
"Robin," Ishiah said as he started to leave. "I wanted to-"
"No," Robin said quietly so Cal and the peris wouldn't hear. "You already said all you're going to get to. This is over. You don't get to go there anymore."
They watched each other for a long moment, and Robin thought about all the years he'd put into wanting Ishiah, and how there had been so many, many more years of wanting then there would ever be of having. That was how it was for his kind, the few who ever learned how to want anything that mattered.
"That's fair," Ishiah said. "Can I say one thing?"
Robin glanced at Cal, who had finished the beer and was starting to look like he was ready to leave. "What the hell," he said.
"You'll be happier without me," Ishiah said quietly. "One day you'll believe me. And until then, I'm still your friend, whether you like it or not."
Then he left to go back to cleaning up Caliban's mess and Robin decided he really, really needed to be drunk again.
"Tell me about this list," Robin said as he clasped Cal's hand and pulled his friend to his feet. "Niko was very mysterious about it."
"It's awesome," Cal said. "It's my twelve-step program."
"I thought twelve-step programs generally discouraged getting drunk and starting bar fights."
"Not this one," Cal said proudly. "Want to help? I'm already on number three."
"What were one and two?"
"Get really stinking drunk," Cal said. "And sending Niko's father's day card."
That made sense. Robin nodded. "And number three?"
"We need to find someone's asshole dad," Cal said. "And then we beat the crap out of him."
"All right," Robin said, ignoring the way Ishiah groaned and covered his eyes with his hand. "But first we need to stop by my place. I'll need money if I'm going to be bailing you out of jail later."
"Getting caught isn't on the list," Cal said. "We don't have time for that. I got off to a late start today."
"Right, right. So where do we find an asshole father?" Robin asked as they left the bar.
"I have a system," Cal said.
He did have a system. That wasn't the saddest part. The saddest part was how easy it was.
Cal was starting to sober up by the time they hit the emergency room, so Robin took his chances and pushed a couple cups of hospital coffee on him. Possibly if he could get Cal sobered up a little they could skip this whole twelve step program and actually do something productive with their day. Cal just nursed the coffee as he slumped in the plastic waiting room chairs, and watched the patients come and go.
It happened faster than Robin thought it would, but humans never failed to surprise him by how very monstrous they could be to their own. The man walking through the emergency room doors didn't look like a demon, but the little girl in his arms cringed and whimpered and huddled in her chair.
A nurse took her away. When dad walked away in the general direction of the rest room, Caliban followed.
The men's room wasn't empty. There was a nurse standing at the urinals when they walked in. Robin grabbed him on his way to the sink and gave him a shove toward the door. "Get out," he said, nodding toward the other side of the bathroom, where Cal was stalking after the girl's father. "You don't want to get in the middle of this."
The nurse glanced over his shoulder, took one look at the way Cal moved, and shot out the door.
"Security's going to be called any second now," Robin said. "So we might want to make this fast."
"We can do fast," Cal said. A gate was already forming behind him, swirling and thunderous, edged with lightning. Not a happy looking gate. The little girl's father was staring at Cal with his mouth open. "It's more fun if I get to take my time, though. You know. Really pound the lesson in."
"Perhaps we should give the gentleman the benefit of the doubt," Robin said. "It's possible that someone else is abusing his child and he just hasn't noticed."
But the look on the guy's face went straight from confused to panicked and Robin sighed. "Never mind," he said. "Just don't kill him. Niko'll have my ass if you kill him."
Cal snickered. "You wish Niko would have your ass."
"I'm over blonds," Robin said, enjoying the way the asshole was backing away from Caliban's slow advance. "And I'm way over good guys. I've decided to devote the next few decades to pursuing romantic partners that your brother would never approve of."
"Niko has shitty judgment about things like that," Cal agreed. "I mean – Georgina. Right? Stand still," he told the asshole. "I've got a point to make and you're going to fucking listen or I'll beat the crap out of you."
"You're going to do that anyway," Robin pointed out, leaning against the door in case anyone tried to come in.
Cal ignored him. "We're going to talk about the obligations of fatherhood," he said in a strangely earnest tone. "And then-" the gate flashed a deep electric blue as it suddenly expanded in size, "-then we're going to talk about what I'll do to you if you ever touch that little girl again."
They climbed out the bathroom window a few seconds before security burst in to find the father on the floor, staring wild-eyed and shrieking about monsters with a note proclaiming "I am a child abuser" written on his forehead in sharpie.
"Tattoos," Robin said. "Next year we should take the asshole to a tattoo parlor and make it permanent."
"I like the way you think," Cal said as they went out the bathroom window and made the jump to the ground floor.
They ended up back at Cal and Niko's apartment, which was slowly becoming just Cal's as Niko spent more and more time with Promise. Robin wasn't sure if either one of them had noticed yet, though he suspected Niko might be the last one to realize he was moving out. It was a good thing, he thought, in the long run and Cal certainly seemed to be coping well with the increased independence if the complete and utter chaos reigning in the normally immaculate living space was any indication. "If you think I'm helping you clean this up before your brother returns, you've lost your mind."
Cal shrugged and dropped his coat over the back of the couch. "I've got two more weeks before they even think about coming back. Plenty of time to hire someone to do it for me."
"You have no money," Robin reminded him again, clearing several Chinese take-out menus and a pile of hopefully clean sheets off the armchair before he made himself comfortable.
"You really like reminding me of that," Cal said. "Beer?"
Robin made a sound that Cal apparently took as agreement, because a bottle came flying through the air a moment later. He caught it neatly and eyed the lid, wondering if Caliban meant for him to pull it off with his teeth.
"It's a twist-off," Cal said.
Robin gave him a look normally reserved for abominations and untold horrors and set the beer down on the coffee table with exaggerated caution.
For his part, Cal tossed back most of his beer in one long swallow, then threw himself down on the couch without bothering to clear off any of the clutter. He tossed Robin a pen and notebook he'd apparently scrounged out of the mess and sprawled back on the couch. "Okay, I'll dictate. You can be my sexy secretary."
"I don't do shorthand," Robin said.
"Dear Mom," Caliban dictated. "How are you? I hear Hell is spectacularly horrible this time of year. Has anyone eaten your entrails yet?"
"You're writing a letter to your dead mother?" Robin asked, vaguely concerned.
"Course," Cal said, taking another swig of the beer. "All the good twelve-step programs say you should write a letter."
"Yes," Robin said slowly. "I think those letters are generally supposed to be about forgiveness."
"Sounds like a horrible idea," Caliban said. "I've had a pretty good track record with bitterness and resentment."
"Let's skip to number five," Robin said, then paused. "What exactly is number five?"
"Well, I killed my father, so I can't celebrate with him," Cal explained. "So I decided to include Niko's dad in the holiday. Have you ever made a mail bomb before?"
"Caliban," Robin said. "We're not bombing anybody." He reconsidered that, took their track record into account and edited his previous statement. "Except the Auphe. And maybe if Sawney Beane ever comes back."
"We didn't bomb Sawney Beane," Caliban said. "We mostly just set him on fire. Anyway, it's not a bomb bomb. Last year I sent him a curse. It cost a fortune, but it guaranteed he couldn't get it up for a full year. The year before that, I sent him a voodoo doll of himself and arranged for a wicked case of herpes. The year before that I sent him fake anthrax."
"Fake?" Robin echoed. "That seems tame compared to the others."
"I might have included a note implying he was involved in a rival terrorist organization. Homeland security held him for questioning for three days," Cal said. "I think he's still on a list somewhere."
Niko's concerns suddenly made a great deal more sense. "How do you even know where to send these packages?" Robin asked. "I was under the impression that Niko's father was notable only by his absence in your lives."
"He showed up once or twice when we were kids," Cal said. "I remembered his name. You can find anyone on Google, no matter how far off the grid they are. And he's not much of a Rom. Dude's on Facebook."
"Have you sent this mail bomb yet?"
"Nah," Cal said, finishing off the beer. "I sent Niko his card early since he's out of the country, but I generally like to take the rest of it in order."
Robin leaned back in his chair and tossed Cal his unopened beer. "Might I make a suggestion?"
It took a couple of hours to arrange, during which time Cal polished off two more horrifyingly cheap beers and cackled maniacally at least three times. "I didn't know they made magazines like that," Caliban said. "Geez, Robin. I don't know if I'm embarrassed or really fucking turned on that you did."
"They make magazines for everything," Robin said. "You just have to look." He stole a swallow of Cal's beer while the younger man snickered. "I do hope someone is around when Niko's father gets his shipment."
"He's got a live-in girlfriend," Cal said. "I hope she's the understanding sort."
It would take quite the understanding girlfriend to overlook a freight truck full of back issues of pornographic magazines as well as the accompanying hardware. It would take the patience of a saint to overlook the bill Robin had stuck the man with. "I like this list," he said. "Next time I need to cope with something, I'll just call you instead of drinking myself into a stupor."
Caliban leaned against the desk and looked thoughtful. "Dude. Robin Goodfellow's Twelve Step Ishiah Recovery Program."
Robin sighed, then smiled, only a little sadly. "I don't think it'll take twelve steps."
Cal clapped him on the shoulder. "Wanna do number six?"
"That depends. What's number six?"
"You should trust me more," Cal said.
"I know you too well to trust you."
"Niko says exactly the same thing," Cal complained. "How did I end up with two of you?"
"Just lucky," Robin told him.
"Number six," Cal explained. "Is to go kill a Grendel."
The Grendels – the outdated and wildly inaccurate term Caliban and Niko had used to describe their demonic bogeymen before they became more educated in the supernatural community – were all dead. This posed a significant problem in handling number six.
It was starting to get dark as Cal and Robin walked through Central Park, debating the characteristics of various supernatural creatures and whether they were sufficiently evil to stand in as Auphe replacements. They were in Central Park because, as Cal had put it "With our luck, something will make up our minds for us."
Robin had no doubt that something would. It was the way the world worked when one or more of the Leandros brothers were around. "How did you come up with this list?" he asked as they meandered through the trees, hoping to trick something dangerous into thinking they were just a couple of helpless humans.
Cal tipped his head back and stared at the sky for a moment. "Niko."
Cal grinned, a quick twist of lips that managed to be both fond and exasperated. "Well, not the list itself, no. He told me I needed to find a way to cope with the reminder of what I was. And the disappointment of what I'd never have." He walked silently for a moment, looking at the grass, the trees, at anything but Robin. "I think he meant I should meditate or something. It's possible I misinterpreted."
Robin snorted. Misinterpreted. Right. Because Caliban was so slow on the uptake. "Has Niko helped you with your list in years past? Have I been filling his admirably large shoes?"
"Niko has dainty girl feet," Caliban said cheerfully. "And no. He thinks the list is unhealthy, so I usually celebrate by myself. That's why I have step twelve."
"What's step twelve?"
"Cover my tracks so Niko doesn't kick my ass," Cal recited. "It's kind of the most important one."
"How does that work out for you?"
"Not well," Cal said. "Niko's perceptive. And I suck at covering my tracks. I don't get away with much."
The park was nearly empty at this hour, all the gentler creatures – the law-abiding humans and nonhumans alike – having gone somewhere with less of a reputation for after-hours murder and mugging. There were still a few other beings about. Robin saw the occasional jogger, though fewer now than just a few minutes ago. And he could sense eyes on them here and there. Muggers, or worse, scoping out possible targets. Two adult males would make an unlikely target for the average mugger, never mind that Robin was well-dressed and carrying a wallet full of cash. Caliban served as an anti-mugging device all by himself. There was something in the way he moved, the way he held himself. Not the deadly martial grace that Niko had learned, or the predatory glide that Promise always kept hidden beneath her expensive wardrobe and shiny jewels. Not the way Robin moved – Robin had thousands of years to learn to blend in with the humans. He knew how to move like prey. Cal hadn't learned that yet – maybe never would. Cal wasn't much at blending in. Too much confidence in every step, an understated arrogance that every predator would recognize as the sign of someone who could genuinely take care of himself. No one was going to mug Cal unless they were very, very stupid. Or high. Or suicidal. "We're being watched," he volunteered. Perhaps Cal would decide a mugger was an acceptable, if somewhat pale, substitute for a Grendel and they could go somewhere with drinks. And dinner. It occurred to Robin that he hadn't eaten in at least two full days. "I'm hungry. Are you buying me dinner after this?"
"You're not my date," Cal said. "And anyway, as you love to remind me, I have no money."
"You can work it off in trade." Robin bared his teeth in a leer so lecherous that Cal burst out laughing at the sight of him.
"You're thinking small," Cal said. "There are much better things you could put an Auphe to dealing with than a little casual sex. Want any untold horrors scared off? I'm your man. Or need anyone devoured? I'm up."
Robin's rejection was automatic. "You're not an Auphe."
Cal didn't sound maudlin, just resigned. "Well, I'm not human."
"Name one person you care about who is. And Niko doesn't count." Robin could scent the Auphe blood beneath Cal's skin, could tell from the first moment they met on that car lot that Cal wasn't human. Once he got over the novelty of the existence of an Aupheling, it had never occurred to him to care, much. Nonhuman, to him, was a good thing. Someone he could be honest with, be himself around. Someone who might last. Humans died easily and young, by anyone's standards but their own. Eighty years. Robin had suits older than that.
Well, he had a suit. Polyester. That had never been a good idea. He'd forcibly blocked out most of the seventies.
Cal closed his eyes. "Of course Niko doesn't count. Niko's…"
"A mutant," Robin said solemnly. "There's no way he's human."
"Thanks," Cal said. "Now I'm picturing Niko in spandex."
Robin pictured that as well. It was not nearly as titillating as it could have been – there were some looks that could only be pulled off in comic books. Now black leather…
Cal nudged him with his elbow. "Whatever you're thinking about my brother right now… stop it."
"I can't help it," Robin said. "It's riveting. Terrible but fascinating at the same time. Do you think he'd wear pants or just the sexy little form-fitting briefs deal?"
"I should have my own comic book. Except for the part where my origin story would be rated triple X. And my awesome power of super-smelling is kind of lame. And my other power makes people bleed out their ears and drives me slowly crazy. But aside from that, I should totally have a comic book."
"You'd need a code name. Like Superman, but more appropriate. Demonboy!"
"Sadly, I think that one's taken. Anyway Caliban is practically a code name all by itself."
Robin sniffed. "Just because some stuck-up drunken hack who wasn't even a very good lay used it in some play a few hundred years ago doesn't mean it's not a perfectly good name. I like Caliban. It has character."
Cal shot him a grin. "What about Niko?"
"If I had a puppy, I would name it Niko." Robin thought about this for a moment while Caliban snickered. "But names do have power, and it is very likely the poor creature would turn out to be terribly boring and responsible. And chase away all my many paramours."
"So you admit names have power." Caliban seized on the admission like the aforementioned puppy seizing one of Robin's bedroom slippers.
"Everything has power, Cal," Robin said gently. "It's up to us to decide how much and what kind. Caliban comes with a history and that history gives it power. But you're the one who decided to use that history to shame yourself."
"I’m not human, though," Cal said again, but this time at least he sounded slightly more thoughtful than anything else. "Sophia named me after a half demon."
"Two things," Robin said, "and then for the love of all that's holy – which is, admittedly, not much to speak of – we're going to stop talking about names."
"Can we still talk about Niko in spandex?"
"We can always talk about that," Robin said. "Don't be foolish. Now. First, Caliban in the play was – and I do hope you understand what the word means – fictional. He was not a real person. He is nothing more than a creation of one of what the humans declare to be the greatest writers who ever lived. Although the whorehouses in Pompeii had more meaningful literature in one nightstand than he ever came up with in his entire career, but I digress. Second, the Auphe are not demons. They are monsters, plain and simplistic in their terror. They hunted, killed and devoured."
"Exactly-" Cal started but Robin cut him off.
"Your sire was a monster. No one will ever argue with you about that, because it's so patently true that even the worst compulsive liar couldn't bring themselves to say otherwise. But you aren't a monster. There's a line, Caliban, you've said it yourself. There's nonhuman – which is a very exclusionist term, might I add, defining us by what we're not – and then there are the monsters. You've known since the first moment we met that I wasn't human. Do you think I'm a monster? Or Promise? Or Ishiah? I can go on, you know," he added. "There is Delilah and Catcher. The peris who work at the Ninth Circle. What about the other vampires, or Flay or Ham Piper, for heaven's sake?" He stopped and waited till Cal turned to face him. "Will you call me a monster to my face? You've seen what my kind are capable of. What was done to Georgina and Niko."
"None of that was you," Cal bit off fiercely, then scowled and glared at the ground.
"Yes, exactly," Robin said as he slapped Cal lightly on the back of the head. "There are monsters everywhere, Cal. Not all nonhumans are bad. Not all humans are good. You may be the son of a witch and a demon, but that same witch gave birth to Niko as well. You think he's any more proud of that heritage than you are? Perhaps less, even, because he has grown up seeing what was done to you. Sophia was a monster in her own way, but you two turned out all right. When you're not busy being crazy, or possessed by Darklings," he added.
Cal curled his hands into fists helplessly. "I think Niko's afraid of me," he admitted in a sudden rush of breath and tumbled words. His face was pale and stricken, his shoulders hunched against a blow. Robin could read truth in every line of his body, every shallow breath and thought, Niko, you jackass.
"No," Robin said carefully. "Niko is afraid for you and poor at hiding the fact. You, in your turn, are bad at reading people and too fast to believe your friends guilty of your own emotional hang-ups. Niko has never been afraid of you a day in your life. Except possibly during the diaper wearing stage. I imagine you were a daily source of terror for him, then."
"He doesn't – he's always-" Cal fumbled for words, frustration making his voice shaky as he visibly struggled to get the words out. "He doesn't think I'm strong enough, Rob. He's always – I have to be better, he always says so."
"Would you send a five-year-old to war?" Robin asked.
Cal stared at him, confusion showing behind the harder, deeper emotions. "I- what? No. Of course not."
"Niko saw you born. Some part of him is always going to see you as that five-year-old he taught to read. He loves you, he doesn't want you to die. Niko, being Niko, expresses that heartfelt sentiment by hitting you with a wooden sword for a few hours every week. He's protecting you. Teaching you to fight as well as he can, so even if he isn't there when you need him, his teaching is. It's very parental, honestly. Has anyone told you that you two are a bit dysfunctional?"
Caliban laughed. It wasn't entirely happy, but Robin knew him well enough to hear relief mixed in with the surprise and amusement. "I- Honestly¸ Loman are you presuming to lecture to me on having a functional- Do you smell that?"
Robin cursed himself, realizing it had grown fully dark while they spoke. The trees around them blocked out much of the light from the city and they were in deep shadow. The ground was damp and springy beneath his feet. He could smell moss and stagnant water and mud.
A lot of mud. And beneath that, something alive, something that was not human. Something familiar, something that chanted monster, monster, in the back of his mind.
"What is…" Memories clicked back into place. The days after Cal had been taken by the Darkling – and later. Sawney Beane. He remembered the smell of mud and scales that had lingered on his borrowed clothes almost more clearly than he remembered the boggle he'd fought himself. "I thought she was dead. Didn't Sawney kill her?" He didn't wait for an answer. The smell of mud was stronger to the left, rich and dark.
Caliban matched his pace, but the look on his face was apprehensive. "Old blood," he said quietly and Robin nodded, warned. Caliban's sire hadn't given him much, but he had bequeathed a nose that made bloodhounds slobber in envy. If there was blood, Cal would find it beneath the mud and rain and boggle scents long before Robin could.
There almost certainly was blood. Boggles were monsters. They ate anything that wasn't strong enough to kill them or wealthy enough to buy them and even that wasn't a safe bet. They didn't care about humans, didn't distinguish innocent from guilty, though the smarter ones had learned that people paid less attention if only the bad guys disappeared mysteriously. The boggle he had fought with Niko after Cal was taken had been smart enough to realize that. His mate… It occurred to Robin he didn't know how far across the line she had been.
This particular boggle was definitely across the line. Robin could see the mud pit now, innocuous enough on the surface of things, just a patch of mud that never seemed to dry. But he could smell decaying flesh and the sick scent of spilled intestines. Something had died here not long ago.
He saw the shiny pink iPod lying in the grass at the same time Cal did. Not a mugger, then.
"Boggle!" Cal shouted. He had the Glock in one hand, though since he seemed to drop it in nearly every fight Robin had ever seen him in, it was anyone's guess why he insisted on carrying the blasted thing around. On that front, Robin found himself in complete agreement with Niko. Give him the well-formed artistry of a sharp blade any day. "Boggle!" Cal called out again in a sing-song tone, a taunt to the unseen creature. "Oh, Booooogle! Show yourself, asshole!"
Robin heard movement, felt something through his feet. Then the smell – twice as bad as before and he grimaced even as Cal spat and blinked furiously against the stench. Oh, the other boggle hadn't stunk like this. He'd have remembered a stench like that.
The mud heaved as the boggle practically erupted out of it. Below the mud Robin knew there would be leathery skin and iridescent scales, but there wasn't enough light to see where the mud ended and the boggle began. The it shifted and he caught a glitter of yellow eyes.
"Boggle," Cal said again. "Man. How you've grown."
One of the children, Robin realized. The boggle he'd fought and the one who'd been killed by Sawney had a litter – seven or eight, if he remembered correctly. Cal had met them once, when Niko decided he could do double duty as a boggle babysitter/teething ring. "What are the odds it remembers you?" he asked.
The boggle growled, a low sound like gargling with rocks.
"Either way," Cal said. "We might be fucked."
Mud squelched obscenely as the boggle stepped forward with a heavy thud. It was on the small side – a fully grown boggle tended to top out at nine or ten feet tall and made the earth shake when it moved. This one was taller than either of them, but still a foot or so shy of its full growth. It was not as bulky as its parents had been, either. Lean, almost. Still growing perhaps. Or starving out here in the park with no parents to hunt for it and all its siblings to compete with.
That could be bad. A starving monster was not what Robin wanted to be facing in the dark places. He resisted the urge to take a step back. He didn't want to look like he was giving ground already. "Sure we can't just skip to step seven? What is step seven?"
"Get drunk again," Cal said. "It's my second favorite step."
Robin couldn't help it. "What's your favorite?"
Cal grinned. "Step ten. If we live through this, I may even tell you what it is."
The boggle charged them, the ground shaking beneath its feet as it moved. Robin spun to the side and narrowed his eyes against the flash of light as Cal fired. Explosive rounds could shatter wood and rock, but they didn't have much of an impact on a boggle. The creature roared, an ear-shattering bellow that could probably be heard throughout the entire park, and lashed out at Cal.
Boggle claws looked like black glass but were harder than steel. Cal ducked and Robin blocked the blow with his sword. The boggles claws actually threw off sparks as they grated and slid against the blade and Robin grimaced as the ten-inch claws came within a hairsbreadth of Caliban's face.
But he was a puck and no slouch himself. No Auphe super smelling, or boggle claws, but he had thousands of years of staying alive and an instinct for getting the best of an opponent that could only be learned. He'd bested the best and survived the worst – he'd been party to the extinction of the Auphe race, a feat that every being alive had dreamed of wistfully for longer than human memory and none had dared try before he'd thrown his lot in with this halfblood and his brother. After that, there was no damned way he was going out as boggle chow in Central Park. He shifted the blade and put the full weight of his lunge behind it and the boggle screeched as Robin twisted the blade to the side and slid inside the boggle's defenses. It swung at him again, but it was easy to be faster and he brought the sword up in a clean slice that cut the boggle from hip to chest.
Fingers wrapped in his coat and pulled him backwards. The mud beneath his feet made resisting the pull almost impossible so he went with it rather than risk being thrown off balance. He threw himself backwards as the boggle screamed and gleaming black claws cut through the space that had held his head only a moment ago.
"Are you crazy?" Cal demanded, but it was approval, not fury that prompted the question as he circled the boggle.
"Only half as crazy as you," Robin shot back, pacing Caliban until they had the boggle penned between them. He could feel a grin pulling at the corner's of his mouth, saw a dull flash of Caliban's teeth in the dim light. "We are going to kill this thing, get completely smashed, stick Ishiah with the bill and then you are going to tell me all about step ten. I find myself intrigued."
Something dark and hot entered Cal's voice. "Do you now, Robin?"
Robin raised his blade, now slick with black boggle blood. "Mmm. Say my name like that again."
Caliban shot him a grin. "Are you flirting with me, Goodfellow? In a fight? What would Niko say?" He lunged at the boggle, having at some point switched the Glock out for his kukri knife instead. The blade flashed in his hand as he came in low, ducking the boggle's claws to slice at its arm, leaving a thin line of blood across one shoulder. He spun, faster than the boggle and stabbed, driving the blade into the boggle's back, burying it hilt deep in corded muscle. The boggle roared again, panic bleeding into the fury.
Robin almost felt bad. It was a juvenile after all, a juvenile whose father Niko had killed, whose mother had died fighting Sawney Beane at their behest. But neither parent had been one of the good guys and this one, young or not, had already killed. Robin would have felt worse leaving it here in the park to eat children and college students. Part of that was the Leandros influence. Before Niko and Caliban and their ridiculous desire to protect the innocents from the monsters, Robin had mostly minded his own business. He did not go looking for the things that hunted men.
But had he stumbled upon the boggle by accident, seen the evidence of its feeding habits, well. There might have been a time when he would have walked away without dealing with the situation, but that was long enough in the past that he no longer felt the sting of guilt so keenly. So when the boggle slashed at Cal, Robin felt no qualms attacking from behind.
The blade was the highest quality, maintained for combat. It pierced the boggle's scales and slid into its back as blood welled up over the blade and began to spill down the skin below.
The boggle staggered as Robin pulled the blade free. He backed up, watching for a counter-attack, but the boggle folded to the ground without another sound.
"That was easier than a Grendel," Cal said. "I'm not even out of breath."
Robin rolled his eyes as he eyed the blood staining his blade. He'd learned the hard way that boggle blood was the devil to clean out of clothes. He was about to suggest a more pleasurable way to get cal out of breath when he heard the sound of mud squelching and the sudden movement of a body through the air.
The second boggle hit him in the middle of the back and Robin went down under its weight even as he heard Cal's scream. He landed face down in the mud – his sword was gone, he'd narrowly avoided impaling himself on it. He tried to buck the boggle off his back but his priorities shifted immediately when the boggle grabbed the back of his head and shoved him face first into the mud with enough force to knock him senseless for a moment.
He lost a little time, maybe just a second or two, enough to realize he was running out of air. The boggle's weight still held him pressed down and his lungs were screaming. In a moment he'd either suffocate or drown in mud. Neither of which, he felt with a genuine sense of annoyance, were a fitting end to his life.
The boggle's weight vanished without warning but Robin didn't get a chance to climb free. Something grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and hauled him out of the mud with a strength and speed that made his mildly concussed brain spin. He'd lost the sword when he was tackled but he had a knife up one sleeve and he drew it and spun on his attacker with a fluidity most men couldn't manage with years of training, let alone half suffocated.
Caliban's voice. He paused, realized he still wasn't breathing, and gagged on mud.
"Christ," Cal said, sounding somewhat closer. Robin scrubbed his free hand over his face and flung mud to the ground. He blinked, keeping his eyes narrowed, but all he saw was Cal standing a few inches in front of him, liberally drenched in boggle blood and smeared with almost as much mud as Robin himself.
"That was undignified," Robin said. He glanced to the side, saw the second boggle's headless corpse, and put his knife away.
"I thought – it looked," Cal shuddered slightly, then punched him. It was only in the shoulder, and Robin was well enough versed in Cal-speak to recognize it for relief. He grabbed Robin's sleeve immediately after and shook him slightly. "Your head and it hit the ground and just – it looked – if it hadn't been mud-"
Robin grimaced. Yes, from Cal's point of view it probably had looked very much like the second boggle had just smashed his skull on the ground. "The mud was deep," he said apologetically.
Cal breathed out, a deep, shuddering sound that Robin had heard a few times before. After he'd been shot by Seraglio's kinsman. After they'd rescued Niko from Hob. When Rafferty had driven Darkling from Cal's mind. "Christ, Robin."
"What did you do to it?" he asked, eyeing the headless corpse. "You didn't cut its head off, did you?" Cal was good with a knife, very good with a gun and damn good with his bare fists, but put a sword in the boy's hand and he turned into the village idiot. "If you damaged the blade-"
"I didn't touch your sword, Robin." Cal's hand was still clutching Robin's sleeve. He used his free hand to point to the ground a few feet away, where he'd evidently dropped the Glock in his rush to haul Robin out of the mud. "Explosive rounds. I blew its head off."
Robin felt his lips curl back from his teeth. "Tell me I'm not coated in boggle brains."
"Sorry," Cal said, not sounding very much so at all. "It was still sitting on you when it died. You might want a shower."
"I want a drink," Robin said. "So much. I liked this suit."
"You should know better than to go anywhere with me in a nice outfit," Cal said, and he sounded steadier now, less shocked. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up. We should probably get your head looked at, too, just in case."
"Then step seven," Robin added as he scanned the mud for his sword.
When Cal spoke again he sounded tired. "I think we've done enough steps."
"You promised me alcohol," Robin said. "And I am intrigued by the mysterious step ten. Don't think you're getting out of telling me about it."
There was a silence that seemed to linger between them for a moment. Robin wiped his sword as clean as he could before he raised his eyes to meet Cal's. Gray eyes were watching him with a seriousness, a sense of consideration that Robin wasn't sure he understood.
"You don't have to help me with step ten," Caliban said finally and Robin got the definite sense that there was more being discussed than Cal's stupid coping mechanism.
"I think I will anyway," Robin said. "I told you. I find myself…" he paused, then repeated himself, "…intrigued."
They took a taxi back to his place, tipping generously to make up for the mess they left in the backseat. Mud and blood and boggle rot would not scrub out easily. Robin made Caliban strip in the front hallway before he could track mud across the entire apartment.
He staggered to the bathroom and turned the water as hot as it would go, grimacing at the streaks of mud drying on his skin. He didn't even look in the mirror, not wanting to see the bits of what passed for boggle brains undoubtedly decorating his hair. He just climbed in, poured a healthy amount of shampoo directly onto his hair, and went to work.
He heard the bathroom door open; he hadn't closed it all the way, just pushed it closed behind him. He wasn't the modest sort, and Cal was in the guest bathroom on the other side of the apartment where an accidental glance at anything he didn't want to see would be nearly impossible. "All clean?" he called and he could see Cal's silhouette on the other side of the shower curtain.
"Yup," Cal answered. "I was afraid you might have passed out in here."
"There were brains in my hair," Robin said in as scandalized a tone as he could manage. "And bits of bone and scales and more mud than I care to think about. In places I am particularly fond of. Mud is not meant for those places, Caliban."
"Bitch, bitch," Cal said. "Hurry up and finish. I want to take a look at your head."
"You're worse than your brother," Robin said darkly.
"Not really. You just miss the worst of Niko's mother-henning because he refuses to be in a room when you're naked."
"And you have no such compunctions, I take it?"
"You've got nothing I haven't seen before, Goodfellow."
That was true. "Want to see it again?" He put a healthy amount of lechery into his voice and he could nearly see Caliban rolling his eyes.
"We haven't discussed step ten yet," Cal said.
Robin ducked his head under the spray, working out the last of the conditioner. It didn't feel like Cal was changing the subject, exactly. "What about steps seven through nine?"
"I've made an executive decision. The boggle counted for six, eight and nine – killing a grendel, shooting something and picking a fight with something way bigger than me. Seven's easy – I've seen your liquor cabinet. We could get a country drunk without ever needing to run out for a six pack. So now we're on ten."
Robin ran a hand through his hair, finger combing it as he turned off the water. "And ten would be?"
The curtain slid open and he blinked in surprise at Caliban, wearing only a pair of ratty sweatpants he'd left there after a previous fight, who eyed him appraisingly as he held out a towel. "Ten is optional. You don't have to help with ten."
"But ten is your favorite," Robin said. He reached for the towel, but Cal didn't let go, so they stood there for a moment, holding onto the cloth and watching each other.
"Last year," Cal said slowly. "Last year, I had Delilah help me with step ten."
Robin straightened slightly, moved his head to the side without breaking the gaze Cal held him in. "I see. But Delilah is not here anymore, so..."
"Delilah doesn't have anything to do with you being here," Cal said. "I don't ask just anyone to help me with step ten."
"Caliban," Robin said, pitching his voice low and deep, "tell me what step ten is."
Cal kissed him.
It was close-mouthed but far from chaste and Robin could feel his heartbeat ratchet up as Cal stepped back. Pheremones were in the air, arousal and excitement that he had noticed before but chalked up to the aftereffects of the fight. "Cal," he said, half mortified at the way his voice sounded. "You've never wanted a man-"
"This isn't about men," Caliban said. "Or women. This is about you and doing something before the next time something smashes your head into the fucking ground-"
This time Robin stepped forward, trapping their hands between them, still gripping that stupid towel. He caught Cal's neck with his free hand and kissed him softly. He was already hard, but he kept a space between them, let Cal taste him as he deepened the kiss. "I'm alive," he said. "I'm right here. And while I'm not above silly little things like pity fucks or post-battle sex, I am above letting you do something you'll regret in the morning."
Cal's breath was warm against his face, close enough that when Cal spoke Robin could feel the brush of his kips. "I told you about step ten before the fight."
"You can say no," Caliban said and that was when Robin stopped wanting to.
Robin pulled the towel out of Cal's grip and dropped it on the floor before he leaned in for a third kiss. Cal was good at this, he decided, liking the way Cal's tongue slid against his as they pressed together.
He wasn't the only one who was already hard and he pressed his forehead against Cal's as he broke the kiss. "The bedroom," he said, dragging breath into his lungs as he slid one hand over Cal's shoulder and down his arm to take his wrist in a tight grip. "Now."
"I like that," Cal said. Robin shuddered as Cal pressed a kiss to his jaw, then licked along the line of bone. "I like the way you sound right now."
"Sound?" Robin echoed. His other hand was still holding Cal's neck, fingers tangled in Cal's hair, making it impossible for Cal to pull away.
"You sound like you're into this," Cal said. "I thought you might not be. I saw you at that orgy. You were enjoying yourself, but you weren't really into it."
"Bedroom," Robin repeated, feeling oddly helpless here. He was the one with thousands of years of experience, but he had the uncomfortable feeling that Caliban was the one who knew what to do here. He'd wanted Caliban – the boy was gorgeous, after all – but he'd never actually planned to do anything about it. Never imagined having him, not for real. Not when the friendship freely offered had been more than he could risk losing over an unwelcome advance or an awkward tumble.
It hadn't stopped him offering, of course. But he'd never taken it seriously, and he didn't ever think Cal had either.
Cal was wet, skin slick where Robin had pressed against him. Robin wanted to touch, to spread that slickness to every inch of him.
"Pants," he said. "I refuse to have sex with anyone wearing those ratty things."
Cal snorted as he hooked his thumbs into the waistband and pulled then down over his hips. "Well that's a relief. I was afraid you had absolutely no standards."
Robin had nothing Cal hadn't seen before, but the reverse was not true. He looked his fill as the sweatpants came off, devouring the pale skin of Cal's hips, the flushed length of his cock, the way the muscles in his thighs tensed and eased as Cal stepped out of the sweats. He let go of Cal's wrist to touch his hip, stroke the soft skin of his inner thigh, trace a finger along the length of his arousal. Cal made a sound Robin had never heard before, needful, whimpering and Robin smiled. "Bedroom," he said again, making himself let go and step back. "I'll not have your brother coming after me because we slipped on wet linoleum while fucking and you cracked your skull open. Can you imagine? Although the look on his face-"
Cal grabbed his arm and jerked him toward the door. "We are so not talking about Niko right now," he said.
"Give me something better to talk about," Robin challenged, grinning at the way Caliban's fingers dug into his arm, at the flush to Cal's skin.
"You're going to fuck me," Cal said and Robin stopped thinking about anything outside that room.
They were both still wet from Robin's shower and the sheets clung to their skin as he pushed Cal down against the bed. He expected a moment of resistance – in this, at least, Cal was still a virgin and not the type who easily accepted anything that could be considered submission. But there was nothing in Cal's eyes that hinted at reluctance or fear. Just a handful of emotions Robin wasn't entirely sure he understood yet.
Cal's eyes raked down his chest, lingered on his cock. "I've never done this before," he reminded Robin, as if he would have forgotten.
"It won't hurt," Robin said.
"I'm not worried about that," Cal said thoughtfully. "But if you want me to do something specific, you're going to have to tell me. I'm not as familiar with the, ah… mechanics of the situation as you are."
A thousand suggestions sprang to mind, most of them obscene. What he said was painful in its honesty. "Don't regret this."
"Yeah, that's not gonna happen." Cal leaned back against the pillows, his eyes thoughtful. "I mean, Ishiah might kill me and that would suck, but I suspect you'll make this worth it."
"Ishiah doesn't get to involve himself in my love life anymore." Robin knelt on the bed and slid one leg over Cal, straddling his knees as he ran a finger up the inside of his leg.
"He loves you," Cal said, his eyes watching Robin's finger. He was already breathing fast. Robin could hear his heartbeat, taste the arousal pouring off him. Cal could smell blood and death but this was Robin's arena.
"He does," Robin said, curling his fingers over Cal's cock, watching Cal's eyes snap shut as he arched his back into Robin's touch. "But he doesn't like me very much. Not enough to want me as I am."
"I like you," Cal said and beneath the breathlessness, beneath the need to thrust and fuck, Robin heard the strain, heard what it cost to get those words out. "I want you. I can't – you and Niko, I couldn't do this without you. You know."
Robin bent his head, followed his fingers with his lips and inch by inch took Cal's breath away.
It was all right. He wasn't saying anything Robin didn't already know, after all.
He woke up because Niko was staring at him.
Robin cracked one eyelid just far enough to see the young man standing in the doorway to Cal's bedroom. Niko looked good. Less stressed than he had been before he left for Paris, not quite so thin. A little frazzled but that was probably the reaction to finding him there.
"Ah," he said.
"I said you didn't have to baby-sit," Niko pointed out. He was leaning against the doorway watching them with one pointedly raised eyebrow. His expression was casual and if he wasn't smiling he wasn't baring his teeth, either. "This isn't quite what I had in mind, when I asked you to check in on Cal last week."
It wasn't quite what Robin had been expecting, either, for that matter. He frowned at the sleeping body beside him and wondered if it would be inappropriate to kick Caliban awake. "There was a boggle. And a lot of alcohol. It's a long story."
"It usually is," Niko sighed. "Is it too much to hope that the two of you will be fully dressed in time to join me at Promise's for dinner?"
"You guys just got back and she wants to host a dinner party?"
"Don't quote me on this," Niko said as he turned to leave, "but I suspect she missed you two as much as I did."
"You're getting sentimental in your old age, Cyrano." Cal didn't so much as stir from where he lay sprawled under the comforter. "What time is it?"
Robin glanced at the digital alarm and winced. "Time to get dressed for dinner, apparently."
"I'll leave you two to get ready." Niko slid out of the room in as graceful an exit as anyone could have managed after walking in on his brother sleeping nude with a male acquantance.
Once the door was safely closed, Robin reached over and smacked the approximate area where he believed Cal's head to be. "You might have reminded me your brother was coming home today!"
"Why?" Cal asked, his voice muffled by the comforter. "So you could be all weird?"
"You realize the odds were even as to whether he'd give me a chance to explain myself or just immediately kill me?"
"He's not going to kill you," Cal said. He sat up and kicked the blankets away. "You're family, you poor bastard. Suck it up. We care about you. Mind you, I'd make sure you avoid making specific mention of my anatomy when telling any future sex stories. And you might want to avoid mentioning orgies – Nik might decide to defend my honor."
Robin leaned back against the pillows. "You say that like there are going to be orgies," he said cautiously. "I thought you were on the anti-orgy side of the fence."
Cal snorted. "I'm not a moron, Robin. You want orgies, go have orgies. But you have to bring me with you."
Ah, he could already see how well that would work. "So you can go all Aupheling and scare away anyone who might show the slightest interest in sharing my favors?"
"God, you are smart." Cal flashed him a grin.
"Caliban," he said.
Cal kissed him as he climbed out of bed. "I'm really glad Niko never calls me that, since I don't think I'll ever hear anyone say it without getting an instant hard-on from now on."
"How long do we have until dinner?″ Robin asked desperately.
"Not that long," Niko called through the door. "And while Cal is right about not killing you, castration is still on the table. Get dressed!"
"Yup," Cal said as he pulled a t-shirt over his head. "Definitely one of us now. Lucky bastard."
"Think we could arrange for Ishiah to walk in-"
1. Get really stinking drunk
2. Send Niko the most obnoxious Father's Day card I can find
3. Beat the crap out of a deadbeat dad
4. Write a letter to Sophia
5. Mail bomb Niko's dad
6. Kill a Grendel
7. Get even drunker
8. Shoot something. Lots of somethings.
9. Pick a fight with something way bigger than me
10. Monkey sex
11. Free Space
12. Cover my tracks so Niko won't kick my ass